If you've been looking to make healthier eating choices that are also more environmentally sustainable without committing to a full-time vegan diet, then consider taking one week of your month to try something new.

By Danielle Susi
September 01, 2020
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Lentil Bolognese in a ceramic bowl
Lentil Bolognese
| Credit: Buckwheat Queen

I made the choice, with my partner, to eat vegan for one week per month for a number of reasons. Increasingly, we were making sustainable and environmentally-friendly choices and swaps for things in our home, like using metal straws and eliminating plastic sandwich bags, but we weren't fully taking into consideration how our meat and dairy consumption was negatively impacting the environment. When you account for the amount of water livestock drink, as well as the amount of energy it takes to raise livestock--including the food they eat, as well as shipping and refrigeration of meat--the effect that just the care and keeping of those animals is taking a heavy toll on the Earth.

I was also looking to reduce my animal product consumption for health reasons. A diet that is lower in meat and dairy has shown to improve heart health, protect against cancer, and lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. And all of these added benefits of a healthier diet sounded amazing, but we weren't quite ready to take the plunge into full-blown veganism, and not even full-blown vegetarianism.

Related: How to Switch to a Plant -Based Diet

While my partner and I still consume meals that include meat once or twice a week, we have continued to make the conscious choice to reduce our consumption significantly by eating entirely vegan one week per month.

Vegan diets get a bad reputation for being too expensive to maintain. While the grocery bills may add up if you choose to incorporate costly vegan alternatives like non-dairy cheese or imitation meats, there are plenty of ways to eat vegan without breaking the bank or building a whole new pantry.

Protein is key for any diet, and it's just as easy for vegans to get the daily protein they need through plant-based sources like beans, lentils, quinoa and other grains, nuts, seeds and tofu or tempeh. These base ingredients can transform into healthy, vegan meals that will keep you satisfied all day so you won't be asking "where's the beef?"

For example, if you love scrambled eggs for breakfast, consider something like a tofu breakfast burrito bowl which features lots of veggies, common spices and pantry items, and tofu to act like scrambled eggs. Your protein comes from the beans and tofu and you didn't have to buy anything fancy or expensive to make a delicious meal.

Ultimate Tofu Breakfast Burrito Bowls
Ultimate Tofu Breakfast Burrito Bowls
| Credit: Allrecipes Magazine

Meal prepping is another helpful activity when embarking on your week of vegan eating. Prep can be beneficial when it comes to marinating tofu for dinner tomorrow night, chopping a large bowl of kale to keep in the fridge for lunchtime salads, or when cutting celery and carrots to have available to dip into hummus for a midday snack. Planning a week's worth of meals out on a notepad and grocery shopping once for the whole week will help you stay on track and keep you from slipping up and eating anything with meat, dairy, or eggs.

I've learned that this full week of eating vegan can be both challenging and rewarding. More than once I have been tempted by a square of milk chocolate in my cupboard, but I've found that staying true to this full week of veganism has also jump-started my cravings for healthier foods overall even after the week is over. It has also made it much simpler for me to incorporate the new recipes I try into my weekly menus to cut down on regular meat consumption. It's also an opportunity to figure out if every day veganism might be an option for you.

If you've been searching for a way to support your own health and make culinary choices that are more environmentally sustainable without committing to a full-time vegan diet, then consider taking one week of your month to try something new.

Recipes & Tips for Eating Vegan for One Week a Month: