Each month, brave folk at Kashi headquarters take part in a new challenge. These challenges center around health, wellness, mindfulness, our impact on the planet, and the role we play in society as a whole. This month’s challenge was to follow a vegan diet for the month of January in honor of “Veganuary”. Read on to see how it went…
Our team at Kashi loves plants. Actually, we really love plants and try to consume a lot of them. But that doesn’t mean we don’t eat other things too! We challenged ourselves to try following a purely plant-based diet for the month of January -- something that has become popular with the rise of Veganuary. Since 2014, Veganuary has inspired and supported more than half a million people in 178 countries to try vegan for January - and beyond.
“How hard can it be to be vegan for a month?” we asked ourselves. Read on to find out!
WERE YOU EXCITED OR APPREHENSIVE ABOUT THIS CHALLENGE?
Is anyone ever excited about giving up things they love? Well, it appears Natalie was! “I had participated in a vegan challenge before and really liked the fresh perspective I gained,” she explains. Anna Brook was a little more apprehensive, and while she knew she could eliminate meat consumption, she wasn’t sure about the eggs and dairy. She was, however, “Excited about the opportunity to be more mindful about my animal product consumption.”
Lu was more concerned about how it would fit in with cooking for her family, because, “With two little kids, we live off a repertoire of meals that I know we can all eat together and that I can prep quickly and easily at night.” Zoe, on the other hand, was eager to have a reason to cut out dairy products because “I know I don’t digest them well, but I don’t seem to be able to stop myself!”
WHAT DID YOU EXPECT TO FIND THE TOUGHEST ABOUT IT?
“I expected weekends to be the toughest,” Lu admits. "‘Not because we eat a particularly non-vegan diet, but because I didn’t want to feel restricted in my choices during the weekends.” For Natalie, who enjoys socializing over good food, “The most challenging part of the challenge was definitely going to be the social component.”
For others, it boiled down to logistics. Food planning takes time, and when you change your diet, you need to put more thought into what you are going to eat. This was definitely true for Anna Brook. “With my work/school schedule, I have minimal time at night to prepare meals,” she says. “I typically make a simple salad for lunch with chicken for protein, and then bring a sandwich I can eat on the road commuting to school.” That was less of an issue for Zoe, because her husband had already stopped eating meat after watching the documentary Game Changers “and he prepares most of the food!”
WAS THE REALITY DIFFERENT TO WHAT YOU EXPECTED?
In a word, “Yes!” But not necessarily in a negative way. For example, Anna Brook found it, “Much more challenging than I thought it would be. But, at the same time, I began to recognize the little habits I have that would need to change for me to live a vegan lifestyle.” she says. Natalie also found it “Much more challenging than expected,” but she really enjoyed the diversity of foods she started to include in her diet. “I found myself trying new foods that I normally do not consume,” she says. “Eggplant, jackfruit, and portobello mushrooms to give a heartier consistency to a meal... Pastas and potatoes with nutritional yeast instead of cheese… all uncommon ingredients for me.”
Lu was pleasantly surprised by how tasty vegan recipes can be. “We made an amazing vegan dahl that was so good we have made it into one of our staples now,” she explains. “I was also out for work and ordered the vegan option,” she continues “which I would never have done unless I had been on this challenge, and it was delicious.”
WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST THING YOU LEARNED ABOUT YOURSELF DURING IT?
“Eggs! I had no idea how many eggs I was actually consuming,” Zoe said. “Oh, and that I actually can live without cheese,” she laughs. Lu learned a vegan lesson: it’s not always easy to know if the foods you are eating contain animal products. “That’s why I’m glad we label the foods the way we do at Kashi!” she says. Natalie shares a philosophical outlook on choosing a vegan lifestyle. “If I really wanted to go vegan,” she says, “I would need to not purchase animal products beyond food. I found myself eating vegan and shopping for vegan food items, but it only came into my consciousness later into the challenge that I would also need to rethink my purchasing patterns to avoid animal products in other forms -- such as cosmetics, apparel and accessories.”
Anna Brook realized that she relies on animal products for the majority of her protein intake: “Despite knowing I can get additional nutrients from consuming plant-based protein!” She plans to be more mindful of this moving forward.
WHAT LESSONS WILL YOU APPLY TO YOUR DAILY LIFE AFTER THIS CHALLENGE?
Working at Kashi, Anna Brook is well versed in the benefits of consuming a wide variety of plants (see previous quote), so this challenge was a great way to make positive changes to her diet. “I will work to incorporate more plant diversity into my diet,” she says, “and to continue to try more whole food plant-based protein sources.”
Natalie’s learnings were of a slightly different sort. “I need to sharpen my knives!” she laughs. “I was in the kitchen preparing food and chopping veggies every night. In addition to eating vegan, I was also aiming to eat seasonally -- and acorn squash, spaghetti squash, carrots, and kohlrabi can all be tough vegetables to cut.”
Lu and her family now have more plant-friendly recipes in the mix, and she is “definitely much more open to trying vegan options than before.” As for Zoe...Well, she learned that “Chia seed pudding is a perfectly good replacement for scrambled eggs!”
TIPS AND TAKEAWAYS
If you’re considering a vegan diet, or even reducing the amount of animal products you consume, here are some of our top post-challenge tips.
- Preparation is key. Chop up vegetables as soon as you get them home from the store. That way, you are far more likely to snack on carrots and hummus rather than a chunk of cheese.
- Check out the Veganuary website for a ton of tips, tricks, and recipes.
- See how Kashi can help with its wide selection of vegan products. Check out this article to see which products are vegan and some other tips on how to approach a plant-based diet.