I’ve been an a octo-lacto vegetarian for years, but while working for GreenJoyment, I’ve done a lot of reading about the potential merits of observing a vegan diet. From some of the information I’ve come across online, as well as conversations I’ve had with vegan friends and coworkers, it seems that a vegan diet could help improve problem skin, boost energy and diminish allergy symptoms, along with the added benefit of knowing that your diet isn’t infringing on the rights of animals.
As a life-long pimply, sleepy, sneezing mess, this all sounded pretty good. I asked my doctor about any potential nutritional concerns related to a short-term vegan diet. He told me that the biggest concern related to veganism is a lack of vitamin B-12, as this vitamin is only found naturally in animal products. However, this only becomes a problem after practicing veganism over long periods of time. He said that I didn’t need to worry about it over a period of time as short as 30 days, but that if I decided to continue with veganism after that period, he would point me in the direction of some good B-12 supplements.
So today marks my completion of one week eating a vegan diet. Just like in vegetarianism, some vegans are stricter about their diet and their lifestyle than others. For my diet, I decided to exclude eggs, dairy and animal products like honey. A couple of food ingredients that I wondered about included
Gelatin: Turns out this is a big vegan “no.” Gelatin is described as a slaughter by-product and is used to give jiggle to candies like gummy bears and gummy worms as well as jello. Even kosher gelatin is derived from sea creatures.
Yeast: For many vegans, yeast is okay to consume. It is not derived from animal products, but is closely related to a form of fungus. This was a relief, as a good craft beer is something I am not ready to give up during this diet.
It’s also important to me to stay away from overly processed vegan foods. Highly processed fake meats and cheeses seem counterproductive from a health standpoint. Also, soy products are linked to threatening agricultural biodiversity and contributing to allergies, so I want to stay away from tofu and soy during this process.
So… what does that leave? A surprising number of healthy, tasty foods, actually:
I’ve been alternating between
- Oatmeal made on the stove top with good quality rolled oats, water and fruit
- A smoothie made from fruit (melon and frozen blueberries) blended with a handful of fresh baby spinach, chia seeds and almond milk
- Toast made with vegan bread and spread with Adam’s natural peanut butter
- A salad with tomatoes, leeks, sunflower seeds and raisins and dressed with oil and vinegar
- Homemade hummus with carrots
- A couple of handfuls of almonds or a banana
- Oven-roasted veggies like zucchini, onions, potatoes and green pepper tossed in olive oil and herbs served over brown rice
- Butternut squash and black bean chili
- Sweet potato and white bean burgers
- A big salad with tomatoes, avocado, cucumbers, apple and dressed with a homemade lemon-cilantro vinaigrette.
So far, giving up cheese has been the hardest thing for me (my fiance, Josh, once said to me, “every time I look at you, there’s a piece of cheese in your mouth”). I’ve also learned to read labels very carefully. Sometimes there are animal products in seemingly unlikely places. For instance, on labels for certain brands of vegetable broth and even peanuts there are “May Contain Milk” warnings at the bottoms of the ingredients lists.
Also, it’s important to remember that “vegan” is not synonymous with “healthful.” Vegans are free to enjoy french fries (as long as they’re not fried in beef tallow – be sure to ask at restaurants) until the free-range cows come home, flavored almond milk contains carageenan and loads of sugar, uber-processed fake meats are perhaps not the most nutritious things to put in your body and, surprisingly, many snack foods are vegan including Nabisco Oreo cookies!
As for how this diet has made me feel, I don’t feel as heavy and bloated after eating a vegan meal as I sometimes do after eating an animal product-laden one, but I have actually hit some energy low-points during this first week, at times feeling downright sluggish and wanting to go to bed early.
I’ll be posting more vegan revelations and recipes over the next few weeks, so be sure to check back with me here on GreenJoyment.com!