Dietitian Gone Vegan – Part 1

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Going vegan for 1 week has been a bucket list item of sorts for me for the past few years.  I’m sure that would come as a big surprise to friends that knew me when I was younger.  In high school I remember spearheading a ‘guys weekend’ at a friend’s cottage where meat (and of course alcohol) were the only acceptable items on the menu.  Things have changed a bit since then.  Like any respectable dietitian, I’ve upped my intake of fruits and vegetables substantially.  And no longer is meat always the centerpiece of a meal.  That said, I still very much enjoy my animal-based foods and even though going vegan has become quite popular these days I honestly couldn’t see up giving meat, dairy, etc permanently.

But, even if I have little interest in eliminating these foods from my diet forever I still have a professional curiosity of the vegan experience.  Throughout my career I’ve been asked lots of questions about veganism, and sure, I can always rely on the textbook answers, but I’ve never been able speak from experience.  That is what this week is all about.

First though, a little background about veganism:

According to The Vegan Society

“Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.”

Most people are motivated to go vegan because of their opposition to the exploitation of animals.  Other reasons why people might choose veganism are it’s sustainability, the diet’s lower impact on the environment and of course a perception that it is healthier than the traditional Western Diet.

Veganism requires adherents to follow a plant-based diet avoiding all animal foods.  While it certainly can be a healthy way to eat, this isn’t always the case.  The biggest potential area for concern is a lack of protein.  Attention must be paid to incorporate enough plant-based protein sources such as legumes (beans, peas, lentils, etc), nuts, seeds, tofu and whole grains into one’s diet. Calcium/Vitamin D might also be of concern, particularly with children/teens who have developing bones or post-menopausal women who are at higher risk for osteoporosis.  But if you can manage getting enough protein and consider a multi-vitamin (if warranted), there’s a lot to like from a health perspective about eating vegan, not the least of which is that the diet contains plenty of fruits and vegetables, is high fibre and low sodium.

…so back to my vegan experiment.

The plan is simple – eat completely vegan for 7 days.  I’ll be keeping a food diary as I’m interested in tracking a rough macronutrient intake.  I’m going to report daily impressions of my experiences and share the recipes I’ve used.  I’ll also try to specifically tie in some actual dietitian’s perspective, since really, why else are you reading this, right?  Enjoy!

DAY 1

I spent the better part of the morning today grocery shopping. I underestimated how long it would it take to find everything I needed.  Lots more label reading than I typically do (those milk/egg ingredients can be sneaky!) and a few items on the list that I never buy so had a tough time finding.  I had an interesting recipe for Pulled Jackfruit Tacos that I had to pull the plug on because I couldn’t find canned jackfruit.  I also stopped by The Bulk Barn, which was fantastic for finding a few more obscure ingredients.

My extended shopping trip delayed breakfast to 11:00am.  I’ll be going with mostly oatmeal (with various toppings), fruit and juice for breakfasts this week.  Given the late time, I also added a few slices of bread with peanut butter.

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I didn’t eat again until dinner when I prepared a Creamy Garlic and Roasted Tomato Pasta dish.  The cream sauce was made with unsweetened almond milk.  This was the first time I’ve tried almond milk.  It’s okay.  I think I prefer it to soy milk although, I doubt I’ll drink regularly after this experiment is done.  I made a nice salad and had fresh Italian bread to go with it.  I didn’t really miss meat in the pasta, but fresh parmesan sure would’ve been nice.

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Recipe – Creamy Vegan Garlic Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes

DAY 2

Breakfast was oatmeal with dried cranberries, almonds and honey.  Yes, I realized afterwards, honey is NOT vegan, but in the moment it honestly didn’t even occur to me.  Hopefully this is the only hiccup I make in that regard.

Normally I eat leftovers from the previous evening’s dinner for lunch the next day, but my wife took the leftover pasta today.  I decided to make a tomato sauce that I could use later in the week for Koshary and just eat it with pasta.  Pretty simple but filling.  I am really missing being able to include grated parmesan cheese on my pasta though.

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Dinner tonight was an adventure.  I wanted to eat Asian so I choose a Spicy Udon Noodle Stir Fry recipe.  I enjoy some type of side dish to go with my stir fries (like spring rolls or dumplings).  Unfortunately I was unable to find pre-made wrappers that didn’t have eggs in them when shopping the previous day.  I then stumbled across rice paper (the translucent kind that is used to make those fresh salad rolls), which happened to show a picture of a regular spring roll on the packaging.  It was worth a shot, but I will not be doing that again.  The rice paper is incredibly sticky and only seems to get stickier when it comes in contact with oil.  A bunch of them broke and were inedible.  They also absorbed a lot of oil.  Not great.  The Noodle Stir Fry was fine.  I liked the spice but it was missing something.  Meat, you say?  Perhaps, but I think even tofu and chopped peanuts would’ve added some additional texture, which would’ve been nice.

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Recipe – Spicy Udon Vegetable Stir Fry

I felt a little more hungry today than yesterday, so I went to the grocery store to pick up a dark chocolate bar for dessert (hard to find without milk, but they do exist!).  I only ate a few squares, so there’s extra for future nights if I find I’m in the mood for something sweet.

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