What everyone ought to know about a vegan diet: PART 2

If you've landed here, please read PART 1 first! It'll make a whole load more sense... 

FRIDAY 

BREAKFAST

Tomato and avocado on toast
Toast and avocado with cherry tomatoes at home this morning. This was easy and yummy, I am a massive fan of savoury breakfast. 
 

LUNCH

Courgette and broccoli with cauliflower rice
After yesterday's surprise lunch out this was all prepared in the fridge for me. Sautéed courgette and broccoli, I served up with cauliflower rice (you can make your own but I bought mine for speed and ease) and a dressing made with olive oil, lemon and coconut aminos (I swapped out the tamari). Once again topped with nuts and seeds and also a dollop of my new favourite discovery - Rod & Ben's Butterbean & Chive dip. No additives, preservatives, sugar or vinegar in it. Just simple great ingredients! Totally in love. 

SNACK

Peppermint tea and tahini and almond biscuit
I popped out of the office for a hot drink at Coffee Works in Islington and felt sad that I wouldn't be able to treat myself to a brownie as I sometimes do. However I was delighted to see two cakes on offer labelled 'vegan' so I didn't have to go without! I had a tahini and almond biscuit which was delicious with my tea. 
 

DINNER

Omani flatbreads
A friend's birthday dinner and I didn't want to be a pain in the ass with my crazy vegan diet demands (vegans aren't crazy I should just add, I just mean me doing it for a week seemed crazy to some!). The meal we had was Omani inspired dips and flatbreads which were incredible. So tonight was vegetarian rather than vegan, as I had aubergine topped with goats cheese and avocado dip with a bit of yoghurt in. But I didn't put any meat in my wraps! Go me. 

SATURDAY 

BREAKFAST

Avocado toast and porridge
This morning I went on a brilliant running workshop session with Anna Desogus over in Wimbledon (check out Anna's website for her other running sessions and Health Coach services too). After being pushed with some sprinting and exercises as well as a good bit of distance running we earned our brunch. Brilliantly catered for by Willow Bough Tea Rooms they had kindly prepared me a special vegan platter without egg or salmon and I even got porridge too. No fear of hunger here! 

LUNCH

Sweet potato and vegan coleslaw
Late lunch and off meal-plan because drawing towards the end of the week I was keen to use things up rather than making completely fresh meals (this links to my comments about cost too, below). I had made double portions of the sweet potato and vegan coleslaw from Wednesday so I had that again. 

SNACK

Houmous and carrots
So stuffed after brunch and late-lunch I didn't really fancy doing the stir-fry dinner on the meal-planner! And to be honest I have felt pretty full, if anything over full, all week. Instead this evening I snacked on cucumber and organic houmous. Light and easy way to end the vegan day. 

SUNDAY

BREAKFAST 

Porridge with caramelised banana
Something I've wanted to try for ages and so glad this meal plan encouraged it - caramelised banana! I cooked mine off in coconut oil and made porridge with Amisa Four Grain Porridge oats
 

LUNCH

Mother's Day at Bronte restaurant
Being Mother's Day I'd booked a nice restaurant in London to celebrate the day with my mum and sister. Bronte on The Strand was doing a delicious three course menu but was it vegan? Not a chance! In fact even looking through the a la carte I could only find one salad on the whole menu which looked like it might be. So again, a vegetarian compromise when eating out - I had an incredible kale and edamame bean pancake for main and sorbets for dessert. Stuffed, this was my last meal of the week! 

 

So, after seven days, what did I make of the 7 Day Plantbased Challenge? And what have I learned about being vegan?

REVIEW OF PLANET ORGANIC 7 DAY PLANTBASED CHALLENGE

THINGS I LEARNED GOING VEGAN FOR A WEEK 

1. Being a vegan wasn't as hard as I expected 

Okay let's break this one down. It wasn't as hard as I expected when I cooked for myself or had done my research. I didn't get cravings for meat or animal products at all - there are so many alternative foods available I didn't ever consider I was going without.

I'm not sure that means I'd have no meat cravings forever though. A trial week isn't long enough to really notice if my body was crying out for anything. Nor is it long enough to feel any significant difference in terms of health benefits or drawbacks - nutrient deficiencies are said to be common among vegans, I couldn't possibly say after just 7 days if I was 'suffering,' if that is indeed true.  

2. Eating out at restaurants is tough for vegans 

Despite my research it was not always easy to eat out, as my restaurant experience at the beginning of the week proved. I do feel for vegans currently having limited choices - I talked to Lea at Can Eat Attitude about this and she said London is actually pretty good for vegans, it's outside of major cities where the funny looks really ramp up! Rachel at Healthy & Psyched also wrote a really useful article about eating out as a vegan here

It also chimes in with what I've said before about asking hosts to cater for you with dietary requirements: as much as I know people want to accommodate, it really makes me squirm to be difficult. I hate asking a thousand questions about what is contained in a dish or asking people to make me something special. I'm usually the one that wants to keep it easy and stick to the menu - I eat anything so I don't like to make a fuss. I'd be hopeless with a serious allergy... could I really do it every day just because it's my choice?  

3. I definitely didn't starve on a vegan diet

Understatement. I have been absolutely stuffed on this meal plan. The portion sizes were really generous (or maybe that was just me and my inability to measure things...), perhaps the plan trying to prove that a vegan diet is satisfying and also prevent any lapses into meat cravings!

But I appreciate for some it would be tough: I joked with my boyfriend recently we should get his Dad on one of the Happy Pear's vegan cooking courses. He said his Dad wouldn't survive! For someone that simply does not eat vegetables I do understand a vegan diet wouldn't work and would feel like serious deprivation - there are definitely other ways to have a 'healthier' diet, that don't need to involve going totally plant-based. 

4. You need to think about nutrients, and remember your toppings and extras 

I didn't really follow what nutrients I was and wasn't getting too closely and as I already mentioned I didn't notice any particular difference or deficiency in just a week trying a vegan diet. What I did realise is I constantly forgot to top my meals with a little scattering of nuts and seeds as Bettina recommended, which I presume would help boost things like protein and omega-3 intake.

However over longer periods of time if I were to sustain a vegan diet I would probably need to consider my intake of particular vitamins and nutrients that are usually found in higher levels in meat products. 

5. Being a vegan can be expensive, but I don't think it has to be

I only bought a fraction of what is on the suggested meal plan shopping list from Planet Organic. That's because a) I had many ingredients already b) I was going to be eating out some days and c) I am pretty stingy. Even with just a small selection my bill for Planet Organic goods was over £50 and then the vegetables I bought came to £25. And that was for one person for less than a week's worth of home-cooked meals. It felt like a lot to me. 

However let's be real - this is Planet Organic we're talking here and they're not known for being a competitor to Aldi or Lidl. The produce was all amazing quality and it introduced my to some amazing new brands and products I will definitely buy again, just perhaps not all in one go!

Also eating completely different meals for breakfast lunch and dinner for 7 days I don't personally think is normal; I always batch cook and make at least two or three meals for the week. I appreciate the meal-plan was aimed to show the variety of a vegan diet though. 

I have absolutely no doubt that you can be a vegan on a limited budget if you are select about what you buy and varied enough with your meal plans to get the range of nutrients you need. And in fact on the whole I would suspect meat and fish are some of the more expensive products you buy in your weekly shop, so adding a few more plant-based meals to the planner could in fact reduce food bills. 

Making your own bread... does that increase or decrease the bills?! 

Making your own bread... does that increase or decrease the bills?! 

 

So... am I going to keep up with a vegan diet full time?

Probably not, no. Not completely anyway. Sorry vegans everywhere but for the moment I do still want to include animal products in my diet. At the moment having just come out of my 'yeast free' phase I want to keep my diet balanced and varied and find out what works for me and my IBS including right now eating meat, fish and dairy. And as I'm about to move in with my boyfriend next month I think he might reconsider if I told him I was going vegan...!

However I think I definitely will, when I have the choice to make my own meals, prioritise vegan meals in future, or make sure I'm including at least 3 or 4 a week. It was easier than I thought, I found loads of new ingredients and recipes to try and I definitely feel more inspired to make more of plant-based meals. I even picked up a copy of the beautiful One Part Plant by Jessica Murnane last week which I want to try recipes from - someone else encouraging the world to try adding just one more plant-based meal to their diets.

 

How about you? Have you tried the Planet Organic 7 Day Plantbased Challenge? Or a vegan diet of any sort, maybe Veganuary? Would you give it a go if not? And if not, why not? What are you afraid of...?!  

Other bits I read:

Authority Nutrition - 5 potential problems with vegan diets 

Plantbased Pixie - Veganuary nutrition tips