Day 62: The 24-Hour Vegan

Today, inspired by my friend and dietician-in-the-making Sam, I took on the challenge of being a vegan for a day.

I've gone vegetarian accidentally more often than I can count, but I'm pretty sure I've never endured a day without cheese or chocolate on my own volition.

I had a one-month stint with full-time vegetarianism in college, but it didn't stick. My grandmother offered me her beef burgundy, my favorite dish EVER, and I summarily resigned my veg ways and went back to my carnivorous self. I say that all to say that I knew I could go vegan, but I also know that I am, at heart, a meat and dairy eater to the core and that food habits die hard.

The whole point of this, for me, was to wholeheartedly invest myself in a vegan lifestyle for a day. If I was going to do it, I figured I should put forth all of the effort, research and planning that a real vegan would. I had a couple rules for myself:
  1. Eat one vegan meal that I would normally eat
  2. Order a vegan meal at a chain restaurant 
  3. Cook with a meat substitute that isn't tofu (I've had tons of tofu in my life: I wanted to try something different)
  4. Drink a milk-substitute that isn't soy milk (I switched entirely to soy milk throughout college, so that wasn't anything new)
  5. Try a vegan ice cream
Overall, I'm proud of my one-day vegan accomplishments. Here was my meal plan:

Breakfast was pretty simple, just oatmeal with brown sugar, strawberries and almond milk. This meal fulfilled the requirements of number 4. Almond milk last is undeniably delicious, with a super-light, barely-there texture and taste that finishes sweet.

I went to Atlanta Bread Company to fulfill objective number 2 for lunch. I had Vegetarian Vegetable Soup (vegan too!) and the California Avocado Sandwich sans cheese & mayo. It was thoroughly enjoyable, but that may be my penchant for avocado.

For my afternoon snack, I had Planter's Nut-rition Antioxidant mix. Dried fruit and nuts, totally vegan, totally something I would normally eat, fulfilling objective number 1.

Now be honest, does this look vegan? For dinner I made baked tempeh enchiladas with rice and beans (and a salad too, not here in this picture)! 

I cooked this dish all by myself from a recipe, representing the first time I've cooked a meal with a meat substitute, which just so happened to not be tofu, fulfilling objective number 3. I was so skeptical about this dish because raw temeph looks like a totally unappetizing slice of brain, but I was so unbelievably pleased by the outcome. Tempeh, when cooked correctly, has the texture of pork. Mark loved it as much or more than I did (surprise!!) and said I could cook it for him any time. Not kidding. This dish was to die for.


For dessert I had organic and all-natural "ice cream" made from coconut milk--no soy, no dairy, no gluten. You could have fooled me entirely with this one. The Amaretto-Cherry frozen treat was packed with it's stated flavors and fully satisfying as a dessert. It had the same texture of ice cream and 200 calories per serving to boot.

I learned a ton from researching, planning for and eating vegan foods. The main lessons were that eating vegan doesn't mean that you eat low-fat, all-organic or all raw foods. This challenge also showed me that eating vegan incorporates a lot of things that I already love, but that just require an extra step of thought. For the big kicker, vegan eating proved itself to be extremely filling--I didn't feel deprived all day.

Eating vegan did, however, buck the trend that I've tried to observe recently about trying to eat non-processed and local foods. Many prepared vegan foods are highly processed, as you can see with most any meat substitute. I guess we all, vegan or otherwise, pick our food battles.

Overall, this New Thing was a big challenge, a ton of fun and revelatory of the vegan lifestyle. I actually thought at the end of the day that with all of the vegan options, I should have tried to do this for a week instead of a day. How's that for a change of heart?

    I do have a secret that I need to confess. I had to go to Whole Foods to get many of the elements of my tempeh enchiladas. There, the staff was giving away samples of baked brie with fig sauce. I couldn't resist. I am only human.


    1. Leah, you rocked this challenge! I'm so impressed by your research. All of your foods looked like great choices. I'm so glad that you did this (and that Mark was on board too!)

      You are more ambitious than I am. I can't do anything other than cow's milk. Mind over matter, I guess. And it's good to see that you had options while eating out. And that ice cream sounds awesome, I will have to pick up some!

      Do you think you could do it everyday? Just wondering... I feel like it might be a bit more expensive than my typical eating habits. And processed food is ALWAYS a battle, glad you picked up on that. In a perfect world, anything that is in a shiny, foil package should be avoided. But I can't do that myself even...

      I'm so tickled that you did this! Let me think of something else for you to do now...

    2. Thanks for the idea!!

      It's funny that you ask if I could do it every day, because I actually thought that I should have tried it for a whole week. After perusing Whole Foods for all the vegan ingredients, I recognized how many options they really have and how many I wanted to try!

      You hit the nail on the head though about price...those ingredients are not cheap. For example, my tiny container of coconut milk ice cream was $6. My entry-level salary cringed.

      But seriously, I had so much fun with this and am so glad you offered up that great idea. More appreciated :) :) :)

    3. Glad you had such a good day! I tried being vegan for the first time a couple of months ago. It was certainly interesting. Somehow I'd never tried soy milk before, which to my surprise was super great! After a week of being vegan I realized that I felt better than I had in a while. Turns out I'm actually a little allergic to dairy. Who knew?

      Keep up the challenge, your new things make my day! (law school + living in a small town = having no life.)

      Ashley MacNamara

    4. Ashley,

      I can't believe you found out you were allergic to dairy after a stint as a vegan. That is crazy!

      It's amazing to me how much food impacts our well-being, even moreso than medicine and exercise.

      Lastly, I can't say how much it flatters me that you like reading the blog. I have so much fun with it and get my biggest grins from knowing it makes other people happy too, even just for a couple minutes a day. I hope you might pass it on to other people who might get a kick out of it too.

      If there's anything you want to see me do, let me know!!

    5. Hey Leah,

      I hate to say this but at least when we owned Atlanta bread companies, the vegetable soup had cream in it. Vegetarian, but not vegan. :(. Still excellent job! I could not have done it.

    6. AH! No way! I know that the tomato soup has cream in it. A letter from ABC on this website says, "Try a loaf of Garden Vegetable Soup. It's vegan!":

      Sad day. I'm complaining...

    7. Well it has been over a year since we closed them so it is possible they finally changed.

    8. Reading that last comment back to myself, I sound so defensive, lol

      ...don't compromise my challenge ;o)