Interview with a 30-Day Vegan

She’s an author, mother, homeschooler, world-traveler, blogger — and now Jamie Martin can add ‘vegan’ to her resume. She just wrapped a 30-day stretch on a strict vegan diet.

We know Jamie as the editor of our sister site, Simple Homeschool, as well as the voice behind Steady Mom. I knew Jamie was fearless when it comes to intentional mothering and creative writing, so I shouldn’t have been surprised to hear she was going vegan for a full month.

Definition of VEGAN

vē-gən: A strict vegetarian who consumes no animal food or dairy products; also : one who abstains from using animal products (as leather).

~ From Merriam-Webster.com.

I was curious about Jamie’s temporary switch to veganism, so I asked her a few questions and she graciously shared her experience with us. Thanks Jamie!

SB: So, Jamie, first of all, tell us – did you complete the full thirty days as a strict vegan?

JM: Yep, I did–no cheating! Well, there was that one time I chased the kids around trying to grab a bite of their cheese pizza, but I promise I was joking!

SB: Congratulations! It is impressive that you switched to vegan cold turkey from a regular diet – or should I say ‘tofurkey’! How do you feel now?

JM: When it first ended, this was what I posted on Facebook:

“A vegan no more! Ironically I’m finding that I’m mostly eating that way anyhow today. And I don’t seem to want any caffeine now. And I lost 2.5 pounds over the month. And milk tastes like cow juice, not in a good way.”

After the cleanse finished, I was ready to begin integrating a bit of organic dairy back into my diet, but I was surprised at how odd everything tasted initially.

I’ve dropped having milk in my tea and drink it black. Now that it’s been a few weeks, I still feel like I’ve really changed for the better. I’m an absolute vegetable junkie now, and must find a way to incorporate them into as many of my meals and snacks as possible.

I find that the way I think about and enjoy food has improved. What I honestly want to eat has changed–pretty remarkable from a 30 day experience.

Though I should admit that our first family meal after the 30 days ended was Chicken Parmigiana (small portions) and I loved every bite!.

Photo by Jamie Martin

SB: Okay, backtracking a bit. What made you decide to become vegan?

JM: I had noticed vegans in the blogosphere who rave about how incredible they feel. Our family had already adopted a whole foods diet, but I wanted to experiment with taking it to the next level.

Then Heather from Beauty That Moves announced her intention to run a 30 day vegan e-course, and it seemed like perfect timing. It also coincided with my 35th birthday, so it felt like a great gift and learning experience to go along with that milestone.

SB: Did the family jump on board or were you flying solo?

JM: I expected to fly solo, but my husband Steve said he wanted to give it a shot, so we did it together. My three kids tried it as well, but they bailed after a week.

SB: Mine probably would too. What kinds of foods did your children miss?

JM: They missed having butter on their toast. And every Sunday night we have a tradition of making homemade pizza. So on Sunday, when they realized what no cheese on pizza would mean, they collectively decided to drop the veganism.

My son Jonathan insists he is a “vegetarian, except on special occasions.” My daughter Trishna says she wants to be a “meat eater all the way.” And my other son Elijah just goes with the flow.

SB: What about you? Did any cravings kick in that were hard to ignore?

JM: Not really–I didn’t feel desperate for anything specific. A few times Steve and I wanted something sweet, so that sent me to the kitchen to create healthy vegan treats.

What I enjoyed the most was how detached I felt from sugar. Most of the time we use natural sweetners (like maple syrup, honey, and sucanat). Now I find myself very satisfied with those and not really wanting processed sugar.

For this Southern girl who almost always had a soda in hand until five years ago, that is quite the accomplishment.

Photo by Jamie Martin

SB: Jamie, we’re big on menu planning, batch cooking and other ways to save time and get organized in the kitchen. Would you say eating vegan took more or less effort than your daily routine? Why?

JM: It definitely took more effort, but I think that was just because it was new–so I was constantly trying out recipes and spending more time in the kitchen. I never intended to remain a vegan, but I imagine that if I chose to, the time preparation would lessen as I discovered tried-and-true family favorites to add to our regular repertoire.

SB: That is very true. So where did you find inspiration for meals?

JM:  Not all of these are strictly vegan resources, but they have all helped my food evolution in some way:

Heather from Beauty That Moves actually led the e-course, so I have her to thank for my experience! Heather’s blog contains tons of inspiration and recipes for a whole foods lifestyle. Participants in the e-course received recipes each week, but many of these are found throughout Heather’s blog for free.

(Editor’s Note: Heather’s 30-Day vegan ebook is coming soon. You can sign up for more information over at Heather’s blog.)

Also:

SB: What about cost? We just wrapped our Eat Well, Spend Less series, and ingredients such as beans and lentils were high on the list of frugal eats. Did you notice your grocery bills were lower during your month as a vegan?

JM: No, not exactly! Actually they were probably a bit higher because of the specialty ingredients we were trying out for the first time. Many of these became pantry staples for us, items you don’t need to buy very often, so I imagine that cost would even out over time. I have to say the experience was worth every penny.

Thank you for chatting with us, Jamie! Now what about you, the reader: would you go vegan for 30 days? For life?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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Comments

  1. We’re home vegans. Eat this way at home but make concessions for eating out and holidays. For us it’s about eating as nutritionally dense as possible. Ie: the most nutrition from your food, not just calories.

    I’d say we’re lifers on the mostly vegan path.

    We love it and enjoy excellent health. Though I still do like cheese and indulge in that.

    I personally don’t think the cost for us in cheaper than non-vegan. Yes, we eat lots of beans but we also eat tons of fresh produce all year round, whether it’s on sale or not. But if we were eating organic meat and dairy on top of that I suppose it would cost quite a bit.

  2. I don’t know if I could ever give up a big glass of milk or cheese crackers, cheese dumplings, cheese ravioli, cheese-anything! I have a feeling we will be leaning more towards vegetarianism since I signed up for my first CSA which starts in 2 weeks.

    • Cheese is such a hard one isn’t it?? I could give up milk – ice cream even, but cheese?

      • I always felt this way about cheese, too, and have been surprised that even after stopping my vegan experiment I don’t find myself wanting as much cheese as I did before. It seems to make me feel sluggish. Our bodies really are adaptable, aren’t they?

  3. I think that personally I couldn’t do it since I would find it too time consuming to learn a new way of cooking. I was a vegetarian for a few years but did not have enough info to know how to balance it so ended up becoming iron deficient. However I know with proper knowledge I could have avoided that. Also, I know my family would not go vegan so I wouldn’t want to create two meals every night etc…yikes! I do embrace eating whole foods and occasionally have vegan meals and often vegetarian but thats as far as I am going with it. Interesting post!

    • Two meals a night is definitely not the way to go. You make a lot of good points, Nola, it does take proper research to jump into such an extreme diet change.

  4. I could never do vegan. Vegetarian, yes, but I can’t give up dairy. I’d rather use real, whole eggs in baking than egg substitutes. And I love cheese, yogurt, and sour cream. I’m not a milk person so I wouldn’t miss a glass of milk. My kids would have a hard time too. With Logan being so picky, he needs dairy for fat and protein.

    That said, I totally respect those who make this lifestyle work for them! Way to go!

  5. Sounds challenging! I don’t think I could give up my dairy, but I’m definitely on board for eating more vegetables!

  6. Steph (The Cheapskate Cook) says

    I would totally go for it for a 30 vegan experience! I love experimenting with food, although like Nola said, it would be frustrating to make seperate meals for myself and rest of the family.
    However, I like the idea of a “home vegan”, from renee @ FIMBY. That’s kind of how I am with whole foods. We make a conscious effort at home, but don’t freak out when we’re eating out or eating with people.
    Fabulous, fun post, Aimee – thanks!

    • Thanks for commenting, Steph! I bet you would just go for it. Summertime would certainly be ideal – all the fresh fruit and produce, right?

  7. nope! 🙂 but i would definitely agree that packing nutrients in and avoiding refined sugars is great. i seem to require some animal fats/proteins, i just have a metabolism that doesn’t maintain on just veggie calories. (i can’t fast either, i would get physically ill.) i also have personal philosophies having to do with sustainability that make buying fresh veggies and fruits through the winter (from very far away brought to me by fossil fuels…) so i tend to eat more seasonally with regard to what’s available locally and in certain months there are more organic eggs and maybe as often as weekly organic meat, while at other times we go months without meat. so, that’s not very much like the conventional american diet i support. i will say that i have been drinking a green smoothie almost daily for the past month (now that i have some greens growing to make them with) and it has been a really refreshing surge of fresh vitamins and nutrients… then i grab an egg-potato-black bean burrito and load it with organic cheese. hehe.

  8. I also participated in the same 30 day vegan workshop, and I must say that giving up dairy was easier than I thought and I loved my dairy, too (I’m noticing this as a trend in the comments!). I did ‘cheat’ a little (cheese a couple of times), but I found this craving occurred when I hadn’t planned well and was very hungry. I definitely needed to eat more often as a vegan, especially at the beginning, but as I adjusted and planned better, I found I was satisfied. And I felt better without the dairy, so have cut back in our use of it. Before the program, I found that many of our vegetarian meals centered around cheese or other dairy, and I wanted to learn new recipes that didn’t center on dairy or meat. Overall, it was a great experience and I want to continue on the whole foods journey, even if not as a vegan.

  9. Louis Carabini says

    A way other than a tiny square of dark chocolate which I really dont like all that much by the way . Im thinking it would be YUM just like that drizzled over ..Off to freeze me some nanners!….

  10. I could do it, but to be honest I’d miss cheese and yogurt. Those two things are pretty much staples in my diet and it would be hard to replace them without feeling a loss. Although, I think it would be interesting to try and see how I’d feel about it after 30 days.

  11. When I was nursing my daughter Anna during the first year she had a milk protein allergy and any any dairy that I ingested the proteins were being passed to her through my breast milk and causing a whole host of problems for her like reflux and colic etc. Ultimately I choose to continue nursing and thus had to give up dairy completely for almost a year! That was very tough for me. My husband is vegetarian so I try to cook lots of vegetarian meals at home anyway and with no dairy in my diet we ate mostly vegan dishes for a large part of that first year. I had a very hard time letting go of butter…cheese and milk were also impossible to find good substitutes for too. I pretty much stopped trying to substitute for most foods and found other tasty alternatives but I did find that Earth Balance was really good on toast, that coconut milk ice cream is more decadent than real ice cream and through experimentation was able to come up with a really great vegan recipe for one of my favorite comfort foods mac n cheese! Personally I don’t think that I would ever want to stay a vegan for longer than I had to but there are some really great recipes out there for those that are interested in this type of food philosophy or for any one looking for an alternative to dairy. Here are two of my favorites. Enjoy!

    Vegan Pancakes: http://theartfulgardener.wordpress.com/2010/06/12/saturday-mornings/

    Vegan Mac n Cheese: http://theartfulgardener.wordpress.com/2010/04/24/6-months-and-counting/

  12. I could totally switch, at least at home. Like Laura, I had to adjust my diet while nursing a food allergic child, but he was allergic to both eggs AND cow’s milk! It was a huge lifestyle shift at the time and we mostly continued with it after the baby was weaned, though my husband and I eagerly went back to eating eggs for breakfast! My family eats meat but could easily give it up.

    I have tons of vegan cookbooks purchased when I was trying to figure out how to enjoy my love of baking without eggs or dairy! (“The Joy of Vegan Baking” saved me.) I now prefer vegan baked goods, especially because we can eat the dough/batter without worrying about salmonella!

    Looking forward to checking out the 30 day vegan e-book.

  13. I don’t know if I could do it for life, but trying it for 30 days sounds like a great way to test drive this lifestyle.

  14. I admire that Jamie went cold turkey. That is some strong will power. I have to admit, vegan would be hard for me. I was a vegetarian for two straight years and no problem, but I slowly introduced chix and fish back in my diet.

  15. This was a really interesting read. I have been a vegetarian for over 15 years, and I love it. I eat very little dairy, (but I do enjoy it when I have it.) I have often toyed with the idea of going vegan. I’m just unsure I can commit, since I know that at least innitially it would be alot more effort. Maybe I’ll give it some more a try though!

  16. Jessica says

    I think you did a great job at 30 days especially having to still feed your kids differently. My husband and I and our 2 kids 7 and 4 went from meat eaters to plant based cold turkey, Nov 2010. We are home vegans like Renee said. Though we do not eat out much(5times since November) we do not ask our families to buy special foods for us so we do indulge when visiting.
    I have more energy and I have lost 4 dress sizes(14lbs)since November and my husband lost a belt notch. Our son does ask for meat sometimes and when I smell a hamburger made from fresh beef (convenience store behind our house)I do want to place an order. But, I don’t because of the reasons why (our health) and the results(me-175lbs to 161lbs and I am not so tired and I do eat plenty of carbs and also I have not gotten the seasonal(I and our son usually get sick twice a year for atleast 4 weeks each coughing our guts up–oh, i forgot to mention I sturred up gallstones that I didn’t know I had last October and after drinking dandelion tea they went away–this is what started our adventure) Delta crud as we call it-we live in the MS Delta with chemicals sprayed and/or just the pollen from maybe Monsantos fields).
    I have been in search for like minded mothers with recipes because yes, I am in a rut. I have always been a meat and potatoes girl and ;this has not been a difficult adventure and usually diets have always been very difficult for me to stick to. But, it has been 6 months and I am finding I want junk food because of my failure to prepare good snacks and eat more green smoothies because of ……..I am stuck in my rut and I need to make it more exciting for my kids and my husband and I. We have a limited budget like many many others and it has not been more expensive for us to go plant based it was more when we ate animal based foods. So, all this to say I do think it can be done for a life time but, it just takes time to find what your family will eat and what will sustain you and your kids. I hope this made sense and yes I was and have always scatter brained in the way I converse so, it is not due to diet. Ha!
    I have found many recipes through www dot plantbasedhealth dot com

  17. Very interesting interview! I’ve thought about doing a vegan week (a month sounds pretty tough!)… Right now, we eat mostly vegetarian, eating meat only once or twice a week. I do try to make some vegan meals, but it is definitely tough for me to give up cheese and butter.

  18. Just for the simple reason of budgeting, I have taken meat out of our diet about 3 days a week. My husband was not on board at first but once he saw the grocery bill shrinking he quickly changed his mind. Some of our family favorites are the most simple, beans and rice with mexican seasonings and cornbread, black bean soup with cheese quesadillas. I agree with others though, we simply could NOT give up the cheese!

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