This January I, along with 500,000 other people, decided to go vegan for a month.
As someone who hates cooking and eats fast food and takeout with alarming regularity, I was a little worried about making a lifestyle change so far out of my comfort zone. However, it was not nearly as painful as I thought it would be.
Throughout the month I kept track of costs, convenience and my overall energy while on the vegan diet to compare to my lifestyle pre-Veganuary.
According to a 2015 study from the Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition, a plant-based diet is cheaper than a lean meat-based diet. The study compared an economical MyPlate diet by the U.S. Department of Agriculture with a plant-based olive oil (PBOO) diet. The plant-based olive oil diet supplements olive oil as a healthy source of fat instead of lean meat.
The study found that the MyPlate diet “costs $746.46 more per year while providing fewer servings of vegetables, fruits and whole grains” than the PBOO diet. Weekly, the MyPlate diet cost $53.11 while the PBOO diet cost $38.75.
My average cost for groceries was about $50 a week (compared to the $70+ I usually spend on food), and my shopping cart consisted mostly of vegan-friendly freezer meals (Trader Joe’s Chicken-less Mandarin Orange Morsels), peanut butter and honey sandwiches and avocado toast. If you prefer cooking from scratch over ready-made freezer meals, your costs will probably be lower than mine.
Side note: Eating honey while vegan is a controversial topic. I chose to eat honey for two reasons: 1. I tried out veganism for my personal health rather than the ethics surrounding animal rights, and 2. Migratory beekeeping is used in farming practices for multiple crops, such as avocados and almonds, according to Scientific American. So, unless I was willing to cut out other fruits and vegetables as well, I didn’t see the point in cutting out honey.
I also ordered delivery from The Grit and Maepole a few times throughout the month, both of which offer an expansive menu of plant-based options. I tried a vegan quesadilla and nachos, which both include black bean chili and various vegetables along with melted vegan cheese. I’ll likely keep eating there after Veganuary is over, and I’m now interested in other local vegan dishes, like the okra wot from Mannaweenta.
My life didn’t change all that much when I went vegan. Since I stuck mostly to freezer foods and basic dishes like I usually do, it didn’t have much of an effect on how much time I spent preparing meals. The main inconvenience I ran into was that I had to make a real effort to plan when I was going to eat and what.
For example, when I went to the Main Library to study, I had to make sure I ate a decent sized meal beforehand or brought something with me. I didn’t want to deal with questioning whether or not I could eat what was served in the campus cafes.
I don’t have a need to go south of the Main Library while I’m on campus, but if you find yourself around Tate Student Center and the Zell B. Miller Learning Center, you can create a vegan meal at Athena Mediterranean Kitchen and Barberitos in Tate.
I also had to make a conscious effort to eat more times throughout the day than I usually do. Before Veganuary I ate two larger meals a day with a snack thrown in around 10 p.m. While I was vegan I had to make sure I ate more often because my meal portions were smaller, and since I wasn’t getting protein from meat, I wasn’t staying full as long as I usually do.
However, once I got the hang of it, it wasn’t a problem at all.
It turned out that going vegan was not nearly as much as a struggle as I thought it would be, but the first week or so was tough. As I said before, I had to be very conscious of how many times I was eating throughout the day. If I wasn’t paying attention to how often I ate, I felt fatigued pretty quickly. However, after I figured out how often I needed to eat, I almost never felt lethargic or sluggish.
Since I was consuming less artificial sugar than I usually did (I have a sweet tooth, what can I say) I got headaches for about five days in a row. At first, I didn’t realize that sugar was the cause of my headaches, but once I realized and started eating about three Jolly Ranchers a day, they went away almost immediately.
I also incorporated vitamin B-12 tablets into my diet. According to Medical News Today, it’s important to find alternative sources of vitamin B-12 while vegan since the essential vitamin is mainly found in meat, eggs and dairy products. This makes it difficult for vegans to take in enough of it solely through food. I bought a bottle of 250 vitamin B-12 tablets from Target for $7.59, but it can also be found in vitamin B-12 fortified foods, which can include non-dairy milks, meat substitutes and nutritional yeast.
According to Healthline, if you plan well and opt for nutrient-rich whole plants and fortified foods, veganism can improve overall health by lowering blood sugar levels, improving kidney function, reducing the risk of certain cancers and lowering risk of heart disease.
Overall, I feel unbelievably better than I did before I went vegan. I know that part of this is probably due to the fact that I ate an insane amount of takeout before, but I’m surprised I can still eat simple dishes and freezer meals while vegan and feel energized throughout the day without hitting a slump.
Although I’m not going to continue with a vegan lifestyle after January ends, I’ll definitely set aside a few days a week to eat vegan and switch to a more plant-based diet. I’ll also start cooking and eating what’s in my fridge more often because I saved money from not eating out so frequently. Shocking, I know.
That being said, I can’t wait to dig into an El Sandwich Cubano from Cali N Tito’s on Feb. 1.