The Vegan Challenge

If you’re ready to get adventurous with your diet this summer, you may want to consider skipping the slaps of meat at your next BBQ — and the eggs, and the milk, and the cheese…
Text by David C. Cleland | June 21, 2018 | Lifestyle

I’m a meat-eater, and unapologetically so. Whether it’s pork belly, ribs, venison or foie gras, I’m there with fork and knife in hand. And quite frankly, as a chef, I don’t particularly agree with an entirely vegetarian lifestyle…or even stricter vegan diets. As far as some culinary professionals are concerned, diners that prefer to dine sans the meat are better off staying at home cooking their own lentils and oatmeal.
Some find the diets of vegetarians and vegans unpalatable — from tasteless tofu and dry veggie burgers to an assortment of fake meats. Although carnivores and herbivores alike love vegetables, many meat-eaters find it very difficult to replace what should always be the star of any meal: meat. I used to think the same way. And then, I had a culinary revelation.
Last year I was invited to participate in a food tour of India. I’ve always loved Indian food — from the tikkas to the curries — but what I didn’t realize was that almost half of India’s population is vegetarian and only an estimated 30% eat meat on a regular basis. What I experienced over the following weeks opened my mind. Not only could vegetarian food be good and filling, it can often be far superior to meat-laden options. After nearly a month of dining exclusively on veggies, I was a changed man. And so, upon returning to the U.S., I was determined to get my facts straight (after I ate a juicy steak, of course) and learn more about vegetarian and vegan diets.
I quickly realized I was no longer getting the same satisfaction from eating a half-pound of bacon with breakfast — it just made me feel…well, blah. I found myself eating only a fraction of the meat on my plate and instead doubling up on the veggie portions. What was happening to me? Whatever it was, I decided to embrace it.
So I made a decision that for 90 days, I was going to adopt a vegan diet…that’s right, no meat, no eggs, no dairy. As I’m writing this, I’m in my last week of this self-imposed vegan challenge, and I’ve never felt better. I’ve lost weight, my blood pressure is back to normal, my skin and hair look great and I’ve learned to make some truly delicious dishes and tweak existing recipes.
So what now? I’m almost certain I’ll eat meat again, but it won’t feel the same or happen nearly as often. If my experience has got you thinking, I encourage you to look into completing a vegan challenge of your own— even if you commit to it for only a week. I can almost guarantee it will change the way you look at food forever. Bon appétit!