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Published on June 22, 2016

5 things I learned after eating vegan for a week

The surprising experience from a cheese-loving farm girl.

Until a few months ago, I rolled my eyes at veganism as a lifestyle. Maybe it was because I grew up on a dairy farm, or because I'm a dietitian and meat and dairy products are part of most nutrition conversations. How could it be healthy to eliminate all animal products and how could it be balanced to cut out an entire food group? But then I learned that Americans now consume more than 7 ounces of meat each day and I started asking myself – how can that be balanced either?

The health benefits of eating a primarily whole foods, plant-based diet are widely known and extensively studied, but not commonly practiced in our meat-loving culture. So I decided to do an experiment: eat vegan for a week. This is what happened.

I was surprised to learn:

  1. Meat and animal products are EXPENSIVE. Without animal products, my grocery cart was mostly fresh fruits and vegetables. I also had some fresh herbs, canned beans, dry lentils, tofu, hummus, rice, pasta, bread and peanut butter. I was shocked when my groceries for the week rang up at HALF the usual cost!
  2. I didn't miss the meat. I'm serious! I thought the week would be torture. But surprisingly, it didn't even phase me. The food I was eating that had so much flavor and texture that I didn't miss the meat at all. The excitement of trying new recipes made cooking and eating fun again, too!
  3. I did miss dessert. Those who know me well know I love my sweets. During vegan week, unless I made vegan dessert, most items were off limits for me. My chocolate had milk in it, my cookies had eggs. A coworker brought in brownies and I was sad to pass them up.
  4. I slipped up a couple of times. I put cream in my coffee out of habit one morning. I attended a catered event where only meat options were served (even the side items had butter).
  5. I felt better. During vegan week, I slept better at night and had more energy during the day. My stomach didn't hurt after breakfast (which had previously included dairy or eggs). After meals, I felt satisfied but not heavy or full (plus, it's really hard to overeat vegetables!).

Eating a primarily whole foods, plant-based diet isn't for everyone. It takes effort to shift your thinking from meat main-dishes to plant. But it caused me to wonder if maybe veganism is worth it if it led to better health, a lower grocery bill or simply feeling better.

Love + Medicine

Every day, Gundersen Health System delivers great medicine plus a little something extra—we call it Love + Medicine.

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