I’ve been looking for lifestyle experiments that last a week. Ideas so far are daily meditation, daily ice-cold showers. And I’ve recently had this nagging feeling that I should try veganism. I couldn’t imagine doing it for a month (as I did when I stopped drinking alcohol for a month), so I decided to become vegan for a week.
Now I LOVE meat (ribeye steaks, all forms of pork, fish, shellfish etc) and I love dairy products (all forms of cheese, eggs, milk, butter, mayonnaise etc), but Angelique is always trying to get me to cut down on my red meat and animal fats. She says it’s bad for my cholesterol.
I’ve always resisted trying veganism because I love the food groups that it cuts out. However, it’s well documented that there are health benefits to eating a more plant-based diet and cutting back on animal fats. Devotees of veganism swear by it.
I read Rich Roll’s book Finding Ultra, where he documents how eating a nutrition-rich plant-based diet and becoming an endurance athlete changed his life for the better, turning his life around from someone who couldn’t get up the stairs without wheezing at 40 years to becoming one of the fittest men on the planet. He is an evangelist for a vegan diet and if it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me to give it a go!
What I’m hoping to get from the experiment
- A bit more mindfulness about what I’m eating
- Exposure to new foods I’ve never eaten eg mung bean sprouts and tahini
- Feeling like I have more energy
- A better functioning digestive system – basically even better poos
- Clearer skin
- Bit of weight loss – maybe a kilogram over the week
- No meat, fish or any animal at all
- No dairy – so no eggs, milk, butter, cheese
- (not really a rule about veganism but I don’t want to be eating just processed food that happens to be animal-product-free like crisps and chips)
- Where was my protein going to come from? This is stuff that I worry about. I don’t want to lose muscle mass.
- Would I see a drop in testosterone? I’ve always believed that testorone is produced at night using fats, and where better to get those fats than from a juicy steak.
Preparing to go vegan for a week
- Get rid of all the milk in my fridge
- Ditto cheese
- Finish or freeze all the meat products
- Buy veg for the week:
Breakfast – Frozen berry, banana and oat smoothie
Lunch – Puy lentils, tomotoes and olive oil, with some southern fried nuggets (which left me feeling a bit gross)
Dinner – salad (lettuce, carrot, courgette with hummus dressing), roasted sweet potatoes with tahini dressing
My energy levels were pretty good throughout the day (except for that period after eating those nuggets). I didn’t run today as I planned a big run for tomorrow.
Breakfast – Kale, banana, pear and oats smoothie
Lunch – Puy lentils stewed with kale, roasted sweet potatoes and carrots.
Dinner – Leftovers from lunch, some hummus (“me too” brand), some sauerkraut, some Afghan naan bread with olive oil, salt and balsamic vinegar, some tofu with soy sauce, tahini and finely chopped spring onions.. (Angelique said “gone are the days of having a meal based on a single cuisine!”)
I did an 8 mile run in the morning which felt fine re energy levels and strength. Some Plant Power (according to Rich Roll)!
Possible TMI alert: I had a pretty watery poo this morning. I didn’t expect to have this whilst eating vegan as I thought the extra veg and plant-based foods would increase my fibre intake. Will monitor this.
Breakfast – some muesli with some pea protein milk (I didn’t like this at all. It looked almost grey. Looking at the ingredients, it’s mostly water. Pea protein is the second biggest ingredient at just 4% and there’s some sunflower oil, strangely, in long list of other ingredients. It looks like all these non-dairy milks have weird ingredients like gums, thickeners and oils in them. It just doesn’t sound that appetising really and I might leave out any kind of milk substitute for the rest of this experiment. This got me thinking about what other foods I eat that have lots of additives and unnatural things in them.)
Lunch – quinoa, with chopped tomato and cucumber through it with some olive oil. Fried tempeh slices.
Snacks – a pot of mung bean sprouts (surprisingly delicious! Fresh, crunchy, and felt like each mouthful was doing me good!
Dinner – Stir fried broccoli, tempeh, noodles
Breakfast – avocado and hummus sandwich (hummus replacing the butter!)
Lunch – spaghetti with tomato and garlic sauce
Dinner – Stir fried broccoli, tempeh, noodles
Breakfast – Smoothie of kale, oats, beetroot and spirulina (I got this recipe inspiration from Rich Roll). The spirulina makes it almost black.
Lunch – sandwiches with lettuce, mushroom-based sausages (actually delicious!) and vegan mayonnaise (not too bad).
Dinner – couscous salad with capers, cucumber, onion, black eyed beans
Breakfast – banana, kale, beetroot, oats, spirulina smoothie
Lunch – mushroom-based sausages, pan-fried cavolo nero, puy lentils
Dinner – leftover quinoa, roasted sweet potatoes and carrots
Breakfast – leftover quinoa and last night’s roasted sweet potatoes
Lunch – Jackfruit burrito with vegan toppings from Tortilla (I felt so full after eating this. Fuller than after a medium burrito normally.)
Dinner – chorizo-flavoured mushroom sausages from Sainsbury’s, some runner beans pan-fried with olive oil, sea salt and garlic, some boiled potatoes.
Effects or benefits on becoming vegan for a week
I actually really enjoyed this experiment. I liked trying new foods that I’d never normally eat like tempeh and mung bean sprouts. It’s been to good to know that I’m not ‘dependent’ on a meat diet. (It sounds crazy to think back to those times where I’ve considered trying a vegan diet and I’ve said “I can’t give up cheese” or “I can’t give up pork”!
I’ve definitely become more aware of what I’m putting into my body. That came from looking at what ingredients are in alternative milks. We bought some pea protein milk that had some unnatural-looking ingredients in it, whereas cow milk seems to be made up of, well, cow milk!
It made me think about what else I mindlessly put into my body. Like store-bought pizza or even pizza from Pizza Hut, what’s in the dough or in the cheese? Or what’s in the ice cream or in the bread?
Were there any health benefits? Nothing that’s stark and that stands out. It was only a week, but I didn’t lose any weight. It didn’t impact my running (I still cracked out my target of 16 miles in a week and this included an 8-mile run). My energy levels were pretty consistent and I didn’t get any energy slumps that tend to happen when I eat a lot of stodge like a giant burrito or some KFC. I did get one energy slump after eating those Southern-fried tofu bites that just tasted so processed. I did feel ‘clean’ and kinda ‘virtuous’ when munching on salads and sprouted mung beans (which are delicious!).
Was it easy or hard? It was pretty easy actually, particularly when you’re eating at home a lot.) I can imagine that if you’re out and about, it would be tricky to find vegan food. There would be some vegetarian options but few vegan options.
You need a carb source which happens to be mostly vegan anyway (pasta, noodles, lentils, bread), a protein source (tofu, tempah, quinoa, beans), fats (olive oil mostly), and things to make nice dressings out of (tahini-based mostly, or mustard-based).
Is it expensive eating vegan? I’d say it’s comparable to a meat-eating diet and maybe even cheaper. A 285g steak at Sainsbury’s is around £5 – £6. A 200g block of tofu or tempeh to replace that meat component is around £2.50. Lentils, quinoa, beans, pasta and rice are all cheap. Mung bean sprouts are around £2 for 225g, which isn’t too bad. Tahini is around £7 for a jar.
What did I miss? I was surprised to find that I didn’t actually crave any meats, fish, cheese, milk. I did have a hankering for my favourite mayonnaise, Kewpie, but I could live without it for a while. It’s odd not putting things into food such as parmesan or fish sauce. I missed my eggs in the morning, scrambled in butter, but the pang wasn’t that great.
Will I continue with the vegan diet? I’ve actually enjoyed the new foods I’ve discovered such as quinoa, tempeh, tofu, sprouted mung beans. I’ll definitely keep eating these and have a vegan-based diet but with some selected non-vegan foods added back in. (That just sounds like a normal omnivorous diet doesn’t it?!) I can go days and maybe even weeks without eating meat and dairy now, something that I wouldn’t have even countenanced before this experiment. It’s amazing that going vegan for just one week can have this effect.
I’ll have a vegan-based diet that includes plenty of veg, quinoa and lentils. I’ll add back in some quality meat like decent steak, well-made sausages, some quality salmon and definitely some full fat cow’s milk. Oh and kewpie mayonnaise and parmesan for sure.
Final thoughts on going vegan for a week
It’s possible to be vegan and eat really badly. If you’re just trying to cut out meat and dairy, you could do so by eating loads of heavily processed food that’s designed to be a meat or dairy substitute eg the deep-fried tofu nuggets.
It’s also possible though to eat nutrient-dense vegan foods like veg-filled smoothies, buddha bowls of roasted sweet potatoes and beets, sauerkraut and kimchi. If you’re looking to refresh or reset your relationship with food, then give this experiment a try. Try going vegan for week!
I’ll write an update below when I have my first meat and dairy and report if I feel a boost or a negative effect. My gut feeling is that it will taste great but that it might feel heavy in my stomach and that I might have an energy slump, but I’ll report back here.