This month is the year mark of my personal vegan journey. After 42 years of being an omnivore, I have managed to stay on a plant-based diet. While staying vegan definitely tested my resolved, even more challenging during outings, I made it! I didn’t have to think about what I had to eat before; but now, I come to a realization that though there are places that cater to my diet, my city, in general, is not yet there with vegan options. (Especially when the price is involved.) I make do, of course, and celebrate the places that do, of which I post on my Insta. (unsponsored)
Realistically, I don’t need restaurants to be 100% vegan, I just need options when I eat there with my fam and friends. The rest of my family does not follow a plant-based diet. I would just like to sit down for a meal at a place that caters to all our diets. While it would make my life easier to have my entire family vegan; I am realistic and understanding of personal preferences. It has to be a personal decision for each and everyone, just as it was for me.
I turned vegan not for the animals; although, it had a positive impact on animals nonetheless. I switched for health reasons, impacted by the documentary What The Health I watched on Netflix. Simply, I wanted to be healthier and wanted to see if it’s a doable lifestyle for me. Honestly though, am I healthier now that I’m vegan? I would like to think so.
Here’s what I learned in the year I’ve been vegan:
I initially started with a 14-day challenge.
- I was curious and wanted to see if it was a doable lifestyle change for me. Figured 2 weeks was a good amount of time to test it out.
- I passed the 2 weeks trial, though not without forgiving myself for some beginners mistakes. Like tiny fried eggs pieces on my vegetable fried rice, I am prone to ordering out. I wasn’t going to pay for another food when I paid for one already. I don’t like to waste food, at my expense. Haha
During the 14-day challenge, I logged in anything and everything I ate.
- This held and kept me accountable.
The food I missed the most during this 14-day challenge was milk and eggs.
- I still miss it to this day. I never noticed just how much of the food I love to eat had eggs and milk until I started paying attention to the ingredient list of every product I buy.
- I miss whipping my own cream for cake icing. I have found a coconut whipped cream at Wholefoods; but, it’s frozen. Still, I prefer whipped cream to butter icing.
Just because something seems vegan, it does not necessarily mean it is vegan.
- Think fruit smoothies. On my first week, the kids participated in the Chalk the Walk at the beach. It was super hot despite the shade we brought with us to protect us from the sun. I ordered a fruit smoothie from Dairy Queen to cool off. I learned after the fact that it was not vegan.
- Gelatin is an animal-based product, which is in a lot of food I didn’t think would have it.
- Get acquainted with ingredients to watch out for and check the ingredient list on the product to make sure. It can get tedious, I know.
Just because it says vegetarian, it does not mean it’s vegan.
- I know reading the ingredient list for each product is a pain; but, it’s necessary. Once I became more aware of the products available to me, it became easy choosing which I wanted to continue eating.
- I’ve seen the brand Quorn and Morning Star, among others, with egg whites on some of their products.
Forgiving myself for mistakes is a must.
- What I am going for is a lifestyle diet change and frankly, it may take my whole life to keep up with the standards. There will always be temptations or I might not always catch the ingredient lists. I am accepting of the fact that I will make mistakes along the way. I just have to learn from it.
I had to come to terms with products that states “may contain milk and/or eggs”.
- If it doesn’t say it on the ingredient list specifically, I let this warning pass. Even bread has this warning.
I have also contemplated several times during the 1-year span to include eggs, for protein, and milk, for its vitamin D, which I’m always low on during winter months, to my diet because I miss and need it.
- I miss cheese and the easiness of just ordering pizza on a Friday Movie Night.
- My doctor prescribed me Vitamin D supplements.
I am able to eat breadsticks, which is essential pizza dough. Papa John’s pizza dough is vegan. I’m sure there are plenty other restaurants who’s pizza dough are too.
- The funny thing is, even though I dip it in the marinara sauce because it has no cheese, my family feels sorry for me for just eating breadsticks and marinara, instead of a cheese pizza.
- I can, however, order an actual pizza minus the cheese. I prefer having cheese of course, but at least I’m not that poor family member that’s eating breadsticks and marinara only.
I lost 10 lbs during the first 6 months of switching to a plant-based diet.
- It was a really big diet change for me who ate anything and everything she liked previous. I’m not going to lie, I have a very big sweet tooth, and a natural palette for rich fatty foods. I used to only purchase full fat, never reduced-fat or fat-free products. I still do, just now it’s the vegan version.
- Still, to be fair, the weight loss had plenty to do with my husband being away for two years for work. I think being the sole parent with active kids and everyday stress played a big roll on losing weight, just not eating plant-based items. My weight went down to 114 lbs. You can bet I was very happy to see that extra weight gone too.
Once my husband returned home, I gained 6 lbs. back because all he wanted to do was cook and spoil me, to make up for being gone for 2 years, and because he didn’t like that I was also too skinny.
- My activity level was close to nil, as compared to when he was away. My weight went up to 120 lbs.
Just because I eat plant-based food, does not necessarily mean I eat healthy, all the time.
- French fries is still one of my love, as is fried tofu. There are also vegan cupcakes, cookies, ice cream, the list goes on.
Plant-based food does not compare to animal-based food in taste, for me at least.
- It can come close but not entirely. Fishless fish will never compare to real fish, for me. I love fish, with the head, skin, and everything! I miss it still. Maybe in a few more years, the cravings will disappear altogether.
- Right now, I still miss meat, especially since I still cook animal-based products for my husband and kids.
I have to be adventurous about my food selections to maximize my healthy choices.
- I’ve tried using canned green jackfruit as a meat substitute. After trying it, it’s not for me personally. I prefer my jackfruit ripe, and as a dessert.
- I’ve never been a fan of mushroom before because it sort of grosses me out. Now I eat them, and they taste good too as hamburger substitute.
- I like beans but not so much that I order bean burritos as first choice previous. Now, I get them. Black bean burritos actually taste good to me.
There are a lot of soy-based products out there, readily available.
- Soy has been linked to cancer. Whether true or not, is there really just one factor that causes cancer though?!, eating it in moderation may be best. This minimizes my readily made food options by a lot, for me who has a natural dislike of vegetables. Look at the ingredients list of vegan product and you will be surprised just how many have soy.
I gained a lot more energy when I switched to a vegan diet.
- I really liked this part; but, this energy is a natural cause of eating healthy food. I still get lethargic when I eat unhealthy foods, like fried vegan foods.
At the advice of a family member who is also vegan and had more experience, and from online search, I took probiotics.
- I was religious at taking it until I was not. Nothing’s changed, that I noticed, by not taking it. Every body is different though.
I’ve learned to be a little bit more prepared.
- As I have mentioned above, there’s not a lot of vegan-friendly restaurants here.
- At family get-togethers, I bring my own food, with extra to share. I don’t ever ask if there will be vegan-friendly meals on the menu because I don’t want to give the host something else to worry about. Usually, there is nothing on the table for me. Though the food selection is extensive for the rest. It’s sad to see all the food I used to eat but no longer do. The temptation is strong at these get-togethers.
While the kids and husband are away, I used to eat leftovers for lunch to finish it.
- Now, I don’t, which causes a lot of food to get wasted. I hate wasting food. My grandmother taught us the value of having food on the table, so this creates an internal battle for me.
I save money by eating at home.
- Because there’s not a lot of restaurants that cater to me, I eat at home or bring my own food, when possible. Vegan-friendly food is more expensive than regular food.
I am more slender now because I am vegan.
- This is because certain calorie-rich food is no longer easily accessible to me. Milkshakes are one of my fave drinks. I absolutely love having Chick-fil-a’s french fries and strawberry smoothies whenever I am at the mall. Now, I can’t have them.
- Since I lost weight, it became an incentive to remain active to keep it off.
And in all honesty, given my food intake history, before and after switching, I am healthier.
- I make my meals from scratch most days, which are packed with more vegetables than I have ever done previously.
- I am more conscious of what I eat.
- Most of the easy calorie-rich food I used to eat is no longer as easily accessible to me, which reduces my daily caloric intake.
The best of all proofs that I am healthier?
- My oncologist checked my blood on my last appointment and my blood shows all is well within. They have been checking my blood since 2011 and she was very surprised at how my blood was noticeably much better this last appointment. This is before I told her I switched to a plant-based diet. What better proof do I need to persuade me to continue on my veganism quest?
The bottom line of this year experience
In order for this vegan diet to work, it had to be a personal choice. Then and only then, I placed the accountability on myself and the effort flowed with. Will I be vegan for the rest of my life? Maybe or maybe not. For now, I know I will continue to be so. Every day is a learning experience and I take it a day at a time. On some days, it is certainly easier to just give in. Maybe someday, I’ll have my own collection of food recipes to share with the world. That’s another life goal for the books.
Please consult with your doctor about your questions regarding switching to a vegan diet. Your doctor will take your medical history into account and help you transition into a vegan diet, should that be your goal. This post features my personal experiences switching to a vegan diet and what works for some may not work for others.
Have you experiences with being vegan to share with me? What has been the greatest lesson to you since becoming one?