Last fall, I had the honor of participating in a pilot study where about fifty volunteers gradually transformed their diets to a whole foods, plant based diet. Otherwise known as “vegan.” But they also got rid of all of the “junk” that many of us eat on a daily basis. You know, the six “Cs” I’ve mentioned before – crackers, cookies, cake, candy, chocolate, and cereal. What do they have in common? They’re ultra-processed! That accounts for 90% of the sugar we eat daily!
I learned a lot in the weeks I attended the study sessions. But first, know the difference between “vegetarian” and “vegan.” Vegetarians come in categories – Semi (no red meat), Ovo-Lacto (eggs and dairy only), Pesci (fish only), and even Flexi (enjoys meatless products, could do without meat, but will eat it occasionally).
Vegans, however, do not eat any animal based products at all. No red meat, poultry, seafood, or anything made with these. It requires label reading, a new way of cooking, and possibly new restaurant choices. There is a learning curve involved. But you know what? I learned it is worth it. It is quite possibly the best diet you can do for yourself. I learned it is linked to reduced risk of the vast majority of known diseases to us- when compared to other parts of the world where processed, refined foods are not even in existence and meat is a scarcity, the incidence of certain types of cancer, heart disease, dementia, type 2 diabetes and obesity are much lower. It’s profound. But that’s another blog post.
If this is something you’d like to give a try, cooking can be a challenge. How do I get enough protein? Is my food going to have any taste? What about the texture? I don’t want to be cooking in the kitchen forever! I don’t want to live on pasta! Do I have to drink those gross looking green smoothies all the time?
In all honesty, there is a learning curve. I asked some of my dietitian friends for some tried and true recipes. And I did some searching on pinterest too. If you are a cookbook kinda person, you can go to the bookstore and you will find a ton. It’s all about finding the right ratio of ingredients for the perfect taste and texture if you are trying to replace old favorites. I found a reasonable mac-n-cheese recipe here. But you have to remember, you are going to be eating differently. And different doesn’t mean bad. I was able to try some really, really good dishes and I didn’t miss the cheese or meat at all! (Promise!)
Lastly, I leave something for the restaurant lover. I recommend an app called “Happy Cow” that allows you to find restaurants in your area that offer vegan options. They also have a website you can use for free. However, I still recommend limiting dining out to two meals a week if you can. Restaurant meals, even vegan, tend to be higher in calories and can lead to unwanted weight gain over time.
Let me know what vegan recipes you try and how they turn out!
Don’t miss my future posts. Subscribe here.