That time I tried the 10-days plant based challenge with Food Matter TV

Person drinking coffee and reading a magazine in front of a bowl of vegan food

I’ve reached a point in my life when I am rather bored with my diet: it feels like I am eating the same thing over and over, and that’s not really great for a foodie. To shake things up, I have signed up to this challenge that targeted me on social media. I have always had a problem with factory farming, but I failed to keep healthy as a vegetarian in the past, and it’s still at the back of my mind. I wouldn’t do that for a whole life at this stage, but I want to reduce the impact I have and when I do eat meat I want to have it from a good farm, like when in the past meat was just for special occasions for most of the population. Also having a meal plan is a way to be somewhat motivated to learn new recipes, and I wanted to do something new. At the time of signing up, it seemed like a no-brainer.

Prep day
I was nearly having a heart attack at the shopping bill growing to double my usual price on a week I buy a lot, but it was a lot of pantry items that will not only cover the challenge but, in the case of spice, remain long beyond it. I’m looking forward to playing with spices more, as usually my range is Tex-Mex chilli with Quorn and a limited variety of Indian curries. It gets a bit boring, so now I have an expanded pantry I will make good use of it.

Day 1
Waking up late and hungry, it was a pleasant change to find myself with a no-prep breakfast, although I have soon realised when heading to my lunch-time gym class that I really need to buy cup measurements if I don’t want to end up undereating, especially on gym days. Luckily for me, I had a few ingredients I could not get at Tesco’s that I had to pick up at Holland and Barrett, so I was able to just pop in a bag of Kate Percy’s Go Bites to keep me going on the way home from the gym. Lesson learnt the hard way.
Lunch turned out to be an interesting recipe. I don’t usually eat soup for lunch as something in my brain associates it with a light meal and I tend to be hungry again by 3pm (although maybe that has something to do with the kind of vegetables I normally use…). However, this recipe makes a great lunch post-lunch time gym class or to take to the office because it requires no stove time. You can prep it in advance and then just let it soak in water from the kettle.
By 3pm I was feeling a bit sleepy so I had a coffee. By 4.30pm I was hungry and questioning whether I had enough of the soup for lunch, as what I made came up to 2 portions. Thank goodness for some popping corn still hanging around the kitchen!
Dinner was a less than fully satisfactory one, although I really like the idea behind it, and I am sold on Nutritional Yeast already. I think the recipe isn’t too great and the next time I go for it I will modify it, as well as actually eat the sauce piping hot.

Day 2
I had the foresight to check how long it takes to cook quinoa the night before, as the recipe is so poorly written I’d have had to wait too long on low blood sugar before breakfast. I begin to miss my smoothies, although I’m sold on mixing it up with granola which is even easier and quicker. Even with the cooked quinoa, it took forever to make, and half an hour later I am still slowly eating my kale feeling sorry for myself (and I like kale!). Great lunch recipe, but I’m not sure it works for breakfast (even if I can see the nutritional value of it). Lunch was the leftover sauce from last night, which improved by eating it piping hot and loosened a bit with some vegetable broth, but I was reaching out for the second half of the avocado and tortilla chips by 5pm. Dinner was not the planned one, but the leftover soup from yesterday’s lunch because I’m not bothered to cook after Brownies and if there was nothing ready I’d have reached for the chippy for a saveloy. It’s already enough effort to make the breakfast for tomorrow as it needs doing overnight, but at least I am doing it on a full stomach.

Day 3
Breakfast was the worst so far. Really not to my taste (although I can try making it with chocolate) and by 11.20am I was already cooking lunch. I love chilli, but I think I’ll stick to Quorn compared to this recipe. After a rescue Twix around 2pm, I have decided to try my hand at making hummus, which was alright but way too strong on tahini (my mistake, I guess). As I cook courgetti for the first time ever, I am proud of myself for not getting a Big Mac by Ubereats mid-afternoon. The best thing so far has been being sold on coconut oil for cooking. It’s great.

Day 4
Granola for breakfast was great, but my health has taken a turn for the worse and the whole thing ended up with me getting a food delivery from the chippy to resuscitate myself. Note to self: even if the diet is made around the need of a normal person by people who know nutrition, it doesn’t mean it meets the need of someone with thalassemia. If I ever try going vegan again I need to get the diet created 100% on me. At present, I am not feeling too inclined to make that happen.

Day 5
It’s Friday and it’s my friend’s birthday party so she has got dispensation from abstinence for the whole party because it’s an occasion of celebration and she couldn’t book a table for as many people on Saturday. Meat Friday, yay. The temptation of doing something I’m not usually allowed is too much to want to get a pizza marinara tonight. I think we all know it’s game over on the challenge for me.

I appreciate that this experience will be unpopular with those who, like the organiser, are happy and healthy as vegan, and will be cheered by those who look down on vegans, but for me it doesn’t seem to be worth my health: there has to be another way to help the planet that doesn’t get me ill two days in. What I loved about this challenge is that since I love fish (salmon makes me happy), and I eat eggs and cheese a lot in my diet (so my Friday penance tends to go towards vegan than just swapping meat for fish), I now have a few more recipes to reach out for every week, instead of yet more chilli con quorne. I have also made the recipes from day 6-10 in a meaty version and discovered that I absolutely love a Stroganoff, so it wasn’t all for nothing. Another lesson I have learnt, and not a positive one this time, is that jumping into something like this can turn into more food waste than you would like, especially when the recipes are not well-written.

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