During the month of April, my boo and I went on a food challenge. The goal was to reduce our meat and diary intake by half. I decided the best way to go about this was to do one day of meat, followed by a vegan day, alternating this way throughout the month. It all started at the end of March when I stayed up late on a Saturday night watching documentaries that Netflix thought I would enjoy. My fiance and I are big into documentaries, so I almost couldn’t help myself when Netflix decided I needed to see Vegucated and Forks Over Knives.
The documentary that inspired my April food challenge, Forks Over Knives.
Having already seen Food Inc. I had a pretty good idea of what was in store with these two docs. However, I must admit that after having seen Forks Over Knives, I became convinced I could become a more conscious consumer as opposed to being on auto pilot when it came to my meat and dairy consumption. So thus a food challenge was born. My goal was not only to reduce my intake of meat and dairy, but also to see just how difficult it would be to eat a plant based diet on even a semi regular basis.
I stocked up on vegan groceries to help plan my meals.
Well I can tell you there’s three important things I learned during this challenge. The first is; dairy is over represented in the American diet. Even foods marked as vegetarian are often loaded with dairy products, particularly cheese. It’s as if we’ve grown cheese dependent. So it’s no coincidence that cheese was by far what I craved the most during my vegan days and it was the hardest thing to cut out of my diet.
While I was able to convince my fiance to go along with the challenge, I can’t say he stuck to it during his meals away from home. He was a good sport however for going along with it. An added bonus I noticed immediately was that cutting out meat and dairy every other day did a lot to help with digestion of the meat meals. This leads me to the second thing I learned from the challenge which is; I don’t eat nearly enough vegetables and fruits as I should. Often times my digestive system seemed to be thanking me for these alternating vegan days, as I was finally able to give it some relief from breaking down all that meat and processing all the dairy in my diet. I honestly can’t remember the last time I had been so regular.
Finally, I learned that I was thoughtlessly eating my way through sometimes three meals a day of meat or even worse, processed meat products and dairy. As a woman in her 40’s I have been to the doctor more during this phase of my life then during any other. Part of the reason I was so excited to do the challenge was to see if eating less meat and dairy would have any benefits to my health. The jury is still out on the answer to that one. I will say I do feel lighter and less fatigued after eating a hearty plate of whole wheat pasta with marinara sauce and a spinach salad. I also seem to be suffering less from bloating and heart burn, which are all wins in my book.
So while I’m not yet ready to commit to a full time vegan life style, I am ready to become more conscious of how much meat and dairy I’m consuming on a daily basis. If you have any other suggestions for healthy alternative diet options please pass them along, I’m always up for a good food challenge.