I Ate Vegan for 7 Days and This is What Happened

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.

Dinner:

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: 

Vegan Curry

Source: allrecipes.com

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.

Ingredients:

  • 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

Directions:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Add the tomatoes, garbanzo beans, peas, and potatoes. Pour in the coconut milk, and bring to a simmer. Simmer 5-10 minutes before serving.

Veggie Pasta 

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. 

Ingredients: 

  • 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 

Directions: 

  1. Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water until al dente. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a large saucepan, sauté onion and garlic until onion is translucent. 
  3. Add halved cherry tomatoes and frozen peas, continuing to stir on medium heat for two minutes.
  4. Add chickpeas, crushed tomatoes, and tomato sauce, stirring until lightly simmering. 
  5. Combine sauce and cooked pasta. Add in spinach and stir until wilted. 
  6. 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!) 

Thoughts Throughout

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. 

The Result

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. 

The Takeaway 

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. 

Would you go vegan for a week (or forever?) What are your thoughts on making the switch? Start a conversation in the comments. 

  • Coline from Paris

    I’m more of a flexitarian myself (since now there is a word for it) and I agree: lunch is hard, especially when you’re eating with co-workers. And, in France, there are still a lot of restaurants with very few vegan or even vegetarian dishes.

    • The Everygirl

      Flexitarian! Adding that word to our vocab.

    • I guess I’m a flexitarian too. Glad to know the word for it. 🙂

  • That’s a very cool challenge. I’d be into going vegan for a week or longer, but it’s tricky because I’m allergic to all grains. Still, this piece inspired me to give vegetables and legumes a higher place in my diet, where meat is pretty prominent. Thanks for some nice ideas here 🙂

  • Wow!!! This looks so delicious – maybe I will try going vegan for a month!!

    • The Everygirl

      If you do, let us know how it goes!

  • Lauren Gandy

    My family went vegetarian for health reasons and I’ve been keeping it up, even in college. I haven’t done vegan because it’s easier for me to get protein from eggs and milk, but it DEFINITELY saves money which is handy at college! (Also thanks for recipes, I’m always looking for new things to make.)

    • The Everygirl

      Thanks for reading Lauren! Loved your point about saving money, since it’s a common misconception that going vegetarian/vegan means spending more.

    • Mackenzie J Kelly

      You should read The China Study by Dr. Cambell! It literally proves that lower protein intake can prevent cancer

      • Vicki

        Thank you Mackenzie! No offense to Lauren because it’s a common misconception but, as a longtime vegetarian and now vegan, everytime I hear a comment like that about protein it makes me cringe a little. Plants have protein too! 🙂

        • CC

          She didn’t say she couldn’t get protein from plants, she said it’s “easier” for HER to get her protein from eggs and milk.

      • Alex S

        This book is incredible and completely changed my outlook on food! The research was so well founded, unlike way too many diet fads out there

  • SFlove

    Thanks for writing this- I truly love meat and am generally not that healthy so its nice hearing this from a fellow carnivore. I dont really need to lose weight but heart disease runs massively in my family so I could use a cleaner diet but not to diet diet, to get healthier and not feel the worst after In-N-Out.

  • Maria Tarar

    Fantastic article. I feel the same way!
    And that Vegan Dinner Bowl – holy mama I could eat that everyday.

  • Lily

    If anyone is looking for vegan recipes, look up Lauren Toyota / Hot For Food on YouTube. Her recipes are amazing even if you’re not vegan

    @laurentoyota on Instagram

    • The Everygirl

      Thanks for the rec!

    • The Everygirl

      Thanks for the rec!

  • Helene

    I have been vegetarian all my life. For about 2-3 years, i have though of trying a vegan diet but i was afraid that I would miss the variety that a vegetarian diet has to offer ( read here yummy cheese!). But your approch sounds very reasonnable and I am eager to try it. Are all the receipes that you have tryed available? Thanks a bunch!

  • Beth

    I had a weekend free of plans and decided to do a detox. While doing the Master Cleanse, I watched documentaries on Netflix like Food Matters, Food Inc., and Vegucated. I knew after watching those, after this detox it would be the perfect time to go vegan. I can’t wait to try these recipes!

  • Hannah Shanae

    Love this article! Your grocery list is practically identical to mine every week, haha. I’m glad that you had such a positive takeaway from eating vegan for a week. 🙂

  • Primrose

    I’ve been vegetarian for 6 months now and the only thing I regret the most is: NOT HAVING DONE THIS BEFOREEEE! I am planning to become vegan in a not-so-far future though ☺️ I’m glad you tried this!!

  • I’m planning on going vegan for a month in february! I’m so excited to try and can’t wait to see how the different foods and eating styles affect me!

    http://www.lalivilou.wordpress.com

  • Hannah

    Great article!! I’ve been vegan for a year and a half now and it’s the best decision I ever made in my life. The weight fell off me – I lost 15 pounds without even trying to (even though I am a “junk food” vegan a lot of the time). Also wanted to touch on a few things — you say you were hungry and that’s because you’re used to eating more as a meat eater — but actually the biggest mistake people make when first attempting a vegan diet is that they don’t eat enough. Meat and dairy have way more calories in a smaller amount of food whereas you would have to eat twice as much food in fruits & vegetables to achieve the same amount of calories (which is actually amazing if you love food, haha). So basically you need to eat WAY more as a vegan. My bf and I eat a ton of rice, potatoes, beans, and bread that fills us up along with a small amount of healthy fats like avocados. We are absolutely never hungry. I also have to hop on a pedestal real quick to say that vegan is more than just a diet (though the weight loss and health benefits are great) – it’s a lifestyle. Going vegan not only saves the planet, but could help end world hunger in addition to preventing major diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Watch “The Best Speech You’ll Ever Hear” on YouTube — it’s the best! 🙂

  • Boomz4

    I’m doing a temporary vegan kick at the moment too. I don’t see myself ever giving up animal products completely – especially not eggs or fish. I could maaaaybe see myself going pescatarian long term, but even then I would miss steak.

    For health reasons, I’m trying to incorporate a more plant based diet. I figured going fully plant based for a week or two (haven’t really decided how long I’m going to do this for) would help me learn to rethink how I put meals together. Making veggies the centre of attention is the end goal and forcing myself to create meals that are entirely meatless is certainly helping me make that shift.

    I think that perhaps over the long term, if like to be mostly vegetarian, but eat fish once a week and other meats once in a while as a treat or when I go out.