I Tried The 21-Day Vegan Kickstart Challenge

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21 Day Vegan Kickstart

Vegan diet buffet courtesy photo from forksoverknives.com. 

SAN ISIDRO, Mexico – Feeling pumped and motivated at the close of our weeklong Holistic Holiday at Sea, my father decided to take the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart challenge, and I decided to join him on this vegan diet ‘adventure’.

We’d heard it mentioned at one of the panels and around the dinner tables, and didn’t know quite what was involved – but three weeks sounded like a good length of time to clear our bodies of the toxins and cravings we’ve acquired over so many years of eating the wrong things. It also might give us time to test some of the claims we’d been hearing – see whether this renown vegan diet will indeed give us more energy, clearer thinking, and a better overall sense of wellbeing.

What we didn’t know at the time – until I got home and checked the website – was that the official Vegan Kickstart doesn’t actually start until April 2. But we didn’t want to wait; we’ve already spent a week almost entirely vegan, and deciced to  grab the momentum and go with it.

So, here’s the deal: We’re trying it out for you, and we’ll let you know how it goes. We’ll be finishing up just before April 2 – just in time for you to take the challenge – if we’ve convinced you!

I contacted the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, the group led by Dr. Neal Barnard, one of the participants in the Holistic Holiday at Sea and a protagonist in Forks Over Knives.

Meghan Smith set me up with a meal plan and some sample recipes, and we were off.

Mom and Dad were ready to go – they’ve been doing a nearly macrobiotic diet since August, with the addition of eggs and fish and the occasional serving of venison after a three-month cleansing diet, so they’re stocked up on nearly everything you could want for a diet like this.

But I live out in the country in rural Mexico, and shopping day is not til Sunday. I opened up the Meal Plan on Day One and discovered my kitchen is woefully understocked – so I’m going to have to improvise. Or, as the Kickstart folks put it, practice a little Kickstart DYI.

I should also mention that I’ve got a packed schedule so I can’t spend hours cooking. But I’ve decided to take the time I need to do it right – otherwise I’ll end up back where I started, craving all the things that make me feel heavy and sluggish.

So, here’s what I did for Day 1:

Breakfast: Granola with fresh blackberries and soy milk.

Lunch: Fresh guacamole with roasted serrano chili, tomatoes and lime with organic corn chips. Fortunately we have LOTS of fresh, creamy avocados down here, and they are good for so many dishes.

Dinner: Brown rice with a dollop of hummus, mixed with raw chopped tomatoes, onions and radishes, topped with nutritional yeast. Delicious!

A word here about nutritional yeast – it can be a real lifesaver in those critical cheeseless moments. Sprinkle a little on top of spaghetti, soup or salad instead of parmesan. The taste is similar and it also can serve as a thickener. You can even use it for gravy.

On Day 2, which is today, I got more creative. I followed the Kickstart recipe for Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal – all except I didn’t have apple juice concentrate, or cinnamon, or raisins. No problem. I sprinkled in a little bit of dried mango I had brought with me and substituted cloves for cinnamon. I sweetened it with a bit of soy milk. Not bad!

For lunch, I lacked the carrots or red peppers for the Carrot and Red Pepper Soup. But I had some squash blossoms I had picked up in the market that needed to be used quickly – so I browsed the web and found this absolutely illegal recipe for Squash Blossom Soup.  No problem – instead of butter, I used avocado oil; instead of chicken broth, I used a handy cube of veggie bullion; instead of half-and-half, I used soy milk, and I sprinkled it with nutritional yeast instead of cheese. The result was divine. I served it to myself with a Spinach Salad with Orange Sesame Dressing – recipe not yet online, you’ll have to wait until after April 2! – all except I didn’t have an orange. So I tossed a tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds into the blender with a couple tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and a tablespoon of fresh-squeezed lime juice, together with a tablespoon of coconut oil and a handful of blueberries, and I have to say I have never made such a delicious salad.

I think this DIY stuff could get to be habit forming!

Later I’ll check in with Mom and Dad and see how they did. Meanwhile, hasta mañana!

-Tracy L. Barnett

Freelance writer Tracy L. Barnett lives in rural Mexico and is blogging about the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart. Learn more about it here. 

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