I put myself up for a vegan eating challenge a few weeks back. A few friends joined me and we took a lot from the experience. Not many people understand what eating Vegan really means, though. Some of the most asked questions were; Can you still eat fish? What do you mean you can’t eat eggs? How could you go without cheese?
It might sound difficult but it was actually not half as bad as I thought it would be. The goal is not to consume anything that has animal products. That includes dairy! So yes, no butter, cheese, milk, etc in addition to meats. I’ve successfully completed the 30 day Vegan eating challenge and I’ve learned many things through this experience. Here I will share 7 things with you as well as some photos of things I have been eating.
Vegan does not equal boring.
- If anything – this was the most important. So many people are scared to even think about eliminating the things they love the most for fear that they won’t be able to have their favorite dishes anymore. I’ve learned to make a whole new variety of foods, that taste just as good and are probably much healthier for you. Being a vegan doesn’t mean you are limited. This gave me a chance to explore and I made many dishes for the first time that were GREAT!
Meat and Eggs aren’t the only sources of protein.
- Upon deciding to take up this challenge – my first thought was how exactly I was going to get the amount of protein I needed. Given my training schedule I needed to find out how I was going to make complex meals to make up for what I was burning off in the gym. What many may not know is that there are other great sources of protein such as beans, tofu, quinoa, chia seeds, hempseed, oats, peanut butter, almonds, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, broccoli, kale, spinach, cauliflower, and so much more. There are also many Vegan protein powders out there that you can use if you need extra. Personally, I purchased Everlast Vegan Protein to add to smoothies and shakes which tastes amazing. It has 22g of protein per scoop! My favorite was mixing it with sweet potatoes, almond milk, almond butter, and cinnamon.
You can’t forget the fruits + veggies.
- During these 30 days I’ve probably had more vegetables than I’ve had in my 25 years of life, lol. They’re essential to each meal and I made sure to have enough everyday. Early on when I thought I was lacking in the veggie department, I would make green smoothies – one for breakfast along with my oats and another one for later on in the day. I would also have vegetables in my lunch. As for fruits, I made plenty of smoothies to make sure I didn’t forget to have some fruits, but most times I would have a banana with breakfast – and an apple or orange as a snack midday. Kale, Baby Spinach, Celery, Avocado, Apples, Oranges, Bananas, Berries, and Pineapple were my go-tos.
There are wonderful substitutes for almost everything!
- Well, maybe not all of them are wonderful but you can find substitutes for many ingredients that are Vegan friendly. For instance, instead of ricotta cheese for my vegan shells, I made tofu ricotta with…..tofu, nutritional yeast powder, onions and some seasoning. Just popped it in the food processor! There are actually a bunch of vegan cheeses out there as well, but that was just an example. As you get into it, you’ll find them easily.
You must be open to trying new things.
- Everything won’t taste great the first time, but as you develop a new palate for these things you begin to eat – you’ll come to like some things more and more. Some things you just might hate (like the way I hate the taste of beef-less beef strips – yuck). But those aren’t the greatest anyway. Not all vegan options are healthy, but trust there are so many options out there, you just have to be willing to try them.
You won’t always get it right the first time. Try again.
- Many things will be new to you. For instance – my first time making seitan with vital wheat gluten powder was an absolute fail. My first time trying chickpea sweet potato burgers was also a fail (which eventually turned into a mash instead). You just have to be up for trying again. Don’t give up!
There ARE places that serve great Vegan dishes.
- Well, at least here in New York. I’ve had some amazing dishes from a few locations which I absolutely recommend. It’ll inspire you to go home and make great food! Below you’ll see some vegan lasagna I got at Blossom, on 9th avenue in New York. I also had their curried lentils which were great. I’ve also enjoyed meals at Natural Blend in Brooklyn NY, and Healthy Nibbles – which is also in Brooklyn NY. That’s just a few, there are a bunch more! Explore and find them! If that fails…. you can always try to make your own 🙂