A Year of Being Mostly Vegan

I’ve been keeping a personal journal for many decades, and periodically I re-read entries. Today I re-read an entry from November 16th, 2013 which noted that I’d moved from eating vegetarian to eating vegan.

It’s hard to believe I’ve been doing this (crazy) eating regimen for over a year now! BUT, right now I’m in the best shape I’ve been in, probably in my life.

In June this year I began going to the gym regularly. I started out going every day, now I have two rest days within the week, but I’m still lifting and doing cardio 5 days a week.

And while I haven’t lost much weight (today I am 7 pounds lighter than I was this time last year) I have lost inches and dress sizes. I’m down to about a size 6 – I’m really proud of that!

On the eating front, I am mostly vegan. I’ve continued allowing egg whites into my diet so I can ensure I’m getting enough protein, which is a constant battle. I use my brown rice protein shake to supplement, but I must be mindful of the foods I choose to get the daily requirement of protein.

This year has been a great learning experience. I’ve experimented more with my diet and now find myself in a place where I eat lots of veggies and fruits, along with legumes, nuts and seeds.

Have I been a perfect vegan? Heck no. I estimate I ate chicken about a half a dozen times this year (no, I won’t be eating turkey on Thanksgiving!) and I do allow myself some buttered toast or buttered bagel every now and again as a treat.

These changes ARE CHALLENGING, but I still believe they are worth it.

As the holidays approach, I already know my eating habits are not fun at parties. Many times there is absolutely nothing I can eat when I’m at a party, or I wind up defaulting into eating junky processed food like potato chips. I think I’m going to start bringing food to parties… maybe a bag of carrots and a container of hummus dip, so that I’ll be sure to at least have one thing I can eat that is healthy. But when it comes to sour cream and onion dip, cheese and cracker plates, pigs in a blanket, cream filled whatever, and meat, meat and more meat… I’ll be skipping all that, thanks. (Hmm, maybe I need more vegan friends, ha!)

So here I am, beginning year two of being vegan. No one is more amazed than me, I’m sure.

My immediate goals are to continue eating healthy, continue going to the gym, and yes, I’d still like to lose 10 pounds. Who knows, maybe I’ll wind up being a Size 4 someday. I’ve never been a size 4 in my life, but as I achieve new health milestones it’s possible my body will continue to be transformed.

The biggest obstacle to becoming vegan in the first place was psychological. Most people believe they cannot give up X, Y or Z foods. Or perhaps even when they try to eat healthier, they still are in a deprivation mindset, instead of embracing the opportunity for better health.

So, let me warn you now, if you eat healthier and do it consistently, the foods you love now will taste BAD to you in the future. Do you know why? Because the foods that are not healthy for you are usually fake, processed foods. Ersatz food. And once you give that up, if you go back and taste processed foods, you’ll know they’re disgusting.

I have my own example of this. I used to like banana chips. I eat fresh bananas regularly, but I also used to enjoy banana chips as a snack. But after a while, I noticed that when I ate the banana chips, I could taste the oil the chip was fried in rather than the chip itself, and it tasted gross to me. Eventually, I could taste that the chip was very slightly rancid from the oil.

If my palette wasn’t as finely tuned, I doubt my sense of smell and taste would have registered this a year ago. I would have eaten the food then and enjoyed it. But when you convert your body and taste buds into eating fresh food 99% of the time, these things become obvious.

Good luck to everyone out there working on changing your diet and improving your health. I’ve achieved some decent milestones in the past year, and I’m looking forward to another year of improved health.

 

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The Wait is Over

I’ve reached an important milestone today! My mostly vegan* plant-strong diet, coupled with my 4-6 mile exercise walks a few times a week, and my calorie counting on FitDay.com has led to a new low interim goal weight for me.

I’m now a “mere” 8 pounds from my goal weight, and 10 pounds from my stretch goal weight.

It’s been a good challenge, these last three months, watching my calories** – even through the holidays – and now the results are showing. It’s exciting stuff!

Stepping on the scale this morning brought a renewed motivation to get to goal!

What’s cool is FitDay allows me to track my current weight and progress towards the goal online, along with tracking daily calorie consumption and calories burned from exercise. I also created custom nutrition goals*** for myself too. It’s not the only site that offers these tools for free, I just happen to like it.

If you’re also in the process of your journey to lose weight and feel great – please share it here. 🙂

And… more updates as the good news continues!

 

  • * I still eat egg whites.
  • ** My daily calorie intake has been 1500 or less.
  • *** Adult women need to consume 46 grams of protein a day to not be in protein deficit. It’s an important custom nutrition goal I take seriously as a vegan.

A new year with the same resolutions

Happy 2014 everyone. I hope you had a good holiday season. I did!

I held my first ever vegan Christmas Eve dinner party for friends. I wanted to surprise them with a variety of tasty foods that were vegan, but flavorful and filling. They seemed to enjoy the meal, and that was satisfying.

My favorite dish from Christmas Eve was Quinoa stuffed Mushrooms – a recipe I found online. I modified the recipe by cooking the quinoa in vegetable broth and mixing nutritional yeast into the quinoa stuffing for even more flavor. They were a hit!

The biggest compliment I got was when one of my guests said she felt full, but pleasantly so… not in a heavy lead-in-the-belly way you can feel after some holiday meals.

And while it’s not always easy for me to say no to many foods I know I’d enjoy eating, I’ve been able to maintain my mostly vegan eating regimen throughout the holiday season.

My ‘resolution’ for 2014 is the same as it was in 2013. Continue to stick with eating vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds … and yes, egg whites for protein.

I continue to track what I eat on FitDay.com, to figure out my calorie intake. And yes, I continue to lose weight, although very slowly … especially since it’s been so cold outside which prevents me from doing my 4-6 mile walks (for now.)

My news is not terribly exciting, because I established these habits a few months ago and now I’m maintaining the habits I’ve cultivated. I’m keeping with it, day by day.

One thing that’s interesting though, when I tell people what I’m doing, they usually say “I could never give up (fill in a food.)” Oh, they say, I could never give up cheese! I could never give up coffee! I could never give up hamburgers! And I reply, you don’t have to do what I’m doing… but if you really wanted to give those things up, you could. It’s a matter of deciding what to put in your body. Then they admit, yes, I guess I could, but I don’t want to.

And you know what…? I get it. It’s not easy and you have to be motivated to want to do it in order to stick with it.

I’m still motivated!

I’m cooking for myself much more these days, and it’s helping me stick to my routine. If I go on the road, I’m faced with making compromises and so I do my best to stay “close” to my routine as best I can, and move on.

I also shop differently than I used to… I need to shop more frequently because my food is alive. If I don’t eat the vegetables I purchase within a short period of time, they’ll go bad. Lettuce has a short shelf life, and so do bananas. But I like being reminded of my choices, even if I do have to throw something away now and again.

And so as I begin 2014 I’m feeling good and I continue to embrace the challenge of eating vegan and investing in my health. It makes me extremely happy to know I’m influencing my friends to make better choices for their health too, whether they decide to “go veggie” or not.

As for me, there’s no “new news” to report yet for 2014. I’m doing what I’d been doing, and it’s still working. 🙂

The Incredible Edible Egg (White)

After scrupulously journaling every bite of food going into my mouth for the past few weeks, I’ve noticed a trend: I’m falling short on my daily protein requirement.

And how do I know my daily protein requirement? WebMD is a source I trust, so I got it there.

WebMD says:

Protein requirements are complicated because the amount we need changes with age.

  • Infants require about 10 grams a day.
  • Teenage boys need up to 52 grams a day.
  • Teenage girls need 46 grams a day.
  • Adult men need about 56 grams a day.
  • Adult women need about 46 grams a day.

Okay, so on Fitday.com I set my daily custom nutrient goal to between 45-50 grams a protein a day. On many days I haven’t come close.

Why?

My analysis shows me that I’m eating lots of vegetables everyday, along with fruits, nuts and seeds along with some whole grains like quinoa. But unless I’m eating beans on a given day, my protein requirements don’t stack up.

But I don’t wanna eat beans every day.

Why else?

The Jury is Out on Soy

I have decided that for me, soy is not the right go-to food to supplement my protein intake. And just because the U.S. Department of Agriculture provides huge subsidies for the soy crop in this country, just as they do for corn, doesn’t mean I want soy in every product. (Does anyone remember what high fructose corn syrup has done for us?)

Here are some things to consider:

Beginning in 1996, bacteria, virus and other genes have been artificially inserted to the DNA of soy, corn, cottonseed and canola plants. These unlabeled genetically modified (GM) foods carry a risk of triggering life-threatening allergic reactions, and evidence collected over the past decade now suggests that they are contributing to higher allergy rates.

So after about three weeks of eating vegan, I’m at a fork in the road (yes, pun intended.)

What I’ve decided, for now, is that I will go back to eating egg whites. Egg whites are a protein super-food with zero fat content, and low carbs too. (Bodybuilders have known this for a long time.) Also, I can eliminate cholesterol and saturated fat from the egg by not using the egg yolk.

Last night, after a few days in a row of falling short on protein, I made a “hash” of 1/2 cup of egg whites, mushrooms, 1/4 cup of black beans, and 1/4 cup of diced tomatoes with various spices, salt and pepper. It was delicious, nutritious and filled with protein.

I finally put my protein consumption into the green again.

Ironically, the jar of mayonnaise I’ve been discussing on the blog with religious fervor still remains in the refrigerator unopened with its saturated fat content intact. 🙂

Let me also say, for now, I am still committed to staying off dairy products. Dairy does have saturated fat and cholesterol, so for now I see no reason to go back to it … because there is something pretty satisfying about having a food log that reads: Daily Cholesterol = 0 mg!

It’s just one more step in the journey…

My Well Stocked Veg* Pantry

From left to right: Black Truffle Oil, Chia Seeds, Powdered Peanut Butter, Avocado Oil, Red Quinoa, and organic carrots

From left to right: Black Truffle Oil, Chia Seeds, Powdered Peanut Butter, Avocado Oil, Red Quinoa, and organic carrots

One of the new and unexpected benefits of my recent change in eating habits is the introduction of really interesting foods I have not cooked with at home, and in some cases, had never eaten before.

I find this kind of cooking experimentation a lot of fun! It’s a way for me to create flavor profiles I may not have tasted before and combining ingredients in ways I’d never considered.

Then again, my hunger is propelling me to do these things because one of the issues I’ve faced is lower levels of satiety. It depends what I eat, of course, but I use minimal amounts of oil in cooking and vegetables are filling, but only temporarily. The good news is they are also quite low in calories so it’s okay to have multiple smaller meals during the day.

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The Veg* Pantry

So, here’s some fun items you can acquire for your veg* pantry that will add lots of options to your flavor profiles:

Powdered Peanut Butter – because of how it is processed, powdered peanut butter has 85% less fat than “normal” peanut butter and can be reconstituted using water instead of oil. (I bought this product because I want to make a home version of “Sesame Noodles” which uses peanut butter and soy sauce, along with chinese noodles and toasted sesame seeds. I have yet to try out the recipe in the “lab,” haha.)

Black Truffle Oil – this is actually sunflower oil infused with black truffle mushroom “essence” so the caloric content is really the sunflower oil first and foremost (120 calories per tablespoon), but it can give dishes a rich, meaty and savory quality.

Avocado Oil – I love avocados so the idea of having avocado oil to add to some dishes was too tempting to pass up. Like olive oil, it’s a great source of poly-unsaturated fat, just like the whole avocado.

An important note about avocado oil – it is highly beneficial to dry skin as well and can be applied directly to the face or body. It is ph balanced at the same level of the oils our skin naturally produces.

Chia Seeds – Yes, I keep mentioning chia seeds. They are a super-food and are high in Omega 3’s, have 5x the calcium of milk, high in fiber, on and on! Chia seeds add a wonderful crunch to any dish, but nutritionally these little seeds are a powerhouse.

Quinoa – What food can you think of where, when you eat 1/4 of a cup of it cooked, provides you with 6 grams of protein? Yeah, I thought so. Quinoa – another super-food. It’s got such a wonderful nutty flavor and fantastic texture, it’s very easy to substitute this whole grain instead of rice or pasta.

Dried organic mushrooms – getting fresh organic mushrooms isn’t always possible, and more to the point, mushrooms go bad rapidly if you don’t eat them. If you keep dried mushrooms in your veg* pantry, you’ll always have a wonderful source of flavor on hand to enrich any dish. Also – mushrooms have been scientifically shown to boost the immune system!

Since mushrooms can also absorb bad stuff from the ground, pollutants and heavy metals and other bad stuff – you should try to use organically grown mushrooms.

(I have used North West Foods in Oregon as a source of organic dried mushrooms.)

Tahini – it’s a sesame paste typically used in yummy Mediterranean dishes. Yep, it’s packed with Omega 3’s, calcium, copper and maganese too, and was first made over 4000 years ago!

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So there you have it. This is NOT a complete list of all the stuff you can stock in your wonderful veg* pantry … because that could have been a much longer list!

What “Must Have” Items do you have in your veg* pantry that are a little unusual?

Please share!

Five Websites for Better Health Choices

I’ve been scouring the internet for useful websites as I continue on my journey to eat in the healthiest way possible and take good care of my body.

Below please find a list of five websites that may help you if you are on a similar journey.

Enjoy!

  1. VegWeb touts itself as the largest collection of vegetarian (and vegan) recipes on the web. I don’t know if it’s “the largest” but it does have tons of interesting recipes. If you can’t figure out what to make for dinner tonight, look here.
  2. Local Harvest – I just can’t say enough nice things about this website! It is an encyclopedic database of farms and co-ops and food producers and farmers markets across the United States. You can browse the products you want to source directly from the farm and place an order.
  3. Happy Cow – another good searchable database type website to help you find local providers of vegetarian and vegan offerings, including restaurants. This has links for cities globally. Sometimes it lists places that are “veg friendly” which means not strictly veg, but offering some stuff that is…
  4. What’s On My Food – This website is scary. It will tell you the kinds of pesticide residues you find on produce. If you eat non-organic food, and you take one look here, you’ll shocked at which toxins you’re ingesting. (One of the organic farmers I spoke to – after placing an order with him via Local Harvest – told me he would never eat a commercially raised blueberry again after he looked at this site.)
  5. FitDay – If you are interested in tracking what you’re eating, the FitDay site has a huge database of foods and the exact nutritional and caloric breakdown of each, by portion. FitDay also has journaling for any exercise you are doing, and then if you want to really go crazy, you can graph your progress of daily caloric intake vs. the amount of exercise you’re doing. I find the site most useful to know, let’s say, the number of calories in a cup of grapes, but that’s me.