Why We Switched To A Vegan Diet (And How We Did It)
A few weeks before I delivered Marin, Craig and I decided one night we wanted to try switching to a vegan diet. I was excited but skeptical. I’d been eating a 90% vegan diet for over a year, but Craig up until that point was still eating dairy and some meat. I had tried going vegan once before but found it too challenging to do on my own. That was two months ago, and we never looked back.
A few things I want to mention before we get into answering your questions about going vegan. First and most obvious, I am not a doctor or a nutritionist. This is based on our personal experience. None of this is health advice and I encourage you to do your own research and consult with a doctor or nutritionist for guidance if you’re unsure. Second, one thing that has turned me off the vegan/plant-based lifestyle is the sometimes polarizing and harsh language, conversation and attitudes around it. There are some who feel it is their responsibility to police the conversation around the diet and lifestyle. I am NOT here to do that. I think it’s great if you want to eat a more plant-based and/or vegan diet. Do what works for you, your family and your lifestyle. And finally, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Incorporating more plant-based and vegan meals into your diet is a great thing.
This post is not to convince you to completely change your diet tomorrow (unless of course you want to). There’s a variety of reasons we decided to go vegan (more on that below) but my goal is to share our experience and let you know it IS doable, if that’s your goal. I asked Craig to answer some of these questions because I know for some of you it’s been a challenge to convince your partner to try it, so I thought sharing his perspective might be helpful. This post is mainly to address your questions around how and why we did it. I will do a follow up with our favorite vegan cookbooks and food blogs as well as what our daily and weekly meals look like. I’d love to know your thoughts and experience as well. Have you tried it or are you vegan or plant-based? What has worked for you? Let me know in the comments.
Switching To A Vegan Diet + How We Did It
What was your decision process/main reason(s) for going vegan?
Jess: I cut out dairy, meat and eggs over a year ago so I was only occasionally eating chicken and fish. Once Craig was on board it was a no brainer to make the switch completely. I spent a lot of time reflecting in the last few weeks of my pregnancy and I realized I wanted to raise our child vegan (again just personal preference here no judgement). We are such animal lovers and we have a lot of interaction with farm and rescue farm animals (our various neighbors have chickens, cows, a rescue pig) and that was constantly on my mind. It was a huge factor in personally wanting to stop eating animals. We have also been doing so much work to reduce our environmental impact and this was just another way to make a difference there.
Craig: I wanted a lifestyle change, something just clicked. I was ready for a change, and I wanted to gain an edge physically. It was holistic too, thinking about the environmental, animal rights, and the health aspect. It started for me with a small thing which was giving up butter. I felt like if I could give up regular butter I could give up other things. You can change your taste buds.
Have you noticed any differences in how you feel/your overall health?
Jess: Absolutely. I have more energy. I just feel better overall. And I don’t get tired or lethargic after meals and my energy levels feel consistent throughout the day. Even with a new baby waking up in the middle of the night, I don’t feel sluggish or exhausted. My skin has literally never looked or felt better. It improved when I gave up dairy and eggs, but it is the best it has ever looked since I went completely vegan.
Craig: I haven’t had heartburn since we went vegan. Also, I have more energy and I’m not lethargic after meals. I don’t find myself having ups and downs throughout the day energy-wise. I also feel like I don’t overeat as much or feel sick after meals (too full).
Any foods you miss or were hard to give up?
Jess: Since going completely vegan no, but when I initially gave up dairy and eggs it was hard. Cheese took about two weeks before I stopped craving it (and I used to LOVE cheese and I ate eggs every morning). Now the idea of eating any of it completely grosses me out. I think I will miss oysters come summer time. I might make an exception for those.
Craig: Pizza, and rarely I crave a steak.
Has it made cooking more difficult?
Jess: Craig does most of the cooking but when I cook I would say no. We make all of the same meals just slightly different ingredients. I also want to mention we started out using a lot of frozen/prepared foods because we wanted to make it easy on ourselves with a new baby so that was really helpful in the beginning.
What was the hardest part?
Jess: Not being able to order takeout/go out to eat (though obviously no one is doing that right now). At the same time we’ve tried to do less of that anyway so it’s kind of a blessing in disguise.
Craig: Going out to eat.
What supplements are you taking?
In addition to my daily multivitamin (I’m still taking a prenatal -use code KIRBY for 10% off your first 3 months), I take a daily iron supplement, Vegan B12, and Vitamin D3. Craig also takes the iron, B12 and D3.
What are your favorite sources of protein?
As I mentioned above we really didn’t change what we eat. We just made modifications to the ingredients. We make a lot of Thai, Indian and Mexican food at home so now instead of chicken we use tempeh or tofu (I can get more into how we prepare that in another post). Also, we like quinoa, beans (we’ll use refried in Mexican dishes), potatoes, nut butters, chia and hemp seeds. And I make smoothies with added plant-based protein powder. This post is helpful if you’re looking for information on the best foods for plant-based protein.
How do you handle eating out?
Obviously no one is eating out right now, but when we first made the switch two months ago, we only ordered from or ate at places that had specific vegan options. When I was in the hospital after delivering Marin and then again for PPH I was lucky that Providence has several vegan and plant-based restaurants so I just ordered exclusively from those places. I will say too, more and more restaurants are getting on board, and if you ask many will accommodate if you ask for something vegan.
How often do you have to go shopping and is it more expensive?
We can go about two weeks in between trips to the store. Craig’s Mom has been going for us so we can minimize our exposure as much as possible. We focus on getting produce that lasts longer (squash, cabbage, zucchini, avocados, carrots, celery, etc. Things like mixed greens, arugula last about a week, sometimes a little longer. If we have greens that I think are going to go bad I’ll make homemade pesto or put them in a soup. I’ve been buying frozen fruit to use in smoothies and in my morning oatmeal. I haven’t noticed a difference in our grocery bills so I would not say it’s more expensive, especially since we aren’t eating out or ordering food.
What are your favorite dairy/meat alternatives?
Honestly this deserves it’s own blog post because there’s a lot of options, and that’s a good thing! We try to minimize the processed food we eat, and some options are better than others. These are some favorites: Miyokos Vegan Butter, Kite Hill Ricotta Cheese, Violife Parmesan and Provolone, LightLife Plant Based Burgers, Sweet Earth Bacon, Trader Joe’s Soy Chorizo, Organic Sunshine Burgers (Sea Salt and Chive), Gardein Beefless Ground.
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I have been plant based for almost 10 years now. I say plant based instead of vegan because occasionally I have eggs and fish. I only eat eggs though that are humanely raised and cage free, so I don’t eat eggs at restaurants because I don’t know what kind of eggs they are. I eat fish sometimes because I often go to Florida and the fish is so fresh that I can’t say no. I rarely eat fish at my home in Chicago because I am not always 100% sure it’s wild caught and sustainable. Also eating fish allows me more options when I eat out at restaurants. I would rather have salmon on a salad than a frozen dry veggie burger.
I was vegan for years before having to cut out food allergies and loved it! Any advice for someone who doesn’t eat soy, gluten, or PUFAs and is low FODMAP? I found it impossible to eat vegan once cutting out those foods, which bummed me out, but for health reasons I cannot add those foods back in so I feel like eating meat is literally my only option.
Oh man that’s really tough. I don’t have any advice unfortunately but maybe consult with a nutritionist and see what’s doable? You could potentially do plant-based and focus on lentils, beans, quinoa etc for protein?
I am a new follower, though love that you asked Craig for his opinions too. I’ve found it hard to make diet changes when your partner is not onboard or the food you’re trying not to eat is available.
Totally agree, it helps if everyone in the house is on board.
Love this post! My partner and I have been doing the same for about a month. We feel great mentally and physically. I have to agree with Craig though, I do miss pizza. Can you share what plant-based protein powder you use or recommend? I have yet to find one that doesn’t taste like artificially flavored sidewalk chalk…
Yeah honestly I don’t have any plant based protein powders I love, still experimenting. I do think the Thrive Market one is pretty good though.
I recommend Your Super protein and supplements! All of the products I have tried are really good in fruit smoothies and drinks!
I really want to make the change Did you refer to any books that helped guide you? What are some of your favorite prepared foods to get started? Thanks for this post!
I eat pizza! When I make one everything on it! You need to get a vegan cook book or recipes from the internet. Just type in vegan pizza.!
There are lot’s of vegan products. Things have gotten alot better. Pizza one is one of my favorites. Or make the crust your way. Different kinds of pizza. Add other types of products.making the crusts. Go wild! Let your taste buds wake up. The food is real and ummm! pattya ?
Yay, I’m always so happy to hear when someone opts to eat more in line with their values! I love that you provided Craig’s experience in this post as well. Sometimes I wish my husband were a vegetarian like me. He is thoughtful in his meat consumption, though. I bet you love unsolicited advice (eye roll), but thought you might be interested in my experience. I’ve been a vegetarian for ten years now and hoping to have a baby soon, so I’ve gone on another deep dive into nutrition and had a bunch of blood tests run. Every body is different, plus supplements are all different, and every diet can have lead to potential deficiencies…
Anyway, for me as a non-pregnant vegetarian, the amount of iron in my prenatal was too much (too much iron is also damaging, and men are at higher risk for it). I had to switch to a prenatal without iron. The only way to know your status is through blood tests, but you might *not* need a daily iron supplement. I thought the excess iron issue was ironic since I was anemic in college, before becoming a vegetarian (never ate much red meat).
I did, however, need additional B12. Lastly, choline is an important nutrient that can be difficult to get enough of on a plant-based diet. It’s especially important while pregnant/breast-feeding, so I thought I’d mention it. I’ve started taking a vegan choline supplement from Nested Health (no affiliation). Ok, end of unsolicited info, and cheers to happy eating and good health. 🙂
I have recently become VEGAN and love the lifestyle change. Your post is so inspirational to me -with quick easy changes to make that are vegan. Loving the outreach you are giving to others who are interested in making this switch by the quick and simple ways to make that switch. I know that starting out for me was complex thinking of all the different recipes and I used this 1-month starter challenge that seemed to help me make the transition https://bit.ly/2S6YdLu. I hope this link helps others as it has transformed me to become VEGAN. Love plants, they are so good for your soul.