Hi, my name is Stephanie. I am completing a Masters in Nutrition Communication from Ryerson, on my way to becoming a registered dietitian. I have the great fortune of completing one of my internship rotations with Pamela. I have learned so much about plant-based diets in the short time that I have been working with her, so I decided to give it a try. One week, no animal products or by-products. Nothing but wholesome fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.
I’m here to share my experience with you all.
(For the sake of understanding some of what I will be talking about, it should be known that I’m fairly active. I run between 70-80km a week and lift weights about twice a week.)
I usually plan out my meals every week, so I know exactly what I need to buy from the grocery store and I don’t end up wasting food that I never get around to eating. It also keeps me from getting too ‘hangry’ (yes, it’s a thing) after running. I found some vegan recipes and included some recipes from Pamela’s Fresh Start cleanse.
The first thing that I noticed, was that my wallet felt a little heavier than usual. Groceries for the week cost about $5.00 less than usual, a welcome bonus for someone on a student budget.
Stephanie’s 5 top tips on trying a plant-based diet:
- Start slowly with beans, but don’t be afraid of fibre. Keeping pulse portions small, drinking lots of water and staying active will help.
- Smoothies are a great breakfast idea, but if you are still hungry try oats or overnight oats or chia pudding.
- Meal planning will help! If plant-based recipes are new for you, then try food bloggers like the Minimalist Baker and Oh She Glows for great recipe suggestions.
- Let friends and family know you are trying out a plant-based diet, they might surprise you with how helpful and receptive they are.
- Be open to new flavours, textures and ideas. I never thought carrot pulled ‘pork’ would be tasty, but it was!
How I felt
At the beginning of the week, I was a little worried about how my digestive system would react to all the fibre coming from the beans and lentils. In the past, if I ate a primarily lentil-based dish, I would get some bloating and general discomfort. I tried to not to overdo it with the beans and lentils, but that also meant I probably wasn’t eating as much protein as I normally would at each meal. I found myself getting hungry a lot sooner after eating a meal than I usually do. I also woke up very hungry each day, which just meant I had to eat breakfast quite soon after waking.
I opted for smoothie bowls for breakfast. I know from past experience, that a primarily fruit/veggie and almond milk smoothie doesn’t cut it for me. To give them a little more umph and help sustain my activity, I added a scoop of vegan protein powder and a handful rolled oats. I also sprinkled on some nuts, seeds, coconut, and dried fruit.
I never really craved sweets before, but often, after getting home from a hard running workout and eating dinner, I would want something dessert-y. I got no such hankerings this week. Even going to my parents’ house over the weekend and having date squares and banana bread lying around, I was not tempted in the least.
Running and a plant-based diet
Running also went really well for me this week. I’m coming back from an injury that left me unable to run (or do much of anything) for 6 months. Since getting back to running, I’ve been having a hard time recovering from workouts and even struggle sometimes to keep up in workouts. This past week however, workouts (and recovery from workouts) was great! Now I can’t say that it’s only due to following a vegan diet. There are other factors at play: the cumulative effects of my last month of training and the different nature of the workouts themselves. I think part of it can be attributed to an increase in carbohydrate. Since beans and lentils were my main source of protein this week, and they also contain carbohydrate, I think I’m actually fueling myself better than I was before.
I thought it might be challenging going home for the weekend and eating with my friends and family who do not follow a plant-based diet, but they were very receptive and accommodating. Friends welcomed the opportunity to cook a vegan meal, and family prepared a bean salad for me, to replace the meat I would usually eat at the meal.
Overall, it’s kind of hard to explain, but I just felt better. The past week has been quite a positive experience. I don’t know that I am quite ready to make the transition to a completely plant-based diet, but one thing I am sure of is that I will be including more plant-based meals in my diet.
One of my absolute favourite recipes that I made this week were these BBQ Pulled Carrot from yup..it’s vegan! You can find the recipe here!
The recipe suggests topping them with purple cabbage or avocados, which I didn’t have, so I made this red bell pepper relish instead.
So if you are thinking of trying a plant-based diet, I suggest you just give it a go! It is not difficult or expensive and you might just love it.