Wow, has it already been over 2 weeks since making such a drastic change to my diet? I can’t believe how quickly the time is passing, and how easy the transition has been! I imagined lots of cravings for animal products, weird withdrawal symptoms (I am a reasonable woman – I know this is a bunch of bunk in all reality), and feelings of physical weakness. Not to get all nauseatingly positive, but I’ve experienced none of those things. In fact, I’ve experienced a marked increase in energy, mental sharpness, and my anxiety has decreased a fair amount.
I know it has only been a couple of weeks, but I’ve already made a lot of observations in this short time. I’d like to share those with you, so perhaps you can think about your diet and flirt with the idea of making a change or two, if you’ve been thinking about it already. Here are 5 interesting observations I’ve made in my first two weeks eating a vegan diet.
It Is Easier To Wash The Dishes
Okay, I get it. This seems really silly, and most of you probably don’t even hand wash your dishes (although I’m pretty sure this would still apply if you are using a dishwasher). Hear me out, please! I’ve made a lot of meat, dairy and egg based dishes in my lifetime, and let me tell you: animal products stick horribly and make for a messy kitchen. Don’t sit there and shake your head at me – if you’ve ever made homemade mac and cheese, you know this to be true!
During the first few days, I chalked it up to my limited diet, but I have been cooking up a storm recently and there has been minimal stick-age. Soy milk settles in the bottom of a bowl differently than cow’s milk, and those divine vegan sauces made of potatoes and carrots rinse off effortlessly.
Eating A Vegan Diet Does Have Health Benefits
When I first decided to make this change, I was sitting with my friend Jen and listening to her reasons for switching to a plant-based (vegan) diet. Her reasons resonated with me – she talked about wanting to be around for a very long time for her loved ones. This is such a good reason to make the change! I don’t believe that a vegan diet is a magical ticket to being immortal, but I think there are some interesting studies out there that paint it as a solid health choice. Even if we look past the fact that some meats have recently been classified as carcinogens, there is reason to believe that a vegan diet is beneficial to people’s health.
Let’s say for a moment that dairy and meat products are about half as beneficial to our health as fruits, vegetables, and grains in terms of complete nutrition. I think this is a fair thing to say when taking into account the nutrient profile of most plant foods. I’m talking about both macronutrients and micronutrients. There is no question that animal products provide essential nutrients – of course they do, duh. But if you hold up a slice of steak next to a serving of beans, it is very clear which one is tied to increased risk of disease, obesity and cancer.
While steak is high in protein and essential amino acids, beans are high in fiber in addition to having a pretty darn good nutrient profile overall. Why am I drawing these comparisons? It’s simple: the plant foods you could be eating in place of that steak are more beneficial and linked to a lower rate of disease. You’d be better off eating 2 portions of beans than one steak if longevity is a concern, and before you say “Why not both?”, ask yourself how many times you’ve reached for a side of beans with your steak.
People thrive and live to be very old with daily consumption of animal products. Of course they can, we have been doing so for a long time. However, I know very few people who eat a sensible omnivorous diet filled with nutrient rich plant foods. It is all too easy to consume in excess when you eat a diet with meat, eggs, and dairy. And not only do you consume in excess, you miss out on a lot of important nutrients that you could have had if you’d only chosen plant foods instead of that calorically dense chunk of cheese.
Is a vegan diet healthier? Well, people who choose to eat a vegan diet are oftentimes more health conscious in general. I am okay with reaping the health benefits even if it is mostly the result of paying more attention to my consumption of fruits, vegetables, and grains, rather than the mere absence of meat. It is clear that most of us are incapable of eating a healthy diet when we keep animal products as an option. Willpower is finite when it comes to food, so why not cut out the foods that we know are lackluster in comparison to plants?
People Can Be Jerks About It, But Most Are Pretty Cool
Before you accuse me of walking around spouting my dietary choices to everything with ears, consider the fact that it’s impossible to be in any social situation involving food without it coming up. No, I will never buy a stupid t-shirt that says ‘VEGAN’ on it, and no, outside of my personal blog I will honestly not bring it up unless it is relevant to the situation at hand. Well, I told my mom and fiance excitedly, because it is normal to talk about stuff and junk with people you love.
It has been a mixed-bag, the reactions I’ve gotten so far. I did have one uncomfortable situation wherein the person practically bullied me about it. I was in awe of their visible anger – the choices we make in our diet are really no one else’s concern but our own.
Most showed more curiosity than anything, because if you aren’t a totally unpleasant person, people like to learn about different things and enjoy asking questions and taking a peek at a different perspective.
Some Vegans Are Super Mean And Kind of Dumb
Okay, okay, you twisted my arm – this is not unique to any group of people! I have been dumbfounded by how complex people can make veganism seem, and how inaccesible people make it for those of us interested in living a vegan lifestyle and eating a vegan diet. There is ethical veganism (veganism that is driven by animal welfare) and dietary veganism (veganism that is driven by overall health benefits for humans).
An ethical vegan will do their best to refrain from consuming any animal products in any capacity, while a dietary vegan may merely eat a vegan diet while still purchasing other items with animal products in them. Not shockingly, many people come out of the woodwork to right-fight and explain their interpretation of what makes a true vegan as though it is fact. This is maddening to witness, because truth be told, the more self-righteous of ethical vegans shoot their own cause in the foot by alienating the average person.
At the end of the day, it is just a word. A word that, in most cases, is used to let family and friends know what they can and can’t eat. I am not saying that ethical vegans should not use the word to have philosphical implications, because it often does! But if any of us want to see a world in which more and more people are interested in consuming less animal products, anger and exclusivity are not going to draw in an audience.
I understand that it is an emotional topic, animal welfare. Most people, even people who never plan to eat a vegan diet, are very uncomfortable and experience guilt when shown footage of animals being treated poorly. We are empathetic creatures, but first and foremost we are opportunists and consumers. Ethical vegans need to face the fact that it is in human nature to easily separate our actions from our ‘selves’ if it means gaining something else in the process.
Bottom line, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Share your passion and joy for animals, share sobering facts with grace and purpose rather than anger and self-righteousness. Lots more people will want to learn about what is important to you, and will be open to change. I understand that it is hard to accept that we are still living in a time where there is not mass outrage at the mistreatment and slaughter of animals, but panicked rage accomplishes nothing.
Preparing Meals Is Easier Than I Thought It Would Be
There is no such thing as “vegan food”, so the world is still your damn oyster. Cutting out animal products makes it more difficult to eat out, but honestly, I don’t see that as a negative. Preparing food at home is much cheaper, and I’ve also found that it encourages an increased interest in exploring flavor combinations and learning more about food preparation and cooking in general. Vegetables, fruits, and grains are rather cheap in comparison to meats and cheeses, as well!
On a lazy day, my typical diet has taken about 20 to 30 minutes to prepare – that is good for an entire day’s menu. Here is an example of my lazy vegan diet:
Breakfast: Fortified high fiber, high protein cereal with soy milk, a B-12 lozenge and a vitamin D3 capsule.
Lunch: Mixed greens, black beans, tomatoes, quinoa.
Snack: Banana and peanut butter on sprouted bread.
Dinner: Lentil and bean vegetable soup with a bagel or other grain.
Snack: Hummus and rye crackers or vegetable sticks, and a couple servings of fruit.
Honestly, this could not be easier or more enjoyable! I used to be worried about protein intake, but with the diet above I get ~85 grams of protein per day. I feel there is room for improvement, but when I am eating a bit more after adding exercise back into my routine, I will be hitting about ~100 grams of protein per day!
I’ve truly enjoyed changing my diet so far, and will be sure to share any other observations along the way. Some are a bit less impactful than others (easier dishwashing seems a bit silly to mention), but there is a lot to learn and explore when it comes to the way we choose to eat and how it affects health, the environment, and our social psychology.