TEST-DRIVING VEGANISM. Not sure whether a vegan diet will suit your lifestyle? Here’s one way to find out
Mentioning “going vegan” is an easy way to start a debate.
One undeniable tidbit of scientific fact related to the issue, however, is that cutting back on animal protein (especially processed meat products) can lead to a bounty of health benefits. And many people have found that going all the way and adapting a 100-percent vegan lifestyle can be a rewarding choice.
Embracing the benefits of a vegan diet does not necessarily mean committing to wholesale changes. You can, for example, simply cut back on meat and dairy; you can designate, say, two or three days a week as “vegan days”; or you can take up the 21-Day Vegan Challenge and see for yourself if switching to veganism (or at least going vegetarian) is for you.
Now, as the name implies, this challenge simply means sticking to a vegan diet for at least three weeks. To get you started, we’ve composed this simple but comprehensive guideline to help you compile your very own plant-based diet plan—and if you’re a veteran vegan, maybe some of these tips might prove useful as well.
1. MIND THE DEFICIENCIES
Protein, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, vitamin B-12 and a host of other essential nutrients are much easier to obtain from meat, eggs, milk and other animal products. A bit of extra research into the nutritional values of various plant materials is, therefore, a must. Legumes and soy, for example, are excellent sources of protein, while nuts and seeds can help you obtain omega-3 fatty acids.
2. MIND THE MEASUREMENTS
Before we actually dive into daily menu suggestions, let’s talk about measurements. This is particularly important when you want to try out or compare menu ideas from several different sources. More often than not, you’ll encounter suggestions along the lines of “2 servings of protein” or “1 serving of fat” and so on. These usually refer to the following volume standards:
• 1 serving of protein equals 125ml of beans or 2 tablespoons of nuts
• 1 serving of fat equals 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil or salad dressing
• 1 serving of whole grains equals 125ml of rice or whole-grain pasta, 1 slice of whole-grain bread or 250ml of whole-grain cereal
• 1 serving of vegetables or fruit equals 250ml of raw greens, 125ml of cooked vegetables or a small apple
3. BALANCE, BALANCE, BALANCE
When you’re not accustomed to devising menus that are 100-percent plant-based, it’s easy to overdo some parts of your meal and neglect other parts (essential fats, in particular). Again, there are plenty of readily available references online, but this simple guideline by Sharon Palmer, author of “Plant-Powered for Life,” comes highly recommended (measured in “servings” as described above):
• Breakfast: 1 protein, 1/3 essential fat, 2 whole grains, 2 vegetables, 1 fruit
• Lunch: 2 protein, 1/3 essential fat, 2 whole grains, 2 vegetables
• Dinner: 2 protein, 1/3 essential fat, 2 whole grains, 2 vegetables, 1 fruit
• Finally, for your daily snacks, 2 servings of protein, 1 of vegetables and 1 of fruit should be sufficiently filling.
4. STOCK UP ON FLAVOR ENHANCERS
One common misconception about vegan food is the lack of flavor, especially for breakfast options. And, yes, if you’re comparing bacon sandwiches and plain oatmeal, that sentiment is certainly true. However, this can easily be remedied by stocking up on all-natural, all-vegan flavor enhancers. For example, you can easily make a bowl of plain oatmeal or muesli into a delectable treat with fresh berries, dried fruit, cinnamon powder, dried pumpkin seeds, hydrated basil seeds or even grass jelly. Prefer something more savory? You can add sautéed mushrooms, scrambled tofu, etc. And we’re still only talking about toppings for oatmeal or muesli. There’s also veggie tacos, pizza, quiche and the list goes on.
5. TAKE IT EASY
The worst thing you can do in the 21-Day Vegan Challenge is to treat it like a goal. The idea is not about reaching the 21st day without succumbing to the temptation of going out and grabbing a burger, but instead it’s about getting first-hand experience in going vegan. It’s basically like taking veganism for a test drive, and looking into the possibility—however remote—of switching to it as your main ride. The benefits of a vegan diet, much like, say, the mileage or horsepower of a car, are indisputable; the question that this challenge seeks to answer is whether a plantbased culinary regimen suits your lifestyle. And 21 days is an ideal duration: Not too long to seem insurmountable, but just long enough for the effects to actually kick in.
So, if you’re looking into actually going vegan, or even if you’re simply trying to switch to a healthier lifestyle and are looking for options, give the 21-Day Vegan Challenge a try. Just don’t forget to relax and take it easy.
Text Joezer Mandagi
Photography Nicky Gunawan
Styling Edwin Habibun
Styling Assistant Jay Robert Davies
Model Gabriel Riccieri/F-Models