I had been thinking about trying out a vegan diet for a while. Not because it is “trendy” or “healthier” than regular diets if that is what you are thinking. (Whether going vegan is trendy and healthy or not is debatable itself.) But with the rising environmental and ethical concerns with consuming meat and animal products, I have become more and more aware of these issues through social media and the internet.
But first of all, what is veganism? According to the Vegan Society, a vegan diet is a plant-based diet avoiding all animal foods such as meat (including fish, shellfish and insects), dairy, eggs and honey. If you choose to venture onto a full-on vegan lifestyle, you also avoid using leather and animal-tested products such as makeup and personal care ones.
Specifically, here are some explanations of the reasons why I decided to try being a vegan:
- Ethical – I’m not going to go into the complex, philosophical stuff, but let’s just say that many animal products in the markets today are from animals that are not humanely raised and treated. From cows that have become lame from overly sized udders to chickens that become blind from being raised in the dark, a lot of the conveniences and cheap prices of food come with a great cost, at the expense of animals. I watched a bit of Food, Inc., a documentary on how giant companies have taken over the agricultural sector, revealing some unsettling truths about the large-scale animal processing plants. It provides great insight on the other side of the food industry that a lot of us are ignorant of.
- Environmental – consuming red meat is detrimental to the environment, a fact that has gained more awareness these days but still not enough actions are made. The use of pesticides and nitrogen fertilizer to grow corn and grains to feed livestock emits large amounts of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Think CO2 is the biggest villain in global warming? Think again. A research even said that eating less red meat would be a better way for people to cut carbon emissions than giving up their cars.
- I don’t eat a lot of meat anyways, so I didn’t think it would be that hard to be vegan for a short period of time. Many people I know are hardcore carnivores, which is fine by me, of course, but I also want to debunk the myth that meat is absolutely essential in making a meal tasty. I believe there are so many alternatives to making food good.
So, why a week and not longer? Well, my answer is pretty straightforward – cost, time and health reasons. Being a vegan is pretty challenging and can be expensive if you don’t put in enough effort or diversify your recipes.
I got my recipe inspirations from Googling and watching YouTube channels. I checked out Cheap Lazy Vegan, cam & nina and Raw. Vegan. Not Gross. I based most of the stuff that I made on Cheap Lazy Vegan, because I am indeed pretty lazy and living on a college-student budget.
Here are few of the things that I ate: (well, at least for the most part)
- Cascadian Farm Cinnamon Crunch
- Oreos (lol I know)
- NuGo Dark Chocolate Mint Protein Bar
- Wheat Thins
- Apple oatmeal muffins
- Chocolate ginger overnight oats
- Tofu scramble with toast
- Asian noodles with vegan scallop balls
- Korean style cauliflower “wings”
- Non-dairy ice cream
- Vegetables and fruits. Of course.
- I meant to make this vegan garlic pasta, but didn’t have enough time 😦
Okay, real time confession: I would say my week was 80% vegan, 20% vegetarian … I cheated with doughnuts, I’m sorry. I also had fish at a celebratory dinner. I know, I know, I technically failed my vegan week.
So, how did I feel?
- The food that I made was a hit or miss
- The oatmeal apple muffins tasted super healthy – not super sweet or flavorful. Perhaps a little bland for me.
- Th Asian noodles were not great. I used vegetable broth and these vegan scallop balls I got from an Asian supermarket. The scallop balls have a weird, rubbery texture, and everything is too salted. I blame my own cooking skills tbh.
- BUT I still made some good stuff. My favorites:
- Cauliflower “wings” – battered roasted vegetables in a sweet and spicy sauce – you can’t not love this.
- Tofu scramble – spicy and silky, this will show you that tofu can be so flavorsome and versatile.
- Overnight oats – I love the ginger and chocolate combo, plus overnight oats is just so easy to to make, and so filling!
- Very challenging
- No eggs, milk and honey (which is in literally almost everthing!) I MISS MY EGGS
- Finding a good source of protein because I highly dislike beans and chickpeas
- It was so easy to accidentally eat non-vegan food
- I don’t see this being a sustainable diet for myself, at least not in the near future. I feel like for the most part of this week, I simply “grazed” my way through by eating snacks and vegetables and fruits, which is not the most nourishing way of eating.
- Not a fan of Cascadian farm cereal. I miss my Honey Bunches of Oats…
- BUT nonetheless, I still support veganism and applaud those who can do it.
Final thoughts and realizations:
- Going vegan is pretty effing hard. It’s all about self-control, mindfulness and dedication. Milk and honey are everywhere. I accidentally ate a bag of Kellogg’s chip that contains milk because I was hungry and tired and nowhere near home. And as I said, I cheated a couple times over the week.
- It’s difficult to balance out nutrients. I got most of my protein from tofu and protein bars, because as I mentioned, I’m not that hot about beans and chickpeas – which are pretty essential vegan/vegetarian ingredients.
- Food can get a little bland – but that’s because I had limited resources limited time and limited will. Vegan food can be delicious. You just have to make time and effort for it.
In addition, outside of my vegan week, I visited a couple vegan restaurants in Chicago that are worth going to. The Chicago Diner has a bomb-ass menu – think of a regular diner menu, with sandwiches, burgers, quesadillas, milkshakes, but EVERYTHING is either vegan or vegetarian. Can you believe that? Everything is so flavorsome that you are not missing out on bold, delicious flavors from the real stuff. I won’t say they taste exactly the same as their real-meat versions, but there is no doubt the food is tasty and filling.
I also visited Loving Heart Cafe, a small, cozy cafe with Asian-inspired vegan dishes. On their menu you will find dishes like Korean “BBQ” burgers, hummus and bean wraps, and vegan cookies. Whereas the Chicago Diner sells traditional American-inspired food that is on the heavier side, Loving Heart Cafe opts for the healthier and cleaner side of vegan cuisine. I highly recommend both!