Vegan for a Week

Although I’ve been flirting with being pescatarian and vegetarian off and on over the last five years, going vegan was not on my current horizon. All throughout my life, eggs have been one of my favorite foods. And who lives without cheese? Is butter even avoidable? Seriously??

This year, I once again had the opportunity to work in the catering department at Coachella and Stagecoach Music Festivals in Indio, California. The gig is about a month long working grueling 12-16 hour shifts six days per week. I consider this my most interesting gig that has stumbled into my life. It allows me to stack some money, soak up those southern California desert rays, gaze at Mount San Jacinto (on the PCT no less πŸ˜‰ ), and even see Lady Gaga perform. It’s a great gig.

But what’s all this have to do with going vegan?

Founded by Shelleylyn Brandler and led by mastermind Chef Mike Goerdell, TaDa! Catering provides one of the most impressive menus you’ve ever laid eyes – especially considering that show days bring 2,000 hungry members of staff, production, and artists to breakfast, lunch, and dinner. All the bases are covered – special salads, appetizers, deli sandwich station, mouthwatering protein choices, creative sides, even a pizza and hotdog station, complete with tantalizing desserts and extensive beverage choices.

And getting back to my point: there are always vegan (and gluten free!) options at all meals. AndΒ what better time to do a vegan experiment than when the food is already provided for you?

Well, ready, set go VEGAN!

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Breakfast

Breakfast has long been my favorite meal of the day. Somehow, it’s still my favorite even though my choices are now completely different!! Once I started eliminating animal products, I realized quickly how much I typically consumed from the moment I rolled out of bed. Bacon, sausage, ham, eggs, cheese, buttermilk biscuits, hollandaise sauce, lots of butter, the list goes on.

Don’t misunderstand: potatoes, biscuits, and eggs all covered in sausage gravy and cheese was once my ultimate breakfast treat. Unsurprisingly, it made my body feel like concrete before I had even finished my last bite.

During this experiment, I enjoyed the following for breakfast:share_temporary

  • Whole grain toast topped with vegan cream cheese, tomatoes, red onions, and black pepper
  • Whole grain toast with various nut butters
  • A large portion of mixed fruits every day
  • Tofu scramble
  • Breakfast potatoes
  • Oatmeal with brown sugar and blueberries
  • Granola with almond milk and various fruits

And what do you know? None of those had the concrete effect. In fact, I walked away from breakfast feeling energized as opposed to weighed down.

Lunch & Dinner

Though I sometimes felt it difficult to turn down sesame crusted tuna steaks, teriyaki chicken sandwiches with pineapple chutney, sizzling steak for taco day, and even Chef Mike’s Famous Queso con Rajas, I pushed through the gauntlet of temptations and enjoyed meals as a vegan. Our menu varied daily, but I always found something delicious and filling.

For lunch and dinner, I enjoyed the following:20170422_154048

  • A large (half a plate or more) garden salad with light vinaigrette dressing
  • Mixed fruits
  • Drunken Mexican beans with cilantro lime rice
  • Vegetable fajita style tacos
  • Bean Cakes (black bean, chickpea, white bean, etc.)20170423_140445
  • Meat substitute products Β –Β chicken wings, citrus ribs, black pepper steak, chicken sandwiches, etc. (most made from TVP)
  • Indian or Thai curries
  • Grilled “Cheese”
  • Vegan Pizza
  • Vegan Hotdogs20170420_153133
  • Various grains and pastas
  • Specialty salads
  • Various vegetable side dishes – asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.

    20170428_142951
    Baby, will you make me a vegan pie??

With so many delicious options available, my seven days as a vegan flew by. I’ll admit, there were definitely some flavors and tastes I was missing, but I did not miss at all the way my old diet made me feel.

So, what did I learn from all of this?

1. Going vegan is challenging.

There is animal product lurking in so many foods that many of us eat it unknowingly. From my observations throughout my career in restaurants, most people eat at least one type of meat in every meal. Two types is very common on one plate. And don’t forget, dairy is eaten in nearly every meal you have.

Vegans make up a very small portion of the population, therefore most of the food world does not cater to this diet. It’s like swimming upstream. So maybe next time, commend a vegan instead of making fun of the diet. Which brings me to my next point…

2. Vegans deal with being mocked. A lot.

Not only does it take a lot of brainpower to create a vegan diet, anyone wanting to go vegan better thicken up their skin. People really like to make fun of vegans. Especially male vegans that have somehow lost their masculinity due to their choices of food. Many people hear “I’m vegan” and somehow manage to think they heard “I’m an asshole” and treat that person accordingly.

Look, I’ve surely met that holier than though vegan that makes you want to punch them in the face so you can enjoy your bacon cheeseburger. I get it, for sure. Yet, through this experiment and my past as a vegetarian, many non-meat eaters don’t want to talk about their diet. Next time someone states their limited diet, pay attention. Did that person go on to say the reasons they started, why they think its better, how they live without bacon OR did you ask all of those questions? In my experience, people like to bring it all up when I would rather stay low key and not argue about my personal diet choices.

I’m really over people judging, debating, and arguing over what someone else chooses what to eat – or what not to eat. I’m especially over people get made fun of for it. What’s the point?

3. I ate way healthier as a vegan than I ever did as an omnivore.

As stated, there are far less options for vegans than others. In many ways, however, this is a good thing. Many of my coworkers at Coachella would make unhealthy decisions and aired their regrets. “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I ate three donuts today!”Β or “Woah, I’m so bloated from all that queso I had earlier.”Β  Β I had way fewer temptations to binge eat empty calories because those foods weren’t vegan.

Instead, I was eating lots of greens, fruits, legumes, and whole grains and really providing good energy for my body. Worried about protein deficiency? Forget about it! A daily serving of protein is about 50 grams which is easy to come by in nut butters and milks, soy products (though I try to limit this), leafy greens, quinoa, avocados, etc. Just because vegans have ditched animal protein does not mean it’s impossible to come by in other forms. (Psst – one 5 oz chicken breast has 43 g of protein. Ever think maybe you over eat protein?)

So, now what?

Believe it or not, I’m approaching my second month as a vegan! This includes a long road trip back to the Midwest, lots of restaurants, reading every single nutritional label and ingredients list, and beginning a new adventure in the kitchen. I haven’t committed to the diet for life, but I am totally in love right now.

And just for fun…

I’d like to challenge you to go Vegan for a Week.

Not for life, not forever. Just one week.Β It’s tough, but far from impossible. You will walk away from it with a brand new perspective on food and nutrition. If you’ve ever mocked a vegan, I swear this challenge is for you! Have you got what it takes? Just one week, see if you can do it! You can even have the sweet reward of challenging your friends afterwards.

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Taking the challenge? Please comment below and use the hashtag #veganforaweek and show off your beautiful vegan entrees on Instagram!

(I always love your comments on blogs. Let’s keep them kind πŸ™‚ )

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