Confession time, Everygirls: I am not a vegan.
I like burgers. I like steak. I like eggs and bacon for breakfast. I am the un-vegan-iest. I am probably the meatiest meat-eater there ever was.
All that being said, I’ve felt for a long time that I needed to make some major changes in my diet. Having spent the last year of my life working 50+ hours a week and renovating a home, being stressed and “too busy” have wrecked my metabolism and caused me to lose track of healthy eating. I gained about 30 pounds and sunk into a pretty serious depression.
I knew it was time for some big changes. After switching out my high-stress TV news job for still-stressful-but-manageable freelance writing, my diet was the next big item to tackle on the list.
Though I didn’t (and still don’t) plan to commit to veganism long-term, I knew I needed to refocus on a more plant-based diet and stop turning to takeout as an easy fix.
So, even though my husband got wide-eyed and looked at me like I was crazy when I told him what I was doing, I set out to eat vegan for seven days to reset my mindset and my system.
This is my story.
My Shopping List
First thing’s first, I needed to stock my fridge and pantry. I was going into this blindly, so I spent about 30 minutes researching recipes (which I’ll share below) and compiling my shopping list. The prices I’ve included here are from Trader Joe’s in Salt Lake City, but I expect you’ll find similar items and pricing at your local grocer.
- 3 cans black beans ($2.67)
- Chickpeas ($2.37)
- White beans ($2.67)
- 2 avocados ($3.96)
- Cucumber ($1.29)
- Spinach/leafy green mix ($1.99)
- Bread ($2.49)
- 2 onions ($1.38)
- Pepper ($.99)
- Rice ($1.69)
- Canned or frozen corn ($2.00)
- Tomatoes ($0.79)
- Apples ($2.49 for 2-pound bag)
- 1 box strawberries ($5.99)
- 1 bunch bananas ($1.45)
- Coconut milk, unsweetened ($1.99)
- 2 cans coconut milk (1.98)
- Chia seeds ($4.99)
- Raspberries ($2.79)
- Oats ($3.99)
- Brown rice pasta ($2.99)
- 2 cans crushed tomatoes ($3.18)
- 1 box cherry tomatoes ($1.99)
- 1 jar tomato sauce ($2.29)
- Potatoes ($3.99)
- Carrots ($1.99)
- Yellow squash ($2.99)
- Zucchini squash ($2.99)
- Yellow curry powder ($1.99)
- 1 bag frozen peas ($1.29)
- 1 bag baby carrots ($1.69)
- 1 container hummus ($3.99)
Total cost: $87.31
This list provided me with breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks for seven days. I ate most of the breakfast and lunch items on my own, but the dinner recipes always made enough for me, my husband, and a healthy portion of leftovers.
Breakfast and Lunch:
Vegan breakfast bowl recipe here.
Because I get to work so early every day, I needed to pack a breakfast and lunch to bring with me. I do best when things are simple and easy, so breakfast stayed pretty light and usually consisted of grabbing fruit on my way out the door. I would pre-wash berries the night before and have them in a container along with a Ziploc bag of almonds. I’d also grab a banana and be good to go until lunchtime.
For my lunches, I essentially followed this healthy guide, which focuses on getting protein from legumes and using healthy fats to feel satisfied. Overall the meals were SO simple to make (I stored most of the ingredients in my work fridge and assembled lunch there) and while definitely a lot less filling than a burger and fries, my body felt more and more satisfied each and every day.
I was fairly apprehensive about cooking vegan meals, if only because I hadn’t ever done it before. I had always seen vegan cooking as complicated and full of dizzying substitutions. Once I found out how simple it could be, I was 100 percent on board.
I made sure to make BIG batches so that there would be enough for 2+ meals (because the less I cook, the happier I am).
Here are some recipes I tried throughout the week:
This curry was incredibly flavorful. The potatoes and healthy fats from the coconut milk made it really filling and satisfying, which was perfect for the days my breakfasts and lunches were lighter. This recipe made enough for two nights of meals for both me and my husband, so even though it took almost an hour to make, I didn’t have to cook the following evening.
- 4 potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
- 4 teaspoons curry powder
- 4 teaspoons garam masala
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
- 1 (15 ounce) can peas, drained
- 1 (14 ounce) can coconut milk
- Place potatoes into a large pot and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until just tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and allow to steam-dry for a minute or two.
- Meanwhile, heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the onion and garlic; cook and stir until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 5 minutes. Season with cumin, cayenne pepper, curry powder, garam masala, and salt; cook for 2 minutes more.
- Add the tomatoes, garbanzo beans, peas, and potatoes. Pour in the coconut milk, and bring to a simmer. Simmer 5-10 minutes before serving.
Source: Give Recipe
I made a big batch of easy-peasy pasta, which lasted for two dinners. The recipe was improvised on the spot, but I’ll do my best to recreate the recipe for you here.
- 1 box pasta of your choice (I picked Trader Joe’s brown rice spaghetti)
- 1 jar tomato sauce (I picked Trader Joe’s tomato and basil sauce)
- 1 can crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 box cherry tomatoes, halved
- Several handfuls spinach, rinsed
- 1 can chickpeas
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 onion
- 1 cup frozen peas
- Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water until al dente. Drain and set aside.
- In a large saucepan, sauté onion and garlic until onion is translucent.
- Add halved cherry tomatoes and frozen peas, continuing to stir on medium heat for two minutes.
- Add chickpeas, crushed tomatoes, and tomato sauce, stirring until lightly simmering.
- Combine sauce and cooked pasta. Add in spinach and stir until wilted.
- Serve immediately.
Vegan Dinner Bowls
Source: I Love Vegan
On three nights throughout the week, I made ultra-filling and nutritious dinner bowls. I didn’t use recipes, but the formula was always the same:
- A big portion of rice or quinoa with a drizzle of olive oil
- Black beans or chickpeas (or both)
- Plenty of veggies (roasted broccoli and carrots or sautéed squash work great!)
On day one, I was HUNGRY. Like, really hungry. Angry hungry. My body was accustomed to eating more food than it needed (hence my weight gain in the last year) and it protested this lighter, natural diet pretty strongly. Had I not been writing this article, I may have given up like the weak piece of garbage I am.
By day three, though, the same meals that left me hungry on day one were keeping me satisfied. If I got hungry in between meals, I’d have some fruit and nuts as a snack. It’s amazing how quickly your body can adjust.
The social aspect of eating vegan was also jarring, but not unmanageable. I could still go grab coffee with my coworkers; I just had to order my coffee black and skip the pastries. Lunch was harder, and I did feel a little left out as my colleagues hit the taco cart while I stayed behind in the break room. Vegan options can be found on most menus, but it requires pre-planning (Which, if you couldn’t tell, I’m not amazing at).
When thinking logically, I knew I was 1) saving money and 2) eating MUCH healthier by packing my food instead of eating out every day, but logic doesn’t often apply when you’re tired and hungry and all your friends are eating double cheeseburgers.
Seven days later, I felt amazing. I’ll repeat what I said: I FELT AMAZING. Not only did I have more energy, I felt like I had gained a new control over my body and health, which is an incredibly empowering feeling to have.
I lost weight, too: Three pounds in a week. I don’t attribute this to eating vegan so much as I do to keeping my diet natural and healthy, but sticking to a vegan diet made that a whole lot easier. It’s difficult to fill up on junk when most junk contains animal products.
Now that the week is over, I plan on reintroducing meat and dairy products into my diet—but in a very different way. I feel too good to go back to inhaling processed food with no thought about how it will affect my body.
If I’m going to be committed to fueling my body with healthy food, I should think plants first, meat second. This week taught me that meat isn’t a requirement at every meal; it can supplement a dish if available, but isn’t (and shouldn’t be) a necessity.