This last week I decided to challenge myself. I adapted a vegan diet for one week. Vegan, as I have explained, is a diet with no animal produced food. I want to first give everyone a little background about myself. I was born and raised, as any other average American, eating both meats and vegetables, with a higher emphasis on the meats. In my family, we are constantly barbequing every weekend. Because of this, meat has become the center of my diet. So taking on a vegan challenge seemed a little daunting at first. But I felt I knew enough about vegan diets and how to do it properly that I could accomplish it. I thought I would be able to analyze the mental, economical, and physical effects of this diet and be able to write about it. I did learn a lot from this diet, but the knowledge I took from this experience blew my mind.
When I first began planning for this diet, I assumed that I would be spending a lot more money than I normally did. This came from the stereotype that to eat healthier, it costs more. I knew that most of the items I probably would need would be at Trader Joes. In my mind, Trader Joes was a lot more expensive than my usual weekly trips to Winco. On average, I spend $50 at Winco each week and another $10 eating out on nights I do not have time to cook. I made a guess that I would spend about $75 the week of my diet. I only spent $63 the week of my diet. I also never went out for a meal, since they were all organized and planned.
I also was planning on feeling amazing from this diet. I have several friends that are vegan and vegetarian. They have explained that they are more energized, have clearer skin, and overall feel better after they made the transition. I was so looking forward to that because I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I thought that since I am extremely in tune with my body that I would be able to tell the difference. I did notice the second day that I was not craving more caffeine like I normally do. I didn’t have the normal energy slump I usually have. I also had noticeably less stomach pains than usual. I did have some expectations of this experience that did not turn out to be the major things I learned from the experience. I felt like what I learned was a lot more substantial.
I live with two other college students that I cook dinner for normally. They kindly agreed to participate in my vegan experiment. Just like me, they eat meat, however they eat it a lot more. One of the meals I cooked was Ratatouille, which is a stewed vegetable dish. It was not the best recipe and I did not have a side that would help create a filling effect. However, there was this point in the meal when everyone looked at each other. We all began to discusshow for us it was extremely difficult for us to accept that this was it. We
had been so engraved that the vegetable is the side dish. This experience opened our eyes to how it should be. Our vegetable should always be the entrée and the sides should be the starch and protein. I can say this as many times as I want but I need to start really physically working on that. Slowly but surely, I want to work to be rid of that mentality.
One of the main things I learned was about dieting. I put myself through an extreme diet change instantaneously and without any wiggle room. I stayed true to the diet in every way, but it was not enjoyable overall. Do not get me wrong, it was kind of fun to challenge myself. But as soon as the week was over, I got myself a steak. It shows that I was not actually making any change to my lifestyle but just simply putting restrictions on it. The funny part is that’s how most people diet. They decide they want to lose weight or eat healthier and they take it to an extreme. People tend to decide that on a certain day is the day their diet shall begin. It is better to ease into a diet a little bit at a time to make the change more successful. Also, they should let themselves have a little bit of wiggle room in the beginning. And by this, I mean allow some of the things you used to eat that maybe this new diet will not allowed. To me, diets are never successful because they usually have an end goal that you are striving for. Once one reaches that goal, they just return to their old eating habits. If one really wants to make a change, they need to commit to making it into a lifestyle change. I think that with these mindsets it is completely possible to change any types of eating habits.
I will let you all know that I am not becoming vegan, although I scared some family members into thinking I was. But I am going to try and adapt more vegan meals into my diet. One in particular is black bean tacos. I will include the recipe below, but I made the best tacos this week. Instead of using ground beef, I used black beans. It was just as filling and in my opinion, tastier than any taco I had ever made. I think this experience has inspired me to be a lot more creative with my meals and to think outside the box when it comes to incorporating healthy alternatives. I think that this challenge has opened my eyes in ways that no assignment or class ever could have.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 cups cooked black beans (or 2 15-ounce cans rinsed and drained)
- ½ cup finely chopped sweet onion
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 5 to 6 cilantro stems and leaves
- 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
- 2.5 tablespoons taco seasoning (see Note)
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt (to taste)
- ½ lime, squeezed
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce (optional)
- 12 corn tortillas plus toppings
- Strain tomatoes. If using canned beans, drain and rinse.
- Finely chop garlic and onion (use food processor to save time!).
- Heat a saute pan over medium heat. Once hot, add oil. Add onion and garlic and cook 2 to 3 minutes until softene
- Add taco seasoning, cook 20 to 30 seconds, stirring.
- Toss in beans, tomatoes and cilantro. Cook covered over a medium light 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Use a fork or potato masher to smash about half of the beans, taste and add salt if needed. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, over medium low light 12 to 15 minutes.
- Add hot sauce and lime juice, stir, let cool for 5 to 10 minutes, serve with corn tortillas and toppings of choice – Enjoy!