Never in a million years did I think I would try a vegan diet. About 15 years ago, I tried to switch to a vegetarian diet (which allows eggs and dairy) and I lasted 4 days! I joked that I ran out of stuff to cook for dinner, as my husband doesn’ t like nuts or cheese. SO many of the recipes in the cook books I bought called for nuts and cheese.
So, why go vegan? Because somebody asked me to. Sort of.
Here’s the story: I received an email from the Marketing Team leader at Whole Foods Market on Blossom Hill Road. She asked if I would be interested in partnering with Whole Foods to lead a class in their store on approaching a healthier lifestyle through diet and fitness. The classes would follow a book that has a 28-day eating plan in it (The Engine 2 Diet Plan). I wasn’t that familiar with the Engine 2 book at that point, but I thought, “Sure! I’d like to help people eat healthier!” So, I told her I was in. Then I bought the book. Uh oh. The book follows a “plant strong” approach. In other words……….it’s vegan. Not only NO animal flesh, but no eggs, no cow’s milk, no cow’s milk yogurt. OMG…….what had I said “Yes” to???
I considered emailing her back and telling her I couldn’t lead a class on a vegan diet because I’m not a vegan, and I’m not really sure I could do it myself. Then I began reading the book a little more and I read about some amazing changes in blood chemistry by some people who had followed the diet. I have high cholesterol levels (yes, a fitness professional who exercises and eats pretty well has high cholesterol. Thanks, Mom and Dad! My form of high cholesterol is genetic, according to my doctor). I decided that if I had recipes to follow and the accountability of being the dang leader of this group—-I could do it! I told my husband I’d precook all the “meatage” he’d need for the month, but that I was going vegan for 28 days in February. After he stopped laughing, he told me he’d support me by eating (or attempting to eat) whatever I cooked for dinner, and he’d be “off the plan” for breakfast and lunch so he could do his own thing. So, off we went on our 28-day adventure.
We got our fasting cholesterol tested the day we started the diet plan and again today.
Here are some take aways from my 28-day Vegan experience:
-I thought we ate a lot of vegetables, but we ate WAY more veggies last month. Example: I went through 2 bags of onions and probably one dozen sweet peppers. Normally in a months time, I’d use about 3 or 4 of each for the two of us. The recipes we tried PACKED in a lot of vegetables. This is a good thing.
-I spent less money on food last month. Vegan staples like bulk whole grains, fruits, veggies and whole grain pasta products are inexpensive.
-My food processor got some SERIOUS use and stayed on my kitchen counter (normally it lives under the kitchen counter). I used it almost every day for chopping veggies.
-We decided the “fake” meat we tried is kind of gross. Vegan hot dogs had a weird texture. Veggie meat crumbles were disgusting (or they had gone bad. Not sure which. But we won’t be trying them again).
-Beans give you gas. Lots of beans give you lots of gas 😆 . I understand that over time, your body adjusts and you’re better able to digest the oligosaccharides (starches) in the beans. That hadn’t happened yet by day 28. I like the addition of some bean dishes to our diet, though, so they’ll be staying in. We just won’t have any guests over on those nights ;-).
-Many of the recipes lacked a lot of flavor, in our opinion. I think that over time, our palates adapt, though, so we’d get used to it. I need to give a shout out to one of my clients, Cristin B ., who is a vegetarian. She warned me that I might need to add more spices and seasonings to recipes. She was right. My instinct was to reach for the salt shaker, but I think we need to experiment with sodium free alternatives like Mrs. Dash seasonings, garlic powder, herbs/herb blends, etc.
-I really like a little cup of yogurt as an afternoon snack. I knew I needed to find a vegan substitute for this. I found that coconut milk yogurt tastes pretty good (Soy yogurt did the same thing to me that beans did ). I don’t think coconut milk yogurt is any healthier than cow’s milk yogurt, though.
-I didn’t miss beef or chicken. A couple of times I felt like I was missing seafood (maybe it was those Red Lobster “Lobster Fest” commercials that started popping up in mid-February!).
-The thing I missed most? Drinking milk with lunch or dinner. I didn’t realize how much I did that, and I found that plain water with a meal was getting a bit boring. I switched to carbonated water (Calistoga with a hint of lemon) and that helped with the “plain water boredom”. I used Almond milk in my cereal, in smoothies and in my oatmeal. Just never wanted to drink a cup of it as a beverage for some reason.
– I learned that “going Vegan” wasn’t as hard and restricting as I thought.
– I learned I love to eat salads, but I don’t like making them. Thank goodness for “salad in a bag”.
-Wine is vegan, I believe. Didn’t give it up.
-And while we’re at it……dark chocolate is also vegan. Yeah, I ate some.
-To my surprise, my husband ended up sticking to the Vegan diet for breakfast and lunch. He completely amazed me. Never would have guessed he’d do that. He’s a huge meat eater, and I’m very proud of him for hanging in there with me and going above and beyond what he originally pledged.
-My husband lost 11 pounds in the 28-day program. Towards the end of the month, the members of my Almaden boot camp were begging me to “feed the poor guy”. He works out with us in the Almaden camp, and I think our members thought he was wasting away. Oh, and if you’re wondering about me? Yours truly lost 1 pound. Yep, a whole 16 ounces.
-We had our cholesterol tested today. My husband’s total cholesterol dropped 35 points. Mine? It dropped only 6 points. My triglycerides went up by 13 points. My husband’s triglycerides dropped by about 20 points. Why the variations? I am not a physician or a registered dietician, but as a fitness expert who knows a few things about nutrition, I would attribute it to individual variations in body/blood chemistry, digestion and genetics.
-Aside from a HUGE thanks to my husband for hanging in there with me on this program, I have two shout outs for a few people who were on this journey with me as well:
- MAJOR props to boot camp member Lisa N. Lisa lost 6 pounds on the program and inches off her waist and hips.
- Big thanks to challenge participant Debra H., who attended all of the weekly meetings at Whole Foods. As a practicing vegan, she helped me field some questions from participants I couldn’t answer, and she was a great sounding board at all our Engine 2 weekly meetings.
Our 28-day Vegan experience has come to an end. What now? We’ll go back to eating animal products-but I suspect less of them (okay maybe just me. Not sure the hubby is on board with this).
My husband’s birthday is on Monday, but I’m taking him and his mom out for his birthday dinner tonight.
Care to guess where he has asked to go? Outback Steakhouse :-D.