“I could NEVER do that — I just love cheese too much”
“No pizza? No thanks.”
“What can I buy that you’ll eat, just lettuce?”
That last quote was actually from my mom! (Being supportive the only way she knew how?) Most people that have not attempted veganism aren’t aware of how many vegan alternatives are available. Though I will admit, it is hard to train yourself to crave the vegan versions of your favorite foods.
Something that helped make my veganism the slightest bit bearable is that I didn’t give up all the things that I loved cold turkey. I stopped eating dairy in January and cut out red meat in March. As a lover of most foods, I found the idea of no cheese, steak, or pizza daunting. However, I cut them out as a small personal experiment, to test how limiting my diet changes the way I look and feel. I did not notice any drastic changes, and I found the transition pretty easy. It feels good to be more conscious about what I am eating.
Since giving up dairy and red meat wasn’t terrible, I felt like I could handle going fully vegan for a seven day trial. And to everyone’s surprise (except my own), it was easy! Well, as easy as slightly modifying what I already ate on a daily basis. So, after 13 days as a vegan: what did I learn and how did it go?
To start each day, I typically made avocado toast with an over-easy egg or a fruit smoothie blended with almond milk. However, eggs are not vegan. This was honestly the toughest item to cut out of my daily menu, but I began a new routine where I made a smoothie every night before bed (so that I didn’t wake my roommates), and then I had a quick, vegan grab-and-go breakfast. So, my veganism ultimately allowed me more time in the morning.
On the eve of my vegan trial, I searched “vegan meal prep” on TikTok and found quite a bit of meal inspiration. I went to the grocery store the next morning and bought tofu, fresh veggies, and cauliflower rice. Not that normal rice isn’t vegan, I just wanted to give cauliflower rice a try — and I hated it. I meal-prepped for the first time ever! I sauteed some veggies, roasted others, and made pan-seared tofu. (Side note: tofu is so underrated.) For the next few days, I ate the combination of my cooked veggies topped with Trader Joe’s Eggplant Garlic Spread — and it was *chef’s kiss*.
My breakfasts and dinners were now all set for the week, so then I just needed to be creative about lunch and snacks. I am lucky to have a job that provides a meal for every shift, so every day that I worked, I ate a tofu burrito and a side salad. If I was not working, I found myself very impressed with MorningStar Farms’s Chik’n Nuggets, and have been equally satisfied with Daiya’s dairy-free homestyle ranch dressing — I actually thought it tasted more like bleu cheese, but nonetheless, it was good enough to fit in with my new lifestyle.
Going vegan for a week was much easier than I had expected, but I do give props to my already limited diet for helping me through it. I actually really enjoyed veganism and continued on past my first week for another six days. Throughout the rest of the week, I enjoyed more tofu burritos, Daiya’s frozen plant-based pizza, multiple kinds of veggie and black bean burgers, and bagels with Miyoko’s Creamery’s cream cheese. I really was thriving, as long as I was eating at work or making food at home.
For the first week, it was easy. But after an extended amount of time, I found myself feeling very limited on which restaurants to go to, and even what meals to have at the school dining halls. There are vegan options virtually everywhere, but they’re not always enticing. I also found that cooking everything at home became super expensive on a vegan diet. Midway through my 13 days, I took a trip to the local Big Y — a very reasonably priced store — and spent over $114 on less than two bags of groceries!
I ultimately decided to end my veganism when I was in a very long line at Moe’s Southwest Grill. I decided that I can still eat fairly plant-based without inconveniencing myself or breaking the bank. I also decided that I really wanted chicken and sour cream in my Stack (the Moe’s version of the Taco Bell crunch wrap).
All in all, it was a great experience. I am proud that I pushed myself to try something new, especially something that so few others are willing to attempt. For now, I am dairy-free and do not eat red meat, but I do still enjoy my veggie burgers and tofu burritos.