A few days ago someone shared this very sad Business Insider article by health reporter Lisa Ryan. Lisa tried “dietary veganism” for five days and “it was the worst” because of all the things she couldn’t eat. I had to take a nice long shower and think about her article before responding because my first reaction was a cynical one – how can someone living in the super vegan-friendly city of New York barely handle five days vegan? How come a health reporter didn’t spend a little more time working on meal plans and finding recipes to try at home rather than going out to eat for seemingly every meal, snack, and beverage? What is a “health reporter” anyway?? Seems like nothing but click-bait to me (I was shocked at how many things I couldn’t eat – really?), but I have noticed something over the years. The idea of eating animal-based foods is so ingrained in people, the thought of veganism causes their eyes to glaze over as they ask, “Vegan? What can you even eat?”
Maybe even a health reporter can fall into this trap, so I want to help Lisa. Maybe she’ll try veganism for another five days, who knows? Maybe you might even try it yourself!
So, let’s walk through the article with Ms. Ryan and I’ll give her a few tips.
1. “That’s how I learned that the coffee I consume all the time actually tastes really bad.”
Okay, this is a good thing. Why are you drinking crappy coffee? Buy something good to brew at home and use the money you save to buy So Delicious coffee creamer in French Vanilla or Hazelnut, or Califia Farm’s delicious Pecan Caramel.
I don’t drink much coffee and when I do I like it black, but if you want to splurge sometime Starbucks has a ton of great vegan options. If you want to get really fancy, VegNews Magazine just did a list of Vegan Frappuccinos at Starbucks.
2. “I needed protein after my morning workout, but I couldn’t eat anything with eggs or meat — which is how I normally get my boost. So instead, I got a vegan smoothie with extra protein to try to compensate.”
A smoothie, that’s great! From the looks of it, you drank a Mudslide from Liquiteria. This means your post-workout breakfast had only 375 calories, and 15g of protein. Why not add 1/4 C dry roasted cashews for about 5g more protein for a measly extra 200 calories – no big deal after a good workout. Cashews are rich and fatty, and help you feel full.
3. “I stopped by a nearby street-food fair for lunch, but found that I couldn’t eat most of the things that were available. After hunting around for a while, I finally found vegan vegetable rolls, filled with chickpeas, cabbage, quinoa, and the works. They were delicious.”
4. “After work, I was craving some chocolate — badly. But of course, I couldn’t have any, since it’s completely packed with dairy.”
WUT??? Nope. I love chocolate and eat it regularly. Here’s a list of vegan-friendly chocolates from VegNews, including options from well-known brands like Theo, Trader Joe’s, Lindt, Endangered Species, Newman’s Own, and Chocolove. There are even non-dairy milk chocolate options. Vegans love chocolate.
5. “Luckily, I live near a vegan bakery in Brooklyn, so I picked up a vegan chocolate cupcake there. It tasted just as great as a normal cupcake.”
Of course it did because what makes cupcakes good is sugar and fat, and vegans can use both. Looks like your cupcake was purchased at Clementine Bakery, so I assume you also saw their huge selection of cakes, pies, cookies, brownies, muffins, cinnamon rolls, various sandwiches, and perhaps a mention of the Biscuits & Gravy dinner available on Sundays? They also have fancy coffees with three different kinds of non-dairy milk available! And since you’re in Brooklyn, you may also want to checkout Dun-Well Doughnuts. I follow them on facebook just for the pictures!
6. “To my surprise, the clerk at my local wine store told me that it had only one vegan wine option in stock. I was shocked to learn that a lot of wines are made with some sort of animal product.”
Yes it’s true that isinglass (fish bladder) and albumin (egg whites) are commonly used to filter wine. You can use Barnivore.com to check if a certain wine is vegan (there’s also an app). In Brooklyn, you’ll find 44 vegan wines available at The Natural Wine Company. Or just switch to hard liquor 🙂
7. “Being vegan means that you have to spend a lot of time seeking out restaurants that actually serve vegan food — and then investigating the menu to figure out what’s actually vegan or not. Dig Inn, my favorite lunch place by the INSIDER office, luckily had vegan offerings.”
Yes, I usually spend about five minutes researching online before going to a new restaurant. Sometimes I even call ahead which might take five minutes more. Luckily these days many restaurants mark vegan items on the menu, or provide a totally separate vegan menu. A good waitstaff should be able to find a suitable option for you just about anywhere, and if you’re going to a chain restaurant you can usually just google “vegan at _____” and get a list of options.
8. “As it turns out, a lot of beverages you wouldn’t expect aren’t vegan — including a ton of beers and sodas, which often contain fish gelatin or other animal products.”
Nearly all hard liquor is vegan, and most American beers are vegan. And guess what – Stella Atrois recently went vegan! Yay!
9. “By Wednesday, being vegan was getting annoying. I didn’t mind staying away from meat, but I was starting to really miss dairy products, and my vegan diet was leaving me feeling incredibly hungry. A coworker brought in some banana pudding — but it wasn’t vegan, so I couldn’t have any of it.”
Here, sweetie. Try this recipe for Vegan Banana Pudding from Vegetarian Times and share it with your friends. You’re probably partly feeling annoyed because you’re irritable in general thanks to those low-calorie post workout breakfast smoothies, and partly because you miss social eating. I get it. You need to put forth a little effort and do the cooking and baking yourself once in a while.
10. “I tried to compensate by instead enjoying some of the snack foods that we have in the office. I couldn’t eat any of the Goldfish (which has cheddar) or cheese sticks (for obvious reasons), but luckily Google told me that raisins were vegan — so I feasted on those.”
Now if you only had some of those roasted cashews I mentioned earlier. You could also stash some vegan snack bars in your desk, like Larabars – the Carrot Cake flavor is wonderful and made simply of carrots, fruits, and nuts.
11. “I burned a ton of calories doing an intense midday workout, but once again, I couldn’t turn to meat to load up on protein afterward. Thankfully, Chipotle has a lot of vegan options, and I was able to grab a burrito with black beans and guacamole, which provided me with at least some of the protein I needed.”
I’m not sure how much protein you require – probably about 55 to 60 grams if you weigh 130 pounds – but according to Chipotle’s Nutrition Calculator you can get 22g from a Sofrito Bowl with black beans, brown rice, roasted chili-corn salsa, and guac for only 555 calories. If you have more calories to spare, you can have an actual burrito in a flour tortilla and bump it up to 29g of protein and 855 calories.
Now let’s think about this. If you have the smoothie and nuts for breakfast and the burrito for lunch, that’s 49g of protein before dinner, and 1,430 calories minus whatever you burned in that intense workout. That had to be at least 400 calories burned, and since you’re an active young woman that means you can probably enjoy at least another 600 to 800 calories! Your only worry is all the extra sodium in the convenience foods you’re eating.
If you made your own burrito at home you’d have complete control of the amount of salt added, plus you could add 3 Tbsp of hemp hearts for an extra 10g of protein and 170 calories. Now you’re at 59g of protein before dinner. Hemp hearts are also high in iron. Are you making sure you’re getting enough iron?
12. “That night, I scoured my local deli for vegan food. I found a lot of things that were gluten- or dairy-free, but vegan options were severely lacking. I ended up grabbing some vegan Indian dumplings that I’d had before. But I was so burned out from vegan food that I didn’t even enjoy them.”
I really think we can even blame this on fatigue from poor diet planning. No offense, but you sound grumpy. You sound HANGRY.
There is such thing as a vegan version of a Snickers, btw. They’re called Jokerz, and you should try one.
And if you still refuse to cook for yourself, you could try a new deli like Brooklyn Standard. They have tons of vegans options, and…they’ll put soy milk in your coffee.
13. “…we went to my all-time favorite pierogi place in the East Village. But I soon realized that pierogi dough contains eggs, so I was stuck eating steamed vegetables.”
It does help to plan ahead. If you’re grabbing a drink with friends, just do a quick google search of vegan or vegan-friendly restaurants in the area and take a quick look at the menus. Not only is it an easy way to find vegan options in case you decide to grab a bite to eat, it’s also a wonderful way to discover awesome restaurants you’ve never been to before which will also be fun for your non-vegan friends. And let’s say all you discover is the only vegan option in the area is steamed vegetables – throw a snack bar in your bag. Enjoy the company of your friends and enjoy those steamed vegetables, and then enjoy that snack bar when nobody’s looking.
14. “But my final day of being vegan was a lot easier, presumably because I knew the end was in sight.”
Or because you had spent a mere four days researching a new diet and finally knew it pretty well. Four days is a small investment before changing your life in a way that could possibly affect your health.
15. “Spending five days hunting for foods with no meat, dairy, or eggs was tough. By midday Friday, I was sick of constantly having to Google foods and ask waiters or store clerks about vegan options. I didn’t mind eating tofu or vegetables so often, but I hated how restrictive it felt to be vegan.”
There’s one place people often overlook when trying to find vegan food: The produce section. Also the canned vegetable aisle, which tends to be near canned and dried legumes. There are thousands and thousands of combinations possible here – it’s anything but restrictive. Your own mind is all that’s holding you back – sounds really dorky, but it’s true!
16. “Of course, I saw certain health benefits to the diet — including improved digestion. The body breaks down vegan foods really quickly, so they go right through you, if you catch my drift.”
Unless you have health issues, most likely your body would’ve adjusted if you’d stuck it out longer. I’m happy to say my BMs are totally normal.
17. “But all in all, the diet was such a hassle that I won’t be going vegan again anytime soon.”
To be honest, you never went vegan to begin with. You simply tried a poorly-planned plant-based diet so you could write about it. Diets are often temporary, but choosing a certain way of life – “A philosophy and 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”, to quote The Vegan Society – out of compassion for the animals is actually pretty easy to keep up. When you go vegan for others instead of yourself, the kinds of minor inconveniences mentioned in your article seem, well, hardly worth mentioning.
Wondering if you can survive five days vegan? Check out my growing list of What Vegans Eat.