As most of you know, I'm vegan and have been for almost a full year. It's been one of the most rewarding and gratifying experiences in my life so far. I have a huge passion for sharing my meals and recipes with you because although I've been vegan for almost ten months, I can actually count on one hand how many times I've eaten a salad. We don't just eat fruits and veggies in the raw, contrary to what the masses may have been told or believe.
There is a huge misconception about the vegan lifestyle; I eat delicious, nutrient and protein rich, plant-based foods (and lots of baked goods free of refined sugar) so when people ask me what the heck I eat, and what the heck I feed my vegan 17-month-old baby, I always chuckle and then bombard them with my favorite recipes. This video and post is my way of organizing my thoughts and sharing my favorite recipes with those who are interested in a plant-based lifestyle and what we eat on a daily basis.
I am so excited to share this video and post with you! It's been in the works for about a month. I filmed for one week, then had to edit it all together and write out this post so let me know if you have any questions in the comments below and I'll answer them.
Note: I DO NOT AND WILL NOT judge you for not being vegan. This is a safe, accepting place for anyone - vegan or non-vegan, so please do not feel as though I am shaming anyone who does consume meat or dairy. I am not shaming - all I'm doing is sharing my experience with you, so please view it as just that! I love you always and forever, vegan or not.
HOW AND WHY I TRANSITIONED TO VEGANISM:
So, many of you were wanting to know how I transitioned to eating a plant-based diet. It's been about ten months since I switched, but I'll start from the beginning! I was vegetarian for 4 years in high school into college, and loved it, but dorm room food didn't lend itself to being super healthy, so I ended up eating meat, however I had never been fully vegan.
When I got pregnant I was started worrying about the products I was putting in and on my body. It all began with an awareness of pesticides on my fruit and vegetables. I started researching the benefits of an organic or non-organic diet and decided that, although it would be a little pricier, I would just eat organic food while pregnant so that I didn't have any potential harm to my baby. Then I heard about GMO's. GMO's and pesticides are two totally different things. GMO's are genetically modified organisms that they use to genetically engineer foods to be bigger, more colorful, stay riper and fresher longer. So far most fruits and vegetables are GMO, and pretty much 90 percent of our corn crop in the U.S. is genetically modified corn. Same with cane sugar. As I did more digging, I learned that GMO's were not only in our fruits and veggies, but in almost all processed foods because corn syrup (or HFCS) and cane sugar are in EVERYTHING. It's so frustrating.
I watched the documentary OMG, GMO's and it really helped open my eyes to the horrific state of our country. We are at the mercy of Monsanto.. and so this sent me into a funk... I decided "okay, only organic foods from now on." Fruits and veggies, meats, dairy, everything had to be organic because that's the only way it was safe. (Or so I thought.) I also read The Unhealthy Truth, a book by a Robyn O'Brien and I loved it so much! It was super eye opening and helped tip me off into further research of the food we ate. (Side note: interestingly enough, both resources I mentioned above were written/filmed by parents who started researching their food after they had traumatic experiences with their own children).
Okay so fast forward to my delivery, newborn life, and breastfeeding exclusively then my babe being around 6 months old. I decided that I felt good about my eating (I've always been a pretty healthy eater - I love sweets here and there, but I'm a total veggies all the time person), but still felt weird about my little one eating dairy or meat, so I didn't give her any of that and stuck with fruits and veggies. Gracie didn't really get into eating solids until she got her first teeth around nine months so it was all breastmilk from birth to that point!So when I finally made the decision to go 100% vegan, G was nine months old and showing interest in solid foods now that she finally had some teeth! At this point, I was already not drinking milk and pretty much didn't eat meat because I hated it my whole pregnancy and always tried to cook veggie-based dishes for G because I felt like it was healthier than animal products. So I already didn't mind not having meat in my food; it was cheaper! Then I watched two documentaries that sent me over the edge....
Cowspiracy and Forks Over Knives.
Forks Over Knives is the one that really resonated with me. I consider myself a health-conscious person, and after being presented with the possibility that eating animal-based products may increase the likeliness of cancer, I was honestly stunned. In short, the documentary explores how eating a plant-based diet could possibly keep you from getting cancer because you aren't consuming casein protein - something they've found in lab rats that had tumors. They link casein protein with foods like meat, dairy and eggs, and that did it for me. I guess I look at it this way: I am a parent - my number one duty in life is to take care of, protect my daughter, and teach her the healthiest way of life. To me, that is eating a plant-based diet. (I try to use those terms more so than "vegan" as it sounds less snobby).
I won't say it isn't hard. I cook almost every day and going out to eat is a huge hassle because animal products are hiding everywhere... but I honestly am SO much happier since. I feel better, I've lost a ton of weight... literally the pounds have shed off of me, and I feel amazing when I cook - although I have to do it often, I am OBSESSED with foods. I love watching G eat healthy foods and enjoy things that nourish her body and mind.
I also really enjoyed watching Cowspiracy. I recycle, cloth diaper, and try to live as sustainably as I can. Cowspiracy sheds light on the issue of sustainability and the insane amount of resources we have to use to support the meat and dairy industry. Water is a huge one, especially for those living in California where they suffer from a drought. I believe that we need to care of our Earth, and eating a vegan diet (growing crops/plants) instead of mass raising, multiplying and producing cows, chickens, etc. for our own human consumption has proven to be significantly better for our environment.
Side note, and honestly not 100% the reason I transitioned to a vegan lifestyle, but I am SO much happier with myself as a person too. I am happy that I don't contribute to the deterioration or mistreatment of animals, and happy that I can teach G about that too. I am vegan for the health reasons mostly, but the fact that animals are not harmed because of my food choices is a total bonus, as I am an animal lover and always have been!
In a recent podcast I listened to by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau she talks about the idea of humanizing animals. Some startling information I learned in the specific episode are that pigs are slaughtered at 6 months for meat, beef cattle are slaughtered at 18 months all for our disposal. I also learned in a separate podcast of hers that cows are actually given calcium supplements, since they don't eat grass like nature intended them to (they eat GMO corn feed) so they have to supplement the cows with calcium before taking their milk for human consumption. Why can't we, as humans, just eat the calcium straight from the "grass" itself?! Plants!
A WORD ABOUT PROTEIN:
I get so excited and totally nerdy after I tell someone I'm vegan and they ask me whether I get enough protein! It gives me the opportunity to share information like this with them:
The idea that your diet has to be protein-packed is glorified by the meat and dairy industry. But don't take my word for it. Just see what the USDA Dept. of Agriculture has to say about veganism!
"This concern about protein is misplaced. Although protein is certainly an essential nutrient which plays many key roles in the way our bodies function, we do not need huge quantities of it. We recommend eating a variety of unrefined grains, legumes, seeds, nuts, and vegetables throughout the day, so that if one food is low in a particular essential amino acid, another food will make up this deficit." (source)
Did you know that there's protein in broccoli and carrots? I'll bet you didn't - because you were led to believe that only meat can provide protein and only cow's milk can provide calcium. It's simply not the truth!
(SEE VIDEO CAPTION FOR LINKS TO RECIPES I USED)
A FEW RESOURCES:
-Film: OMG, GMO's
-Film: Forks Over Knives
-Book: The Unhealthy Truth by Robyn O'Brien
-Podcast: Food For Thought
"You can change the world; you must change the world."
Try being vegan for 30 days!