So my brother and I have just finished weeks 4 and 5 of our vegan exploration. Originally we planned on just going for 4 weeks, but decided to tack on an additional week. All in all, going vegan wasn’t as difficult as we both thought. The first week was the toughest because we didn’t really know about the volume of food you would need to eat in order to feel full. Constantly eating veggies kind of make you feel like you’re always eating while sitting at your desk at work. On various occasions I know I have told friends that I feel like a cow just chewing food constantly. From this whole experience I feel so much better on multiple levels. First off, once I shifted away from eating the processed soy stuff to more fruits and veggies, I could notice myself looking and feeling leaner. It seems like in a way it was a detox for my body. As for weight loss, I did not lose much (maybe 7 pounds) but that would be because I wasn’t as active as I normally am. Also, I have developed a better appreciation for vegan foods and eating more fruits and veggies. Yes, vegan foods don’t look as appealing as other foods, but if you get over the looks and try them, they can be quite good. I was lucky because being in a large metropolitan area made it easy to find vegan options when I went out to eat with friends. I only recall one time where I had to settle for a salad because there wasn’t a vegan option on the menu, but I should have known better since we were going to country French café. From this experience I know that I will incorporate more fruits and veggies into my diet along with more whole organic foods. I also know that after staying away from processed foods and the revitalized feeling it gave me, I’ll try to scale back on the processed foods I eat in the future.
I want to take this opportunity to thank everybody who took the time to read my blog during this adventure and to all of those who supported my brother and me during this time. It was an adventurous journey and I’m looking forward to see how this experience will change the rest of my life.
Alright, week 3 is done and all is well. Many of my friends have been asking me if I have been losing weight during this experiment and I have decided to share with you why I haven’t been really losing any weight. So far I’ve lost about 2-4 pounds, which isn’t really that much. Why haven’t I lost more weight? Wouldn’t going vegan cause you to lose weight? The answer to those questions is, yes and no. Yes, I feel that if you go vegan and stick to just fruits, veggies, nuts, and clean organic foods you’ll lose weight, but there is unhealthy vegan food out there too. One thing that has changed in my diet during this vegan process is the amount of processed foods I eat. I have allowed myself to eat and drink items that I had normally cut out of my diet because, heck I’m going vegan why not allow myself the other things. Before going vegan, I had cut out soda for the most part in addition to chips, most carbs, and sweets. After going vegan I have noticed that I have allowed myself to eat arguably the worst kind of chips, thick cut salt and vinegar kettle chips, and my soda intake has gone from maybe once or twice a month to a couple of times a week. Also, I have been trying a variety of vegan desserts just to see if they taste like their “real” counter parts. FYI, the vegan desserts I have tried are quite good. I’ll share more about this in a later post. I feel that because of the addition of these high sodium and high sugar foods I have not been losing much weight. Additionally, my activity level has gone down this past month. This is due to me being busy/lazy not fatigue. Because of this I am thinking about continuing this vegan experiment for an additional week, going until the end of April, so I can try to revamp my vegan diet and get my activity level back to normal. We’ll see how this goes.
So I just completed Week #2 of going vegan and it has been a success. With the support of all my friends and family I have been able to get by without too much trouble; surprisingly I haven’t had any meat cravings. Additionally, I haven’t had a hard time eating out. It seems like there are plenty of vegan options at the places I went to this past week, I never really paid attention to the vegan options on the menu until I started this adventure. The sudden hunger pangs are not so sudden anymore and I think this is mainly due to the addition of quinoa and nuts to my lunchtime meals. Yes there have been times where I had to miss out on events, like a going away dinner to a steak house, sorry Fahad, but all in all I don’t really feel restricted. This maybe because I’m used to fasting during the month of Ramadan and this kind of feels like that except for I get to eat.
For snacking purposes, my sister picked me up a box of Brad’s Raw Chips. We got the “Nasty Hot” raw kale leaves which are seasoned with jalapenos and vegan cheese. They little guys tasted like a cross between an Indian Pakora and a Cheez-It. They are highly addictive, so I recommend eating them with self-control.
The other day I made a trip out to a DC staple, Busboys & Poets. Busboys is a great cozy restaurant that has a bookstore/coffee shop feel to it. They have tons of vegan options and also carry halal chicken and kosher beef. I got the Vegan Pepperoni Calzone – vegan mozzarella, veggies, vegan pepperoni in a whole-wheat crust- and it was great. It did not have the sparkling luster of normal calzones, because it isn’t brushed with butter, and looked like hippie food. It actually tasted really good and the vegan cheese in it did not have the slimy texture of other vegan cheeses I have tried. Unfortunately, I forgot to snap a picture of it, but I recommend you try it if you get a chance. I have also had their Vegan Nachos and they are very good.
My sister and I decided to hit up Burger 7 in Arlington recently. If you know me, then you know how I feel about Burger 7. I feel like it is the best burger out there, better than Bobby Burger Palace, Shake Shack, and any fast-food joint out there. Plus, they have a Halal Burger option! I figured by going there I would just have an order of fries, but to my surprise I saw they have a Vegan Burger. It had a very basic veggie pattie and was nothing really to write home about, but I think if they used Trader Joe’s Vegetable Masala Burgers. The Trader Joe’s Vegetable Masala Burgers are awesome and taste like the glorious filing my mom makes for her Aloo Paratay. They’re like a memory of home in a little microwaveable disk.
I just wanted to thank everybody for their ongoing support. I’m excited for the next 2 weeks of this adventure.
As I have stated earlier, the hardest part of going vegan has been the intense hunger pangs that seem to come out of nowhere. This typically happens to me while I am driving home from work in the evenings. I go from being a 3-4 on the hunger scale to being a full blown 8-9. This is probably due to the fact that I have on real cabs in my lunchtime meals and eating all those fruits and veggies fill me up, but more so in the sense of filling a volume rather than making me feel content.
To offset these hunger pangs and to keep me feeling energetic I decided to make a bunch of Vegan Chili that I can take along with me to work for lunch. The recipe below is one that I found on the internet with some minor modifications. I added more quinoa, a larger variety of beans, and Trader Joe’s Beef-less ground beef.
- 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
- 2 cups water
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 jalapeno pepper, diced
- 2 large carrot, peeled and chopped
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 1 (12 ounce) packet of Trader Joe’s Beef-less ground beef
- 1 (15 ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 (15 ounce) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 (15 ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 (15 ounce) can great northern beans, drained and rinsed
- 3 (15 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
- 1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
- 1 packet chili spice mix.
- 2-3 tablespoons chili powder, depending on your taste
- Cumin, salt and black pepper, to taste
Directions for Cooking Quinoa:
- In a 1 ½ quart sauce pan, combine the rinsed and strained quinoa and two cups of water.
- Bring to boil and then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until all water is absorbed – about 10 to 15 minutes.
When the quinoa is cooked, it will look translucent and the germ ring will be visible along the outside of the grain; it kind of looks like couscous.
Directions for Cooking Chili:
- The first thing we want to do is soften the onions. To do this we need to heat the olive oil in a large pot over high heat for about 5 minutes. You do not want to brown the onions, just soften them. Adjust your temperature if you begin to see the onion turn brown.
- Stir in the meat-less meat and brown it as if it is ground beef. You don’t need to worry about cooking this because we’re only trying to make it look like cooked beef. One minute of browning should be enough.
- Next add the garlic, jalapeño, carrots, and celery. Cook until vegetables are tender, which should be about 10 minutes
- Add the tomatoes and tomato sauce and all of our beans along with the cooked quinoa. Season with chili powder, red pepper, cumin, salt, and black pepper. Simmer chili on low for about 30 minutes. Serve warm.
To serve, I hollowed out a bell pepper and stuffed it with the Vegan Quinoa Chili and chopped some green onions to put on top as a garnish.
Hey Everybody! So far going vegan has been a fun adventure that has not been as difficult as I first thought. As the weekend approached, I was worried that going out with friends would present a challenge because in DC it seems like the major social activity is going out to eat. As many of you know, late March through early April is Cherry Blossom Festival time in DC. It is a magical time where people from all over the world embark on a journey around the Tidal Basin to see the March 27, 1912 gift of Japanese Cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo City to the city of Washington D.C. If you have not had the opportunity to see them, you must make a trip out. Seeing these trees bloom as the weather shifts from winter to spring, has such an invigorating feeling to it. Part of the festival’s events is a Blossom Kite Festival which took place this past weekend. Hundreds of people had flocked to the National Mall to fly kites and enjoy the great weather. Naturally, being a transplant to the DC area, a bunch of friends and I decided to partake in the fun. This is where I thought being vegan would present its challenges.
We all brought snacks to munch on as the day progresses so we wouldn’t get too tired out by the day’s activities. I made sure to stock up on vegan options for the group so I would be covered. I grabbed a bag of Craisins, pistachios, a bunch of Cliff bars, and of course some good ol’ water. As the day wore on and the activities started to take a toll on our activity levels, we decided to go into Penn Quarter / Chinatown to grab some sustenance. The Penn Quarter / Chinatown area is lined with restaurants so I did not think it would be much of an issue trying to eat out here. I figured if the group decided on a place that didn’t have a vegan option I could just find a salad place close by and grab something real quick, but I forgot how awesome the group of friends I was with are. Know about my vegan adventure they suggested that we try Protein Bar. Protein Bar focuses on “… healthy food that can be served in a quick, engaging way for active, on-the-go customers,” plus they have vegan options. I ended up getting their Vegan Original which is a grilled burrito with Marinated tofu, house-made seasoned black beans, organic quinoa, vegan cheese and cilantro. This guy was quite yummy and I enjoyed it a lot. The only issue I had with it was the fact that I wish the portion size was a little bigger, but I just ate some pistachios along with the burrito and all was good.
We decided to toss the Frisbee around for a bit – until we hit a lady going down the escalators into the metro – and then called it a day.
All in all, it was a successful weekend being vegan. Mad props to all of my friends for trying out the Protein Bar with me and supporting my vegan efforts! You guys rock!
So far so good! I haven’t had any meat cravings and finding vegan options have not been a real issue. I think the lack of the meat craving is due to the alternative meat options I have found. For example, the Morningstar Farms® Hickory BBQ Riblets are amazing! Don’t get me wrong, they don’t taste like ribs, but they are enjoyable. Aside from the fact that I thought the BBQ sauce was a little too sweet – I like my BBQ sauce to be a nice mix of spicy and sweet like RJ’s Café’s BBQ sauce – their texture was more like a hamburger patty. Also, yesterday I ended up trying some Tofurky® Italian Sausage. These guys were a little harder to eat because I did not care for the seasoning and I felt like they had too much salt in them. I ended up balancing it out by chopping them up and putting them into a salad.
The one major issue I keep running into, as Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan has mentioned in her “Diary of a One-Month Vegan,” is the sudden feeling of intense hunger pangs. For the most part, I am trying to offset this by eating something every 2 hours or so, but when I just eat fruits and veggies I feel full, but hollow at the same time. It is when I am feeling hollow that I notice the sudden hunger pangs arise. So to counterbalance this I plan on adding some carbs to the mix while I do these snack sessions. Throwing in a Cliff Bar here and there and munching on some Trail Mix (minus the M&Ms), I feel will be an adequate solution.
This weekend should be exciting because I’ll finally get a chance to do some Vegan Cooking! Maybe that will help also since I will not be eating just fruits and veggies during the day.
So far days 1 & 2 have been going well. The hardest part aside from reading labels has been drinking the protein shakes. They lack any flavor and are chalky in nature. Typically I just mix the powder with some water, but in the coming day I’m going to try making it with some soy/almond milk and blend in some fruits. Hopefully this will make it less of a chore and more palatable. My diet has basically consisted of the following items throughout the day:
- A Banana & Protein Shake (Breakfast)
- Celery, Broccoli, Carrots, Cliff Bar, Nuts, Dates, Orange, & Apple (Snacks & Lunch)
- Lentils / Fake Meat, Quinoa Bread, Mixed Greens (Dinner)
- With plenty of water throughout the day as well.
I will have to admit that by the time I head home from work I feel really empty and hungry. To resolve this I plan on adding some complex carbs into my diet.
We had a buddy that wanted to go out to dinner yesterday and since Imran and I have started this vegan journey we knew going out to eat would be difficult. So I did a little research and found out that Zpizza has a vegan option. We ended up getting the Berkeley Vegan Pizza: marinara sauce, vegan cheese, veggie burger crumbles, zucchini, tomatoes, mushrooms, red onions, bell peppers. It was really yummy and the fake cheese was not as dreadful as I expected. Yes, its consistency was a little off, but overall it was quite good and makes me excited to try more vegan places in the DMV area.