Wednesday, October 28, 2009

reviewing my week as a vegan

last thursday i committed myself to a vegan diet for one week. today is my last day in that week and i wanted to reflect on how it's all gone. as you may know i wrote about the first day, citing my health issues and desire to improve my diet. i had just had my vegan breakfast and loved it. so what's happened since then?

to start, i have been making and eating food made from recipes via naomi rose of the gluttonous vegan, supplementing here and there with vegan snacks from the store (mostly pita chips and hummus). i did eat out three times, two of those times to good results. all i can say about the third is, please avoid taco time if you're vegan. the veggie burrito minus cheese & sour cream is just just awful- goopy beans rolled up with iceberg lettuce and a smidge of diced tomatoes. oh and sunflower seeds! i mean, really? in a burrito?? i could barely choke it down. that said, i did learn that two of my favorite local haunts, dot's cafe & por que no taqueria, offer some really delicious vegan options.

my typical vegan lunch

back to the food i made with help from
the gluttonous vegan- it was all really, really good! and very easy as well. in fact, some of the recipes were the quickest and simplest i've ever come across. i started with the beany stew over baked potatoes. i've made stews before, usually in my slow cooker and with beef and let me tell you, it's at least 30+ minutes of prep alone and then you have to stir everything constantly so that the beef doesn't sit against the hot cookery sides too long and burn, ruining the flavor. so i was shocked when TGV's stew had about 5 minutes of prep and was finished and ready to eat in only 45 minutes, with very little stirring. i was surprised that so simple a recipe could have such a wonderful flavor, but it did- much better than any of the beef stews i've made. i'll definitely be making it again.

the next recipe i tackled was TGV's sweet potato soup. honestly, i've only ever had sweet potatoes french fried before and was curious as to how such a soup would turn out. again, it was such an easy recipe! maybe 10 minutes of prep plus ten minutes of frying and fifteen minutes of simmering before throwing it in the blender and voila! soup! i've made soup before and the recipes i used then were two hour ordeals. two hour ordeals that usually ended with me adding heaps and heaps of salt to impart some flavor. the result of the sweet potato soup was wonderful. it was velvety, lightly spicy and had a wonderful slightly sweet (probably due to the cinnamon) but rich flavor. my husband, who normally doesn't like soups due to his lumberjack appetite, enjoyed it quite a bit and proclaimed he would probably like to have the left-overs, which truly shocked me. you should have seen his face when i informed him we were having vegan sweet potato soup for dinner- and here he is wanting more.

i guess i should have mentioned before that as i embarked on this journey, naomi rose was kind enough to listen to my concerns (i didn't want to eat margarine at all or soy products more than necessary) and tailor a shopping list and recipes for me. she listed a porridge recipe for my breakfasts which i love love love! and mentioned that i might want to grab some veggie burgers for lazy days. naomi rose also emailed me every few days to see how things were going and offer advice when i had any issue at all. she even customized a cake recipe for me when certain ingredients were out of stock at my grocery. i hate to admit that i never made the cake because i found some fantastic vegan mini-donuts at the store instead.

moving past the fact that vegan food can be easy to make and very yummy, how did i feel giving up the main items in my diet- meats, cheeses and eggs? physically, it's been great. another concern i had when starting this was that the food wouldn't be filling enough. as someone who suffers from hypoglycemia and sometimes anemia and who usually feels like she can't get enough protein from meat, i think my biggest concern was that i would be constantly starving. and the truth of it was, i wasn't. i'd say i felt just as full, if sometimes not more so, than when i'd eat a turkey sandwich with cheese or salmon on lightly buttered toast, or even a cheeseburger. i have to admit that i feel this diet kept my blood sugar levels much more constant and even than i've maybe ever experienced before. i think i also mentioned my sinus issues in my first post? well, i have noticed that my congestion has decreased quite a bit. in fact, i had two beers last night and have noticed this morning that my congestion is worse than it's been all week. i then realized that i must have been missing out on the inflammatory effects of meat & cheese. the result has been that i've been able to decrease the amount of medication i take to deal with my sinus congestion.

now how about the mental aspects of giving up meats, cheeses & eggs? i have to admit that i did struggle there. as someone who's mainstays have been meat, cheese & bread their entire life, my body is used to certain things, like beef tacos, chicken nachos & cheeseburgers. yes, i did crave all of these items. my third day in was especially hard and all i could think about were tacos and nachos and it was driving me crazy. not because i was hungry, but because my body is used to ingesting these items on a weekly basis and didn't understand why they weren't forthcoming. (this is why i ended up at taco time with the grossest burrito ever.) i pushed forward though. it took tremendous willpower as i did sit there thinking to myself, oh who cares! i'm a big girl, i can eat whatever i want! and i had to kick the willpower into over-drive when i decorated the house for halloween, part of which involved filling a glittered owl head with candy corns- one of my favorite candies. realizing they are probably made with gelatin, i crossed my fingers and read the ingredients list. my heart sank when i saw that yes, they do indeed contain gelatin. they've been sitting on my dining room table ever since, taunting me. i kept thinking, it's such a small thing! surely such a tiny thing won't matter. but i knew it would, at least in principal, and have stayed away.

the taunting owl head

lastly, the two things i was really looking for in this diet were weight loss and increased energy. so how has that been? it's a mixed bag. as of today, i haven't lost a single pound. even so, i FEEL lighter. perhaps i'm retaining less water than usual? regarding my energy levels, i've noticed that they have increased slightly. in fact, just enough so that i have begun exercising. this is actually pretty awesome as i've been a rather sedentary person my whole life and usually abhor exercise, even though the more i do it the better i feel. while i'm in a healthy weight range for my height and don't NEED to lose weight, i feel that dropping a few pounds would make me more comfortable and i've seen that continuing in this vein will probably lead me there over time.

in the end, i've learned first hand that a vegan diet can be extremely beneficial to one's health and not difficult to implement. while it's not something i am going to adopt full-time, i have decided to work towards eating vegan food the majority of the time, meaning vegan breakfasts, lunches, snacks and the occasional dinner will become part of my every day life. this will reduce my meat consumption to perhaps, 2-4 times a week instead of my normal 2-3 times a day. i gave up cow's milk and pork products as part of my diet 13 years ago and see this as the next step in my evolution towards becoming a healthier and more animal-friendly me.

thanks again to the awesome naomi rose!! you can visit her website, the gluttonous vegan, for many amazing recipes and how-to's.

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