I’m not typically one for diets other than the Mackenzie Burgess diet. What’s the Mackenzie Burgess diet? It’s my personal eating habit that consists of enjoying life, eating in moderation, and setting certain healthy guidelines to my eating habits. I think everyone should have a diet named after themselves because the focus should be more about a healthy eating pattern that works for you and your lifestyle, rather than a controlled eating pattern laid out by someone else. That being said, sometimes it is helpful for individuals to abide by a certain diet and its guidelines in order to realize which foods make them feel better and which foods could be limited or completely cut out of their regimen.
Vegan is a diet that has been popular for a number of years due its to health effects, ethical considerations, and environmental impact. In order to be better educated about this popular dietary pattern, I decided it would be valuable for me to give it a try and provide my input. From Vegan to Paleo to Keto– follow along over the next few weeks as I try out various diets.
What is a Vegan Diet?
Vegan diets are pretty straightforward– no animal products, period. This includes meat, dairy, eggs, fish, and any other product that is animal-derived. This is different from vegetarian as a vegetarian diet only excludes meat, fish and poultry. The vegan diet primarily consists of vegetables, fruits, grains, seeds and nuts. (I ate so many nuts and nut butters it’s not even funny).
Many people who adopting this diet also adopt a vegan style of living that goes beyond just food. From animal-free fashion to cosmetics to toiletries–ethical, vegan-friendly products are important to those who follow this lifestyle.
What was mostly hard for me on this diet was just realizing the little things that I couldn’t eat along the way. No yogurt in my overnight oatmeal. No whey protein powder in my smoothies. No honey in my tea. No chicken in my stir-fry. No Special K Probiotic cereal since it contains yogurt pieces. No jelly containing gelatin on my PB&J. No feta cheese sprinkled on top of my salad.
However, apart from the limitations, it was fun experimenting with all the ways you can be creative with vegan recipes. For example, one night I created vegan sweet potato nachos by baking thin sweet potato chips, throwing on some vegetables, and whipping up some vegan nacho cheese. To my delight, the cheese sauce was actually delicious– consisting of soaked cashews, nutritional yeast, and various spices all blended up. I also made some other delicious recipes like Black Bean Burgers, an Asian Peanut Stir-fry, Banana Coconut Cookies, and a Quinoa Crunch Salad. Some of these were original creations and other recipes were inspired from my love of Pinterest. Expect to see original vegan recipes on the blog soon!
Although it wasn’t difficult to find ideas for vegan recipes, I did realize it took way longer to plan creative, satisfying meals and cook them. I also realized when it comes to weekends and eating out, options can become very limited as you have to think about all aspects of the meal from preparation to plating. For example, even if a menu item inherently looks vegan, it may be cooked with butter or another form of animal fat.
Since I already consistently eat a pretty plant-heavy diet, I didn’t really notice a change in my weight, energy, or mood throughout the week. However, I did notice that I was more hungry more often, probably due to a lower protein intake.
Like most all dietary patterns, being vegan has both pros and cons.
Pros: I realized that by following a vegan diet, this cuts out of a lot of products that may be laden with added sugar, sodium, and saturated fats. For example, by saying yes to vegan means saying no to many unhealthy processed foods (although you do have to watch out for vegan junk foods as well!), saturated fat filled burgers, and food fried in animal fats. This can instead promote healthy swaps such as fruit-focused sweets, vegetable filled patties, and olive oil baked foods. The diet is also filled with tons of fruits and vegetables, which I think we can all stand to eat a little more of!
Cons: Personally, it took a lot more time for me to plan and prepare vegan meals; although, I realize this is something that would probably get easier with time. I also noticed it took a lot more time to ensure that I was receiving adequate nutrients. Vegans particularly have to pay close attention to their protein, calcium, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12 and iron intake, as many rich sources of these vitamins and minerals are found non-vegan foods.
The Main Takeaway: I think everyone could benefit from eating just a little less of animal products and a little more fresh produce. Even if you can’t sustain a vegan diet, maybe make it a goal to add a little less cheese to your cracker or implement a Meatless Monday every so often. If vegan is a dietary pattern that fits into your lifestyle, the key to staying healthy here is variety. By properly planning to eat a variety of foods, most all vitamins and minerals can be supplied and nutrient deficiencies can be readily avoided.