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« Cherry Almond Granola | Main | Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes »
Sunday
Jun102012

Thoughts on Going Vegan: Week 1

Birthday Flowers

Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Meal Ideas & Afterthoughts

I've successfully completed the first week in my month long vegan challenge. It wasn't quite as challenging as I initially thought it would be, but I can't say it's been very enjoyable. I guess the best word to describe it so far would be interesting. The first week has been a little like treading water as I learn what I can eat (and what I should eat). Here are a few personal observations about my first week*:

  • I can walk through the entire grocery in a third of the time. Since there's no longer a need to walk past the meat/dairy/frozen food sections and most of the aisles containing "forbidden foods," grocery shopping is suddenly a breeze. Downfall: I have to willfully ignore and pass all the foods I wish I could be eating.

  • I rotate shopping between three separate grocery stores in order to buy a wider variety of vegan food. The small towns of the Midwest typically aren't vegan friendly so most chain stores where I live carry very few foods I can eat beyond the fresh fruits and vegetables. Luckily (or unluckily?), each grocery store carries a slightly different selection.

  • I've spent more time reading food labels in the last week than I have in my entire life. I never realized how many products contained eggs or dairy products. You could say it was a very eye-opening experience. Did you know most white wines and certain brands of sugar are off limits?

  • There are at least one hundred identical searches in my browsing history: "Is _______ vegan?"

  • Out of curiosity, I wanted to try the vegan equivalent of common American foods. Though I don't mind veggie burgers, vegan burgers are entirely something else. The soy burgers have a charred grilled taste to cover up the fact that they don't have much flavor. They are edible with too much ketchup, but I can't say I enjoyed eating them. Vegan pizza was an equally interesting experience. The frozen pizza box excitedly mentioned the "cheese" actually melts (which I should have taken as a warning sign). The pizza was not very good warmed up (in fact, the "cheese" very much resembled melted glue in taste and texture). However, it wasn't bad when it was cold, indistinguishable from any other cold frozen pizza I've ever eaten.

  • I am irrationally excited about discovering these meatless crumbles. Delicious!

  • Since I often need to grab quick lunches during the week, I've tried some very unusual sandwich options, including a chickpea avocado sandwich. As I told my friend, once you get over the taste and texture, it's actually not so bad! I fear this will become my motto.

  • I couldn't imagine trying to be vegan while living with non-vegans or having non-vegan friends. The temptation to eat "forbidden foods" would be unbearable. I find it difficult enough passing the hot dog stand in front of the supermarket as the smell of a summer barbecue wafts over me (and I don't even like hot dogs). It would take an enormous amount of self-control to watch a close friend eat non-vegan foods in front of me. Perhaps this changes if you feel morally obligated to practice veganism instead of pursuing it as a month long challenge?

  • Going vegan is expensive. I've spent more on groceries this week than I have in the last few weeks all together. My digestive system is also slow to adjust to the changes in my eating habits, leaving me in uncomfortable situations.

  • If I have to sit through another commercial featuring gorgeous, sizzling bacon, I will throw celery sticks at the television.

After the first week, I've concluded that veganism is surprisingly do-able with a Mount Everest of willpower (and a pocket full of cash). However, it hasn't been an enjoyable experience for me just yet. Once I fit a few more recipes into my repertoire and have a few standby meals on hand, I hope it won't feel so intimidating (and overwhelming) to me anymore. Here's to week two!

*I mean no offense to those who have gone vegan for moral beliefs and obligations (in fact, you have my utmost respect). This is just a record of my personal experience with the subject.

Reader Comments (22)

Haha! This made me laugh as I feel that I'd have a very similar experience if I ever tried to go vegan. I'm not a huge meat eater, so that part wouldn't bother me too much, but to give up dairy is pretty much a fate worse than death to me! I once did a whole dairy-free month as an experiment & it was pretty sad {though I'm sure my arteries probably thanked me}. What I found was that I ended up eating a lot more "imposter" foods {faux cheese, etc.} to make up for not being able to eat a lot of things. Wishing you lots of luck as you continue your vegan journey! :)
Wow. You do have mt everest will power! i am slowly trying to cut out white sugar and white flour. I learned this week that cutting them both out at the same time was too much....so i'm just focusing on grains... i'm addicted to nutella, i tell you! I'm sure you have a ton of resources, but I found this website http://ohsheglows.com/

I'm not vegan, but I often use some of her recipes because they look so yummy. Good luck!!!!
06.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterHeather
One of my friends went vegan for Lent as a bet and falafel was his best friend. We live in Bristol (UK) though, which has a sizeable population of hippieish types and wholefood yummy mummies so there are plenty of shops that cater. By keeping vegan he won the bet and was rewarded with a wagu burger - a very sudden return to meat-eating!
06.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSarah
I give you major props. Iknow that I could never do this, but now you've got me wondering about how much of the food products I eat contain eggs,milk, etc. I think I'll look at that now, haha.

Good luck in week two!
I"m not sure if this has been mentioned in any comments yet or if you've come across it in another way, but you should definitely check out the Post Punk Kitchen website and blog. Amazing vegan recipes for 'normal' food. I am not vegan, and the recipes make me drool. Good luck with your adventure!
06.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnna
"Perhaps this changes if you feel morally obligated to practice veganism instead of pursuing it as a month long challenge?"

Exactly. When you're fueled by moral/ethical values, you don't feel that temptation or longing. Maybe for the first little while as you adjust. I'm not a vegan, however. I'm a vegetarian. At some point I hope to transition into a vegan if I can't get eggs and diary from a reliably ethical source.
06.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterElli
I was diagnosed with being lactose intolerant AND allergic to egg whites a couple of years ago. It's extremely difficult to unlearn 20-odd years of eating habits, and it takes forever for your body to adjust to processing different foods.
I absolutely agree with you about the shopping! I live in a small country town and I have to go to two or three different supermarkets to get my groceries otherwise I don't have enough to eat, and dairy free/allergy free foods are EXPENSIVE!! Not good for uni students living out of home with allergies!
The first few weeks are the hardest because you really do resent not being able to eat all the foods you know you enjoyed before, but it DOES get easier. For me, as I have no choice, I've learned to be able to enjoy soy chocolate. I know it's not as good as what I use to eat, but it's getting better. The good news is that there are more food options for Vegans than there was before, so maybe in a few years we'll have a better range of foods to eat that will taste better than they do now! :)
06.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterRachel
Glad you're keeping with it! You're absolutely correct: when you have honest reasons and the research to back you up, animal products are void of temptation.

Also, I have to disagree. Veganism is not expensive, if you go about it the right way. Substitutes make it easy to transition into veganism, but they can be pricy. Logically, shouldn't it be cheaper to eat lower on the food chain than higher? If you eat whole plant foods: beans, nuts, grains, it's not difficult. A can of beans is less than a dollar (at least in most places,) and you can buy nuts in bulk. I suppose location could make it difficult, but it's certainly not a diet for the rich.
06.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmelia
I know it will sound callous to some, but I really can't wait until your challenge's over - I'm missing the stuff with butter and eggs and real yummy things in them... That said, I made the vegan choc cupcakes for my boss who has a severe allergy to eggs, so thanks a lot for that one!
06.11.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSilvia
If you haven't already, I'd highly recommend checking out Serious Eats' series that they did on going vegan for a month. It was a really fascinating read, and really for the first time made me think about going vegan, just to see if I could do it. He also posts a ton of cool sounding recipes that are on my never ending list of recipes to try. The vegan burger especially.

http://www.seriouseats.com/tags/The%20Vegan%20Experience

And here's a roundup of all the recipes from that month.

http://www.seriouseats.com/2012/02/vegan-experience-recipes-soups-salads-sandwiches-mains-snacks.html

Good luck! Can't wait to read more about it.
06.11.2012 | Unregistered CommenterShannon
Wow, thanks for going through this! I'm looking forward to seeing how weeks 2-4 go as well. I have being vegan for a month on my list of things to do, and I'm definitely going to check back on this post to see what you said about it. I appreciate your honesty!
I find it surprising that your vegan lifestyle is costing you more money that your "before diet". Are you focusing on unprocessed foods or are you buying "transitional faux" "vegan" replacements? I avoid the "cheese". Just not worth it taste or price wise.

Check out these blogs for some great ideas on vegan food: http://happyherbivore.com and http://www.florafoodie.com
06.11.2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarla
Unless there is an overwhelming medical reason to exclude certain foods from one's life, I think it's healthy to eat food as nature intended it. Real meat, not meat substitutes, real eggs, butter, etc, not substitutes. All these fake burgers, spreads (aka margarine) are loaded with soy and oils which are not natural nor healthy. There are volumes of research data out there that confirm that, including the fact that eating "low fat" stuff, sets up your body for craving other foods excessively. Much better to eat whole milk, full fat yogurt, butter, etc. and actually less likely to cause obesity.
06.11.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJo Wishnie
I did this as well and ended up really enjoying it. Now the thought of eating lots of meat is just unappealing to me, though I will now bake with butter and eggs. Just make sure you are getting enough flavor in your food!!
06.11.2012 | Unregistered CommenterClaudia
Really interesting to read about your experience! Especially since I think many bloggers make it seem like its so EASY. I thought about going vegan for a week....and I lasted like 4 hours. Shameful! I just couldn't handle giving up on milk (for my tea/coffee--I tried alternatives and they were not good) and yogurt/cheese. I don't think I could ever give it up!
I think its great that you are trying out being a vegan! Although I do have to say that it can be a bit pricey, buying certain products. I have been a vegeterian for amlost Six Years. From time to time i wish i could be eating bacon, although i made the choice to not meat again. I never really did like meat though. I tried to go vegan it didnt work out, i couldnt even last more than a week. I have to say i do get extremely happy when i find new products or recipes that I am able to eat! I cant wait to try out the chocolate cupcake recipe! :)
Good Luck ! Hope you post more vegan recipes!
06.11.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBri
I would recommend grilled or oven roasted portobello mushroom caps for a sort of burger substitute. With the right marinade they can be really filling. I like them a lot better then vegan burgers.
06.11.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMaddie
Hi ! i'm not vegan but i very much like the food blog "love and lemons" : http://www.loveandlemons.com/
which happens to feature many vegan food, which are attractive to about anybody.

Good luck on your experiment. You're very courageous.
06.12.2012 | Unregistered CommenterChtoune
Thanks for keeping us updated about your progress! I really applaud your efforts. I am not vegan and never have been - I would consider myself a 'flexitarian' and try to eat as sustainably and unprocessed as possible. I try to source local, grass fed meat and dairy products, which are quite a bit pricier than their standard counterpart, so my wallet ends up limiting my intake of animal products anyway. I find that traditional ethnic dishes are often cheap and easy to make vegetarian, and probably vegan though I usually can't resist the cheese! Think black bean burritos and rice, vegetable fajitas, falafel or hummus sandwiches, or my favorite, teriyaki stirfry with seasonal veggies (i prefer tofu to meat in this anyway!). A book I love is "quick fix vegetarian" - i thought it was just meatless but all the recipes are easily veganized, and my whole meat-eating family loves it, plus all the dishes take less than 30 minutes.

Good luck, and thanks for the inspiration! Your efforts are much appreciated, and I'll be cheering you on (as I bake some of those delicious-looking chocolate cupcakes!)
06.12.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDiana
They do make vegan bacon. It's like the overseeing spirit of the universe decided that it would be a good idea to create a physical manifestation of awkwardness and bestowed it upon us like it was a gift, and we were expected to rejoice in the streets upon receipt of this blessing; the creator thought wrong. Avoid vegan bacon unless you like confusing your sense of taste.

A series of books I really like taught me this recipe once. It actually tasted pretty good. Not sure if it will help you though. You have classier tastes than I.

http://daisymay.tumblr.com/post/535997234/steven-stills-shepherds-pie-cooking-by-comics
06.12.2012 | Unregistered CommenterChris
Loved your post. I'm on my 3rd day of eating 'vegan'. (My husband just shudders and piles more meat on his plate like I have some sort of disease or something and it might be catching!) For the past year I've been focusing on reducing processed foods and excess sodium and sugar from my diet. I've incorporated more grains & vegetables and desired less meat. (lost 20 lbs!) So the transition to veganism hasn't been that difficult. I make most of my meals from scratch. Time consuming - but saves a lot of money! I always have bags of frozen beans, veggies and berries in the fridge or freezer

Oh - and I don't eat tofu. And eating something that 'looks like meat' doesn't appeal to me either. But that's just me. I've found that if a certain food was a staple in my diet it's much harder to give up. But I did it gradually by adding new and interesting foods (experiment!) and it becomes easier. Before practically the only vegetables I ate were frozen peas and corn. By experimenting with different cooking methods (key!) i've discovered I like broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower and kale (to name a few).

I haven't read the rest of your posts yet...hope you enjoyed success!
Cath
07.31.2012 | Unregistered CommenterCathy
Have you given up up a plant based diet? I love eating a well balanced whole food plant based diet because of the way it makes me feel. This is my motivation. I haven't been sick in over two years since adopted a plant based diet, not even a cold. I am 46 and my weight and energy level have returned to where they where when I was boxing in my 20's. I am full of energy and endurance. The food I eat keeps me energetic and mentally alert. i did have to tone down my taste buds, but it is well worth it.
03.21.2014 | Unregistered CommenterAqiyl Aniys

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