Well, I've finished the first two weeks of my version of PCRM's Vegan Kickstart. While I've been eating almost entirely vegan since December, it was nice to take 21 days to really focus on what I've been eating. This was, I can see what's working well for me and areas that I might want to focus on changing. Additionally, I wanted to challenge the concept that eating vegan on a regular basis is "too hard," and that it can be done with a busy lifestyle like mine.
You can see the recap of everything I've eaten so far on my personal kickstart page. Here's what I've learned:
I eat a lot of toast. Yep, I have little or no variety in the morning when it comes to breakfast. To be fair though, with my seasonal issues, it's a miracle that I make it out the door in the morning, much less get up in time to make breakfast. I used to dash out the door in the morning and grab a bagel and cream cheese, so this is a definite improvement. But, as I start waking up better in the morning (aka, after the clocks go forward in the Spring), I'll explore more variety for breakfast
I eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables. Looking back at the past two weeks, I've noticed that I eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables with every meal. Between the food I prepared myself and the food I ate at other people's homes or at restaurants, I had over 30 different kinds of fresh fruits or vegetables since January 2. Let me list them for you! I ate artichokes, arugula, asparagus, avocado, blueberries, brussels sprouts, butternut squash, cantaloupe, carrots, cucumber, eggplant, green onion, honeydew, kale, kiwi, lettuce, mesculun mix, mango, mushrooms, pear, pineapple, radishes, red cabbage, red onion, raspberries, spinach, sprouts, strawberries, tomatoes, yellow pepper and watermelon. And that doesn't include the fresh herbs I enjoyed as well. That's a cornucopia if I ever saw one! If you focus on eating "real food," versus meat substitutes, you will have no issues with variety on a vegan diet.
Eating out is not a problem. I went out to eat in DC, suburban Maryland and Southern New Jersey. Nowhere I went had any issues putting together a vegan meal for me. At sit down restaurants like Seasons 52 and Founding Farmers, our servers were wonderful about helping me find vegan options on their menus, and the kitchens were happy to customize dishes to make them vegan friendly. It never hurts to ask a restaurant if there are vegan options - chances are, the restaurant will be happy to oblige. On the "fast food" side, it helps to choose places that you know have vegan selections on the existing menu - I knew Cava Mezze Grill, Elevation Burger, Roti, Chop't and Sweetgreen would have options that worked for me. So between a little advanced research and asking questions, you should be fine.
But, I need to be prepared and patient. Sometimes, you may be in a situation where a vegan option isn't obvious. When my husband and I were on the way back from visiting my parents, we stopped at a rest stop on I-95. I was frustrated at the lack of apparent vegan options and ended up getting a plain bagel with fixins from the Roy Rogers station. Had I taken the time to look harder (aka, been patient), I could have gotten a pita, veggies and hummus from Starbucks. Even better, I should have packed a sandwich from the various vegan-friendly delights my mother had for us at home. Granted, one less than satisfying meal in 15 days is really nothing to complain about.
I need to adjust my portions. My husband gets credit for noticing this before I did - I am eating less food now that I'm not eating cheese or any dairy products. Not sure if it's because I'm eating higher fiber dishes or if my body is less "confused" without dairy (I found it very easy to overeat when cheese was involved), but I've had tons more leftovers than I usually do. So, I'll adjust my meal planning accordingly in the coming weeks. I tend to get bored with eating the same thing three days in a row, so, now that I know I need less food to keep me satisfied, I'll make less to begin with to ensure I get more variety throughout the week.
I'm grateful for a supportive family. I've heard a lot of people say that their families wouldn't support a vegan lifestyle, but mine have been fantastic about it. They've also been supportive of my various food allergy issues. From my husband taking me out for my favorite vegan burger and trying my various concoctions (even the green frankenburger), to my Mom making a vegan version of a favorite childhood soup and stocking her fridge with daiya, hummus and other veg friendly treats, to my husband's grandmother buying a veritable buffet of vegan prepared foods at Whole Foods, I'm downright spoiled. Talk to your friends and family about why you are making the choices you are and how your eating might change from what they're used to. You may get questions - answer them politely, offer to bring a dish to the next family gathering, etc.
What questions do you have about eating a vegan diet? What excites you? What are you hesitant about?