About a month ago, I’m not really actually sure when, I decided to drastically cut back on meat and dairy. I’m not really the all or nothing type, so I figured I wouldn’t buy, cook or order meat, but if I was occasionally served something made with egg or with cheese, I wouldn’t feel obligated to turn it down… A sort of flexitarian/vegan kind of thing. In the month or so since, I’ve only had something cooked with meat/egg/dairy a couple of times and I’ve found I’ve pretty much lost the taste for it.
Here’s what I’ve learned and experienced so far:
It’s all about spices. I had thought of vegan food as bland before (What? No cheese?), but I’ve come to find that I actually taste MORE in my vegan meals; there is no cheese or dairy to mask flavor (and make everything taste like, well,cheese). Herbs and spices get a chance to shine so much more.
I don’t miss cheese. Really. This coming from a person who grew up gobbling down Dutch Gouda. I could polish off a wedge of the stuff and then ask someone to pass the Brie. I thought giving up cheese would be the hardest. Perhaps the timing was right, perhaps I’ve begun to think of cheese differently than I did before. But cutting out cheese has been surprisingly easy. I don’t really miss it.
I enjoy cooking more. There’s something about the limitations of a vegan / plant based diet that I’ve found very inspiring. Maybe it’s the ability to enjoy all the ingredients. Since we changed the way we’ve eaten, we’ve had shepherd’s pie, tofu teriyaki scrambled “eggs”, tacos, and soooo many delicious Buddha bowls in a wide array of combinations. Being on a plant based vegan diet has gotten me out of a food rut I had no idea I was in.
I lost weight. I wasn’t sure if I was going to mention it because it really wasn’t the point, but I lost enough that I couldn’t really leave it out. (About 10lbs.) Those cute boyfriend jeans I got in my January Stitch Fix? They don’t fit at all. I’ve gone on plenty of diets before; I know that cutting out large portions of your diet is pretty much always going to result in weight loss…but it also usually results in hunger. The difference this time is that I’m never hungry.
There is a lot of vegan junk food. Like Oreos (what?). Yes, you can be unhealthy and vegan, you can be overweight and vegan. (In fact it’s incredibly easy to do.) I think it all comes down to WHY you’re vegan. If all you care about is animal welfare, it doesn’t matter if you eat an Oreo so long as no animals are hurt during the making of your midnight snack (though I can’t really imagine Oreos without milk). If a plant based diet is what you’re after (more specifically a whole foods plants based diet), then your choices are much more likely to be good ones.
It’s hard to find vegan coffee creamer without sugar. Goes back to that unhealthy vegan stuff. There’s no substitute that compares to coffee with thick, creamy half and half. I guess that was the most difficult adjustment, although I accidentally had some coffee with half and half the other day and didn’t like it.
People automatically think you’re gonna get smug. Food is deeply personal and people react funny to the V word. They assume you’re gonna tell them about chopped up baby chickens or how you’ll out live them by 20 years. And you might. (But only if they ask.)
You do come off as a little smug. I mean, in all honesty, I don’t really care what other people eat, but I didn’t decide to follow a plant based diet for fun either. The truth is, there are simply more reasons not to eat animal products than there are reasons to eat them; so when people as why you don’t eat animals, it’s usually a more complicated answer than they bargained for.
You can love food and be vegan. I love food. A lot. I love all kinds of food. I love barbecue, I love a good burger, and of course I love cheese. They don’t have quite the same appeal now that I don’t eat them often, but that hasn’t changed my love of food.
For now at least, I’m really enjoying my new way of eating and I’ll stick with it.
Have you ever tried going vegan/vegetarian? What surprised you the most about it?