Growing up in a family that lived off of savory dishes like chicken pot pie and beef stroganoff, I became dependent on meat. Expressing love for steak was a part of my childhood — I even studied abroad for the filet  — so it was surprising when I decided to experiment with a vegan diet. 

Veganism is a growing trend, with 3.7 million people in the U.S. adopting the lifestyle in 2016, according to the Vegetarian Resource Group. Six percent of U.S. consumers in 2017 said they were vegan. 

I decided to try eating vegan for one week to see how difficult it was. I knew I wouldn’t be able to see any real health differences in just one week, but I wanted to see if it was something feasible for me to do, especially because the idea of not having any kind of meat for a week seemed daunting. I also don’t care for tofu and its generally spongy texture, so I assumed a vegan diet would be even harder. 

After watching multiple documentaries like What the Health, living with a vegan roommate and having conversations with my brother and sister-in-law who recently went vegan, I had started to do research on the healthiness of vegan diets. 

There’s no doubt that many dieticians have different views on the subject. One article from Time explored the subject and concluded that plant-based diets with a little meat, fish and eggs are healthy. Another article from The New York Times stressed that decreasing one’s dependence on animal foods would lower risk of heart disease. The study that the article talks about said a “diet that emphasized both healthy plant and healthy animal foods was associated with a coronary risk only slightly higher than a diet based on healthy plant foods.” 

Health was not the only reason that led me to consider eating a vegan diet, though. Environmental and ethical reasons were enough to lead me to this experiment. Plant-based diets can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and can cut down on food miles. I’ve read and seen many videos about inhumane living conditions for animals, but I also have been thinking about the working conditions for farm workers, who are often migrants.  

Taking all those factors into consideration, I thought I’d give it a shot. 

I did all the grocery shopping the first day and was impressed with how many vegetables filled my cart. I noticed the bill totaled about the same price, if not less than usual. The first night I made fajitas with beans, rice and an avocado dip. I’m a sucker for Mexican food, so it was the perfect way to start the week. 

The first two days were a strange adjustment. I felt hungry all the time, and it didn’t seem like my schedule allowed me to just eat all day. I would finish lunch still hungry, so I would grab a banana or some pretzels before heading to class. I also munched on pita and hummus as soon as I got home in the afternoon.

My breakfasts consisted mostly of avocado toast with Sriracha, oatmeal or peanut butter toast. Because I tend to not eat huge breakfasts anyway, the first meals of the day were satisfying. 

A plate of vegan fajitas. (Photo by Jessica Hill)

Lunches, though not as meaty and filling, were refreshing. Sandwiches consisting of avocado, hummus, tomatoes and lettuce with pasta salad didn’t make me feel bogged down. Sometimes, after eating a heavy meal, I’m slugging around for an hour or two as my body digests. That may very well be unrelated, but I saw people developing colds and flus while I felt my immune system getting stronger. 

Vegan pasta salad meal. (photo by Jessica Hill)

I also noticed that I didn’t eat out as much for lunch as I normally do. I didn’t feel like I could buy something that I couldn’t make at home. My friends and I did, however, go to a Thai restaurant, and I ordered an amazing curry. 

It wasn’t all positive, though. I felt a weakness in my arms that I had not noticed before, and the first few days I felt that slight vibration in my head that happens when I don’t eat enough. I also felt a little lethargic at the beginning. 

I’ll be honest: I had some disappointing meals that were extremely unsatisfying. I learned cauliflower covered in buffalo sauce does not actually taste like buffalo chicken wings despite what I read online. I tried to make Alfredo sauce out of cauliflower and chia seeds, and it backfired big time. It was as bland as you might suspect. Even drowning in Sriracha, it was a lost cause. 

Vegan Alfredo pasta, which wasn't as successful as the other recipes. (photo by Jessica Hill)

One of the best dinners I made is going on my list of top meals to cook. Pasta with a spicy peanut sauce was the most filling and satisfying meal of the week. 

A dinner of pasta with spicy peanut sauce. (photo by Jessica Hill)

My week of veganism was surprising. I always thought to myself that I could never go vegan. I admired others who could, but I could never imagine myself giving up bacon and eggs. It was not nearly as hard as I thought it was going to be, and I felt more alert and energized after the first few days. I ate more fruits and vegetables in one week than I normally would in three. Although I am still unwilling to go completely cold turkey from meat, eggs and dairy products, I think I will adopt a mostly plant-based diet and just eat meat when I go out to restaurants or buy the occasional chicken breast. That might not be a radical decision that could affect ethical, environmental and health factors as much as other diets, but it’s a start.


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