avocado and veg on white counter

Vegebruary challenge: week 3 of the vegan lifestyle

Okay, so this week starts with a confession straight away. I have to say I was really rubbish with taking photos of my meals this week. Most of the time I forgot until I was down to the last bite…so…there aren’t as many photos as I would have liked. This is even more annoying due to the fact that I continued to embrace the vegan lifestyle this week and followed some good recipes from a cookbook. They turned out really nice but unfortunately there isn’t much evidence (except for my personal satisfaction)!

It’s now been three weeks of following a vegan diet and this week I really stepped it up, trying completely new recipes. I have been using the BOSH! cookbook still but I have also been given another vegan cookbook to use from a vegan friend of mine.

Another cookbook to the rescue!

The cookbook I relied on this week was Vegan Made Easy by Jerome Eckmeier and Daniela Lais. There are some great, quick and easy vegan meal ideas in this book. Many of them I spruced up with some spices or made a few changes to cater to my personal taste. The foundational ideas of this book, however, are great.

Vegan Made Easy Cookbook cover
My holy grail cookbook for this week.

It was a very social and experimental week because it was half-term so the kids were home from school. We spent a lot of time away from home, avoiding sibling rivalry! This meant that we got to eat out at restaurants and a friend’s house this week. I think I’m starting to get the hang of this vegan lifestyle!

My vegan meals for the week

Some of the dinner meals I cooked this week were Potsticker Noodles (from Vegan Made Easy), Fried Rice with Pineapple and Cashews (from Vegan Made Easy) and Tofu and Bok Choi Fried Rice. I did start to spend a little more time in the kitchen this week. Even though the recipes weren’t complicated, following a recipe for the first time always takes a little more concentration.

More breakfast experimentation

Experimenting with some more breakfast ideas continued this week, this time truly vegan! Yes, it was another bagel. I layered it with tomato slices and vegan cheese and grilled it.

I also tried the ever-so-popular mashed avocado on toast. It seems to be all the healthy-rage so I thought it was about time I jumped on the bandwagon. To be honest, I don’t think it’s my thing because toast isn’t really my thing. I’d much rather just eat an avocado on its own with a little salt and pepper but that’s just me. I do, however, also feel that if I’m going to make avocado toast, it should have been on brown toast. It just didn’t seem right with white toast but alas, it was the only toast I had in the house.

Restaurants, what a treat!

As mentioned before, this week I finally visited some restaurants for the first time as a vegan. The first one was one of my favourite quick food restaurants in downtown Brighton called Kokoro.

The reason I call it quick food is because it’s quick and easy. The label of ‘fast food’ seems to come with the assumption that it’s completely unhealthy or deep fried, which is not the case here.

I usually get chicken katsu curry, which is one of their less healthier choices I suppose, with edamame beans. I can’t begin to tell you how much I love this meal. Even my kids, who seem to have the pickiest of tastebuds and choose bland food over flavour, love this! That was probably the most painful part of this lunch. I had to watch as my girls dug in to one of my favourite meals on the planet and I wasn’t allowed to have any! Talk about will power!

However, the good news was that they did have a tasty vegan option of spicy chilli tofu on rice so I wasn’t left salivating over my kids’ meals for long. To improve the situation even more, I found out that the curry sauce they use is vegan!! So…guess what I lathered on top of my chilli tofu and rice? A life-time supply of katsu curry sauce! It was the happiest moment of the week by far!

Two young children eating chicken katsu curry at a table.
My girls, happily eating chicken katsu curry whilst I salivated!

KFC? As a vegan?

The other lunch out I had was at a restaurant that would seem like an unlikely choice for a vegan. Would you believe that I ate at KFC and I didn’t break any rules? I took the kids there because the restaurant we were supposed to go to was unexpectedly shut due to some technical fault. We had a limited amount of time before we were meant to be somewhere. KFC just happened to be around the corner…and so was the big, bold poster of their new vegan burger! SOLD! I had to try it.

Even though I was so tempted to take a bite of my kids’ chicken strips, my vegan chicken burger was unbelievably delicious. I would not have known it was not chicken. After having had a few weeks of mainly vegetables and tofu, it felt good to have some vegan-acceptable fast food!

I wasn’t able to eat the chips as they cook their chips in the same oil that they fry their chicken in. This makes them technically not vegan. (I’m not sure if this would have been considered cheating but after the bagel incident, I was playing it safe!)

I can’t imagine many vegan lifestyles incorporating a regular visit to KFC, but it was a nice and surprising treat.

KFC vegan burger close-up as part of a vegan lifestyle
KFC vegan burger. It tasked just like the real thing!
(Maybe they accidentally did give me a regular chicken burger…!?)

Lunch treat from a friend

My friend, who hosted my kids and me for lunch, made us a vegan pesto pasta and a bagel with avocado, tomato, lettuce and cheese (vegan cheese on mine) and baked balsamic crunchy vegetables! What a treat!

Vegan avocado, lettuce, tomato and cheese bagel on a plate
When friends are supportive of your vegan challenge!

Vegan pizza

I even got to have dinner out at a restaurant without kids and enjoyed a vegan pizza at Fatto a Mano in Brighton. It’s incredible how many restaurants cater to vegan diets these days. I think had this been a few years ago, it would have been a lot harder to find restaurants with much choice for vegans.

Important reflections on a vegan lifestyle

Eating vegan vs eating healthy

Before I started this vegan challenge, I used the word vegan  synonymously with healthy. This is what has drastically changed in my mind over the past few weeks. Just because someone doesn’t eat animal products, or just because a meal doesn’t contain animal products, doesn’t automatically make it healthy. Sometimes on the contrary.

All this eating out brings me to my thoughts of this week which are this…

Vegan alternatives: taste vs substance

Because some foods, or meals, don’t contain the usual ingredients of meat or dairy, they make up the flavours in other ways by adding additives, flavourings, preservatives, processed ingredients, oils, more sugar/salt, etc. All this can turn something that I used to consider as a healthy alternative into something that is actually really not good for you.

This does not, by any means, mean that the original animal-product containing foods were healthier. No. It has just opened my eyes to really thinking about food and what it’s made of before judging whether something is healthy or not.

The vegan cheese I eat, for instance, is making me feel uneasy. I can’t eat dairy cheese as a vegan so I substitute it with the vegan cheese available at my local supermarket. When I look at the ingredients though, it’s so highly processed and made up of mainly oil, water and starch that there really isn’t any nutritional value in it whatsoever.

According to Healthline.com, dairy cheese is a good source of calcium, protein and can also contain high amounts of vitamins A and B-12, zinc, phosphorus, and riboflavin. Despite it being an animal product, it at least has nutritional value.

This makes me feel that this particular vegan cheese product that I’m eating really isn’t a good substitute for dairy cheese. It doesn’t have the flavour or the nutritional value. All it has is merely a somewhat similar texture of a slice of cheese.

Make health your priority

It has really made me think about the difference between simply living a vegan lifestyle compared to living a healthy lifestyle. My priority is to be a healthy eater and not just assume that something is healthy because it is labeled as vegan.

Summary

With the regular intake of soy (from tofu, edamame, soy milk) and the vegan cheese eaten this week, I am not feeling lean and light and am still quite bloated on a regular basis! I am, however, feeling positive and am enjoying this experiment of trying new foods and learning what feels good to eat and what doesn’t.

I can’t believe that I only have one more week of the vegan lifestyle to go before I have completed my Vegebruary challenge. I’ve said it in each of my posts, but I still can’t believe how much easier it has been to eat a vegan diet than I ever thought it would be. Let’s see what comes up during the last week and what my final thoughts will be at the end of it all. One thing’s for sure: I think I’m done with vegan cheese for now!

Love, Martina

*Photo credit for featured image at the top goes to Daria Shevtsova from Pexels

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