I have 30 things to do by the time I'm 30 and I have 1826 days to get them all done.

Vegan Challenge: COMPLETE!

For the month of June, I went vegan. Did I love it so much I want to stay vegan forever? No. And I never went into thinking I would. But, surprisingly, there was more to love than there was to hate. Here are some things that were AWESOME about being a vegan for a month.

  1. You can eat. A lot. Not one time during the month of June did I worry about portion size or calories or fat grams or anything like that. Because on a diet like this, you don’t have to. When you eat plant-based foods, they are already lower in calories and fat than foods that aren’t, so I didn’t really have to worry about it. And I was never hungry. When I wanted something to eat, I ate until I was happy and full and then I stopped. A couple of nights for dinner, I had this Mexican bowl thing I mixed up and I literally ate it out of small mixing bowl. It was a gross amount of food. But it was real food and it was healthy food and I didn’t even feel gross afterwards. That’s a kind of diet I can stay behind.
  2. I lost weight. I lost 7 pounds this month. SEVEN POUNDS IN A MONTH. And again, I wasn’t starving, I have to limit myself(other than the whole no animal products thing), I even went out to dinner and had wine with my boyfriend and friends a few times. I HAD FRENCH FRIES FOR DINNER SOME NIGHTS AND I STILL LOST SEVEN POUNDS. I also lost another 2 inches off my hips. Come on, that is awesome.
  3. I ate new foods that I probably wouldn’t have tried before. Nathan and I went to 2 different vegan/vegetarian restaurants that we probably never would have tried otherwise and we can’t wait to go back to both of them. I went to a farmer’s market and got some amazing local produce that I had never tried(I want to eat garlic scapes now all day, everyday). I found healthier options to comfort foods(pizza and mac and cheese are possible on a vegan diet) and I liked the vegan ones so much, I’ll make them again for sure. You never know what you’re missing or what possibilities there are until you try.
  4. I learned a lot of about how my food choices effect more than just my body. They effect our environment a whole hell of a lot too. I never knew until I was doing research this month just how bad raising cattle is for the environment and even if I don’t intend to stay vegan forever, just cutting back on meat and other animal products can have such an effect on our world. I was talking with a friend about this the other day and he was like, “Wow, you sound like the worst combination of hippy and hipster.” And maybe that’s true. But it’s also true that eating more animal products negatively affects our environment and our bodies, so why not consume a little less to help ourselves out in the long run? Even cutting back one meal a day or one day a week is totally doable and can help out a lot.
  5. It really wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be. I wasn’t DYING to eat a steak or have a plate of eggs or have real milk with my cereal(but I did miss cheese, I’m not even going to lie). I ate a big variety of foods and for things like cheese or milk, there are vegan substitutes that taste pretty awesome(see my vegan product review post and I’ll be posting another one tomorrow about some more things I tried). I was just kind of shocked with the wide variety of things I could still eat. And I did a lot of cooking and experimenting with new recipes and techniques, like making spring rolls for the very first time(not as intimidating as I was expecting and they got prettier as I went on). I thought about food a lot, but in a very different way. I even saved money buying groceries for lunches and dinners because meat and cheese is expensive and vegetables and whole grains are cheaper. So, while I was losing weight, my bank account was getting fatter and that was fine with me.

While this month didn’t completely change me forever in the sense that I don’t think I want to be a vegan for the rest of my life, it has changed the way I look at food overall. I want to continue on this diet to some extent, maybe eating vegan during the day and allowing myself animal products in moderation for dinner(I’m reading Mark Bittman’s book Vegan Before Six right now and that’s pretty much the basis of his philosophy) or eating vegan during the week and having no limits on the weekend. I don’t know yet. But I do know that I really like the way I feel after the past 30 days and I don’t want that to go away or stop. And I plan on having a wine and cheese night very soon with my boyfriend(I think that’s a little deserved).

Also, this was the first thing I get to cross off my list! That’s pretty exciting! So, 1 thing down, 29 to go. And if we’re being honest, I could cross off another one, but I don’t think I want to yet. I’m going to make a decision on that by the end of the week. Thanks to everyone who sent me recipes, tried new things with me, and gave me suggestions and support this month. It was awesome and very much appreciated!

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Vegan Product Reviews

I think my biggest fear when I started this experiment was that I wasn’t going to like the taste of any of the food. I think there’s a definite stigma that vegan food just won’t taste as good as “normal” food. The night before I started this diet, I went out and got a big, greasy bacon cheeseburger from Five Guys. And I ate every bite of it like it was my last goddamn meal. Then, I went to my local Earth Fare(this place is new to Columbus and new in general…it’s very similar to Whole Foods) and stocked up on all kinds of vegan products because if I was going to do this thing, I was going to DO it. I’ve tried out quite a few things and I’d like to share my honest to science opinion about all of them. If you are curious, maybe you’ll be less apprehensive about trying a few of them after you read this. And some you should just stay far, far away from.

  • Daiya Mozerella Style Shreds- this is basically vegan cheese. Now, by itself, this stuff tastes awful. I’m not going to sugar coat it. If you eat it out of the bag, it’s gross and you’ll gag and want to throw up. That being said…if you put it on a vegan pizza and let it melt and get gooey and melty, it’s delicious. It can’t be explained how it tastes so much better when it’s melted, but it does. It still doesn’t taste like cheese, but it is satisfying in a different way. You get the illusion of cheese without the calories and cholesterol(the Daiya cheese has only 90 calories and no cholesterol per 1/4 cup serving size). So far, I’ve used this multiple times on pizzas and bread and I also mixed it with some refried black beans, tortilla chips, tomatoes, avocados, lime juice, and green onions as kind of a Mexican bowl of awesome. I will use this again and I’d like to try some of the other styles they have(they make cheddar and pepper jack styles also). You can see more about the Daiya cheese here.
  • Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread- This is basically a butter substitute. It actually tastes really good to me. I went with the original spread and it’s a little firm and kind of hard to spread, but so is real butter when it’s not softened. I ate some of this last night on corn on the cob and it melted like real butter and tasted just as good. The thing about this stuff is it doesn’t have any less fat than butter really (9 grams of fat per tablespoon), but it’s made of plant based oils, so that’s overall better for you. I have no complaints about this at all really. You can find more about Earth Balance Spreads here.
  • So Delicious Coconut Milk Hazelnut Creamer- When I decided to do this, I knew if I was going to give up milk, cheese, eggs, and meat, I couldn’t also give up coffee. That would just be way too much. But I don’t like black coffee, so this was a challenge. I did some research online and found this creamer that is made from coconut milk. At first, I wasn’t sure about it. I’m not a huge coconut fan and when you first taste it, it tastes a lot like coconut. But the more I drank, the more I liked it. It makes your coffee taste like a tropical treat. If you like coconut, you would love this stuff. You can find more about So Delicious products here.
  • Yves Veggie Cuisine Meatless Pepperoni- Again, I bought these to make a vegan pizza. I really wasn’t a huge fan of these whether they were uncooked or cooked. The flavor was ok and if you are really serious about never eating meat, but miss eating meat, these were a pretty good option. But I didn’t like the texture. They were really chewy and not in a good way. The really good thing about these is the nutrition compared to real pepperonis. You can eat 6 pepperonis and it will only set you back 80 calories and 1 gram of fat. If you’d like to find out more(but I wouldn’t recommend it necessarily) you can do so here.
  • Tofurkey Meatless Kielbasa Sausage- This one, I was TERRIFIED about. Really? Tofu sausage? Sounds gross. But I was pleasantly surprised. I made these on my George Forman grill(uh, yea, I still use this all the time) and the outside got that nice crispy texture you get on real sausages and the browned up really nicely. I put it on a vegan bun with some spicy brown mustard and ketchup and just dove right in. Now, these aren’t juicy like real meat sausages or brats and the texture is a little mealy. But they are every bit as tasty and satisfying. I think the reason is that a lot of the spices they use in real meat sausages are spices you can easily put into vegan foods and since tofu picks up whatever flavor you put it with, the end result is pretty identical to the original. When it comes to a comparison of nutrition, though, these aren’t much better for you than the real stuff. One sausage has 240 calories and 12 grams of fat. So this would be a sometimes vegan treat for me. If you want to see more Tofurky delights, you can do that here.
  • Silk Pure Almond Milk(Original and Vanilla)- I grew up my whole life drinking skim milk. If you’re in the same boat, the Original flavor almond milk tastes just like skim milk to me. Really, not at all different. I really loved the Vanilla flavor, though. Over some Cheerios, it tastes like dessert for breakfast. I even made some chia seed pudding using the vanilla and it was really good. This was the easiest thing to substitute really because I don’t drink that much milk. But it might be different if I attempt some vegan baking and need milk. Not sure how that will work out. Silk has a whole line of products you can read about here.
  • Dr. McDougall’s Pad Thai Vegan Soup- This was, so honestly, the worst of the worst. I hated this one so much I threw it away rather than finish it. It was that fucking gross. I was looking so forward to this too because pad thai is pretty much my favorite food. This just tasted like lime water with rehydrated mystery vegetables. There were no redeeming qualities. I bought another flavor(vegan ramen chicken flavor) that’s just sitting in my pantry and it might stay there because I’m afraid to try it. If you want to read more about Dr. McDougall’s, you can research that link on your own. I don’t want to even think about it.

So there you have it! Those are the products I’ve tried so far and I went to Earth Fare last night and got another batch of things to try, so I’ll report back on those later. Really, with just 2 exceptions that I didn’t personally care for, I have been loving all the food I’ve been eating and haven’t felt deprived at all. I would tell you if I was. If you have something you think I should try out or something you want to know more about, let me know! I’m up for any challenges for the next 2 weeks and if I do it, I’ll give you my honest opinion. Also, I was not getting paid to endorse any of the above products cause I’m not even close to being that fancy. But if anyone from McDougall’s joint wants to give me my money back…

Day 239

Day 239

Some pretty summer flowers to get you through the week

Day 238

Day 238

One of the first photos of me and my dad together. He’s taught me that hard work and a great sense of humor can get you pretty far in life.

Day 237

Day 237

To cheer me up when I was STILL feeling sick, my love made me a fire. Also, his pants are like that so ticks don’t crawl up your pant leg. Mine were the same. The pose I can’t explain.

Day 236

Day 236

Just some dogs.

Day 235

Day 235

My brother and I about 20 years ago. Not much has changed.