Ten Things I Learned While On A 30-Day Vegan Diet

By Crista Tappan - July 22, 2012

I finished my "30-Day Vegan" Challenge today. My previous knowledge base on Veganism/ eating a plant-based diet was moderate. So I learned quite a bit. It wasn't easy, but I did my best. I made a few slip ups. I expected that to happen.

Here's what I learned:

1. Honey isn't considered Vegan. Oops. Discovered this about half-way through the month. Technically, by Vegan standards, honey is made from bees. Vegans abstain from all animal products, so this one is a no-go. Agave nectar is a great alternative.

2. The American diet is full of meat and animal products. Just try to go out to any American restaurant and order Vegan. You'll discover that often times, your only option is a plain salad with a vinaigrette or oil-based dressing. My lowest of low points were eating a small salad at an Italian Restaurant with my family, and "attempting" to eat Vegan at Disneyland. (Note: the "Veggie Patties" on the burgers at Disneyland are disgusting. You're better off eating nothing.)

3. Marshmallows, gummy candy and such are NOT Vegan. I also learned this the hard way. These items are made using pectin, a stabilizer which is made from boiling animal ligaments and joints. Can you say...disgusting?

4. Unless you eat horribly, you won't lose weight when you transition to a Vegan diet. I actually gained weight. I was eating fruit about 60% of the time, so you can do the math. I didn't balance it enough and was hungry all the time. I was stuffing myself with calories and little amounts of foods that would help me stay full. The result was pigging out on fruits and veggies all day long until I landed myself in a fructose and carb-induced food coma.

5. Getting enough protein should be the cardinal rule of being a Vegan. I did an awful job at this and my body paid the price. Living off only fruits and vegetables is not good for you!

6. I was exhausted. Although I had NO stomach-related issues (other than being stuffed), I generally felt a lack of energy or sustained energy. This really negatively affected my running routine for the month, which was a huge buzz-kill.

7. Saying the word "Vegan" tends to freak people out. I haven't quite figured out why, but I'm thinking it's because people imagine a burger in their minds and then cannot fathom never eating one again.

8. I love Farmer's Markets. Let me repeat that again. I love Farmer's Markets. They turned into my sanctuary during this month, and other than the rare meat or cheese vendors, I learned that almost everything was up for grabs. I discovered so many new recipes, fruits, and vegetables. I forced myself to experiment, entertain my pallat, be adventurous. I consider myself a foodie at heart, and realized that just because I'm not eating meat or animal products does not mean I can't have a delicious meal!

9. I missed fish. I didn't miss anything else, really. The big one was fish. I did a lot of research this past month on the quality of fish we eat and the majority of it is contaminated with chemicals. Farm-raised fish ingest numerous amounts of chemicals during their breeding, and wild fish ingest god knows what while they are in our polluted oceans. I'm still on the fence about this.

10. Overall, I think I'm going to opt for being pescatarian (vegetarian including the consumption of fish) or following a paleo diet (fruits, veggies, meat, nuts, eggs and berries only). I don't crave or eat meat too often, or really want cheese. My diet normally is around 90% Vegan (I love yogurt, honey, and fish). I think the biggest thing I've learned is about moderation and portion control. It's very hard to fill up on only fruits and vegetables. Legumes, grains, and nuts/berries are extremely important. So are dark leafy greens. This next month I'm going to opt for a high protein, low sugar and salt diet. I'm going to take on the best of both worlds-- eat foods that are natural. Hunter-gatherers would rarely eat meat. I don't believe that meat is catastrophic to our health (although the quality and state of the meat we consume is). Avoiding meals because they may contain eggs or traces of milk is exhausting.

I'm glad that I did it. I discovered what works for my body and what doesn't work.

Have any of you experimented with a new diet before? Anyone try out Veganism and love it? Anyone try it out and absolutely hate it?

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  1. Just a clarification on pectin, its not from animal bones, its extracted chemically from fruits. You are thinking of gelatin which is from animal by-products.