Nutrition: My week as a semi-vegan

For those who didn’t see last Monday’s Nutrition blog (Giving vegan cooking a whirl), I’ve spent the past week alternating


For those who didn’t see last Monday’s Nutrition blog (Giving vegan cooking a whirl), I’ve spent the past week alternating between my regular meals and a vegan’no meat, fish, dairy, eggs or honey’diet.

The vegan days proved a learning experience that pushed me out of my food rut and encouraged me to incorporate more whole grains, nuts and meatless dishes into my day-to-day meals. What I found was that like any specialty cooking, you need:

‘ recipes that suit your taste buds and timelines. If you or your family are going to miss the flavour of meat, go for the vegetable-protein substitutes. Otherwise, it’s fun to find some "meaty" alternatives. One evening I made ground portobello and walnut burgers that looked amazingly like ground beef and had a great nutty flavour (I’m working on fine-tuning the recipe for the magazine and website). And my last officially vegan dinner last night featured baked butternut squash with a stuffing made from whole-grain bread cubes, apples and hazelnuts’another hit.

‘ a well-stocked vegan-friendly kitchen. You don’t want to have to run to the store every time you need flaxseeds, bulgur or tahini (sesame paste). So it’s worthwhile to take a few minutes before grocery shopping and double check your vegan recipes for the week to make sure you’ve got what’s needed on hand.

‘ to still check for sodium and calories. While there are lots of vegan-friendly prepared products now available, vegan doesn’t always mean healthy.

With so many common ingredients that I wasn’t eating, life was more complicated. Meeting a friend for coffee one morning, I realized there wasn’t one baked good item I could order’and I assume most other coffee shops are the same. It can also make going out to dinner outside of specialty restaurants a challenge.

Plus, becoming vegan means monitoring that you’re getting all the key nutrients your body needs. The Globe and Mail reported in “Being vegan could put heart health at risk: study” on a new study that showed that vegan diets lack some important nutrients, including iron, zinc, vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids. While some experts, questioned the conclusions of this study in regard to the heart, it does highlight the need to be conscious of missing nutrients.

Of course, for many becoming vegan means a commitment to a lifestyle and philosophy, not a food bandwagon to jump on and off. For me personally, it’s a reminder to experiment more with foods and recipes, and to broaden my perspective on protein.

Do you have any favourite vegan recipes (or vegetarian ones) to share?