I feel like vegans get a bad rep. They are constantly being asked, "How? Do you get protein? What do you do without animal products?" I used to wonder the same thing until I committed to eating vegan for just one week to see what it was really like.
Vegan means no eating food containing animal products: no meat, cheese, dairy, or anything made with animal products. Veganism is a lifestyle where you commit to eating foods that are healthier for yourself and for the world around you.
I tried it just for one week and actually really liked it. As is, I don't eat much dairy (unless it's ice cream and occasionally cheese) because I am lactose-intolerant. And for meat, I haven't eaten red meat in years and really only eat seafood and chicken when I cook. So, I thought going vegan wouldn't be too much of a dietary change for me. And honestly, it was pretty easy. I love vegetables, beans, tofu, fruit, almond milk, and doing what I can to help the earth, so going vegan seemed perfect to try.
While it wasn't the easiest thing, eating vegan was easier than it was made out to be. I swapped my proteins for beans, tofu, and vegetables instead. I had to make sure I ate sufficient amounts of protein, watched my carb and sugar intake, and noticed that I swapped unhealthy snacks for healthier choices. I paid attention to the labels and ingredients used.
For breakfast, I would have fruit protein smoothies, coconut yogurt with granola and fruit, chia seed pudding, or avocado toast. Lunch consisted of trying various vegan protein bars, vegetables, and hummus, salads, nuts, or veggie burgers. Dinner was the fun part. I tried new combinations of beans, tofu, salads, new preparations of vegetables, rice, and butternut squash spaghetti. This also consisted of eliminating chocolate (rough), but thankfully Oreos are vegan. I grew up eating Oreos almost every night, so this was an easy replacement for ice cream or candy. As for snacks, I mainly ate vegetables and homemade hummus, almonds, and pita chips. And lastly, I upped my water consumption.
I found that the label "vegan" made me more aware and more conscious of what I was putting into my body. I paid more attention to what I was eating and what ingredients were in these foods. I looked more into my protein consumption, where my food was coming from, the number of carbs I attained, and the difference in how I felt. Overall, I had more energy and felt cleaner. My stomach stopped hurting and I consciously made decisions to eat healthier foods. I wasn't as bloated after dinner as compared to after a dinner where I ate meat and dairy products. The first few days, my body was adjusting and I was a little hungrier at night. But afterward, I actually felt fuller for longer after eating beans and vegetables. I was less sore after working out (maybe it was drinking more water, too). I was less bloated and didn't ever feel overwhelmingly full. And above all, I felt better about what I was putting into my body and how my food was being sourced.
For me, it was easy to eat vegan for a week; I almost already was eating vegan and I love to cook. But committing to eliminating all animal products from my diet really helped me to reevaluate what foods I was eating. When grocery shopping, I bought healthier foods and was able to meal prep with ease. And being able to cook almost every meal was rewarding and enjoyable. It was not as confining as it seems to be. I still had plenty of options for meals, even when eating out! I just made a few small swaps for food - meat for tofu and beans, milk for almond milk, no cheese, dairy-free yogurts, vegan pasta sauce, vegan butter, more water, vegetable-rich diet, and dairy-free ice cream. And I found that some foods you eat every day are already vegan such as cereals, pasta, produce, peanut butter, some chips, Sour Patch Kids, and Oreos.
I loved my week of eating vegan. I felt healthier and cleaner physically while I had more energy, especially in the mornings. I still had my coffee and tea in the mornings, then the day was filled with healthier foods that were nutritionally supplemental and tasted great. Veganism is not something I can't fully commit to yet, but it is something that I am going to implement more and more into my diet until I hopefully can commit fully. I have a lot of respect for those who commit to a vegan diet. It isn't easy, but it is worth it - for yourself, for the environment, and for the animals.