Wednesday, August 14, 2013

GOING VEGAN - ALL THE WAY OR SOMETHING LESS THAN THAT.

Just a few months ago, I decided to adopt a vegan diet. Now, I’d read quite a bit on the subject and already considered myself a vegetarian – that for many years. But, at the time, I was still eating eggs, dairy, and some fish. So, to motivate myself for change,  I read books and watched documentaries that told me about all the wonderful benefits of the vegan diet. These sources emphasized that I would have more energy, lose some weight, and that my general health and skin tone would be better. All that sounded great. And, important for me, was the moral part – being kind to animals, living sustainably, and eating in an Earth-friendly way.

And so it began, there I was going VEGAN (or trying to go about it) – but still fussing around including a bit of cheese, some eggs and once a week fish in my diet. So, I launched my vegan adventure after that (and now, at this posting) having cut out all dairy and still eating 2 eggs a week and fish, once a week. (See note below.) And, unwilling to eat only at home, I’m not able to rule out occasional small amounts of eggs or dairy in breads and pastries, purchased in the street. On that score, for my general sanity,  I follow the: “Don’t Ask” policy.
Happily, it turns out that vegan meal planning is a lot easier than I thought, and there are quite a few  benefits. And some advantages have appeared that I only hoped to see when I began this challenge. The first was a change for the better in my skin that had been oily with a touch of acne. (Yes, even old ladies like me sometimes have skin problems.) It seems that kicking the dairy habit helped improve my skin. The next benefit I discovered was that I never have indigestion and can sleep for longer amounts of time in the night without waking up. For me, that’s a real plus because I often felt tired in the morning after too many internal wake up calls at night. Also I've lost a few pounds. The weight loss is slow but I have reason to think that it will steadily go down. This turns out to be the answer to a prayer – having been somewhat overweight for a good part of my adult life. And my blood pressure has moved from occasional pre-hypertensive into the solid normal range.

One thing that kept me from trying this sort of diet before was a fear of not getting full. I’m happy to say that's not an issue, as I now eat fairly tasty meals in the same quantity that I ate before.  It turns out that the vegan diet is a culinary adventure. And I get to experiment with meal planning, figuring out how to change over old recipes to conform to the vegan challenge. So, it wasn't so much like giving up something as it was the happy discovery of a new foods and food combinations.

Vegan diet is healthy
So, all  in all, changing to a vegan diet seems to open up a whole new level of health for many people - and now for me. This results from consuming more vitamins and minerals, more fiber, and fewer toxins.  Many of these same benefits are available to vegetarians but the vegan lifestyle seems to be even better – since the dairy and eggs are also often the cause allergies and general inflammation in the body.

Here are some of the improvements that have been documented.
- Mood improvements
 - Symptom relief of psoriasis and other skin ailments
 - Reduced incidence of adult diabetes
 - Lower risk of cataract development
 - Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
 - Lower cholesterol levels
 - Less risk of stroke and obesity

Now, what about eating out?
As I began my vegan quest, I wondered if it was even possible for vegans to go to restaurants. Now, I know from personal experience that it is possible.  That is, of course, if you don’t obsess on the possibility of consuming tiny amounts of animal products that lie hidden away in otherwise vegan appearing menu items.
And you can always ask the chef – via the waiter – to make some changes in the food items so that the end result will be animal and dairy free. And it helps to plan ahead and look up the restaurant menu online or call restaurants for options. If all else fails, ask if they have any vegetarian entrees or get creative with sides.

Sometimes vegetarian menu items can be made vegan quite easily by just replacing the butter for oil and leaving off the cheese. And there are almost always green salads and baked potatoes on the menu. You can ask for olive oil instead of butter.
Above all, don’t sweat it too much. Some restaurants are going to be less than veggie-friendly. So, it’s best to focus on the experience itself – the pleasing ambiance and, hopefully, good flavors. Make your best choices and relax. It’s not going to make a huge difference in the great scheme of things.

So what about a part-time vegan option?
If you’re still not sure that you ready for the total switch, you can become a VEGAN PART-TIMER. That allows for an easy transition that lessens the amount of animal products you eat. And, maybe after that, you'll convince yourself that being a vegan is a worthwhile venture.

Give it a try. Vegan part-timing is something like Meatless Mondays - only you do it more thoughtfully and for more days of the week. That still leaves you with a couple of days  (say, weekends) to eat other things you want.
Anyway, you've got a lot of vegan choices, what with:
Meat alternatives: usually tofu, quinoa, beans, grains in general, and nuts.
Drinks: milk alternatives, veggie/fruit juices, tea, coffee, and water.
Fats: Flax seed oil, extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil.
Vegetables: most all. Soybeans, black eyed peas, artichokes, potatoes, beets are all high in iron, a mineral that tends to be low in a strict vegan diet.
Fruits: most all.

Try taking a break from your usual meat and dairy over-reliance. Begin by cutting out meat and dairy from your meals a few times a week and see how it goes. You’ll do yourself a favor as you lessen your risk for some dangerous diseases and disabilities. Also, you’ll reduce your fat intake, and that should help you shed a few pounds without the effort and effects of unhealthy crash or fad diets. With the part-time vegan diet, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much better you feel and know that you’re doing a pro-animal protection and Earth-friendly thing.
A day’s menu
Here’s my menu today. I’m quite content eating meals like these. And I don’t feel like I’m dieting at all.

A good tasting and filling vegan lunch.
Breakfast
Small grapefruit, organic raisin bran with  small banana and a handful of walnuts with coconut milk, a thick slice of toasted bread with soy-base cheese substitute and coffee.

Lunch (shown in the picture):
Corn fritters (a little soy flour adds some more protein), nopales and greens salad, boiled potatoes with margarine, and tea.

Dinner
White rice, mixed veggie entree with lentils, a bread slice, and a glass of water.

Snacks
Piece of vegan coffee cake, a few nuts, and cultured coconut yogurt with fruit.

Note: I guess I'm still, at this posting, a vegan wannabee. My downfall is sush/maki - something that I still like to eat once a week. For me, part of the joy of maki involves fish. Also, about once a week, I eat out for breakfast, and, in those moments of weakness, I usually order eggs or waffles.

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