As of today, I have successfully been a vegan since March 11. That’s about 5 weeks, people! I have been diligent and faithful with minor unintentional slip-ups. And guess what? I survived! It IS possible to go vegan without starving yourself or depleting your body of the vitamins and minerals it needs. In fact, I have eaten cleaner and healthier in the past 5 weeks than I can remember doing before. I didn’t really lose weight (maybe a pound or 2), I didn’t become anemic, and I didn’t join PETA. But I did learn a great deal more about food than I ever thought was possible, and has sent me on a mission to be much more aware of what I put into my body from here on out.
As a way to commemorate my last few days of this vegan challenge, I hosted a vegan potluck where people crept out of their comfort zone and made some dang delicious vegan grub. Simply seeing that vegan smorgasbord brought me great happiness. Some of the scrumptious dishes provided (and devoured) included:
- Grilled Vegetable and Hummus Tart
- Spicy Buffalo Cauliflower (BIG winner with the boyfriend)
- Chips & Guacamole
- Flatbread & Hummus
- Garlic Rosemary French Fries
- Falafel Sliders
- Vegan Cheese Bread (meh…we winged it)
- Vegan Lasagna (my favorite…again we winged it)
- Coconut Cashew Cream Tart With Strawberries
SOOOO much good food and a fun thing to share with friends. Everything turned out great and everyone enjoyed themselves, sans dairy and meat and all.
Learning and researching have been important aspects in this journey. And insanely eye-opening. Among the documentaries I watched, the articles I read, and the book I devoured, I have discovered there is a great deal more about the food industry that is not necessarily common knowlege, and not necessarily advertised. You have to search out the information, take the initiative to read and research it, and have the diligence to apply it to your every day consumption.
A few of the areas that I am much more aware (i.e. a label-reading fiend) include:
- Corn and its many different masks. Corn is in just about everything at the grocery store, but may be labeled something different depending on its purpose in the food.
- Sugar and sugar substitutes. Fake, real, or what have you, something sweet is added to many different products that wouldn’t even necessarily call for it. Not only am I looking for this culprit, but where exactly it is on the ingredient label. Remember, the higher up on the list, the more it makes up that particular product.
- Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Holy yikes! They are in EVERYTHING! It’s hard to stay away, especially because they are labeled as so many different things, but chances are most of the items in your grocery cart contain them. There are organizations and companies out there who will provide labels on their products if they do not contain GMOs, such as the Non-GMO Project.
- Enriched vs. Unenriched ingredients. Enriched flour, sugar, etc. is processed so that it is stripped of any nutritional value, but is made to have a longer shelf-life and a more concentrated flavor.
- Artificial food dyes. This is an issue most people don’t necessarily think about. Artificial food dyes are in many foods that you wouldn’t even think of: marshmallows, pickles, chocolate pudding. Not only are most of them petroleum based, the chemical make-up can cause a whole mess of health problems. Although they may be FDA approved, in many other countries a warning label is required to inform consumers that there are unnatural food dyes added.
- Grass fed vs. not; farm fresh vs. not; organic vs. not.
It baffles me that we must become our own educators when it comes to our food. Many people won’t. We put faith in a system with little question, because we don’t think it would fail us to the point of allowing harmful products to be obtained. That’s just wishful thinking. It’s not about the good of the society anymore; it’s about marketing and target audiences and pretty colors and enhanced flavors. It’s about the money. Bottom line. Priorities have certainly become skewed, and we’re supposed to fall victim unless we have the audacity to go beyond what we’re being sold and dig a little deeper. And I do.
As a recap, these are some of the places I got my information, education, recipes, inspiration, and motivation.
- Food, Inc.
- Forks Over Knives
- Hungry For Change
- Food Matters
- The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan (I plan on reading more of his books in the future)
Websites (blogs, recipes, etc.)
- 100 Days of Real Food
- Chef Chloe
- Allyson Kramer
- The Sexy Vegan
- Post Punk Kitchen
- Oh She Glows
- Hungry Gnomes
- Food Babe
Additionally, when I first started this journey, I set some goals for myself. I feel I have accomplished and exceeded even my own expectations. They included:
- Become more familiar with the vegan/vegetarian community
- Gain an appreciation for a strict plant-based diet
- Actually cook a few recipes from the cookbook
- DON’T CHEAT
- Be an inspiration (hopefully) for those interested in trying it
- Learn – I feel like this will be happening a lot
- Have fun!
I have most certainly learned, become appreciative, and had fun throughout this challenge. It wasn’t all easy and wasn’t all hard; it was an adjustment. My mom has told me she has started reading labels more carefully when she goes grocery shopping. I’ll count that as being an inspiration. Who knows, maybe I’ve struck something in someone else along the way, too.
What now? Honestly, I’m not quite sure. What I do know is that I will be making more educated decisions about what I eat. I also intend to severely limit my meat and dairy in-take going forward. My new goals are to buy local (when possible), stay educated about what I’m eating, continue to read labels, cut out what my body doesn’t need, eat clean, and make choices that will benefit me in the long run. Armed with information, I plan on applying it as much as possible when it comes to food choices.
Whether vegan, vegetarian, or omnivore, it’s important to educate yourself about what you’re putting in your body. If I am to take one thing from this entire experience, that would be the
meat tofu of it all.