With the exception of some holiday favorites, I spent the entire month of November eating nothing but plant-based foods. Following Dr. Colin Campbell's dietary suggestions from The China Study, I avoided animal protein in my cooking and dining out and shared some of my favorite vegan recipes. What I've learned is that a local food lifestyle is not that far away from a vegan lifestyle and that avoiding animal-based food is a lot easier than you'd think.
Many friends asked how I did it and what I would eat. My answer, straight from an anecdote Dr. Campbell relays in his book, is always "I'll eat plants." Eating out can be a challenge, but most restaurants in Charlotte have the option to order three or four vegetables from their side item menu. On more than one occasion, my co-diners would exclaim that I had more variety on my plate than they did!
So how was this endeavor local? Easy: the majority of products at a farmers market are plants. Plants are cheaper to grow and take far fewer resources than animals so you find more of these items at farmers markets. Furthermore, animal farmers often see less return on their investments when they sell at farmers markets than when they work with large industrial markets so you just don't find as much animal protein at your local market.
The great part about eating only plants is that you are encouraged to be much more adventurous in your plant eating to add some variety to your diet. I picked up some bok choi which I have never used in my cooking and really delved into the world of tofu. Since I didn't use any butter for the month, I also tried some spices that have been gathering dust on my shelf like garam masala and chili pepper to make dishes more interesting.
Will I stay vegan? Probably not completely because of the difficulty of eating out (which I do a fair amount) and meeting the desires of friends and family that I cook for often. However, Dr. Campbell's book suggests that if you're not battling a serious health concern, a 5% animal protein diet can be very effective in reducing your risk of cancer, diabetes, weight gain and the like. Thus, my goal is to keep my animal product intake to a minimum with just a small amount of high quality cheese, a small serving of yogurt or some butter on my local sweet potato.
The moral of the story is that going vegan isn't that difficult. If you can avoid typical American fair at restaurants and social gatherings, you can cut out most if not all of your animal protein intake. I would highly suggest trying this way of eating at least for a couple weeks and see what health benefits you experience!