5 Things Learned From Going Plant-Based for a Week (+ What I Ate)
I’d decided over a month ago that for my next blog post I was going to try to go vegan for a week. Turns out, I didn’t choose my week wisely, because we were out of town the whole weekend before it started, so I didn’t have time to grocery shop, and I was underprepared for my plant-based week! However, I stuck with it and lived to tell the experience. Read more for my adventures in plant-based eating for a week!
First, here are 5 things I learned during my week-long challenge:
I already eat more plant-based foods than I thought.
Veganism isn’t that hard when you already incorporate a lot of grains, vegetables and fruits into your everyday meals. There were a few meals planned for my family that were centered around meat and/or dairy, but with a little creativity and substitution, I was able to take some of the components and make myself a meal without spending any extra time. Additionally, a lot of my favorite snack foods are already vegan, so it was easy to find food to eat between meals without extra work.
Protein and fat are really important!
For this experiment, I didn’t try any of the meat alternatives that are available and ended up pretty light on other protein sources, and I could feel it. I would feel hungry quicker and felt a low grade of hunger more often, especially when eating meals lacking in vegetables, like some of my breakfasts. If I were doing this again, I would meal plan in advance to ensure my meals contained a good balance.
Vegan does not necessarily = healthy.
This one is pretty obvious, but it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking “well it’s vegan so it must be healthy!” You know what is vegan? Oreos. Duncan Hines boxed cake mixes. Jell-O boxed vanilla pudding. Some Pop Tarts. The list goes on. And in no way am I saying that these foods should be avoided at all costs, because I am a firm believer that almost any food can fit into my life occasionally (see my dessert habits below...) But, in the same way that an organic label doesn’t necessarily mean a food should be part of your daily life, the same can go for vegan convenience foods.
Finding vegan food is not hard.
I’d venture to guess that 95% of restaurants have something that is vegan-friendly, even if it’s a modified version of something on the menu. And most places are willing to work with you! You might not end up with your ideal meal when you unexpectedly eat out or are grabbing something on the go (although Seed Cafe is a great option for those occasions!), but you can likely find enough to put together some semblance of a meal. I went to Chick-fil-A (not my first choice for various reasons), and was able to get a superfood salad with kale, broccoli, raisins, and a nut mixture that was actually pretty good! Plus, fries are vegan, so naturally I added those on. It wasn’t the best nutritionally sound meal I’ve had, but it filled me up and made my kids happy, so it was worth it. Even a gas station has fruit, drinks, veggies + hummus, crackers/chips, etc. that are plant-based diet friendly, so accessibility is really not a problem!
Vegan food doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated.
If you read through what I ate during my vegan week, you’ll see that I had a lot of repeat meals and a lot of meals that were super simple. Like stupidly simple. Sure, you can get all of the fancy powders, smoothie add-ins, meal bars, or meat and dairy alternatives and make some really delicious food, but you don’t have to in order to be a successful vegan. Really, if you focus on whole grains, vegetables, fruit and fat, you will be set! Trying new recipes is fun and helps expand your horizons, but keeping it simple day-to-day is a great way to dip your toe into a plant- based diet and be successful long-term when switching to a vegan lifestyle.
WHAT I ATE:
Since I hadn’t had time to plan my meals for the week or go grocery shopping, I had to wing breakfast and lunch. And OOOPS, my everyday coffee drink has cold foam on the top made with skim milk. My husband made my drink for me and since coffee is pretty much the first thing on my mind in the morning, I distractedly drank it without thinking of the milk! #ProgressNotPerfection
Breakfast: Mini bagels with homemade peanut butter + coffee drink
Lunch: Pretzels and hummus + apple slices + LaCroix
Dinner: Mexican bowl w/ rice, beans, veggies, salsa and guacamole + tortilla chips
Dessert: So Delicious Peanut Butter + Raspberry Oat Milk Ice Cream (pretty good, but I find oat milk has a stronger flavor that I prefer)
I made it to the grocery store, so had some more options for my breakfast and lunch this day! I also made my coffee with cashew milk, so it was plant-based.
Breakfast: Veggie + hummus wrap, cold brew with cashew milk
Lunch: Leftover Mexican bowl with plantain chips + apple
Snack: Pickled veggies and spicy peppers
Breakfast has been the hardest meal for me since I don’t have a lot of time to put something together in the morning and am often eating in my car or at my desk at work. The mini bagels we had were life savers, but I would definitely want to eat a more healthy and balanced breakfast long-term.
Breakfast: Leftover veggies + mini bagel with peanut butter, cold brew with cashew milk
Lunch: Leftover coconut lentil curry
Dinner: Roasted potatoes + avocado + my favorite grain packet (from Target and under $2 each!), cucumber and tomato salad (avocado oil, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper)
I had to avoid donuts today, my favorite treat, because they weren’t vegan. The torture! Today was also the first time I attempted to go out to eat, as my family always does on Thursdays after gymnastics practice.
Breakfast: mini bagel + peanut butter, dry cereal (aka the lamest breakfast known to man)
Lunch: Leftover coconut lentil curry + Triscuits
Dinner: Superfood salad and fries from Chick-fil-A. (Not the best or healthiest of choices, but I worked with my options. The Superfood salad was actually pretty good!)
Woohoo, Friday! I had the day off of work so it was much easier to be at home for meal times than having to pack everything with me. Plus I started my day at a 6:00 am Modo class, so that always makes my days go better!
Breakfast: Veggie wrap with sauteed peppers, onions, zucchini + avocado, coffee (real talk: I really wanted to make some fried eggs after yoga!!)
Lunch: Pretzels + hummus, tomato + cucumber salad, Kombucha
Dinner: Taco bar with family (We had family over and I figured a taco bar would be the best way to accommodate my needs, plus give everyone else what they wanted, too!)
Dessert: Watermelon and dark chocolate
It was a lazy day hanging out at home for the most part, but I went to a concert with friends and we had dinner at a restaurant beforehand. Thankfully, it wasn’t a problem to find plant-based options!
Breakfast: Leftover taco bar bowl
Lunch: Sriracha grain packet + Trader Joe’s Cauliflower and Broccoli Patties (I assumed these were vegan but later realized they have egg white powder in them. Reading labels is important for those on a strict plant-based diet!)
Dinner: Charcuterie plate (I skipped meat + cheese), grilled broccolini
Dessert: Vegan dark chocolate sorbet
The last day of the challenge!
Breakfast: Cereal with cashew milk
Lunch: Tomato + cucumber salad, leftover grain bowl
Dinner: Vegetable Jambalaya (A great recipe with tons of leftovers!), corn on the cob