The story of how a 30-something carnivorous daughter-of-a-trapper ventured into a bold new vegan world.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Why & The How


If you haven’t seen the movie “Forks over Knives”, I recommend you add it to your Netflix queue immediately.  That movie was the one compelling reason for us to consider a vegan diet, and it turned us on to all kinds of books and research. 

In a nutshell, we decided  it couldn’t hurt.  After consulting with our family doctor, who suggested we take a Vitamin B supplement, we jumped in with both feet.  Who wouldn’t want to eliminate these health threats?

  1. Cardiovascular disease. Eating nuts and whole grains, while eliminating dairy products and meat, will improve your cardiovascular health. A British study indicates that a vegan diet reduces the risk for heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Vegan diets go far in preventing heart attack and stroke.
  2. Cholesterol. Eliminating any food that comes from an animal and you will eliminate all dietary cholesterol from your diet. Your heart will thank you for that.
  3. Blood pressure. A diet rich in whole grains is beneficial to your health in many ways, including lowering high blood pressure.
  4. Type 2 diabetes. Not only is a vegan diet a weapon against Type 2 diabetes, it is also "easier to follow than the standard diet recommended by the American Diabetic Association." Read more about it here.
  5. Prostate cancer. A major study showed that men in the early stages of prostate cancer who switched to a vegan diet either stopped the progress of the cancer or may have even reversed the illness.
  6. Colon cancer. Eating a diet consisting of whole grains, along with fresh fruits and vegetables, can greatly reduce your chances of colon cancer.
  7. Breast cancer. Countries where women eat very little meat and animal products have a much lower rate of breast cancer than do the women in countries that consume more animal products.
  8. Macular degeneration. Diets with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens, carrots, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes, can help prevent the onset of age-related macular degeneration.
  9. Cataracts. Much the same way macular degeneration is headed off by a vegan diet, cataracts are also thought to be prevented through the intake of the same fruits and vegetables. Produce high in antioxidants are also believed to help prevent cataracts.
  10. Arthritis. Eliminating dairy consumption has long been connected with alleviating arthritis symptoms, but a new study indicates that a combination of gluten-free and vegan diet is very promising for improving the health of those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.
  11. Osteoporosis. Bone health depends on a balance of neither too much or too little protein, adequate calcium intake, high potassium, and low sodium. With a healthy vegan diet, all four of these points set a perfect scenario for preventing osteoporosis

Sign me up, right?  The idea that diet modifications could help my children live a life free of cancer (or, looking at the flip side…the idea that feeding my kids certain food could cause them a life of illness and pain) was the final deciding factor.  Unsure what we were getting into, my husband and I decided to go a month at a time.  And so it began.

Note:  This post was written weeks ago, before we got internet at our new house.  More to come regularly now, I promise. 

Day 1

Yesterday, my husband and I committed to eating a complete plant-based diet for one month. The irony of scouring the shelves at Wal-Mart, looking for vegan offerings, wasn't lost on me as I stocked up this morning.

After my breakfast of coffee (What? I gotta give up everything?), I prepared a lunch of quinoa, black beans and fresh tomatoes. It was actually pretty tasty, though it wasn't quite as satisfying as chowing down on a steak. :)

When I got to work this afternoon, I ordered my daily mocha. After the first swig, my tongue immediately darted out to wipe off the whipped cream stuck to my upper lip. WHIPPED CREAM? Ahhhhhhhhh! Coffee cup in hand, I sheepishly returned to the barista and admitted I'd forgot I was vegan. A vegetarian herself, she happily made me a soy mocha, hold the whip. I'm not going to lie. I didn't love it, but I drank it.

After a couple of hours of work, I was ready for dinner. Vegan options are few and far between when you work at a restaurant known for BBQ, mac & cheese and fried chicken, so I got a side of french fries, a side of roasted vegetables (broccoli rabe, turnips, parsnips, radishes and eggplant) and a side of polenta (prepared with water) topped with roasted tomatoes. Sounds lovely, right? In reality, it was just fine...but it didn't hit the same buttons as a meal full of butter, cheese, meat and bread. So, I treated myself with a homemade cherry lemonade. That's right...actual montmorency cherry concentrate, fresh squeezed lemon juice, a touch of sugar and ice cold water. Now that was satisifying!

The big key, I see now, is preparation.  Working at a restaurant where everything is made to order, I have so many incredible options.  Simple modifications made by supportive chefs allow me to enjoy pasta, salads and fruit dishes.  On days I know the kitchen will be too busy to customize a dish for me, I bring my own lunch.  For my husband, who stays home with our two boys, having a well stocked pantry and meals made ahead of time stop him from going crazy.  Soups, stews, roasted veggies, whole grains and snacks like nuts, seeds and fresh fruits keep us full and happy.  The boys (2 & 4) easily transitioned from cows milk to the soy and almond milks we now buy. 

I admit it’s not easy or cheap.  A couple of days ago, as I spent $220 at the grocery store, the clerk looked over all my bags and asked, “Getting ready for your Thanksgiving feast?”, to which I replied, “Nope, just getting 2 weeks worth of food for my family of 4.” 

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