Nope, not a typo.
I said the V word.
That naughty little word, that when muttered to my family, caused looks of complete and utter horror. They looked at me as if I had just said I was leaving my husband to become a nun.
Food is THAT big in my family.
I have been toying with idea of going vegan for sometime now. Every time I declared to my hubby that I was going to give it a go, he pointed out the existing dairy in my current (and nearly lifelong) vegetarian diet: skim milk in my morning latte, greek yogurt in my smoothie, egg whites and feta and tzatziki in my dinner. He was right...I couldn't possible live without dairy.
A couple of months passed and it still weighed on my mind. What if giving up dairy was the key to my health? I've been eating healthy, working out regularly, but I feel like I'm stuck. Maybe dairy was my roadblock?
I still didn't have the guts to give it a go (and I knew the reaction I was bound to get from my family), so I just went along with my dairy-filled life as happy as could be.
Cue a rainy September Sunday, when my good friend/co-worker filled me in on a few books she was reading that promoted plant-based diets. She was going to go vegan for 6 weeks, and I figured this was my cue. What better time to try it than with someone I spend 5 days a week with- someone whom I share more meals and snacks with than my husband! We both started the very next day, and had one another to root each other on, which certainly made it easier.
I committed myself to 30 days, and made it through with only one slip up that involved phyllo pastry, tomatoes, basil and cheese on day 28.
It has now been 5 weeks since I cut out all dairy and animal products (less the one night I cheated), and I am here to say, I'm going to stick with it for the long haul.
There are three factors that lead to this decision which I will thoroughly explore in another post (hope you don't mind if you have no interest in vegan, but maybe there will be some healthy tips and delicious recipes coming up you won't want to miss?), but for now I wanted to give some tips and ideas that helped me through (and continue to do so.)
If you are considering being vegan, these are merely just suggestions based on my own experiences (clearly, I'm not an expert after a month, but might help some "veginners"). Please consult a medical professional before changing your diet drastically!
1.) Milk Subs. If you like to drink milk cold, Rice Milk + Almond Milk = best tasting milk replacement for a cold glass of milk. If you drink lattes, I learned the hard way that it does not translate well into steamed milk. Yuck! Soy Milk is the only yummy milk for lattes I've tried so far, however I have yet to try hemp milk (coconut was not my fave).
2.) Even if you are not a fan of tofu, it can be used in many ways you never thought possible. Blend silken tofu for many baking recipes and you won't even know it's there. My favourite recipe I discovered my first week is what I now call Tofeta. Cube some extra firm tofu and toss in a marinade of red wine vinegar, olive oil, herbs and salt and let sit for at least an hour. The resulting taste is quite feta-ish and even the texture is close. Of course, it won't melt and it's not the exact same thing as feta, but it does trick your brain a little and beefs up your salads.
3.) Nutritional Yeast. I had never ever heard of this product before, but once I started my vegan kick I read a few blogs that mentioned it. When I spotted it in a bulk foods bin, I bought some and decided to try it with a roasted chickpea recipe. Oh. Em. Gee. Sooo yummy. I still don't know quite what it is, but it is tasty! Looks A LOT like flaked goldfish food. Don't let that deter you. You can also sprinkle on salads or popcorn, and there are quite a few "cheesy" sauce recipes out there that use nutritional yeast.
4.) 3 Ingredient Vegan Chocolate. My one vice is chocolate. I luuuurve it, especially around that time of the month. Most commercial chocolate contains milk solids. Most vegan chocolates are expensive. So, why not make your own? I LOVE Chocolate Covered Katie's blog, and when I found this recipe for making your own chocolate bars, I just had to try. How have I never known that you can make delicious dark chocolate bars at home for a fraction of the price with healthier, fewer ingredients? You can even cut them up after into chocolate chips, or melt it for a nice little fondue to dip your fruit in. Why oh why world did I not know this before? And thank you CCK for enlightening me!
4. ) This tip has helped me stick to my vegan kick without much trouble. The trick is: fill up with oatmeal and smoothies! I find between my smoothie, my overnight oats, and my fruit and big salads, I am too full to actually crave anything else.
5.) Don't try to make everything taste un-vegan. My first day vegan, I went to a pizza party for my brother's birthday. I decided to try and make a vegan pizza, so I used tomato sauce on a whole grain tortilla topped with a few veg and vegan Daiya cheese. YUCK! Vegan cheese does not replicate dairy cheese. It melts, it's sort of orange, but it doesn't taste anything like real cheese. Was it the cheese's fault? Nope. It was mine. I tried to make something taste like something else. As I was eating it, all I could think is, if only I had loaded this with more veggies and only a sprinkle of the Daiya cheese, this would be so much more enjoyable. And it's the truth. I'd have rather just eaten a full on veggie pizza, sans cheese. So don't try to recreate, just make an altered version with anticipated different results.
6. Be creative. You will be amazed at the amount of foods out there that are actually vegan, but beyond that, the kinds of foods and treats you can make that are vegan. I had so much fun playing around with different recipes and ideas (perhaps a little too much fun!).
7. Beans beans, the magical fruit! Lol. I've been eating beans for so long, that the song DOES not end "that way" for me, fortunately! I did, however, kick up my bean intake a bunch. One thing I've learned through this whole vegan thing is to try and use as many sources as possible. Don't just eat carrots for your vegetables. Have a huge variety everyday, and same goes for beans. I like to have 3 different kinds on the go (eg. black beans, garbanzo beans, lima beans), and I can toss some in a salad, eat as a snack, purree as a spread/dip, or stir into a stew at a moments notice.
8. Make sure to supplement. Because I'm not a fully educated vegan, I didn't want to risk ruining my health by depelting my body of necessary nutrients (to be honest, I have been terrible taking vitamins as a vegetarian, but this has helped me get motivated to take a daily). I found one called Vita-Vim made specifically for veggies so that you get your recommended B12 and other essential nutrients you could be lacking if you aren't sure you're getting a well rounded plant-based diet. It's totally worth it.
9. Preparation is key. If you have nothing to snack on, or to pack for lunch in a pinch, you are likely to make poor choices based on pure hunger and lack of time. I use my days off (non-consecutive which works for this) to prep my food for the week. I usually make a big batch of stew or veggie chili for the week, and cook some dried beans and make a salad base. I also make my own salad dressing (one I love right now is just nuts, frozen mango chunks, basil, salt and pepper in my Nutribullet).
10. Educate yourself. If you're already considering going vegan, be it for a short while or forever, your interest is hopefully piqued by some cold hard facts and not just the fact that it seems to be a "fad". I will share more on this topic in the future, but to give you somewhere to start, please go and visit my newest online obsession (and virtual wannabe bff Dr. Greger) over at Nutrition Facts. NutritionFacts.org is a not for profit website bringing you the latest in nutrition data and research in short, easy to digest videos. I dare you to watch just one. I started watching and about 4 hours later, I decided I wish I had gone to school to be a nutritionist and not an economist (which I didn't end up becoming anyways), because it is just that fascinating. The more I learn about nutrition, the more I want to follow my vegan plan faithfully.
Anyone else vegan, or thinking about giving it a go? I would love to hear any tips or advice you would be willing to share!