I followed Ellen DeGeneres' strict vegan diet for a week and I don't know how she does it

Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images/Instagram/MarilynEllen and me.
  • I tried to eat like Ellen DeGeneres for a week.
  • Ellen follows a vegan diet and tends to avoid processed foods.
  • It was actually fairly easy to follow and I will be more mindful of the animal products I eat in a day.
  • That said, going full vegan is pretty challenging.

Ellen DeGeneres is a total gem. She’s an American treasure, a fearless comedic pioneer, and, well, the list could go on endlessly. Whether you know her as the voice of Dory in “Finding Nemo” or regularly watch EllenTube, the 60-year-old comedian has made a permanent mark on American culture.

While you might think you know everything there is about Ellen Degeneres, one thing might surprise you: the famed comedian follows a strict vegan diet. That’s right, the comedian and her wife, Portia de Rossi don’t eat animal products.Ellen went vegan in 2008, citing ethical reasons for her decision to radically change her lifestyle.

Both inspired and intrigued by Ellen’s choice to go vegan, I decided to follow her animal product-free diet for one week. As a vegetarian, I didn’t think the challenge would be too difficult, but as the week progressed, I found it more difficult to confront my normal eating habits.

Nevertheless, I was excited to embark on this Ellen-approved vegan journey. And, after my 7-day challenge was completed, I discovered a lot about the everyday food choices I make in my life, and how processed foods sneak in animal products pretty much anywhere they can.

Day 1: I went grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s the day before, so I could have plenty of vegan-approved food ready for work today

1Marilyn La JeunesseI stocked up on a lot of fruits and veggies.

I accidentally bought vegetarian Morning Star sausages, which contain egg, so I put those in the back of my freezer for my post-vegan meals.

Ellen seems like the sort of person who wakes up every morning and enjoys a nice cup of tea with some fruit – or at least I hope she is, because I hate breakfast and refuse to make a meal at 8 a.m.

2Marilyn La JeunesseI decided to have cubed watermelon for breakfast.

I’m a HUGE snacker, but Ellen apparently tries to avoid eating sweets and heavily-processed foods. This is truly unfortunate because I have already failed the cardinal rule of Ellen’s diet within three hours of being vegan.

3Marilyn La JeunesseI did indulge in some snacks.

One of my best friends is vegan, and she thankfully, told me to download Is It Vegan? which will scan barcodes and tell you if your snack is vegan or not

I forgot to use it most of the time and ended up reading all the individual ingredients and Googling things I was unsure of. It turns out whey protein is in basically everything – AND IT’S NOT VEGAN. To avoid eating something non-vegan approved, I turned to veggies to help curb my desire to snack on unhealthy foods.

4Marilyn La JeunesseI used veggies to curb my snack cravings.

One of Ellen’s favourite meals is vegan pasta arrabiata. Thankfully, Trader Joe’s had a bag of this hidden in their expansive frozen section, so I was able to enjoy a hearty vegan dinner – no meal prep required. I truly wasn’t expecting the pasta to have much flavour, but WOW, did it deliver. It was perfectly spicy in all the right ways.

5Marilyn La JeunesseThe vegan pasta was pretty tasty.

What better way to end a Friday night than with a homemade pineapple vodka cocktail?

I went to my local farmer’s market to pick up some veggies for the weekend and ended up coming home with a $US4 pineapple, which in the city is pretty well-priced. I’m not one to turn down a deal, so I came home, cut it open and made myself a tropical masterpiece. It didn’t pair well with the pasta arrabiata, but hey, don’t judge me.

6Marilyn La JeunesseThe cocktail was pretty good, too.

Overall, I snacked a ton today and have realised my daily food choices aren’t as healthy or animal-friendly as I thought they were. Just because I’m vegetarian doesn’t mean I’m doing my part to end animal cruelty at all.

Day 2: With day one out of the way, I was excited to begin being fully vegan.

I’d already made the announcement on Instagram, so it was official. Friends, coworkers, random bot accounts all had to hold me accountable for the next six days. Surprisingly, I got a lot of great feedback from people encouraging me, which was nice because I was craving scrambled eggs and salsa for breakfast. Instead, I opted for some pineapple, a blueberry Larabar, and a homemade chai latte, because I love myself.

It’s Saturday and NYC finally has some nice weather, so I decided to walk to by Chloe., a popular vegan eatery. I’ve eaten here before, and I am head-over-heels obsessed with the black bean burger and cashew mac and cheese topped with crunchy mushroom bacon. Ellen, if you’re ever in the city and want someone to join you at by Chloe., hit me up.

8Marilyn La JeunesseI had some vegan fast-food.

I finish up my day with Blue Bottle coffee, some green juice, and toasted corn because I eat like a college student even though I’m 24.

9Marilyn La JeunesseThe coffee was a nice caffeine booster.

Today’s vegan lesson of the day? Vegan fast food is delicious. It’s important to keep an open-mind when it comes to trying new foods and dismissing something as “gross” because it’s vegan is just ridiculous. Do better, people.

Day 3:
It’s Mother’s Day and I’ve promised my significant other we’d cook a meal for his family.

We decided to make one of my favourite meals in the world: Roasted chickpea and bell pepper tacos with homemade guac. I was the only one eating vegan, but they all enjoyed the vegan additions to the meal. We made a *bit* too much food, so I’ll be eating leftovers for the rest of the week.

10Marilyn La JeunesseWe made so much vegan food.

I make some pretty good guacamole. This is not a humble brag. I am fully bragging. Please enjoy this photo of my creation. I’m quite proud.

11Marilyn La JeunesseMy guac was pretty great, too.

I paired the meal with vegan beer, Modelo Especial being one of my all-time favourites. Fun fact: Not all beer (or wine!) is vegan. It’s based on the way the beverage is created and filtered throughout the process. If you’re unsure, check Barnivore to make sure your drink of choice is vegan approved.

12Marilyn La JeunesseWe even had vegan beer.

I was a good vegan today. I’m proud. I am also extraordinarily full.

Day 4: I have finally realised that my late-night snacking is really unhealthy.

I’ve begun to replace my normal 8 p.m. snack with lemon-cayenne water and mixed nuts or toasted corn. Yet, I’m fully aware that I should cut out this snacking entirely. I feel better waking up in the mornings and I am more excited to eat my fruity breakfast.

Please don’t judge my lunch. It’s leftover vegan tacos because I’m a resourceful human being on a budget.

14Marilyn La JeunesseI diced up plenty of pepper to snack on.

I can feel my stomach growling at the end of a long day at work. I’ve snacked on veggies and vegan bars, but I need something of substance to really fill me up. I decided to finally take this opportunity to eat at Jajaja on the Lower East Side. Yes, it’s Mexican food again. I am Mexican, I can NEVER get enough. I shared a large meal with my partner, who seemed to enjoy the vegan fare.

15Marilyn La JeunesseVegan Mexican food is amazing.

I recommend getting the nachos – they’re smothered in the best vegan cheese and chorizo I’ve ever had.

16Marilyn La JeunesseThe nachos were so tasty.

I have an obsession with Mexican food. But, it’s ok. It’s also one of the easier restaurant cuisines to find vegan. If you’re eating at a restaurant that isn’t normally vegan-friendly, just ask for your tacos without sour cream or cheese. And, make sure the restaurant’s beans aren’t cooked in animal fat.

Day 5: I’m nearly finished with the vegan challenge, and honestly, Ellen and Portia have some serious self-control.

I’m sure it’s all about restraint and proper meal and nutrient replacements, but I am craving eggs and chocolate. Not together … but like … I wouldn’t be opposed at this point. I cave and buy myself a vegan chocolate doughnut from Doughnut Plant. It’s the best breakfast I’ve had all week.

17Marilyn La JeunesseThe vegan doughnut was a big win.

I’m really on a roll here. I don’t know how Ellen avoids processed foods and sweets, but I do know she’d be seriously disappointed in the fact that I chased my chocolate doughnut with a mango Popsicle. It’s only 11:30 in the morning. Someone, please help me.

18Marilyn La JeunesseIt was apparently not too early for a fruit pop.

Portia said that Ellen’s favourite meal was red beans and rice, so I meal-prepped based on their preferred recipe. I got a little feisty with the chilli powder my roommate let me borrow, so I cried at work eating my lunch.

19Marilyn La JeunesseI made beans and rice for lunch.

I didn’t snack throughout the day today, so it’s late at night post-workout and I am in dire need of food. Like lots of it. I settle on vegan taco leftovers and I quickly make a small batch of guac and scoop it up with stove-charred tortillas because I’m too lazy to run to the store and get chips.

I could get used to this whole vegan thing. I’m actually considering doing it full-time when the challenge is over.

Day 6: I’m still not sure if Ellen is a coffee person or a tea lover, so I settle on making myself an iced soy vanilla matcha latte with coconut sugar. I am that person, but at least I made it myself, right?

21Marilyn La JeunesseI made myself a latte.

I learned that most bagels are vegan today since there’s no egg or milk involved to make these delicious carbs. I snag a bagel and eat it plain since there’s no tofu cream cheese or butter substitute available.

I’m starting to understand why Ellen and Portia have a personal chef. It’s tiring eating the same thing every day for lunch and dinner. I cry at work again because the chilli in my red beans and rice is just too much for my feeble body. I set a personal goal to one day be rich enough to afford a chef that will make me yummy vegan meals.

23Marilyn La JeunesseLeftovers for days.

Despite my food becoming a bit repetitive, I’m feeling really energised and healthy. I’ve convinced myself snacking on veggies and eating fruit in the mornings is making me a better version of myself.

Day 7: It’s the final day of the vegan challenge and I’m actually a little sad to see it go. I’m not feeling well today, so I made myself homefries. It’s very plain but does the trick.

24Marilyn La JeunesseThe homefries were plain but tasty.

For my final Ellen-inspired meal, I ordered myself a vegan pizza from Two Boots that’s topped with Daiya vegan cheese and a healthy helping of various veggies and pesto sauce. As Ellen has said before, vegan pizza is actually darn good. For anyone who says otherwise without trying it, you’re missing out.

25Marilyn La JeunesseVegan pizza is oh so delicious.

I DID IT! I just kept
eating and finished the vegan challenge without any slip-ups at all.

I think Ellen would be proud – or she would shame me for the amount of sugar I eat in a week…

After eating like Ellen for a week, I can definitely see why she and Portia always look so radiant. Not only are they eating healthy, clean, plant-based foods that give them plenty of beneficial nutrients, but they’re doing their part to end the cycle of animal cruelty and abuse in the meat industry.

Every year over 56 billion farm animals are killed for human consumption. Even more are tested on for cosmetic purposes. Even though I’ve been a vegetarian year-round for over a decade and use mostly cruelty-free makeup products, being vegan for a week has made me realise how little of an impact I’m making on the world around me. I’m still eating snacks that sneak whey in my food. I still wake up every Saturday and make scrambled eggs. I’m not doing enough.

So, after one week vegan, I’ve committed to being more cognisant of the food I consume. I’ve always followed a mostly dairy-free diet (yay, lactose-intolerance!), but now I’m cutting out foods filled with whey and limiting my egg consumption to less than a dozen a month. Unfortunately, I’m not ready to commit to being vegan full-time, but I am happy to further reduce my animal product consumption to help the world around me – but I’m not giving up sugar just yet. Sorry, Ellen!

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