I recently began working out twice a week in the morning with a friend who I like to refer to as “The Rabbit” being that he’s been a vegetarian for years and more recently began a vegan diet. He’s training for a marathon and already didn’t like meat so he just never ate it but he also believes that dairy products make him feel sluggish during training and the obvious answer was for him to cut them out of his diet and become a vegan. While he doesn’t like the term “vegan” because of the negative connotations associated with it, that’s exactly what he is regardless of his preference of being known as a “plant-based eater”.
Anyway, while working out one morning he told me I’d never make it three days as a vegan due to my great love of all animals products especially cheese. Someone challenging me? Ha! “I’ll make it three weeks,” I said with a grin. And so began my temporary foray into the world of “plant-based eaters” and some of the trials and tribulations they encounter on their own personal journey.
While I already have a diet which consists of a large number of vegetables compared to the general public, I also have a diet which consists of the most amazing food product ever–cheese. Now, I’m not a milk drinker or an ice cream eater but I absolutely adore cheese. From the get go I feared that the worst part of this diet experiment would be the lack of this wonderful treat but I was only half right…
The biggest challenge for me was simply that almost everything you buy in the store from breads to energy bars to trail mixes generally contain some sort of animal product such as eggs or milk. So basically if you want to eat vegan you have to make almost everything from scratch. Thankfully I like to cook so this wasn’t a huge deal but it certainly made for double duty in the kitchen as I had to make things for The Wife and The Rooster and then myself. I tried to make items which were easily combined after the fact (stir fry) or items on the grill such as grilled veggies for me and meat products for them.
I tried to get a wide-ranging mix of vegan items including food purchased at restaurants, purchased in the stores, and made from scratch. My single biggest friend throughout all of this was tempeh, a fermented soy cake packed with protein and supposedly “meat-like”. While tempeh is nothing even close to being a “meat-substitute” it gets the job done even if it does take an inordinately long amount of time to prepare through browning and sauteing in some tempeh flavor killing sauce. My second most leaned on items were protein packed bulk food items such as cashews or soy nuts mixed with dried fruits (cranberries mostly) and garlic sesame sticks.
Some of the pre-made purchased items I used were:
- Larabars (the vegan ones) as they have very minimal ingredients (sometimes 3 or less) and nothing artificial.
- Tofurky deli slices which I used with Vegenaise and lots of vegetables (usually salad mix, tomatoes and avocado). This was surprisingly not as bad as I expected.
- Daiya “cheese” which I noted on Twitter, “smelled like a goat’s belly button,” much to Daiya’s disgust. While it tastes fine on pizza, it doesn’t taste or act like cheese like they claim. Even though it doesn’t melt like real cheese or taste like cheese, at least it doesn’t contain soy.
- Field Roast Grain Meat Co. sausage which contains no soy and is basically just fats and vegetables. It browns up in the frying pan well and tastes good enough that The Wife and The Rooster were happy to eat it too!
Aside from paying attention to what ingredients were in items I purchased such as breads and using some of these other items to boost my protein I really had to make very little change to my diet aside from the lack of cheese. While some vegans pay attention even to the beers they drink I ignored that all together. The fact that some beer manufacturer may have used animal product in the glue on their bottle label or finished it on some dead fish doesn’t matter to me. Plus I like Surly too much to give it up. In addition if I was out to eat and I asked for a vegan entree I played “don’t ask, don’t tell” and just ate what was provided as I felt I did what I could to ensure I wasn’t eating animal product.
- 17 lbs lost in 21 days.
- I felt better for the first 15 days. A lot better. The last few days I’ve been extremely tired. I don’t know if it’s related or just a result of poor sleeping due to allergies keeping me congested at night.
- I will continue to keep up the “plant-based diet” at least a few days a week simply because of the weight loss and the better feelings.
- The ability to state that I unequivocally believe that vegans are crazy and that no one, and I mean absolutely no one, should give up cheese especially when the alternative is so awful.
If you’re interested I have about 15 pictures of meals saved on Flickr with some descriptions of what they included. While some meals were repeated from leftovers or were forgotten the photos will give you a pretty decent idea of what I ate during one meal of my day over the last three weeks.
What do you think about my 21 day experiment? Are you a “plant-based eater”? Do you find vegans to be generally annoying? Do you try to avoid animal products in your store-bought items? Perhaps you have some other issue which requires you to avoid some other items in your food. What are you experiences with shopping and cooking? Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear your thoughts.