Today is the final day of the 28 Day Engine 2 Challenge. During the Challenge my two year plant-iversary passed. I don’t recall the exact date but it was February 2012 when I decided to give up meat for Lent. I’m not a particularly religious person, but wanted to reclaim my diet and Lent seemed as good a time as any to focus on healthful eating. I did not expect this would be a longer term decision. I noticed during that time that I had more energy, slept better and generally felt better; that was what led to the decision to continue with this lifestyle change. Given this was primarily a decision based on health benefits, it has been important to me not to substitute standard junk food for vegan junk food. Of course, it is easy to slip into convenience.
Immediately before starting the Challenge, I was 100% vegetarian, ~90% vegan, and I’d guess ~80% whole food plant based no oil. The 90% vegan is due to my love of the fried egg on an everything bagel. I wouldn’t have guessed this the vice that I could not seem to crack (pun intended) but apparently the egg and bagel sandwich is engrained in my NYC girl DNA. This was a common weekend treat, so I would guess I probably had 1-2 eggs/week. Cream cheese on bagels was the other non-vegan item that tended to find itself in my diet (as I write this I realize that I apparently need a bagel intervention). Before starting the Challenge I may have graded my WFPB no oil higher because I have been cooking and baking without oil for some time but now that I have been more cognizant of EVERYTHING I eat, ~80% is probably more accurate.
If I were to grade myself during the Challenge I’d pass 100% vegetarian, 98% vegan, 95% WFPB no oil. I went from having a bagel from the office cafeteria 3-4 days a week and my weekend egg & bagel sandwich to one bagel a week at the office and steel cut oats or scrambled chickpeas on the other days. I did succumb to one egg sandwich over the 28 days. I went from inconsistent lunch prep resulting in buying office cafeteria lunches about 60-70% of the time to bringing lunch from home nearly every day (I think I had 1-2 days that I bought salad bar at work). Dinners have always been well prepped for me but I did cut out my weekend Wegman’s Asian Food Bar (which I am quite certain would not qualify as oil free). I only had that 1-2 times during the 28 days and found I’ve lost taste for it – Happy Herbivore Cheater Pad Thai is more flavorful by far.
The biggest improvement for me was snacking. Pre-Challenge, I often found myself going to the coffee bar at work and getting a Philly pretzel and diet Coke in the afternoon. In the evenings I would, out of habit, go for store bought hummus ( ~50% calories from fat) with Blue Corn Chips (~40% calories from fat) and veggies. The Challenge has made me much better at conscientious eating and making better choices. I pack fruit and some nuts to bring to work everyday and this has replaced my afternoon snack. Hot green tea has replaced my Diet Coke. I make my own hummus without the oil and I’ve made my own tortilla chips from oil-free tortillas. Reading Rip’s post about Plant-Strong Snacking made me rethink what it means to snack. At first glance, I was confused to see potatoes and ears of corn on the list. Ultimately, anything is a snack – baked french fries with hot sauce, soup, cereal. We’ve become so accustomed to the snack aisle that it is a habit we rarely reconsider.
It’s not all easy, but it’s not as hard as the typical omnivore might think either. I easily cook and bake without oil (admitting that baked goods will not last as long without oil as they do with the added fat but do taste just as good fresh). The most difficult for me during the Challenge was bread. It was difficult to find oil-free breads and those that can be found are not quite the same. I think eating out would also be difficult; given the snowtastic winter we’re having here in the East, there hasn’t been much opportunity to get out and I’ve made it a bit easier on myself by sticking to preparing all of my own foods.
What next? I do consider an unprocessed life to be as good as it gets. I enjoy cooking, have far more variety in my meals now than I ever did as an omnivore, love different flavor profiles and tastes that develop as you cut back on salt, fat and sugar, and it is cheaper. Preparing my own food for this past month has not really increased my grocery bill but I saved a lot of money by not buying food at work or takeout from Wegman’s.
For me personally, I intend to continue this journey beyond the 28 days but am doubtful I will be 100% all the time. I plan to continue to choose healthy snacks, and pack it rather than resort to the office cafeteria (frankly my food tastes better than the cafe). At the same time an indulgent, or even bad, choice does not mean giving up and going back to old habits, and I may enjoy a meal out without worrying about the oil now and again. Diet has many meanings and too many people consider it as a temporary alteration in life rather than a lifestyle. A concept so wonderfully explained on Weighing In with Words.
Since it feels strange to have a post with no pictures I thought I’d post the final few days food diary and pretty this post up a bit. Breakfast was a potato hash with kale, mushrooms, tomatoes, and roasted chickpeas.
Lunches over the weekend consisted of a Chopped Salad with Spicy Chipotle Dressing. Fat Free Vegan was the source of this deliciousness. My version was romaine lettuce, tomato, zucchini, radish, peppers, cucumber, avocado, cilantro, and scallion topped with a homemade creamy, spicy (and oil free) dressing.
Dinner found me going back to an Indian flavor profile mainly to finish up the cauliflower I’d bought to make pizza crust. I made an Indian eggplant dish and a dish inspired by another Fat Free Vegan delight, Vindaloo Vegetables, served over brown rice.
For a plant-based dessert worthy of a gloomy snowstorm (ugh) I made rice pudding. I’ll post the recipe in my next post.