My first week as a vegan was surprisingly easy and I owe it all to one thing: proper planning! I planned out what I would buy at the grocery store, and thought of simple, delicious vegan recipes ahead of time to keep me on track. In my last Wellness article, I explain the rationale behind choosing a vegan diet. This is what I experienced during my first week as a vegan.
What Did I Eat?
Being 6’1” and weighing 180 pounds, it’s safe to say I have a very quick metabolism. This has been the case for me my entire adult life. I can pretty much eat as much as I want for the most part and as long I am active my body will burn off calorie after calorie.
That being said, choosing to switch to a vegan diet has forced me to eat a lot more than ever before. In my opinion this isn’t a bad thing. I’ve just found myself preparing more food for meals and snacking constantly. After my first vegan grocery shopping trips, I realized that I need to fill my fridge and cabinets, and build up plenty of ‘vegan ammunition.’
My diet mainly consisted of different kinds of produce, bread and grains, lots of beans, seeds, and nuts, and the occasional OREO (yes, they are vegan). I focused on staying full and balancing what I ate by eating a large variety of foods. I also planned ahead and ordered multivitamins to make sure my body doesn’t dwindle.
I’ve also noticed that I have been drinking substantially more water and tea after making this dietary change. This has helped me feel more awake in the early hours, and more healthy all through the day.
A Test of Will Power
Like I said, I’ve never really over-consumed meat in the past, but I do have a huge weakness for fish. I absolutely love to eat fish, and sushi happens to be my favorite food.
After working as a chef at several sushi restaurants, I have an extensive knowledge of how to prepare sushi. And while I obviously won’t be able to eat fish on this diet, I can use that sushi wisdom to come up with creative vegan sushi. This way I can still eat a modified version of my favorite food, and I’ll still be able to enjoy making it.
Additionally, over the weekend my roommates had a BBQ and that tested my will power. I don’t like to eat red meat, but there’s something about the smell of grilled red meat that is almost hypnotic. But I stood my ground and chose to eat delicious, homemade, black bean burgers instead. When it was all said and done, I was satisfied with my choice.
Vegan Protein Sources Are Not A Myth
This is probably the most cliche question to ask a vegan: “how will you ever be able to get enough protein?”
There are numerous vegan-friendly foods that contain ample amounts of protein. I ate foods such as peanut/almond butter, beans and hummus, hemp and chia seeds, tofu, asparagus, spinach, and quinoa, as plant based protein sources. And these are only some of the many protein-rich, vegan foods.
I try to stay away from fake meat substitutes. I’m sure at some point, I’ll cave and eat a meal with some fake meat, but for the most part I am trying to steer clear of heavily processed foods. While they might taste similar to meat, they are typically very processed and can be full of preservatives.
Alternatives to Animal Products I Prefer
I don’t usually eat a lot of animal products compared to most people. I’ve given up milk years ago, and for whatever reason am not a huge fan of cheese. But there are certain dairy products I did love to eat, so keeping the sour cream off my tacos and the yogurt out of my granola won’t be easy at first. The following are basic examples of animal product alternatives.
Yogurt: cultured coconut or flax milk
Milk: flax milk, cashew milk, coconut milk (with added protein)
Meat: black bean patties, falafel, tofu, hummus, portobello mushroom
Egg (in baking): ground flax
Vegan Friendly Places to Eat
While I don’t typically eat very often, I decided to check out as many vegan-friendly restaurants as I could. After some quick research, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my small hometown of Boise, Idaho actually has a lot of offer.
There are Ethiopian and Mediterranean restaurants serving up vegan food, all within a couple of miles of my home. Not to mention there are vegan teahouses, cafes, and a local health food Co-op that heavily caters to a vegan lifestyle.
Boise is a small city compared to most. So if we have these options, odds are your city does too!
Essential Kitchen Tools for Vegans
A solid blender is something that every vegan should own. I’ve made so many smoothies to curb my insatiable appetite since I changed my diet. I use coconut water and produce as a base for my smoothies, and add in protein from nut butters, hemp seeds, and ground flaxseeds.
Food processors are great for making vegan sauces, like cashew ‘alfredo’ sauce, and dips such as hummus. I have both a small food processor and a larger one. They are actually pretty cheap nowadays.
A few sharp knives are your best friend. Why spend the extra effort struggling with dull knives? Not saying you need to go out and buy $500 worth of professional kitchen knives, but you should avoid cheaply made knife sets. Instead, buy a couple quality chef’s knives and a sharpening steel.
Buy a large plastic cutting board! Bamboo cutting boards look nice but often times harbor harmful bacteria. While a vegan diet cuts out a lot of cross contamination issues, it’s still important to keep your cutting board clean. Choosing a plastic cutting board that is less porous makes doing so easier.
Rice cookers are extremely useful as well. I use them to not only cook rice, but also to steam vegetables and make steel cut oats for breakfast.
Why Am I Doing This?
Alternative diets such as vegetarianism and veganism are proactive ways to solve our nation's obesity epidemic. And obesity problems aside, many typical diets overlook the benefits of plant-based eating, and vouch for processed foods and overconsumption in general.
Beyond that, cutting out dairy has already made me feel substantially better. I noticed that I have less bloating and gas over the course of the day, I’m getting better sleep at night, and my skin has cleared up a bit. I feel better all around because I’m energized by the food I’m eating.
I plan on continuing to catalog my experiences in veganism on Wellness. If you have any specific questions or suggestions for me, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments section or by simply emailing me. I welcome all comments, quesitons, concerns, and critique.