The 30 days of vegan challenge has come to an end, and as I have done for the previous two 30 day challenges, I feel compelled to reflect on the challenge and tell you what I learned. I have to admit that the 30 days of vegan challenge was much more challenging than 30 days of beans and 30 days of cans. Compared to eating vegan for 30 days, those challenges weren’t challenges at all. Eating a vegan diet required me to rethink everything I did in the kitchen. Even breakfast, usually a simple meal for us, became a challenge. I found that I couldn’t create dinner on autopilot at the end of a day at work because many of my usual ingredients weren’t in the house. or they weren’t allowed on our vegan diet. In the beginning, I was concerned that we would be relegated to 30 days of salads.
What did I learn during our 30 days of vegan challenge?
The first thing that I learned during our month of vegan recipes was that changing my family’s diet was not an easy task. Baker’s Man and Sue Chef were the most receptive to the vegan recipes I prepared, but Bus Boy and Food Critic were not. Bus Boy frequently refused to eat what I prepared unless there were potatoes. As a result, we ate a lot of potatoes during the month to ensure that he at something. Food Critic ate anything that I prepared that contained pasta, and he ate the sloppy joes, but often he complained. He loves cheesy dishes, and no vegan cheese was satisfactory. This reluctance meant that many of our vegan meals were rather stressful because of their unhappiness combined with my unwillingness to become a short order cook and make something different for every member of the family. It seemed that my unwillingness to make them something different made them more willing to try something new. As the month progressed, however, there was less complaining as they realized that the sign that hangs in my kitchen actually represented their dinner choices each night.
What were my most useful tools for creating vegan meals?
Obviously, a varied selection of fruits, vegetables, beans and greens were indispensable for creating tasty vegan meals, but there were two things that were invaluable for me during the 30 days of vegan challenge.
This was invaluable because it allowed me to add flavor to rice and other dishes quickly without having to run to the store for vegetable stock or spend lots of time making vegetable stock when I was already stressed from trying to prepare a weeknight dinner while changing our entire diet.
Vegan Mayonnaise allowed me to whip up all sorts of salads that were already vegan if I didn’t use regular mayonnaise. These included potato salad, macaroni salad, coleslaw, and tuna salad (using fishless tuna). Having vegan mayonnaise even allowed me to have my favorite–a tomato sandwich. I couldn’t have lasted for a month without this.
What were our favorite vegan meals?
I actually checked with each member of our household to determine what was their favorite of all of the different vegan dishes that I made for the family.
Bus Boy enjoyed the Vegan Cinnamon Honey Butter that I use to make his breakfast of cinnamon toast.
Did I notice any health benefits to eating vegan?
I can’t honestly say that we experienced any of the health benefits people proclaim when they begin a vegan diet. None of us felt more energetic or had fewer aches and pains during our month of vegan recipes, but I can attest to the fact that my waistline shrunk significantly. I work in a hospital, and I wear scrubs to work. I almost always wear the scrubs with a draw string waist because they are cheaper than the one’s with elastic waists. One day, as I was walking into work, I slipped my cell phone into the pocket of my one pair of elastic waist scrubs. A few steps later, I felt a draft. My pants were being pulled down by the weight of my cell phone. I chalked it up to the scrubs being older and perhaps the elastic was wearing out. I made a mental note not to wear them again.
About a week later, I went into my closet and grabbed some street clothes and headed out with Bus Boy to run some errands. I kept having to stop to hike up my pants. They were hanging off of me, and I realized that I had lost some weight, and it must be the result of my vegan diet. I pulled out the waist band of my pants and looked down. My pants were very loose, and I snapped a picture.
The irony with my oversized pants is that the numbers on the scale didn’t really change that much, but my waistline shrunk two pants sizes. I only lost about 8 pounds over the course of the month which didn’t seem like enough to account for needing pants two sizes smaller. A friend suggested that perhaps I had a lot of inflammation in my body that resolved with the vegan diet, and that’s why my pants were two sizes too big. That may be the reason, but I’m not convinced. Aside from this weight loss, I didn’t really notice any changes in my overall health or well being as a result of the diet change.
Will we continue to eat a vegan diet now that our 30 day challenge has been completed?
I had already made a decision prior to the end of the month, but I consulted all of the members of our family before making a final decision. The answer to the question is NO. We will not be continuing to eat a vegan diet, but eating a plant based diet for 30 days has made us more responsive to eating more plants based meals in our omnivorous diet. That can be a good thing for our grocery budget as most of the vegan meals I prepared were very frugal.
I could easily become a vegetarian, but I love eggs too much to become a permanent vegan. Food Critic agrees with me, and would willingly give up meat, but not all animal products. His weakness is cheese. As for Food Critic, it was nearly unbearable for him to go without “milk, from real cows.” Because of his limited food repertoire, he drinks a lot of milk, and almond milk wasn’t what he wanted, neither were any of the other plant based milks we tried. Baker’s Man loves meat, but he was a good sport during the month. Of all of us, Sue Chef was the most receptive to being a full time vegan, but even she wanted a hamburger the day our challenge ended. I offered to make portabello burgers, but she declined.
The 30 days of vegan challenge was a success and a learning experience.
I have learned many ways to make substitutions in my usual recipes to make them vegan. This will come in handy whenever one of my vegan friends stops by for dinner. I won’t have to stress about what I’m going to make. I have a new repertoire of skills that I can draw upon in those situations, and most of the substitutions are things I can manage with what’s usually in my pantry.
One of my biggest accomplishments was learning how to make a vegan butter that didn’t require any unusual ingredients. That butter recipe wasn’t published during my 30 days of vegan challenge, but it was the base for both the vegan garlic and herb butter and the vegan cinnamon honey butter recipes that are on the site. Being able to create “butter” will definitely come in handy on those occasions when I run out of butter but still need some for dinner. It will save me from a trip to the store.
Overall, I would say that the 30 days of vegan challenge was a success. We learned a lot about ourselves and our palates and what a vegan diet can be, but I have to say that I’m glad these 30 days are over. This year’s challenge definitely challenged me.
You can read more about our experiences by checking out all of the daily posts from our 30 days of vegan challenge.
Have you ever tried a vegan diet for a prolonged period of time? Do you think you could be a vegan for 30 days? Let us know by leaving a comment below.
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