"If a Houston-born foodie like me can do it, you can too." That's what Beyoncé says about 22 Days Nutrition, the vegan meal delivery plan she launched with longtime trainer Marco Borges. We were more than a bit skeptical. There are, maybe, one or two things that 20-time Grammy winner Queen Bey can do that maybe the average person might struggle with.
While the thought of going without meat or dairy for less than a month was enough to send Us to the nearest Ben & Jerry's for some cold comfort, the promise of a healthier body, including lower blood pressure, a reduced risk of heart disease, and, of course, lower the number on the scale, raised a tempting point.
Dietitian Rachel Berman, Director of Health Content at About.com, told Us about other benefits. "A well-balanced, nutrient-dense vegan diet can help you feel energized," says the pro, "and research shows it may even help improve your mood." The key, she says, is not simply to cut out meat and dairy, but to replace them with smart, nutrient-dense foods. (In other words, less white pasta, more leafy greens.)
She also noted it was key to include sources of protein, fiber and heart-healthy fats (think: quinoa, avocado and seeds) with each meal so you're not left hungry and tempted to splurge.
With all that in mind, Us Weekly enlisted senior writer Sarah Grossbart to go green for one week. For the first five days, she ate two of the plan's meals each day — a service that would cost $115. (Note: Borges says it takes a full 22 days to create a habit, but a week sounded like a reasonable amount of time for someone who counts cheese as a food group.) Here's what happened.
Not going to lie: I'm a little nervous. I've always wanted to be one of those super energetic people who bounds out of bed in the morning and then gets their lunchtime salad without cheese. And, let's be real, losing a few inches from my waist before bikini season doesn't sound too bad. But, as I mentioned: cheese.
Meal No. 1 calms my nerves a bit. It's a gluten-free oatmeal with dates, raisins, almonds, and maple syrup. And it's delicious! And I don't mean, okay-for-diet-food delicious. Actually tasty. I gobble up the entire (respectable) portion and feel good enough to go for a long run.
I come home to my boyfriend eating a sausage, egg, and cheese burrito and the smell kind of makes me want to cry, but I forage on with my white bean and greens salad. It's. . . okay, but let's just say I'm not going to be rushing out and buying Bey's “Kale” sweatshirt.
Breakfast this morning was a berry chia pudding, which was tasty and satisfying — but a little part of me misses my eggs and toast. A nervous afternoon of watching my college basketball team play in the NCAA tournament (Go State!) means I'm too stressed to eat lunch. By the time I tear into the creamy eggplant and portobello mushroom bowl, I'm bordering on faint. The meal definitely satisfied but, if I'm being honest, I'm just a touch resentful later when my friends tear into a giant plate of nachos.
Apple cinnamon crunch muffins on a so-called diet plan? I'll take it. I pick out all of the walnuts — turns out not liking nuts is somewhat problematic to vegan eating — and gobble up the rest.
Dinner gets a bit dicier. Mondays are close nights at Us Weekly, so they bring us dinner and tonight's menu of flank steak and pesto mashed potatoes smells wonderful. Is this what two-and-a-half days without cheese does to a girl? I heat up my dish of creamy elbow pasta with portobello mushrooms and sweet potatoes. Thankfully it's delish or there may have been a Sarah indent in the potatoes.
Around 2 p.m. an unexplainable craving for potato chips hits, which is weird because I literally can't remember the last time I've eaten potato chips. The South American fiesta lentils I have instead are actually incredible, so I get past the moment. But, really, what I'm realizing is that I crave a lot of bad-for-you stuff. It's good to have a reason not to give in.
This morning brings banana walnut muffins (honestly tasted just like my mom's banana bread and that's no joke) and the news that I'm down one inch in my waist. Score!
Feeling adventurous — and with all of my prepackaged meals gone — my friend and I venture out to a vegan, macrobiotic eatery for dinner. The best part: some very legit-tasting blueberry "cheesecake."
For lunch I decide to finally have that cheese-less salad. Turns out avocado's not such a bad substitute.
The quinoa-and-veggie bowl I have for lunch is so mouthwatering I wonder why I don't eat like this more often. Also, I feel great: energetic, healthy and maybe just a bit smug. Who needs cheese and meat? Plus my waist is about an inch-and-a-half smaller — not mad about that.
As a bonus I've learned that vegan "dairy" foods aren't terrible, they're actually pretty good. (Tofu cream cheese? Yes please.) Though, it's worth pointing out that Berman says soy-based cheeses and vegan baked goods aren't necessarily healthier than their counterparts, so they should still be consumed sparingly.
And I just might. The idea of continuing to eat vegan doesn't sound as scary as it once did. While I don't think I could give up eggs forever, I could definitely commit to eating less cheese and other dairy.
Perhaps next I say so long to sugar?