Inspired by Kathy Freston's new book, Veganist, Oprah -- and by extension, her staff -- took a one-week vegan challenge. Then, on her show today, Oprah invited Freston, Michael Pollan (author of The Omnivore's Dilemma), and journalist Lisa Ling to discuss the reasons for and challenges behind kicking animal products to the curb.

Oprah's flirted with the idea of going vegan before. She did a 21-day vegan cleanse in 2008, and a couple of weeks ago, she chatted with Kind Diet author Alicia Silverstone. Given that she's revisited the topic so frequently, is it possible O could be on her way to adopting an animal-free diet for good?

It's funny that Oprah's toying with veganism right now, because my sister and I are doing the same thing. My sister, who has been seeking a natural cure for her skin woes, recently bought Alicia Silverstone's book and has been animal product-free for a week-ish. After reading Jillian Michaels' book Master Your Metabolism when it came out, I transitioned to mostly organic meat and dairy. But since seeing Food Inc., I've thought better of eating ANY meat or dairy.

But really, truly making the switch? Not easy for either of us.

Even though Oprah, actresses like Gwyneth Paltrow and Lea Michele, plus a plethora of authors, TV hosts, celebs, etc. are bringing the vegan lifestyle into the mainstream, it can still be a challenge to find tasty meat alternatives. ("Tasty" is a must for my sister and me -- we're foodies.) For instance, my sister wants to try some grain-based sausages that Silverstone raves about and that I found at my local, enormous Whole Foods. But because she's not residing in a major metropolitan area, it's harder to find foods like that in her local grocery stores. 

As for me, I bought a vegan cheese substitute that was recommended in Kris Carr's new book Crazy Sexy Diet. I attempted to "crumble" it (it's tofu-based, so it's rather spongy) on a bowl of vegan chili on Sunday night, and it was ... well, not very good. Sorry, Kris! I didn't dig it. Now I especially don't regret having gone with the regular organic sour cream. You gotta pick your battles.

For now, I'm personally content to emphasize plant-based foods, while minimizing animal products. I definitely see the merit in becoming a vegan, but I'm simply not ready to commit to the lifestyle upheaval.

And while there's no telling just how far my sister or Oprah will take their flirtations with veganism, one thing's clear: Experimenting with an animal-free diet really does put your plate, your health, and the health of the planet in perspective.

Would you experiment with a vegan diet?