In the beginning of August, I shared my goal of eating vegan for a week. I realized after the first few days that it wouldn’t make sense to only try it for a week. By the time your body adjusts to eating differently and you start to feel better, the week is already up! I wanted to see how I would feel after a longer period of time, and I was glad I kept going in the end!
What I Ate
When I first started, it was a little challenging. The hardest part was all of the little things that I didn’t think about ahead of time… cream cheese on a bagel, creamer in coffee, etc. And of course I missed my chocolate!! In the beginning, I also felt hungry. Alllllll the time.
I could sit down and eat a salad and feel hungry an hour later. Even though I was eating throughout the day, I constantly felt hungry. It was a little annoying at first because I didn’t want to undo my efforts to eat healthy by then eating half a box of cereal, for example. I also didn’t realize just how many things were made with milk. I had to get used to stopping to read the ingredient list for everything, and it seemed like most things did contain milk or eggs. Goldfish, cans of soup, bread/bagels, granola bars… I learned a lot at least!
I stopped eating most kinds of granola and protein bars; even a chocolate chip granola bar usually contains milk. I stopped walking through the kitchen and grabbing handfuls of chocolate chips out of the bag. I stopped eating yogurt, regular pizza, baked goods and desserts, and obviously all chicken and turkey. So what DID I eat??
After I was eating vegan for a couple of weeks, my focus began to shift. Instead of thinking about all of the things I was limited from eating, I expanded my view to thinking about new foods and recipes that I could try. I became more creative with making meals, and focused on all of the new foods and ingredients that a healthy, vegan diet could include. After those first few days, I didn’t feel hungry all the time anymore either. It’s just a matter of figuring out what foods your body needs to be at its best!
Some of the things I ate included:
- Banana “Ice Cream”
If you’ve never made this before, you’re missing out! All you need to do is freeze bananas (take the peels off first and store them in a freezer bag). Use a food processor to blend the bananas until creamy. I usually add enough almond milk to get everything moving, and then add in anything else I’m feeling at the moment! Cinnamon and peanut butter are a great combination; so is just adding in cocoa – and topping it with peanut butter, of course. You just can never have enough peanut butter! If someone says you can, stop talking to them. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.
Pictured above is a pumpkin spice banana combination… so good!! I added frozen bananas, almond milk, canned pumpkin, and a dash of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. Topped with a little Kashi cereal for an added crunch.
- Salads – I got creative here! I would put chopped fresh veggies, nuts, chickpeas, edemame, fruit, craisins, pumpkin seeds, even a little cereal on top! (not all at once haha)
- Fruits and Veggies! I don’t think I’ve ever turned down fruit before. I love any and all kinds! I also found that dipping cucumbers or zucchini in hummus makes them easier to eat than plain veggies. One of my go-to dinners was a veggie sandwich on wheat bread with hummus.
- Juicing – I did try this a few times! My favorite combination is a green juice: kale, celery, cucumber, and an apple.
- Nuts, especially raw or lightly salted almonds
- Going along with our nut theme… Peanut Butter or Almond Butter – I think this one might be a food group for me. I really need a detox program.
- Rice, couscous, or barley topped with veggies
- Pizza – I used a gluten free wheat crust, sauce, and topped with tomatoes and zucchini (It tasted just as delicious with no cheese- try it!)
Eating at Restaurants
Most of the time, when I went out to eat, my choices seemed to be salad A or salad B. I love salad, so that’s not a problem, but it’s still nice to have other choices sometimes. I mean, even if you love salad, who wants to eat that constantly?
Not Knowing If Things were Vegan or Not
Sometimes I just wasn’t sure if something contained dairy products or not. For example, I was at Panera the other day and wasn’t sure if their bagels were vegan or not. I asked the cashier, but she didn’t know either. So I got a cup of coffee and called it a day!
Since I wasn’t refraining from eating dairy products due to an allergy, if I accidentally had it, it wasn’t the end of the world. I did cheat twice during this month! I had a brownie once, and a cookie once at a work luncheon. Even though I pretty much ate vegan for a month, I was OK with having these two things because it was something that really looked good to me at the time, and I had one and really enjoyed it. It wasn’t having the mindset of eating dessert just because it was there. Whether you are eating vegan or just trying to maintain a healthy diet, it’s important to still have things you enjoy once in a while. It’s all about building that balanced lifestyle.
Chocolate or Dessert
I could eat healthy 100% of the time if chocolate didn’t exist. However, it does … and I love it. I still found a way to satisfy my dessert cravings, thanks to Angela from Oh She Glows! These Mini Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups hit the spot. They do contain tofu, which I initially thought was weird and not for me, but once I took the first bite, all thoughts vanished away and I wanted 10 more.
Dairy- I don’t normally drink milk, so that part wasn’t hard at all. Besides not realizing that everything in the world contains milk, it was hard to not eat yogurt during this month. I actually still haven’t had any yet, though, so it’s been almost 6 weeks. I’m not sure if I will start eating it again or not.
As the month progressed, I noticed that I had less headaches, my skin was clearer, and I just “felt” healthier. I didn’t really ever feel guilty about eating anything. I focused on eating healthy foods to fuel my body. Sidenote: No, you shouldn’t feel guilty about eating or treating yourself sometimes! This is just something I’ve always had a harder time with (Read more in a previous post on this topic: You’re Beautiful). Since I wasn’t eating dessert or chocolate, I didn’t even have to worry about that!
So What Now?
After my month of eating a vegan diet was up, I found that I wasn’t craving certain foods anymore. I had gotten used to eating a certain way, and have continued that in many areas now. I wouldn’t consider myself vegan currently, but I do maintain a vegetarian diet all the time (I don’t remember the last time I had any kind of chicken, turkey, or meat). I continue to strive to lead a balanced life in all areas, which includes what I eat. I have eaten some products made with dairy since my month as a vegan was over, but am choosing those kinds of things less and less, simply because I got used to not having it during this month, and I do believe it is healthier. I put almond milk in my coffee now or soy milk at Panera or Starbucks. I found that typically these places have it, you just have to ask because they don’t keep it out. I will still have frozen yogurt, a cookie or brownie, or soup that contains milk. I am just having these things less and less. I think it’s important, at least for me, to not necessarily put a label on something or the way I eat. I can eat a primarily vegan diet, but if I want to eat something that isn’t vegan once in a while, that’s okay. This is why my new blog name isn’t just a catchy title or a name- it is completely true in my own life. I strive to build a balanced life each and every day. I’m not perfect at this, but that is why it is a lifestyle, finding a balance, and a process. My advice to you is to identify a few goals you may have in your life; maybe you’re not ready to cut out dairy but you want to only eat chicken or fish 2x a week, for example. Find what works for you! Don’t be afraid to try new things, but remember to listen to your body throughout the process.
Hopefully that wasn’t too much advice thrown at you at once! If you have any other questions about what I ate during this month, how to make this work, or anything else, I would love to hear from you! See my contact page to send me a message, or email me at “firstname.lastname@example.org” I’d love to hear your story!
Would you consider yourself a vegan or vegetarian? Have you ever tried it before?