There are many ways to go vegan. Some people will go cold turkey, some prefer to ease into it slowly by reducing meat and dairy gradually and others go vegetarian first. One great way to sample veganism is to go vegan for a week.
Going vegan for a week is a target that’s easily attainable. Whilst going vegan for a month in January for ‘Veganuary‘, May for ‘No Meat May‘ or any other time for the One Month Vegan Challenge can be a great idea, a month can feel like too big of a commitment for some.
Setting yourself a goal of just seven days to focus on eating a vegan diet is short enough that you can easily achieve it, yet long enough to see some benefits.
The benefits of being vegan for a week
- Test out the vegan lifestyle – Trying a vegan diet for seven days can help you to decide if it’s something you would consider doing in the long term
- Educate yourself – You’ll learn how to easily read food labels, which animal products to look out for and which foods are accidentally vegan
- Try new food – Your vegan challenge is the perfect time to try new ingredients which you haven’t tried before
- Find vegan alternatives – Vegan mince is cheaper and healthier than beef mince. But is it tastier? Now’s the time to find out if you’d swap for good.
- Lose weight – Healthy vegan diets are naturally lower in calories than omnivorous or vegetarian diets so you’re likely to lose one or two pounds in your vegan week
- Save animal lives – Take a look at some of the calculators you’ll find online to see exactly how many animals you can save in a week
Step-by-step guide to eating vegan for a week
1. Know the rules
For the purpose of this challenge, it’s best to focus on food. Don’t worry about things like deodorant or toilet paper which may have been tested on animals or alcoholic drinks which may contain traces of animal products. Let’s keep this simple:
- No meat
- No fish
- No dairy products (that contain milk)
- No eggs
2. Organise your fridge, freezer and cupboards
Look through your kitchen and categorise all the food you already have in the house into vegan and non-vegan. You might want to select a fridge shelf, a freezer drawer and a kitchen cupboard where you put all of your non-vegan food so that you know that it’s off-limits for the week. It’s much better to do this now than when you’re hungry and looking for something to eat.
3. Meal plan
You really don’t want to go out and buy avocados, aubergines and asparagus and then find that you actually have no idea how to put them together. Planning your meals will reduce food waste and also save you money.
Some meals will be veganised versions of things you already love, such as swapping your meat mince to vegan mince in your spaghetti bolognese. Other meals will be things that you’ve never eaten before, so do some research and think about what you’d like to try.
If cooking isn’t your forte, there are vegan meal delivery services that can send you vegan meal prep for the week.
4. Make a shopping list
There are some vegan staple ingredients that you’re likely to need that you don’t yet have at home. These include:
- Plant-based milk – There are lots of different kinds, I would suggest starting with soya milk for tea, oat or almond milk for coffee and whatever you fancy for cereal.
- Margarine – Butter isn’t vegan but margarine such as Vitalite and Flora Plant Butter are
- Nutritional yeast – It looks weird but vegans add it to pretty much every dish because it tastes great and is super healthy
- Meat alternatives – Sausages, burgers, mince, chicken pieces and pies are all easy to find as are things like tofu and tempeh. Just be careful as some vegetarian fake meat products are not vegan
- Agave nectar – If you usually have honey, you’ll want this on your list instead
- Vegan mayo – Hellmann’s vegan mayo is great for dipping or use to make your own coleslaw or potato salad
Other vegan staples which should probably be on your list are:
- Seasonal fresh fruit
- Salad vegetables, mushrooms, peppers, corn on the cob
- Rice, couscous, quinoa
- Cereal or oats
- Baked beans, mixed beans, lentils, chickpeas
- Tinned tomatoes, passata, tomato puree
- Onion, garlic, chillies, vegetable stock, mixed herbs and spices
- Chocolate, biscuits, sweets, cakes and ice cream
5. Go shopping
The best places to shop for food are large supermarkets, health food shops and local greengrocers and markets.
Smaller supermarkets tend to lack many important vegan alternatives, so bigger is better where supermarkets are concerned. In January, you’ll find a much wider range of vegan food in supermarkets than at other times of the year.
Suggested read: The best supermarkets for vegan food
Health food shops can also be a good source of tasty vegan treats. These shops vary with some stocking mostly pills and potions rather than food, but some do have great produce sections. And when buying fruit and vegetables, the freshest, cheapest and most environmentally-friendly products can usually be found in local independent shops and markets.
If you want something special, have a look at a specialist vegan online supermarket such as The Vegan Kind Supermarket.
6. Plan ahead when eating out
Vegan restaurants may be few and far between but you’ll find that almost every restaurant will have some vegan options on the menu. Chain restaurants usually have larger menus and so tend to have the most choice for vegans.
If you don’t have a say in the choice of venue, for example, if it’s a friend’s birthday celebration, then look up the menu online. If there are no vegan options, you can call the restaurant and there’s a very high chance that they’ll be able to make you whatever you want to eat with a few days’ notice.
Suggested read: Are McDonald’s fries vegan?
7. Educate yourself
Learning more about the reasons why people go vegan can be very motivating. There are lots of vegan documentaries that you can watch such as ‘Cowspiracy’ which explains the link between animal agriculture and climate change, ‘What The Health’ which shows the link between diet and disease and ‘Earthlings’ which shows how animals are treated on farms.
8. Take a multi-vitamin
A healthy vegan diet can easily provide you with every vitamin and mineral that your body needs, with the exception of B12. That’s because B12 comes from soil that is eaten by animals and stored in their bodies. A great vegan source of B12 is nutritional yeast which you can add to pretty much anything.
To make sure that you get absolutely everything that you need during your vegan week, taking a daily multivitamin pill is the easiest way to make sure that you’re covered.
Suggested read: The best vegan multivitamins
9. Don’t be a perfectionist
If you slip up, it really doesn’t matter. Remember that just trying a vegan diet for a week is a great step to make so if you accidentally eat something that isn’t vegan, just forget about it and carry on. Veganism isn’t about being perfect, it’s about doing what we can to reduce animal suffering.
Vegan Weekly Meal Plan
Everyone is different in the foods that they enjoy so it’s always a good idea to create your own meal plans rather than follow anyone else’s too strictly.
However, if you’re looking for a quick and easy vegan meal plan for the week that requires no special ingredients and doesn’t require you to spend lots of time cooking, then take a look at the table below.
Simple vegan weekly meal plan:
|Monday||Avocado and tomatoes on toast||Jacket potato with beans and homemade coleslaw||Spaghetti bolognese with vegan mince||Carrot sticks and hummus|
|Tuesday||Weetabix with soy milk||Hummus, carrot and salad sandwich and crisps||Tofu curry with rice||Fruit salad|
|Wednesday||Baked beans on toast||Lentil soup and bread||Vegan sausage and bean casserole||Popcorn|
|Thursday||Porridge topped with banana||Vegan cheese and ham sandwich with salad||Vegan burger, wedges and corn on the cob||Celery and peanut butter|
|Friday||Fruit smoothie||Vegan hot dog and chips||Italian vegetable stew||Mixed nuts|
|Saturday||Vegan sausage on toast with ketchup||Vegetable soup and bread||Salt and pepper tofu, sweet and sour vegetables and noodles||Vegan ice cream|
|Sunday||Scrambled tofu, sausage, hash browns, mushrooms, beans and fried tomatoes||Vegetable fingers in a tortilla wrap||Mushroom stroganoff and rice||Nachos|
What to expect when you go vegan for a week
The health benefits of switching to a vegan diet can kick in pretty quickly for some people. Within a few days of going vegan you may notice:
- More energy – Your body doesn’t have to use as much energy to digest food so you may feel perkier
- More bowel movements – Vegan food often has a lot of fibre which cleanses your colon meaning that you will go to the toilet more often
- Better skin – More fruit and veg means more vitamins and antioxidants which should improve skin conditions like acne
- Weight loss – You’re likely to naturally eat fewer calories so can expect to lose a pound or two
- Bloating – For some people, the excess fibre and more diverse gut bacteria can cause bloating but this will pass after a couple of weeks once your body gets used to it
It’s important to know that there are some possible negative side effects of going vegan. These are all temporary, but it’s good to be aware of them before you start.