I can’t believe that I not only reached Day 30 of my vegan challenge, but surpassed it! It feels good (both mentally and physically) to say that I made it! The journey was not as scary as I thought it would be and I’ve learned a lot about myself — mainly that most of my regular diet consists of vegan food anyways. Also, I have a major problem with sweets! (haha.)
Before I dive into some of the things I’d like to share with you about my journey, let me state a quick disclaimer – I have NOT seen “What the Health,” despite what many may think, but I do plan to do so in the near future. I actually decided to do this way before I heard about the documentary. I am very knowledgeable about how much of our food is processed (even on farms) in our country and always tend to “take a break” from eating certain foods from time to time.
And what did I learn? Being vegan forced me to be very cautious of what I put into my body, pay attention to what was in certain foods (mainly processed), and made me spend way more time in the kitchen prepping and cooking my meals than I have in a LONG time. I could talk about my journey forever, but I just want to hit on a few challenges I personally faced and a few tips for you. Let’s get to it!
(1) Sweets cravings were stronger in the beginning (i.e. regular ice cream, cheesecake, etc.) (2) Eating out at “regular restaurants” with limited options (3) Avoiding veggies cooked in meat and/or butter (4) Eating ENOUGH food in the beginning to stay nourished, have energy, and avoid feeling light-headed at times – had to change that REAL quick!
(1) Research recipes and meal prep! (2) Go grocery shopping weekly (maybe even daily) for fresh veggies and other items, but don’t “over buy” because you can get excited about the different meals you can create and might go crazy in the store like me lol. (3) Start off by minimizing sweets or take them out all together and give yourself a treat now and then after week 2 ( I went a little crazy, but once a week won’t hurt yah! :)) (4) Stay focused – cravings will take time to cease, but eventually will be gone and it will be a lot easier! (5) Get a friend to join you — it makes you a lot more accountable and it’s fun to share experiences!
Now, I just want to share with you all some of my favorite food items (and some recipes) during my journey. I did have some fun with it because I found several local restaurants that have vegan food and I definitely have my favorites!
*Please note that I mainly shopped at Kroger, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods during my vegan challenge.
Some of my staple items included: brown/white rice, quinoa, whole wheat pasta, fresh marinara sauce, a variety of fresh veggies/fruits (esp. avocados) and salad, hummus, all-natural creamy peanut butter, unsweetened almond milk, and coconut water (both great for smoothies), a variety of good seasonings and vegan salad dressings. All-in-all, if all else failed, I could make “something” out of these items and be satisfied!
Baked Tofu (Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s — savory, teriyaki and sriracha flavors were good for stir-frys)
Soy Chroizo (from Trader Joe’s) – I made Soy Chorizo Tacos with Corn Tortillas (yum!)
Vegan Tessemae’s Salad Dressings – make sure the bottle says vegan!
Buffalo and BBQ Cauliflower Wings with Heart Blue Cheese (OMG…SO GOOD!)
Fresca on Addison – White Bean and Sweet Potato Burger and their variety of Tacos!
Strange Matter R.V.A. – Tofu Buffalo Wings with “Ranch”
Mekong – Crispy Tofu and Mixed Vegetable Stir-fry
Sadiaa’s Juice Box & Yoga Bar– Avocado Chickpea Spinach Salad (No Feta) with Lentils, Quinoa or Tofu ( I loved this so much, I learned how to make my very own version at home!)
One might think that this is basic, BUT I would say my favorite treat was watermelon! (it’s mainly because I am a country girl who loves a ripe, sweet watermelon and it helped to curve my cravings a lot! — I always kept one cut in the fridge)
Charm School Social Club– Vegan Chocolate Cookie and Peanut Butter w. Fudge Swirl (Vegan Marshmellow Fluff topping!)
EatPastry Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (vegan and gluten free) to bake (from Whole Foods)
Ben and Jerry’s Non-Dairy Ice Cream Selections (sold at a variety of grocery stores)
Brownie Crisps (Trader Joe’s)
Sugar Shack Donuts – a variety of vegan donuts, but I loved the Chocolate Oreo and Maple!
Did I enjoy other vegan foods and restaurants? Of course, I did! Pinterest was my best friend! And of course if you don’t live in or near Richmond, VA, I would recommend you simply Yelp or Google “Vegan Restaurants” in your area. It will certainly help you find some options to go and try out during your vegan journey. Enjoy the adventure! (Special thanks to all my family and friends who supported me by sending recipes, cooking vegan meals for me, and joining me as I tried new vegan spots around town!)
Now, will I be vegan forever? That is still undecided. For right now, I am doing at least 80/20, but have found that no craving for meat, chicken or pork have returned, nor do I desire to eat dairy — but who knows! All I know is that if anyone offered me any of those foods in this very moment, I’d be like, “What the Vegan?”