What’s on My Plate

The title of this post was initially going to be My Vegan Journey, and then I thought about calling it My “Vegan” Journey. My Vegetarian Journey didn’t make the cut either so I finally settled on what you see up there. If you really want to get technical about it, “vegan”, a term coined in the 1940s, describes someone who chooses to avoid consuming all animal products, including all meat, dairy and eggs, as well as using fur, leather, wool, down, and any products tested on animals. Strict vegans may also avoid whey and cereals that include animal-based glycerin. But telling people that I am a vegetarian that does not eat dairy or eggs but does use wool and honey is a quite a mouthful. I am also not sure that anyone really wants to know that much information when they ask. So for simplicity sake, I call myself a vegan. So here is my vegan journey that started 9 months ago.

Making the Switch

I was never big on red meat or pork, couldn’t stand duck, and never once have eaten rabbit. To “make up” for the loss of protein (because I thought I had to), I used to eat a lot of chicken and turkey. If I didn’t have oatmeal, my go-to breakfast meal was muesli with Greek yogurt topped with fruit. My go-to lunch was turkey pitas with salad, and dinner almost always included some type of animal protein.

For a long time now, food has been one of my favorite topics. Back in college, I took a beginner nutrition course and loved it. For me, it’s not just about how food tastes, and it’s not just about what it does for you or where it comes from, but it’s a combination of all 3 that makes it so exciting! At first, I enjoyed learning about how food works in our bodies and how to get the most out of what you’re eating. My friends often asked me to give them nutrition advice. Then I started to appreciate all the fabulous food concoctions you can create and how satisfying it is to make a delicious meal that you can share with others.

But then slowly but surely, I became frustrated with the fact that a large portion of the food industry supports our growing health crisis. To cut cost and meet demand for meat and milk, your typical local farm is converted to a factory farm where animals are grossly mistreated while perfectly good land is converted to produce corn for feed. But as long as we demand it in these high quantities, we will be getting it! Eventually, the grocery store became a headache for me — I just had to know where the chicken or the beef came from. I was getting tired of having to guess or trust the labels. And then I had to decide questions like, is 3 square ft enough for a chicken to roam around? I certainly didn’t know the answer to that question!

I started to learn about the potential health benefits of adopting an animal free diet. I read Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman which really changed my life. I parted with the ideology that I need meat for protein and milk for calcium. There are so many other sources of protein and calcium. There is also a ton of good research in medical journals that shows the benefits associated with a vegan lifestyle — lower bad cholesterol and hypertension, and less chance of developing diabetes. The China Study, which is the largest 20 year epidemiological study between diet and the risk of developing common diseases, is exceptionally inspiring and informative. Forks Over Knives, a  documentary that discusses this study is equally interesting.

Was it Easy?

There is definitely a learning curve, and I’m hovering somewhere in the middle of it (I hope). I always feel like there is more to learn. To make sure I was getting enough protein, Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D, calcium and others, I recently read Vegan For Life. It’s a great resource if you are interested in learning about becoming vegan.

Prior to my vegan journey,  I was a regular at farmer’s markets.  Eric and I even had a farmer’s market themed wedding so it’s no secret that I love my vegetables! But for those that don’t love them, there are so many vegan options and substitutes for products that you already love. I am absolutely hooked on almond milk and some non-dairy fortified milk brands contain even more calcium than cow’s milk.

For me, being vegan is a journey. I love cooking and experimenting. Now, more than ever, I have been trying new recipes, creating new recipes and cooking more with grains, legumes, and  all types of seasonal veggies.

I have never felt more healthy and full of energy!

Daily Struggles?

  • Going out to dinner with friends and worrying that they are worrying that you can’t eat anything
  • Going out to dinner with Eric and looking at him nervously scan the menu for things I can eat
  • Still having to answer detailed questions to my family (over dinner) why I don’t eat meat. Hmm how much detail should I give? I never know.
  • Trying to go out for a quick bite while extremely hungry and on the road
  • And this one is not a bad thing but a challenge— mastering the vegan pie crust

I chose my vegan plate because I support the lifestyle, enjoy the benefits, and feel great doing it. Sometimes, I feel guilty when I am not a “perfect vegan”, but then I remind myself that I am into this vegan thing for the long-haul,  so even if I’m not perfect, I know that the choices I make are making me feel happy, healthy, and fulfilled.

Happy belated World Vegan Day!

 

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2 Comments

  1. Posted November 8, 2011 at 6:12 am | Permalink

    So how do you make sure to get enough proteins? I am not vegetarian but try to eat as little meat as possible. This works great, I don’t even worry about getting enough protein, but I do worry about whether to worry about getting enough protein :) Is it just a myth that vegetarians will be not getting enough or should I start to think about it?

    • Posted November 8, 2011 at 9:40 am | Permalink

      Hi Laura. I don’t think you should worry per say, but I think it’s great that you’re thinking about it. It’s not a myth that vegetarians should pay attention to their protein intake, but it is a myth that meat eaters automatically get enough of the right kind of protein. Without knowing the specifics of your diet, I would suggest that you focus on getting a variety of protein from multiple sources. Here are the categories you want to hit:

      • Legumes (beans, peas, lentils, tofu, soy products like soymilk, veggie meats, nuts, and nut butters)
      • Grains (barley, oatmeal, quinoa, and brown rice)
      • Veggies (broccoli, green beans, cauliflower, kale, mushroom, potatoes, spinach)

      I eat about 3-4 servings a day of legumes and then a ton of veggies and some grains. Variety is important because beans, for example, are low in a one type of essential amino acid and grains are low in another but when grains and beans are eaten together, they produce a mix that is a complete protein and extremely nutritious. Of course, this does not mean that you have to eat them in one meal.

      Other grains and veggies have protein as well; I only listed a few fairly common examples that are especially good sources of protein. If you want to get really creative, you should try amaranth if you haven’t already. It’s gluten free but has about 28 grams of protein per cup, and it’s so good for you! If you are into that sort of thing, you can also do a simple calculation (.8grams of protein X your body weight in kilograms) to see how many grams of protein you need a day. I don’t really do that, I just eat a ton of legumes, grains and veggies. Hope this helps!

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