What I learned from 6 weeks as a vegan (and other revelations)

That’s right, I’ve been walking a mile in the vegan shoe (probably a Tiva) for the last six weeks. Why(??!), you (and everyone I talk to) want to know? Well, I’ll tell you, but buckle up for a long non-crafty post if you’re interested:

Last year my sister Eirene read this book Eat to Live by Dr. Twinkleel Fuhrman (you may remember him from Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead), and went on this crazy 6 week vegan diet and lost about 30 pounds. I thought it was extreme, and articulated rudely I would never be interested in doing something like that.  Even though I was still trying to lose the last of my baby weight and wanted to be healthier as a family and eat more fruits and vegetables, I just thought that it was too over-the-top; I’m not a huge fan of extremism in anything.  So fast forward almost a year later, and I’m over at Rene’s house again. I’m impressed by how healthy her family eats, by the things she’s feeding her kids, by the way she’s cooking, and by the fact that she’s maintained the weight loss. I realize that she’s really made some lifestyle changes that are nothing but really good for her and her family. I’m inspired.  I decide to look into the book she read. I read it quickly, and am pumped to try it out myself.

My motivation for doing it was to learn more meatless recipes, more ways to incorporate fruits and veggies in my diet, more healthy snacks and meals for my kids, and to educate myself in nutrition.   And also if I lost some weight I wasn’t going to cry (although I was back at my prepregnancy weight).  I knew that for me, it would take something like this to submerge myself into that world, and force myself to really branch out and try new things. 

So the diet is, in an unsalted nutshell, no meat, no animal products (dairy, eggs), no oils, no salt, no sugar, and like Allan loves to add , no happiness (funny, but not true!) It’s basically just fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, beans, lentils and one serving of whole grains a day.  For more specifics, see here.

It wasn’t NEAR as hard as I thought it would be, and I pretty painlessly lost about 12 pounds.  Hands down the hardest part for me was the no salt thing. I guess I must be a salt-addict, because the first week was nothing but bland and bleak.  It did, however, get WAY easier, and by the end I found a few substitutes I really liked, and amazingly, I found my taste for it had really subsided. THAT BEING SAID, I think I had a much easier time than I would have otherwise because it is summer, I have an abundance of produce from our garden, and there were no major holidays to get through (except the 4th, which I admit, was tough).  So not necessarily easy, bu it was completely doable, and for me, VERY worth it.  I would even go as far to say that this was fun (you know, in this a new challenge fun), I would (and probably will) do the whole thing again in a heartbeat.  I give the book and plan two thumbs up. The book is super informative and motivation, and I love the plan because you’re NEVER hungry. You’re eating a ton of food (probably more than normal!), and it’s completely filling and satisfying. You may miss your fatty comfort foods, but there’s no food deprivation, no counting calories. I will definitely be taking a lot of principles and habits with me. I started a pinterest board with meals that we tried and really liked, which I’ll be adding to regularly (I have a lot that aren’t on there yet). I love you frozen banana ice cream!!!

I kept it pretty simple, smoothie or blueberry banana mush for breakfast, salad with beans for lunch, and main dish with cooked veggies along with my grain for dinner. I repeated a lot of my favorite recipes (I’m a creature of habit!), but I also learned a ton of new ones that my whole family really like. Mainly I just learned the tricks of the trade, and am jazzed  to continue learning and experimenting with my new nutrition skills. I feel like I know how to feed my kids healthier, and am trying to work on my vegetable-hating husband and find a balance that we can both live with.

I do not plan on becoming a full-time purist vegan, but here’s how I hope to go-on from here:

-continue to eat a mainly animal product free breakfast and lunch. No big deal: smoothie or berry-mush for breakfast, salad, veggie sandwhich or wrap for lunch.

-Eat salad for every dinner. I’ve learned that you can throw ANY maindish–soup, enchiladas, pizza, casserole, WHATEVER on top of a bed of greens and veggies and it’s delicious. This blog post changed my life forever, and I have gotten pretty creative with my salads since then. It’s genius though–you need a lot less of the main dish, and still get all the flavor and bulk from the greens.  And you’re eating tons of healthy vegetables!

-Feed my family (mostly kids)  less dairy, especially cheese. I love cheese, but we eat too much of it, and I’m trying to find alternatives that my family digs. I’ll still use it in certain recipes, but only when it shines. I’ll be more conservative and not just throw it in willy nilly to make everything richer.  My husband and son are lactose intolerant, and I’m now thinking that maybe my daughter is too. I’m thinking about switching entirely over to rice milk.  To combat the cheese cravings, I always have on hand some yummy hummus, bean dip, or “cheese” dip. Because my kids are not ready to quit cold turkey, so I’ve said that we can have two cheesy lunches a week (quesadillas), which is a step in the right direction for us.  I stopped buying hot dogs or string cheese, which is sort of a big deal for us.  I’m stocking lots of snacking veggies (cucumbers, carrots, bell peppers) and of course lots of fruits. For every lunch my kids have to choose a fruit and veggie to accompany whatever we eat.

-eat less meat (I know how to adapt normal recipes better for yummy vegetarian options, but again not a purist, we will still have meat just less.  We have a couple family faves that will stick around and become a little more special.)

-eat less sugar (I know all the good substitutes now for everyday sweetness, but I definitely plan on enjoying my old favorites every once in a while, that means you, CCC of love. )

-eat less oil. You don’t need it in cooking as much as you think! I was totally surprised what a non-issue omitting olive oil was. So basically, I’ll use it when I really need it, but leave it out when I can.

-eat more whole grains (brown rice pasta is way better than wheat and it’s gluten free)

-stop my dang habit of eating off my kids dang plates. This isn’t part of the book, just a personal goal, I’m such a picker.

So most of those things I already knew, but this helped me to jump in and learn about good nutrition, learn how to cook with more vegetables (I’m looking at you Eggplant), and start some great habits.  And it pumped me up, which was no small thing!

Here is my quest documented through a handful of instagrams:

Additional FAQ:

-How did Allan survive?  He was fine. He did his own thing for breakfast and lunch, and then just tried my vegetable meal and ate more of the pasta, rice or whatever else  I had for him and the kids at dinner. He’s not much of a meat person to begin with, so that part of it wasn’t a big a deal. He does, however, LOATHE most vegetables, so I’m proud of him for trying most things I cooked as an example to the kids, and having for the most part, a pretty good attitude.

Was it more expensive? Yes, a little. But it was summer and I have lots of garden produce, so the difference was nothing to shake a stick over.

How did I get enough protein? People, you can stop losing sleep about  my protein intake. I didn’t even have to worry about it, I got more than enough from all the vegetables and beans.

-How did I feel? Great. Really really good. I had tons of energy and just felt healthy and strong. My skin was AWESOME for the first three weeks, which I was THRILLED about. And then I broke out again, so I guess that dream was short-lived.

Have you ever done anything like this? Do you have any killer meat-free, whole foods or healthy recipes that I should know about? PLEASE share the wealth! I would LOVE to add to my repertoire!

24 Comments

Michelle

Last fall I discovered the 100 Days of Real Food website and took on her 10-day challenge of no processed foods. We didn’t go vegan, but we greatly reduced our cheese/meat consumption. It stuck, and we’re still eating 90% “real food.” Every once in a while we get in a rut and I have to explore for more recipes, but overall we’re sold on the benefits we’ve seen.

The biggest challenge for me with three little ones home all day was snack time. It’s hard to find an abundant supply of snacks that are fresh or made from scratch.

One staple that’s been a hit with my husband – quinoa. It beefens up a casserole or cold bean salad. Good luck!

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Miriam

That’s so awesome! I know all about the trouble with snack time! My daughter is pretty good, but my boy! He’s a little more tricky, and I definitely am still working to find something that works for him.
And about quinoa, I need to experiment with it more. I’ve cooked with it several times, and loved it every time. I just need to find more ways to use it, it’s not second nature to me yet, so I need some good recipes!

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Miriam

Well then I wrote it for you! I knew I was gonna out on a limb talking about health food/diet stuff on my craft blog!;)

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Almond Rock

I love bulgar wheat salads. With carrot chutney. Might break the rules though :-\
I could go on but most my best veggie recipes use dairy! And my vegan no butter carrot cake uses oil!

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Miriam

No, send them to me! The no-dairy was just for those 6 weeks, now I eat it, just trying to scale back. I’m definitely on the look for any good recipes, so I’d love to try yours!

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Miriam

Well, Merritt was easy; he gets horrible diarrhea every time he drinks milk/icecream or too much cheese. Josie, for the last three months has been complaining pretty frequently that her tummy hurts, and it’s usually after a meal. She has a very similar digestive track to Allan (who has to take a lactate pill everyday), and so it wouldn’t surprise me, although I’m not certain that she is yet. But 2 out of 3 for sure, so I’m thinking it might be worth it to make the switch. PS I checked your blog on my phone so I didn’t comment, but I loved how your skinny jeans turned out! Good job!! xo

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Renae

There is a very simple test that the pediatrician can do to check for lactose allergies. But you may want to check into a wheat intolerance too. My 12 yr. old daughter had complained for yrs about stomach aches. and diarrhea and when everything else was negative removing wheat got rid of the symptoms.

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marseille

The reason I asked is because Michael is very gassy (seems to be a stephenson trait though 😉 & has a big tummy (though normal looking, not like eirene described mae’s to me). No poop problems though. we took him off milk for a week, but didn’t take him off cheese/ice cream- its just so hard! no change (probably because we didn’t do 100% lactose free), so we have him back on reg. milk. Thanks for your advice links for the skinny jeans! I meant to link up, but I never did. sorry.

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marseille

That roasted cauliflower looks good!! Recipe? My top 3 meatless meals are:
1. black beans over pasta (I like canned here, but either will work), top w/salsa, sour cream, peanuts, avocado.
2.Ratatouille: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/ratatouille-bake/detail.aspx?event8=1&prop24=SR_Title&e11=baked%20ratatouille&e8=Quick%20Search&event10=1&e7=Home%20Page , though I didn’t do peppers or ravioli. I just served over pasta cuz we ran out of time to bake it. I LOVE eggplant!
3.zucchini goulash: http://hflinreallife.blogspot.com/search?q=zucchini+goulash
(we also do bean burritos & breakfast for dinner, but those aren’t my top 3)

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Martha

first of all, i read that while eating a big helping of shredded pork. so, yeah. yum. i went five days without dairy recently. that about killed me. i don’t know how you did this. but, it is inspiring. i’m putting that book on my goodreads.

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the mither

The title is Eat to Live, although Eating to Love sounds fun. And Marseille, I gotta tell you that you can’t blame that gas on the Stephensons. That is pure Mitchell blood showing through. Just sayin’ . . . . . Ahhhh Mim. I merely thought about doing that with you and if I had, what a journey I’d have been on. And here I am so far behind you on the trail. I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately (and like Martha, while I eat my chicken or chocolate or whatever indulgence . . .) and a lot of the books contradict each other, so i’m still sorting things out. But for sure I believe that we can do with MUCH less animal products and be astronomically fine. Three cheers for you and Three cheers for Allan for being such a great sport– I know that was a noble sacrifice for him. You stuck to it– woooooo hooooooooo!!!!!!!!

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krystle

I love this post! Two months ago I changed my diet to eating “plant strong” as well. Am doing it for health reasons and have learned a lot from a friend who is helping me learn how to do this.. and you’re right, it is doable!! And fun!! Also check out Forks Over Knives if you haven’t already… streaming on netflix as well.. loved Fat, Sick too! Will share a couple things I’ve loved learning so far… 1) Sprouting Sprouts! (and beans to make hummus, etc.) Did you know you can make your own sprouts? Without sunshine, or soil… I bought my sprouter on amazon and the seeds there as well. I use sprouts everyday in my salads and green smoothies. 2) green smoothies!!! a great tip if you want to start your day with a green smoothie, is to make bags ahead of time, so that in the morning you can just dump everything in your blender and then rinse and re-use the bag. Also for breakfast I’ve been craving watermelons and honeydews, which are incredibly fun to eat this way: cut watermelon/melon in half… start eating with a spoon. I suppose all this is different when you have a family, may bit a bit hoggish, haha. 3) As for substituting dairy, I’ve had fun subbing with almond milk when I eat things like granola or oatmeal. Coconut milk creamer with my tea, and coconut yogurt in place of dairy yogurt as well! which you can make yourself too! the store bought coconut yogurt is not too tasty in my opinion. 4) Aloe for skin. Not exactly diet related but thought I’d mention it. I’ve been using it before bed for about a month now and have really enjoyed the results. I was using a lot of acne products beforehand and it has for the most part cleared my skin, and I only use retin-A now maybe once a week. I use it from a plant… there are a few good videos demonstrating how to do it on youtube. Also since using the aloe, I’ve stopped using moisturizer at night and in the am, besides a little around my eyes and nose. So far I’ve found that my skin has plenty of natural moisturizers and I no longer have breakouts (at least much much much smaller ones). Not sure long term about not using moisturizer, but so far so good. I try to think back to when I started using moisturizer as well… as a kid I never used it, so not sure it makes sense to use it now. Anyway, time will tell and is an experiment! Will stop rambling on now! If you do get the aloe and don’t like it, you can always put it in your smoothies as well!

For your berry banana concoction, do you just smash some berries to get that juice? Definitely going to try that one. Also the icecube tray with herbs, what is that about? Did you just add some water and chopped herbs? For your smoothies? Curious about that!

Thanks so much for sharing your experience, made me happy to see this post. 🙂

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Miriam

Krystle, thanks for your awesome comment, so much great info there! I love green smoothies, but what I need is to branch out! I make the same two smoothies over and over…!

As far as the aloe goes, I haven’t heard of that but am really interested, because my skin is a mess. I can’t seem to get it under control, and it drives me crazy. I’m almost thirty for heaven sakes!!
Thank you for the tip, I’ll definitely try it. Any specific website or anything I should know about?

For my berry banana mush it’s about 2/3 cup frozen blueberries, a splash of water, a banana cut up, a T walnuts, 1/2 T sunflower seeds, and then microwave it for 3 minutes and immediately mash it. The blueberries make it pretty darn juicy. It’s sooo good!
And the herbs aren’t really part of the diet, I just love cooking with fresh herbs. The other day my friend brought me tons of fresh herbs from her garden, and I just decided to freeze them. I just minced them, packed them in an icetray, and added a little water. I haven’t used any of them yet, so hopefully they turn out well!

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krystle

This might be video overload, but here it goes.. 🙂

In this video she explains her experience with eliminating “lotions and potions” which really is what cleared and changed my skin i think even more than the aloe. However, I started off putting aloe at night and lotion on top but during the day no lotion. This is because at first i had an adverse reaction to the aloe and got itchy.. i think i was putting too much however. That no longer happens and so i no longer use the lotion, besides maybe once a week or less if I feel i need to. Both the aloe and taking away the lotions has also reduced my redness SO MUCH! Also i feel the aloe allows me to not use the lotions… although it feels drying at first, it seems to help even things out and keep the acne gone.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0cAisO2LZZI&feature=relmfu

this video she shows you how to cut and apply the aloe… she rubs it all over her face.. I recommend just applying one layer if you have sensitive skin like me.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNflu0cPwWc

And here she shows you one way of blending the aloe in order to drink it. She shows you how to cut it and lets you know to rinse the goop off before ingesting it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1DTtQaLIJc8

I bought my plant from a local nursery, not sure where else they sell them, perhaps wholefoods or any health food store but I’m not sure. I have seen at one of our health food stores that they sell aloe by the stem as well.

Ok, one more video if you can take it.. ayi right. same chick.. she shows you how to make your banana icecream in a juicer (not sure if there’s any difference in taste but thought you’d be interested!) but also shows you what looks like a delicious sauce to go on top! mmm.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TqX5vhXerLk

Definitely excited for your berry banana mush!! As for the smoothies.. me too, i tend to stick to a couple i love but then that gets boring after a while. i’ll give you my two favorites in case you want to try them 🙂

morning smoothie:
4-5 pieces mint (perfect morning refresher!), handful of sprouts, little bit of parsley, some kale, and lots of spinach. I started off by using 1 cup of juice, but now use about 1/2 water 1/2 juice. The juice i use is from wholefoods called Evolution juice.. it is either non pasteurized or flash pasteurized depending on which kind, which means that because it’s not heated, the enzymes and nutrients are that much more potent. I like Defense Up, i think it has mango puree, orange juice, etc. Then, the most important ingredient in my opinion…….. ice!! Which would make the perfect use of your herb ice cubes!!

afternoon smoothie:
pineapple juice, mixed greens or spring mix or any green really!, fresh or frozen raspberries, and little bit of lemon juice (fresh if possible!) and ice, sooooooooo good!!!

Also, i just found this site, http://www.straightupfood.com/blog/page/8/ Lots of recipes there that look good 🙂

Also, an idea for your lunch wraps… collard greens as an alternative to romaine work extremely well since they’re so sturdy.

Cheers to you and truly hope these ideas help!!!

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TracyKM

For years I followed the Canadian Heart Association food guide. For years I had hypertension and poor lipid profiles, GERD, and my weight was creeping up. The doctors kept recommending the same thing–more whole grains, more fruits and veggies, less meat, more exercise, etc…and all this did was create more hypertension, poorer blood lipid profiles, more weight gain, more GERD.
Finally, last fall, I read “Why We Get Fat” by Gary Taubes. Wow, what a life changer. Then I read more about low carb diets, and in particular “Sugar Nation” by Jeff O’connell and then “Wheat Belly” by Dr William Davis. I HIGHLY recommend this last book too, as well as “Life without Bread” (But I don’t know the author). Another good one is “Protein Power” by the Drs Eades. I now follow a low carb, high fat, mod. protein way of eating, and easily and quickly lost nearly 15lbs, my hypertension is gone and I’m off meds after 15 years, my moods are much more stable, I rarely get GERD or even mild heartburn, and I’ve learned a lot more about blood lipid profiles and that high numbers are not necessarily “bad”. I eat about 55gr protein per day (that is not a “high protein” diet, it’s adequate for my size), about 50gr (net) carbs, and over 60grams fat per day. I used to get about 20-25gr protein, 200gr carbs and 40gr fat. And those were mainly “healthy” carbs, LOL! I also use some specific supplements and vitamins.
For a quick overview, check out http://www.dietdoctor.com/lchf . Many people do lose weight on vegan diets because of the minimal sugar, but if you’re insulin resistant the high carb load will limit weight loss. And, it is possible to get too much sugar on vegan diets (I had a vegan roommate that ate jam out of the jar and juice by the jug!).
I know some people who gave up wheat and grains and their lactose intolerance improved.
This can be done with a vegetarian lifestyle, but it’s quite difficult (I don’t see nuts mentioned in your post). I will never go back to a grain-based diet again. Even most fruits are now off my list. I realize not everyone suffers with weight gain in the belly area, or other signs of insulin resistance, but wheat, in particular, is actually not a real food anymore 🙁

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Miriam

This is so interesting, thanks for sharing. The more I learn, the more I see how people can do such different things with equally wonderful results! I am not strictly vegan, the main thing I’m trying to do is increase my vegetables, and decrease my meat, sugar and dairy (and refined grains). I don’t say no, just am trying to replace a lot of those calories with nutrient rich veggies. But I’m not a purist, (DEFINITELY NOT!), and still enjoy my old favorites every once in a while.
I’m gonna look into those books you listed, thanks for the tip!
Oh and ps, nuts and seeds definitely were in the six week plan, I just forgot to list them, thanks for letting me know!
xo

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Pendle Stitches

Thank you for this post. And for the link to Can You Stay for Dinner. I see why you call that salad recipe ‘life changing’.

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Yarnell

This sounds really close to what how we eat now. I was a vegetarian purest for a while, but sometimes you got to use the resources you have and many in my family hunt. I love to cook large pots of beans and brown rice at the first of the week. Then for several meals I use these two things mixed with sauted vegis or in mexican dishes made healthier. I also substitute smashed pinto beans for 1/2 the fat in cookies and other goodies. Love your BLOG!

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