It’s that time of year. The time where I say goodbye to nachos, steak, ice cream, bacon, grilled cheese, yogurt, omelets and fish ‘n’ chips. Not that this is my normal, day-to-day diet, but it really makes a difference when you make a commitment to eliminate all of it.
This will be my 3rd year of my personal vegan challenge for one month. There are a few changes this year, though. 1) I’m not starting until Feb. 2. Because Super Bowl. I have a lot of willpower, but not sure if I care to exercise it 100+% on Super Bowl Day (hello, cheese dip, wings, and all of the bad game-day snacks). 2) I’m going to try and do it for 30 days this year. I normally pick February because it’s the shortest month of the year, but I figure if I can go for 28 days, then I can most certainly do it for 30. I will not miss cheese….I will not miss cheese….I will not miss cheese.
Being that this is my 3rd year committing to a month without animal products, I don’t feel nervous or intimidated. It gets easier and easier every year. It helps that I eat a mostly vegetarian diet, anyway, and that the majority of my favorite cookbooks and food blogs are vegan. Oh She Glows, Thug Kitchen, Chef Chloe Coscarelli, The Sexy Vegan, Allyson Kramer, Chocolate-Covered Katie, Post Punk Kitchen, and Cookie & Kate – among others. Food Blog Addicts Anonymous, party of 1.
Why do I do this? I do it for me. Plain and simple. I’ve personally done a great deal of research on food production and consumption in the U.S., which partly influences the way I eat. I grew up on a farm in a very ‘meat and potatoes’ kind of family. On my personal journey to health, fitness and nutrition, I have learned a great deal about food, what food eats, how food affects our bodies, environmental impact and plant-based diets. My dad thinks I’m nuts when I do this. My mom is supportive of my ‘vay-gan’ challenge, but still probably thinks I’m nuts.
For those curious about what vegans ‘can’ and ‘cannot’ eat, here is a basic Vegan 101 breakdown:
You can’t eat hardly anything can you?
Actually, you can. You can have anything that is not an animal by-product. That does mean no meat (beef, poultry, pork, etc), dairy, fish, eggs, or honey. Anything and everything else is fair game! The last time I checked, that’s quite a variety of food.
What do you mean you can’t have honey? What about sugar?
Well, it depends on the vegan. Honey is made by bees. Bees are an animal. Therefore, it’s an animal by-product. As for refined sugar, no it does not come from animals, but can be processed with animal bone char to remove color, impurities, and minerals, according to Vegan Action.
How are you going to get enough protein?
The American culture is obsessed with protein consumption. From protein shakes to 12oz steaks to protein-enhanced foods, there is an overabundance of protein in our diets, which can actually be harmful to the body and stress out our internal systems. Based on a 1,800 calorie diet, only about 270 of those should come from protein. Don’t get me wrong, protein is an important component of a diet and should be consumed daily. There are, however, many different ways to get adequate amounts of protein without eating meat. Nuts, seeds, beans, vegetables, tempeh, tofu, grains, and lentils are a few examples of foods that contain protein….not from an animal. An additional fun fact is that quinoa and hemp seeds are complete protein foods, which means they boast all of the essential amino acids.
Is a vegan diet even healthy?!?!?!!
The truth is, a vegan diet can be devastating to your health if you don’t keep a balance and variety of foods to sustain the necessary vitamins and minerals your body needs to function properly and efficiently. I suppose this is true with the ‘regular’ American diet as well. As a vegan, you can have carbs (hallelujah!); however, if refined carbs turn to be the primary source of your daily caloric intake, you are essentially starving your body of all the essential vitamins and minerals it needs to function. Carbohydrates are not the enemy. In fact, they are in fruits and vegetables! If you choose to eat them in other forms, opt for the unrefined carbohydrates. Unrefined carbs are in their most natural state, without unnecessary processing that removes water, fiber, and nutrients. This unnecessary processing is called refining. Refined carbs have a longer shelf life and a more concentrated taste. This is the process that most ‘white foods’ have endured, including white sugar, white bread, cereals, white rice, many pastas, bakery items, etc.
And last, but most certainly not least:
You can still drink alcohol, right?
The simple answer is yes, of course. How else would I get through this?! Just kidding (but really, thank god grapes are a plant product). The more in-depth answer goes back again to what type of vegan you are. Alcohol is not an animal by-product, however, many companies use animal by-products in some way to produce their beverages, mostly for filtering purposes. One way to check if your favorite beverage is vegan is through a site called Barnivore.
I’ll share recipes and progress along the way!
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