Monday, November 14, 2011

Settling into my plant-based world

It's been a while since my last post.  That's what happens when life gets in the way of your life!  On the eating front, I've been settling into my new lifestyle and finding my "niche" so to speak.  I started this journey with an open mind as to how deep in to vegetarianism or veganism I would go.  I have struggled with how "vegan" I wanted to be long term.  For those who have never tried to eat a plant-based diet, going vegan is much more of an adjustment than going vegetarian.  For one, almost every processed food (bread, cereal, pasta, etc.) has some sort of eggs or dairy.  You really have to read every single label and ask questions when you go out to eat or have dinner at a friend's house.  It is not impossible, but it takes a lot of discipline.  My main struggle is with my love of everything dairy!  I have cut the majority of dairy out of my diet already, which was a HUGE step for me.  The first thing I cut was dairy milk, which for anyone who knows me knows this is a big, big deal!  I have switched to flavored almond milk so far, and I'm trying other types of non-dairy milks one at a time.  I already know I'm not a big fan of soy milk.  I have tried a couple different vegan eggnog varieties, and the soy version was my least favorite (coconut milk version is my favorite so far).  I've found that these non dairy versions actually contain more calcium than the dairy version, and also have many more vitamins added, such as B12 (which is a concern for vegans).  I have still not substituted any of these milks in any recipes or used it with my beloved cold cereal.  To be honest I'm scared to, LOL!

My boyfriend (Tim) and I have had many questions (and attitudes) about our diet.  I will say that I am not here to convince people that it is right or wrong.  It is a personal choice, and is not limited to just the nutritional and health benefits.  It's a very complicated decision each person has to make for themselves.  I do not believe that eating meat is wrong or unhealthy.  It is a personal choice I've made.  Consuming animals has never felt quite right for me.  I do believe that the mass production of meat is unhealthy and unethical.  I know many people who eat only free range meat and poultry, and often get it from a local farmer where they purchase an animal (cow, pig, etc.) with several other people and divide the meat.  It is both healthier and much more ethical.  I see nothing wrong with this.  These people have made an educated and conscious decision about their diet, and that's what I think everyone should do!  The problem is that people preach about how humans must eat meat, yet they've never done any research or educated themselves on the topic, or nutrition for that matter.  THAT is when I get angry and annoyed when people make fun or try to preach how being vegetarian or vegan is wrong or stupid.  If someone has a well informed and educated reason behind their claims then I'm interested in discussing it with them.  I've had many enlightening conversations with people like this!

I know I have ranted and complained about how many unsupportive and judgemental people I've come across in the last few months since I've started this journey.  So, I feel I should praise the many people who have been supportive!  I also appreciate those who may not understand my decision but ask questions so they better understand this lifestyle.  My family has always been supportive with any lifestyle or diet decisions myself or any of my 3 sisters have made.  As I've mentioned before, my older sister has been a vegetarian for almost 20 years, and I don't remember a single time where my parents were unsupportive.  My younger sister eats mostly organic foods, tries to avoid processed foods as much as possible, and gets her meat from local farmers whenever possible.  She is raising my niece and nephew this way as well, and also tries to avoid cooking and eating from containers that contain BPA.  My youngest sister is a hardcore meat eater, but never tries to convince us that she's right and we're wrong.  My parents sit somewhere in the middle of all of us in their dietary choices.  And we're all supportive of each other and understand that we all have our reasons for how we choose to live our lives.

The last thing I wanted to discuss on this post is my decision on how "vegan" to go.  I have decided to cut out all dairy and eggs by themselves (i.e. drinking milk, adding cheese on foods, eating eggs, etc.) and eventually cutting them out of anything I make or consume at home (I still have some products at home that have dairy in them which I will use until they are gone, but don't plan to purchase any more).  If eating at someone's house or at a restaurant I will not worry about foods like bread or pasta that may contain cheese or butter.  I still won't eat any meat or meat products of any kind (if an animal had to die to make the dish and part of the animal is in the dish then I won't eat it).  Fyi for those of you who are unaware, this includes any kind of meat broth (beef, chicken, fish, etc.), and cooking a dish with meat in it and picking it out does not work for vegetarians either!  You would be surprised how many people don't understand this.  And yes, fish is considered meat!  Where is fish located on the food pyramid??  Yep, under meat.

My next post I am planning on discussing the common questions I am asked and my responses.  As well, I will discuss some of the negative comments or attitudes I come across as well.  Some people also say things (even jokingly) and may not realize it is insulting or condescending.  And please, if you have any questions at all about vegetarianism, veganism, or my decision please feel free to ask!  I have had some very interesting comments and conversations with people, and I love explaining this lifestyle and hopefully help dismiss some of the misconceptions and negative attitudes about it.  I've also enjoyed hearing from friends and family that have been inspired to try new foods because they heard me rave about them.  Not all of the stereotypical vegetarian and vegan foods and food items are "icky"!  ;-)  And just because you eat meat doesn't mean you can't incorporate some of these healthy items into your diet. :-)