Vegan Challenge kick-off

August 31, 2009

I’m back from Texas! It was a lovely trip and I’ll write more about it later on this week, but we have more pressing things to discuss right now so I’ll just leave you with this photo:

IMG_1455My first-ever trip to Whole Foods was very successful indeed.


Tomorrow, being the first day of September, is the beginning of my vegan adventures! For the entire month of September I will be on a vegan diet. Every day, starting this Wednesday, I will post what vegan foods I ate the day before to demonstrate what kinds of things you can and cannot eat on a vegan diet.

I know, I know, veganism is a lifestyle, and “going vegan for a month” doesn’t really do a lifestyle justice. Being vegan forever isn’t something I’m interested in, however. So I’m doing it for a limited period of time.

Why I’m going vegan for a month

There are a number of reasons why veganism is my current choice for a nutrition challenge:

1. Spreading awareness about animal products. Besides the obvious foods like steak or eggs, there are many foods that we eat which use animal products that we are not aware of. Happy Cow has a list of non-vegan ingredients. Vegetarian action also has a short list, and a longer list from a different website can be found here.Ā  Gelatin is an animal product but it goes in all kinds of things (marshmallows are one of them!). Pasta is sometimes made with eggs. Wine and beer usually have animal products in them from the clarifying process. Many types of toothpaste have animal ingredients. Even sugar could potentially have been made with bone charcoal! As with all of my nutrition challenges, the main goal of this challenge is to realize just how much of what we eat includes some kind of animal product.

2. Decrease my carbon footprint. My carbon footprint is massive from all the traveling that I do (I can’t even imagine what damage the flight to and from Cambodia has done) and also from the food that I eat. I import my powdered peanut butter and regularly eat bananas which definitely do not grow in Winnipeg. It’s terrible, it really is. But I’m not exactly willing to give those things up, either (I feel kind of bad, like I’m saying “I love you, environment… just not quite enough to make actual sacrifices”. Ah well. I guess I don’t feel bad enough to stop). So instead I’m taking a month of eating vegan, which will reduce my carbon footprint by a very small amount- it’s alarming how much our carbon footprints are increased by eating meat and products that use animal ingredients. Every bit counts.

3. Increase my knowledge and understanding of different diets and lifestyles. I’ll be honest; I don’t “get” veganism. I’m skeptical about how nutritious it is. But I don’t want to knock it if I haven’t even given it a shot. Even if it doesn’t end up working for me, that doesn’t mean it’s going to not work for everyone else, too. There are all kinds of controversies over how healthy veganism is and I’m on a mission to find out from personal experience.

I should also clear up right now that the handbag I carry every day is leather. And my bike has a leather seat and handlebars. And no doubt my shampoo and my clothes and countless other things I use daily have animal ingredients in them. Oops (bad temporary vegan!). So although I’m raising awareness about the animal products in the food that we eat, I’m not going to be talking a lot about the animal products that we use in non-edible goods, and I will not be avoiding those ingredients in said non-edible products. Because, frankly, that would be a huge amount. And that in itself just goes to emphasize what I’m trying to demonstrate by doing this challenge: animal products are everywhere and it is very, very difficult to avoid them.

Predictions of personal struggles

I eat eggs, cheese, and milk every day, or very nearly every day. I don’t expect that I’ll miss meat (and I’m including poultry/seafood in that category) too much, but I crave eggs all the time. Milk I can substitute with dairy alternatives. The cheese I eat is usually cream cheese on sandwiches or spread on veggies/fruit, so it can easily be replaced with hummus, or I can always experiment with vegan cheeses- though I’d rather try to stick with whole, natural foods rather than processed versions. Eggs, however, will be a tricky one. I can’t think of any replacement to a poached egg on toast.

September also happens to be my birthday month! Unfortunately for me, my two most favourite cakes of all time are angel food cake and cheesecake. Angel food cake is basically egg whites with sugar, so it would be nearly impossible to vegan-ize. For obvious reasons, cheesecake is not vegan. But the vegan community is growing and there are many vegan cheesecake recipes out there so perhaps I will try one of those. Or maybe I’ll just wait until October for cake šŸ˜‰

Although we don’t exactly “eat” toothpaste and lip balm, I’m including them on the list of vegan products that I’ll be trying out because they’re going near my mouth. Toothpaste, mouthwash, lip balm, and lip gloss/lipstick are the only make up and toiletries that I will be using vegan versions for. I am completely obsessed with Burt’s Bees Beeswax Lip Balm, so I have to find a replacement for that during September. I think that not being able to use my beloved Burt’s Bees might be more tragic than the poached egg or angel food cake.

Challenge Invitation

I am, as always, inviting any and all of you to take part in this challenge with me! I like the idea of doing it for a month to see if it has any effect on my body. The controversy about veganism ranges from it being an incredibly healthy lifestyle, all the way to the criticism that it can cause a myriad of health issues and drastically decreases your energy levels. I’ll be interested to see if anything changes for me. As I know that there are a fair number of you who are athletes that have adopted vegan diets, I’m quite excited to experiment with this!

Will you be going vegan for this month? Or a week? Or a day? Even if you decide not to try it at all, hopefully you’ll take the opportunity to read a food product label or two… there might be more animal products in your food choices than you think.


  1. This sounds like a good experiment. I was just talking with a friend of mine about how people should definitely try out different eating styles to see if anything they are currently doing might be affecting them negatively, or if their body deals with some things better than others. I feel tons better as a vegan than when I was an omnivore, but I know some people just function better with eggs, or milk, or meats. To each his own, but there is no way to know or learn unless you try, so I commend you!

    The experience I have had with new vegans who go on to ditch the attempt and claim it an unhealthy lifestyle are the ones who did now know what to eat to keep balanced and healthy. They just ate whatever without considering protein or B12 or Omegas. Tons of vegan cookies, french fries, Vegan meat alternatives on white breads with ketchup etc., essentially the junk food of the vegan world. They usually didn’t eat a lot of fresh veggies, which is the foundation of many healthy vegans diets.

    I hope you enjoy the experience and learn more about what works and what doesn’t for yourself!

  2. UM WAIT!!

    that was so so so fast of a visit.

    I thought you were in my neck of the woods all this week!


    Miz who cant join you in this challenge. she shall get a note from her…husband šŸ™‚ saying she.crabby. already and messing with her fish might make her tired arse more ornery.

  3. Exciting times ahead, I’m looking forward to hearing about how it all goes.

  4. I don’t know that I could go vegan, but vegetarian would be do-able! It’s hard when I live with a major carnivore. I would have to make myself something separate for dinner, which really wouldn’t be such a big deal. I think my meat/egg/dairy intake isn’t very high in the first place, but like you said, it’s good to try out different diets and see what they are like, simply for the fact that you can educate others better once you’ve experienced the diet first hand! Can’t wait to hear how it goes.

  5. Lia- I’ll be trying to eat as many WHOLE foods as possible šŸ™‚ I’ve been doing lots of reading for how I can get balanced nutrients. It’s going to be so much fun!

    MizFit- it was all last week! Just Tuesday through Sunday. Wish I could’ve stopped by Austin though!

    Berni- should be a good time for sure.

    Gina- I’ve been such a believer for a really long time that meat/eggs/dairy are necessary for health in our diet that I want to see if I can consider it all in a new light. But ultimately, it’s all about what works for each of us as individuals.

  6. Enjoy your new challenge! I enjoyed being vegan for a while although I didn’t stick with it (I’m too attached to my eggs and fish). I still use one of my vegan cheesecake recipes – it uses tofu – and it is DIVINE! Even my non-veg friends love it. Have fun cooking!

  7. This will be a great experience for you! I’ve done my share of necessity imposed food challenges before, so I won’t be joining you. I think that you’ll find it hard in the beginning but fairly easy by the end of the month – and you’ll be SHOCKED at all of the places animal products and by products are hidden. And if you want a really good looking vegan brownie recipe, jump over to my site today for a link!

  8. Nodding my head to the “I love you enviroment but…” statement, as I sit here drinking my bottled water. I feel bad about it, but I just can’t stand the taste of filtered water so I buy bottled spring water. I do recycle the bottles though!

    As for veganism – I don’t quite get it. Vegetarianism I do get and I have had the urge, for a long time, to be vegetarian. It grows, bit by bit, so one day it may happen. I do however, use Vegan shampoo & conditioner. Mainly I was looking for products not tested on animals and that’s where I ended up. šŸ™‚

  9. Hi Sagan!

    I think a vegan diet is OK. As information, I’m mostly vegan. I was influenced by Dean Ornish and his reversal of heart disease with a lifestyle including vegan/low fat eating. The interesting thing is, Dr. Ornish and his family, as far as I know, eat as I do, vegan (no meat/dairy/eggs), but does include some seafood. I may be biased, but I think it’s the best way to go in the long run for health. Many of the altruistic reasons, not that the are bad, for being vegan would not matter if our world population was not out of control.

  10. I actually did go vegan for about 3 weeks one time, at the peak of my vegetarian days. I didn’t get enough protein from non-animal sources and wound up being very lethargic and cranky all the time. So, be sure to get plenty of protein so that you have an enjoyable experience, and so that you keep your friends!

  11. Good luck! I support you 100%! I’m sure you’ll benefit greatly!

    Kristen from Kristen’s Raw is a vegan, but she felt that it would be wasteful to throw out the existing leather products she has, so as they wear out, she replaces them with vegan alternatives. I thought that was quite a reasonable strategy. Transition is everything!

  12. Charlotte- I NEED that recipe šŸ˜€

    Cathy- I’m already really shocked! And especially at the sheer number of processed food products that are made in factories with whey/milk/eggs that might have gotten inside… being a permanent vegan must be a constant battle.

    JavaChick- funny how we sometimes “accidentally” wind up using vegan/organic etc products. But I think it’s a good thing!

    Dr. J- I find it interesting that they incorporate some seafood. From the reading I’ve been doing, it looks as though an 80-90% vegan diet would actually be really quite healthy, I must admit (IF IF IF it’s done right).

    Gena- ahaha yes, I will be sure to eat plenty of protein šŸ™‚

    Hanlie- that’s an excellent strategy. There’s no point in things going to waste once we already have them and can use them.

  13. Good luck Sagan! By the way did you know that less than 50% of the cow is used for meat? Most of the butchered cow is used in every day by-products. Here’s that list (lots of things to avoid if people really want to go vegan) http://healthydiscoveries.com/2008/06/the-beef-cow-so-much-more-than-a-hamburger/

  14. Highly inspirational. I will probably be your biggest support :)…Good luck.

  15. Wow! Great challenge for yourself and what a great example for all of us!

    I have one vegan friend, and I always admire how she cooks and eats.

  16. wow, very exciting! look forward to your adventure šŸ™‚

  17. How funny…. I have been eating vegan for over 2 weeks now…. doing a month long vegan diet at the pressure of a vegan friend. I have found I am tired. But not cranky. My main goal has been weight loss. And only 2-3 pounds in 2 weeks. So I am a bit disappointed. Eating out is hard….be warned. Can’t wait to follow this!!!

  18. P.S. I linked to you today in my blog post about exercising!

  19. Of all the folks I “know” in the fitness blogging world, YOU are the one I vote most likely to succeed with this challenge!

    I agree wholeheartedly with reading food labels. I just had to buy some pizza sauce (“had” to, you understand), and you would have thought that the fate of the universe depended on my selecting just the right product. I almost gave myself a migraine from scrutinizing the itsy bitsy letters. šŸ™‚

    Good luck with your challenge, Sagan!

  20. Things are a bit to difficult in my life right now to try a new way of eating, but I’m very excited for you. I think this is a great challenge, and I’m sure you’ll discover many new foods/food combos that you haven’t thought of before. I like to incorporate vegan dishes into my diet, but I think a whole month (or even a week) takes LOTS of planning (which I’m not up to right now).

    I’m really looking forward to seeing your meals. And I wish you the best of luck with the challenge! And I can’t wait to read more about your WF shopping trip… šŸ˜‰

  21. Good luck, and I hope it lasts longer than a month šŸ™‚ I’ve been vegan for four years now and I feel wonderful. I have way more energy than I did when I ate meat, lost 80 pounds in the first two years of being vegan, and my migraines have disappeared. My fiance and 1 1/2 year old daughter are also vegan and when we got physicals, all of us are right on target for every single nutrient. The success of a vegan diet depends entirely upon its makeup–so as long as you are eating plenty of produce, nuts, beans and other whole foods, you’ll do great.

    As long as you are taking the time to find out about all the animal products that invade the things we eat, wear and use every day, I would encourage you to find out more about the reasons people go vegan. Aside from being a nutritious and healthy way to live, as you mentioned it’s also a great way to help the environment. Of course, it is also a way to reduce unnecessary animal suffering.

    PS: I have a really awesome cheesecake recipe if you want it! I also get a lot of recipes from vegweb.com and fatfreevegan.com. I’ve been trying for ages and have not come up with anything close to angel food cake, though… I honestly think that’s the one food that has absolutely no vegan alternative.

  22. Jolene- I had no idea! And thanks for the link, I’m sure I’ll link back to it in a future post šŸ™‚

    Usman- I’ll need all the support I can get šŸ˜‰

    Diane & Shannon- thanks!

    Jennifer- ooh good timing then. Got any tips? I have a feeling my weight will stay the same (ODing on nut butters, you know. Hehe).

    Cammy- aww thank you, you’re such a sweetheart! I’m the same way with labels. Grocery shopping is such a production.

    Andrea- I’ve been scouting out recipes all summer. So excited.

    The Bumbling Baker- thanks for commenting and I hope you keep reading; I’d love to continue hearing your thoughts! Thanks for the links and I’d LOVE that recipe.

  23. Good luck with the new challenge! You have to start looking for a vegan cheesecake recipe for your birthday, or have you got one already? šŸ˜€

    For about 3 months already, almost all my meals are vegan (vegetarian when I include egg). I don’t want to label myself with this or that kind of eater though because my diet may change anytime. Like if I eat out, I may have meat. Or during social situations, I’ll eat ice cream. But when I have control over what I’m taking in, I want to put in as much veg I can. šŸ˜€

    Looking forward to reading about how your month goes. Good luck!

  24. I think your month of veganism is a great idea! I was vegan for years until about 2 years ago. I’m up for a week of veganism! Much of what I eat is vegan anyway. The only major change would be switching to soy yogurt and giving up my Fage.

  25. Best of luck with your vegan challenge – I hope you enjoy it. I know the vegan lifestyle works very well for me, and the more I learn, the more I feel like it’s the right choice for our planet, as well. That said, there are plenty of good reasons to include dairy in your diet. And I think if I had my own chickens, I’d probably go back to eating eggs! I’m looking forward to hearing your take on veganism after the experiment. Good luck!

  26. Good luck on your challenge! I’ll watch from the sidelines! šŸ˜€

  27. those would be my exact struggles too: cheese, milk and eggs.

    I think its fine to do it as a personal experiment to gain an appreciation for other lifestyles. and who knows, you may feel better on a vegan diet and decide to adopt it. you never know until you try!

    im going to go eat some cheese now…

  28. Mia- that kind of flexibility is a great idea. I’m only being so rigid about it to make my point about raising awareness about animal ingredients, otherwise I think I’d be doing something similar to the situation you have.

    WholeBodyLove- I’ve never been much of a yogurt person. I eat it regularly but I never seem to crave it. Now if I had to give up almond butter, on the other hand… šŸ˜‰

    Monica- I’m already enjoying it very much! And I agree that there are tons of good reasons to eat dairy and eggs etc. It all comes down to doing whats right for our bodies as individuals.

    Biz319- thanks!

    Kelly- I’m all about the learning šŸ™‚ And I had enough cheese in Texas last week to last me a few more days. But I think I’ll be getting jealous of your cheese-eating come the weekend, hehe.

  29. What I love about this, Sagan, is how you’re doing this so you’re aware of what this diet is really like. It’s easy to “knock” something before we’ve given it a fair shot – and you are doing that – by doing this for a month – and I think that’s awesome! Looking forward to what you find this month…

  30. I really love your writing and your blog. I find myself enthralled into your posts whereas sometimes, I feel like “blah blah blah” on other blogs.
    Anyhow, I am attempting to become more vegetarian ( flexatarian I guess) but I have studied too much nutrition to know that Veganism isn’t really necessary or desirable (from a health/ nutrition standpoint because most of the time, it results in consumption of processed foods, vitamin b12 deficiencies, GI issues at first, and is just plain not necessary based on human anthropology).

    However, I do strongly agree with all of the reasons why you are doing this diet. I just read an article on how we evolved into larger brained people by eating animals…Unfortunately, that got taken to the extremes with animal products in everything and over-processing & over-eating! It will be very interesting to follow you through this! šŸ™‚

    I am totally excited to see how your vegan adventure goes and very supportive of anyone that chooses it.

  31. Wow, I am totally impressed by this. I honestly don’t think I could do it – I don’t eat much meat, but it’s the little things that would get me!

  32. […] — Sagan @ 6:07 am Since I have decided to eat a vegan diet for the month of September (the reasons for which can be found at Living Healthy in the Real World), I have received a lot of […]

  33. […] recap what we set out intending to learn back at the beginning of the month, shall […]

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