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My Vegan Challenge, Post 30-Day Wrap-up

I apologize to anyone who’s been eagerly awaiting this post. My 30-day vegan challenge technically ended on June 6, but as I said in my last post, I have been so head-spinningly busy that I’m only now able sit to my butt down and write this wrap-up. The experience has opened my eyes and changed me for the better, and I’m still exploring veganism, though if I were to start all over, like a vegan version of Groundhog Day, I would have definitely done it differently. If I could go back in time, here’s what I’d tell myself:

• Give yourself transition time. Lots of it.
So, don’t be like me. I only gave myself a few weeks before the big V-Day to research how I was going to do this thing. It wasn’t enough—while I started out strong, I soon found myself ill-equipped, clueless, and sometimes miserable. Stock your pantry with vegan essentials slowly, and start learning vegan cooking skills early, months in advance. Take a Sunday afternoon every other week or so to learn a new cooking technique, or a new recipe. To feel the most satisfied, you’ll want food that tastes good, and it is absolutely possible to make restaurant-quality vegan food at home. Which leads me to…

• Get inspired
Find the best vegan restaurants in your area (if you’re lucky enough to have some) and sample as many things as you can. Go with friends so you can order bunches of plates and share. Sampling a variety of simple, orgasm-inducing vegan dishes will teach you that you being vegan does not equal crying into a bag of dry, dusty lentils. Going to Seattle’s Plum Bistro saved me from hitting the wall, and I wish I had gone there sooner. It lit a fire under my hinie to learn some new tricks, and I picked up their cookbook. Your favorite local vegan restaurant might offer a cookbook too. If not, there are so many great ones online. Trust me, spending a few extra bucks on a cookbook or two will brighten your outlook and keep you from smashing your face against the fridge door in frustration. Which leads me to…

• Minimize starchy white foods and sweet things
Meals containing about 50% white potatoes or white rice were tasty in the moment, but like any fair weather friend, they didn’t have staying power, because they digested quickly and left me crazy-hungry at the weirdest, worst times. And mornings where I ate mostly fruit-based smoothies ended in disaster, face-planting on my desk from bad sugar-crash headaches. Smoothies worked better when they had very little fruit (only a little banana for sweetness) and were otherwise mostly protein or fat, like cashew cream or avocado.

My best vegan breakfast was actually a high-protein porridge loaded with good fats. Made with hemp hearts, chia seeds, almond milk, a bit of almond butter, and chopped nuts for extra texture, it had as much protein and essential fatty acids as my pre-vegan, two-egg breakfast. Here’s the recipe:

Warm up 6 ounces of almond milk, then mix 2 tablespoons each of hemp hearts and chia seeds into the milk and let them soak for about 5 minutes (do not otherwise apply direct heat to the hemp hearts, it destroys the nutrients). Mix in a tablespoon of almond butter and chopped walnuts, and a small swizzle of maple syrup to taste. Voilà! Breakfast!

 

The ultimate take-away
I learned a ton last month, like a good little nerd, and am even more conscious of where my food comes from. And while the 30 days has come and gone, I’m not done—I’m still exploring and want to achieve a certain level of mastery with vegan cooking. I’ve got a few cookbooks I’m still scouring in search of divine vegan dishes. At some point, I want to be able to serve mac & cheese with a wink and a smile, and see if anyone can tell the difference.

In terms of experiences I could relate to for my book, VEGAN TEENAGE ZOMBIE HUNTRESS, there was a real-life moment that eerily echoed something that happens to my main character, where a family member pretty much shoves ground beef under her nose and asks her if she wants some. Like my main character, I exhibited strength, and gracefully declined. 🙂

P.S. Oh yeah–as with any new diet, talk about it with your doctor first. Mkay?