Oprah Goes Vegan….for a week.

For one week…..Oprah and 378 of her Harpo staffers went vegan.

That meant no meat, no fish, no milk, no eggs—nothing that comes from an animal—for seven full days.

Why Vegan?

According to Oprah, there are two main reasons why she launched this Vegan Challenge.

  1. To make a moral argument against the killing of animals for food
  2. To raise awareness of how our food makes us feel…healthwise

So…what happened?

At the end of the week:

  • 300 of the 378 participants  successfully completed the challenge
  • Collectively, they lost 444 pounds…
  • Used a record amount of toilet paper, and…
  • Were happy to abandon the Vegan Lifestyle


But really, the actions of 378 Harpo employees was never the point.

The real question is whether or not the millions of Oprah’s viewers will be moved to become a little more vegan and a little less carnivore.

Who knows?

But surprsingly, Oprah and her vegan guru Kathy Freston have been suffering a bit of a backlash from the vegan community regarding the foods showcased during this episode. Their complaint is that instead of promoting a diet based on “real food”, the participants were shown eating a variety of processed & packaged McVegan meals from Whole Foods.

And that seems to have gotten some “real” vegans’ knickers in a knot.

To the point where on some vegan online forums & blogs, Oprah’s vegan guru Kathy Freston is being branded as a pseudo-vegan.

Harsh. Possibly true, but harsh nonetheless.


So, here’s my question for you:


After taking a look at Kathy Freston’s suggested vegan meal plan, do you consider her a true vegan?


Douglas Robb

Doug Robb is a personal trainer, a fitness blogger and author, a competitive athlete, and a student of nutrition and exercise science. He's also the co-founder of the Hive Health Media. Since 2008, Doug has expanded his impact by bringing his real-world experience online via the health & fitness blog – Health Habits.

9 thoughts on “Oprah Goes Vegan….for a week.

  • July 18, 2011 at 12:45 am

    I looked for the Kelly Freston’s 1 week vegan meal plan. For me the question is if its healty or not? I think to much things from animals sure is not healty but sometimes its o.k. I think better to eat from all a little bit….

  • February 5, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    I think Kathy Freston was trying to make the transition easier on the participants. Most Americans eat lots of fast foods if not totally processed foods so give the woman a break. These people probably didn’t eat a lot of whole foods to begin with.

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  • February 4, 2011 at 8:01 am

    I have to agree with those who diss the processed stuff. Eating a whole foods diet is the diet our ancestors ate. I also don’t count tofu in the processed category, since it’s easy to make (in Arlington, TX we have a shop that makes their own, every day).

    However healthy and weight-loss friendly veganism is, I don’t believe it is sustainable in the long run. Lierre Keith chronicles her own life as a vegan who damaged her health in The Vegetarian Myth. I do eat meat and lots of animal fats, but try to buy only naturally raised, grass-fed meats where the animals are treated much better than the factory farms. Our ancestors were hunter-gatherers, and they ate meat as well as foraged foods.

    I believe that if we could eat locally and source our foods from responsible, naturally-grown sources, whether we eat vegan or veggie or meat, we could save the world.

  • February 3, 2011 at 10:09 am

    If I had watched this and read this menu I would not have gone vegan. Lucky for me, I’ve been vegan for seven years so I don’t need Kathy Freston’s advice.

    In my experience leafletting at health fairs, people are frightened by terms they don’t know. Seitan for example – that’s no way to begin.

    How about a spinach salad with a vinaigrette? Some grilled tofu topped with spicy mixed beans? What I mean is: start simply. That’s how to ease into veganism. Not by buying Gardein products that are super expensive. You can go vegan with what you’ve got in the house.

    Also, I can no more “try on” veganism that I can “try on” being white. It’s who I am.

    Also, being vegan, I don’t wear leather or fur. I don’t know if clothing was mentioned in the show, but there are a surprising number of great vegan fashion options out there at all kinds of price points.

  • February 3, 2011 at 8:52 am

    Hum, tricky one this isn’t it. On the one hand I say yes, this menu planner is technically Vegan (as long as the ingredients have no hidden nasties like gelatin). On the the other hand, it’s definitively not healthy either!
    Of course we want to promote the veggie diet and lifestyle as healthy, but the fact is, the commercial veggie diet isn’t. People have the choice of a healthy veggie diet or a junk food veggie diet like any mainstream diet. However, I 100% applaud them for not eating flesh regardless of whether or not they are healthy veggies!
    As a high raw vegan my self, I’ve used lots of meat substitutes to help my cooked dude of a husband transition from a meat diet to a veggie diet. I’d say compared to me, he’s a junk food veggie in that he still enjoys a veggie sausages, veggie burger or something by way of a substitute on his plate next to his jacket pot or salad etc. Sure it’s processed but it’s veggie, it’s organic and it’s sometimes, it’s even home made.
    So whilst we know on a common sense level that what mother nature provided is the best nourishment our bodies need, we’re conditioned mentally to think we need other stuff – man made stuff that require a label just to explain what’s in it. Personally, I’d never eat Oprahs menu plan, but hey, if 300+ people lost over 400 pounds in weight, it’s been a worthwhile exercise in proving that a veggie diet healthy or otherwise is still superior than SAD. What’s more, with further knowledge, time and support from us, these people could transition even further towards increased health and all the while, animals aren’t being eating. That in my opinion is a huge step in the right direction.

  • February 2, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    I agree that something was amiss here. Making veganism into yet another fad diet with particular packaged foods that only some income levels can afford seems inappropriate. Also, packages foods contain trace, unlisted animal products all the time. Case in point: twinkies and beef. What I’ve always found beautiful about both vegetarianism and veganism is that one doesn’t need to purchase a rule book, weight chart, scale, pre-packaged mail-order meal, accompanying DVD or any or such silliness. While vegans do need education in order to maintain balanced diets, eating whole foods is hardly rocket science. In fact, it seems like every fad in the world is geared towards avoiding the unavoidable if we want healthy bodies & a happy earth – we need to eat veggies, fruits, nuts, & beans. Not covered in salt or sauce, not flavored with chemicals & sugar, not dyed to seem more pretty. Just food from the ground. If that’s too difficult, then veganism may not be the right fit.

  • February 2, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    After looking over Kelly Freston’s 1 week vegan meal plan, I think she can still call herself a vegan. While it may be heavy on processed vegan products, it is still animal free. I remember myself, newly vegan, leaning on vegan products to help make the transition easier, and if that helps others to try it too then yipee! Whole foods is now emphasized in my diet but it took over year to get here so….vegans be kind to the newbies!


    The Vegan Project

  • February 2, 2011 at 11:51 am

    I’m not a vegan myself, but I also took issue with the food options presented during the episode. Nearly everything discussed was processed and packaged – and most importantly to me – expensive! I think that if we are focused on encouraging health in this country by altering lifestyles, the options have to be affordable and sustainable.


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