HEALTH & WELLNESS

Vegan for a Month

Reporter Mary MacVean starts the year 2015 by trying to eat vegan for a month. Follow her experience here.

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Vegan January was full of good food and wise lessons

A vegan diet is more interesting when your plate is full of color. (Jon Schulte / Getty Images)

A man in The Times cafeteria the other day bought sliced turkey, white rice, a slice of white bread with butter and a Diet Coke. I realize it wasn't a vegan lunch, but it provides a lesson in how to create a healthful meal: color.

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Vromage makes an art out of vegan cheeses made with nut milks

A selection of vegan cheeses and a sandwich featuring them from Fromage, an all-vegan cheese shop on Sunset Boulevard. (Amy Scattergood)

The line one recent Sunday was out the door at Vromage, a 3-month-old shop selling cheese made from nut milks.

"People are very emotional when they come," said owner Youssef Fakhouri, who was raised in Casablanca and Paris and trained as a chef.

Customers who don't eat food made with the milk of animals for ethical reasons or because of allergies tell him they thought they were done with artisan cheeses. At his little shop, in a cramped strip mall at 7988 Sunset Blvd., near La Cienega, they find nut milk versions of goat cheese logs (Vive le Difference) with ash, blue cheese (Veganzola), Camembert (Cashembert) — 17 varieties in total.

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6 L.A. restaurants for vegans; there are 60 in L.A.

Diners at Chef Matthew Kenney's raw food restaurant M.A.K.E. in Santa Monica. Kenney is opening a restaurant this spring, Plant Food and Wine in Venice, that will serve a vegan menu of cooked and raw foods. (Christina House / For the Times)

Being a vegan would be relatively easy if I just had a talented personal chef. Short of that, a budget for eating out all the time would work too.

Since I decided to eat a vegan diet for the month of January, I’ve eaten in some places I had not tried before – eating out is part of the research, right? There’s no need to be stuck in a burger cafe ordering the bun and condiments. There are plenty of naturally vegan dishes on menus these days; many chefs are having a field day using vegetables in creative ways.

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Cutting down on meat for health: More people are trying it

President Clinton adopted a vegan diet in 2010 to protect his health after heart surgery. (Daniel Berehulak / Getty Images)

Former President Bill Clinton, whose voracious appetite was legendary, went vegan in 2010 to protect his health after heart surgery. And while cutting out animal products is no guarantee of a healthful diet, research shows eating plant-based foods is good for humans.

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Study finds plant-based diets lead to weight loss

A study showed plant-based diets led to weight loss. (Digital Vision)

Evidence that vegetables – the more the merrier – are good for you is legion. And here’s more: Researchers who analyzed studies of people put on vegetarian or vegan diets found that they lost more than seven pounds regardless of calorie counting or exercise plans.

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So, how do I become vegan?

A shopper at a vegetable stand. When a vegan is dining at a friend's house, it is advised to bring one's own dish, especially a "naturally" vegan one, like a salad, rather than a vegan "meatloaf," which might be off-putting for the host. (Krisztian Bocsi / Bloomberg)

I’ve heard from many people motivated to become vegan by animal welfare issues. Health and the environment are other reasons to discuss, but this week, about halfway through my month chronicling my vegan ways, I’m going to turn to some practicalities.

Just how hard is it to become a vegan? If you’re new to it, where do you start? I’ve gotten some advice from readers, and I’ve reached out to a few people.

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Twitter users respond with advice:

Getting through the lobster feast as a vegan

The temptation of a lobster dinner tests the author's resolve to go vegan for the month of January. (Jar Restaurant)

On Sunday, four days into my monthlong vegan diet, I went to dinner with dear friends – 10 people who’d planned for many weeks to share a Chinese seafood feast.

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The hardest times are in social situations. My sons have been home from college, and they eat everything, making meals a little difficult. They also have taken every opportunity to tease me – with affection, of course! I’ve gotten the advice to offer to bring a dish to dinner parties – that makes sense. And I’d tell the host in advance so no one feels insulted that you are not eating the food they worked hard to make. I like tofu and veggie burgers, but I haven’t yet tried many of the meat replacements. I’m going to do so, but I can’t say I’m eager.

As for the yogurt, yes I miss it. But I replaced that breakfast with a pretty delicious alternative – toast made from whole grain bread with almond butter and homemade jam. I can’t really complain about that.

I’d love to hear how you’re coping.

A month without yogurt; giving the vegan life a try

There's no chance I'll dress like these vegans demonstrating in Washington, D.C., in their lettuce suits. (Saul Loeb)

There have been years when by the third day of January, my resolutions have already fallen by the wayside. Often, that’s when they’re wiggly: promises to be more patient, be nicer. That hasn’t stopped me from vowing to be more patient, but I am mindful of how hard it is to judge what, exactly, is “more” patient.

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Add 1-month vegan challenge to New Year's resolution list

There have been years when by the third day of January, my resolutions have already fallen by the wayside. Often, that's when they're wiggly: promises to be more patient, be nicer. That hasn't stopped me from vowing to be more patient, but I am mindful of how hard it is to judge what, exactly, is "more" patient.

With that in my thoughts, I've decided on one concrete plan. I will eat vegan for the month of January. I am totally in love with my morning yogurt, and I haven't even been a vegetarian. I have no fondness for faux meats. So this won't be easy. But it's just 31 days. And I'm going to give it a good shot; they say after a month, habits and perhaps taste buds will be altered.

At the risk of distressing animal lovers everywhere, it's not an ethical decision, although I signed up for the email nudges and advice from a British-based project called veganuary.com, which has support from many animal rights groups. And I don't expect to remain vegan come February. But maybe like being nice, I will be "more" vegan. I think I might feel healthier with a more produce-heavy diet. And I'm curious. I also admit this is a project much more appetizingly accomplished in a Southern California winter than in a northern Minnesota one.

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