Are you thinking about going vegan? You’re not the only one: People try out a meat- and dairy-free diet once a month for ethical and environmental grounds, as well as their own health. Shilpa Ravella, MD, gastroenterology and assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, says, “I believe there are compelling benefits to whole food, plant-based diets, which is why I do prescribe this sort of diet for many patients.” Among the health advantages include a lower risk of chronic illnesses and the potential for weight loss.
Is it, therefore, worthwhile? To answer that, you’ll need to understand what it’s like to go vegan, particularly during those potentially difficult first 30 days. We talked to nutritionists, physicians, and vegans (some who have been vegan for decades and others who are brand new to the diet) to find out precisely what to expect during a month (or longer!) without meat or dairy.
It’s not always simple to eat as a vegan, which may be irritating when you need to grab a bite on the run, but it does have the benefit of preventing mindless munching. For example, Virginia Messina, MPH, RD, a vegan for almost 25 years, points out that she can’t normally engage in enticing, unhealthy samples at the grocery store since they almost invariably contain meat or dairy.
Any weight loss you have when you go vegan will be determined by how you eat. You may gain weight if you consume vegan junk food or eat too many carbohydrates in place of meat and dairy. If you make healthy, balanced choices, you may lose weight, especially if your pre-vegan diet was high in saturated fats and processed foods.
Evolving taste buds and cravings
Vegans claim to perceive a difference in their taste receptors anecdotally. “My entire sense of taste has been heightened, and eating has become a source of great joy for me. And my hard-to-control sweet craving has all but vanished “Alexandria Abramian, a content director in California who just shifted to a vegan diet, agrees.
With so many items forbidden, it’s no wonder that some of your tried-and-true meal ideas won’t work. That’s a treat for some vegan newcomers. “I enjoy the challenge of coming up with new ways to prepare a meal. “I’ve found new ingredients and don’t feel limited,” Abramian adds. “I personally believe it’s fun to try different dishes,” Rizzo says.
Others discovered that their new high-maintenance approach took some adjusting. “I remember wondering to myself, ‘What the heck am I going to eat?’ for the first several nights at home.” “Rob Mohr, an amateur Ironman triathlete who has been a vegan for four years, remembers. “I worked out some go-to dinners where veggies are the center of the dish after some recipe study,” he adds. “The idea is to come up with five or six of these dinners that you enjoy and can prepare quickly.”