Tuesday, October 1st, marked exactly one year since my family and I began our plant-based eating adventure.
Coming from a VERY strong meat-and-starch background, I wasn’t sure we’d make it through the first month! But here we are, all kinds of happy and fulfilled and healthy- not yearning to return to our meat and dairy-eating days as I originally predicted.
10 Things I noticed as the months went by:
1) My taste for meat and dairy changed enough that, by a few months in, if I had a bite of a hamburger or a cheesy pizza I would actually think it tasted inferior to the veggie-based counterpart I had gotten used to. Similarly, as I cut out salts and sugars and fats, I began to acclimate to the true tastes of food and prefer them without the added “flavor enhancers.” Now I cringe when previously “normal” amounts of fats, salt, and sugar are added to my foods.
2) Within two months of starting the diet I had lost 15 pounds. That got my attention! Especially knowing that this was a life-long diet pursuit, as opposed to a short-term diet, and therefore the weight loss would be sustainable. Since then the number has leveled out at slightly over twenty pounds of total weight loss for me and an even higher number for my husband. (Neither of us exercised this last year so that we could see how the change in eating would affect our weight and blood lab numbers all on its own. When we add exercising in we will probably see more weight loss and an even greater improvement in blood sugar numbers, etc.)
3) My creativity in recipe making grew by the week. (And it’s still growing!) That was the biggest hurdle: What to eat? It only took a short time of sitting at my computer looking up thousands of vegan blogs with sweat beading on my brow before I began to find the sites that provided the best whole-foods, plant-based recipes. A lot of sites have healthy, no-fat added vegan recipes, but they aren’t all good. We had a lot of terrible meals (usually about one a week) but as we learned what we didn’t like, that phenomenon passed away. And as I found new ideas for delicious veggie-filled recipes, I added them into the menu rotation. Now I have a huge cookbook of printed-off recipes that I can turn to anytime I need inspiration, plus several amazing cookbooks I have collected along the way.
4) I can now veganize a recipe in my sleep. This used to take a lot of experimentations and failures. But as I have learned what works and what doesn’t, the process has yielded less and less failures. It calls for milk? No problem! Butter? Please! Give me a challenge! Eggs? Okay, eggs sometimes still challenge me when they are included in a recipe. But it’s pretty rare that I fail to substitute properly now that I’m seasoned at it.
5) It only took two months for my husband’s cholesterol to drop substantially. (He prefers I don’t share his numbers online, but he had several friends and family members, and his doctor, dumbfounded.) Mine dropped less, about 30 points. Either way, we saw results so quickly that we were encouraged to keep at it. This was our “cheering section” early on, when we still might have a craving for a steak. (I highly recommend getting your blood tested before beginning the diet so you can make similar comparisons.)
6) Our kids are now eating about 95% more veggie-based meals that they ever would have one year ago. : ) Kids are resilient and flexible, and when we decided to thrust this way of eating into our family dining room, they did little more than complain at meals they didn’t like the taste of. And now, after many repetitions of those meals over the last year, they have grown to like many (not all) of them. My daughter still says cheese is her favorite food, partly to be ornery, and partly because she legitimately loves the taste of cheese. But she doesn’t complain about its absence anymore. She loved sharing her “eggless salad sandwich” at school the other day and having her friend like the taste of it.
7) It only took about a month or two for me to notice that my energy level was WAY higher. I was sleeping better. And, ladies; my menstrual cycle shortened considerably and I have had less intense cramping (by and large) and no migraine headaches in the last year. Our ongoing battle with heartburn vanished and our bottle of antacids has sat unused for the last year.
8) Our grocery bill changed! Halleluia! In this economy, living paycheck to paycheck, we got some relief at the grocery store. I noticed right away that as I stopped buying prepackaged foods, meats and dairy items, my bill at the checkout line was smaller than it would’ve been with my previous menu-planning habits. As the year went on, however, I began buying “higher quality” foods- farmer’s market-type produce, organic foods, items with no corn syrup, etc. This mindset is for the health of my family. And although it brought our grocery spending back to a place where it was in our meat-eating days, I am happy to allow this as it means that the foods going into my kids’ mouths are not full of chemicals and unnecessary processing.
9) We have learned how to cope socially. Yep, for me, this was the biggie. I had no idea how to have people over or attend Christmas parties. I didn’t know how to even bring up the fact that we ate differently when the time came. I knew, more and more every month, that this was RIGHT for our family, and that did help me handle things better internally; not wrestling with it every time we went somewhere that meat was offered. But externally, I still had to speak of it gently and not make people around us feel judged for eating differently. Finding the words to convey all of this took practice. In the end, I have just decided that it’s easiest to tell people that we choose to eat this way because we believe it is healthy, and that it is a personal conviction and one we do not try to push onto other people. Our first Thanksgiving we invited the family over and made all vegan dishes. I made vegetable broth gravy that tasted just like the real thing but had no meat broth or fat. We made everything with no added fat and had the same (well, not the SAME, ha ha) traditional side dishes we had every year prior. There was green bean casserole, rolls, sweet potato casserole, bread stuffing, gravy, a failed pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, pesto pasta, pecan pie, and apple turnovers. This was our showcase to the family to prove that fat-free, veggie-based eating could (in so many ways) replace our old eating habits seamlessly. The foods tasted great and everyone loosened up about what it is that we were eating. That was a social experiment that brought us all together and took the fear out of the word “vegan.” I highly advise the continuation of sharing meals with your friends and family, and not letting a significant dietary change drive a wedge between you and them socially.
10) People around us are starting to reconsider their eating choices. This is the most rewarding thing of all: Our focus on eating healthy has caused so many of our friends and family to take a long hard look at how what they eat affects their bodies. Not that they all turned and followed the path we chose, nor did we expect them to, but our focus on health enabled many people to stop and step back from the daily monotony of eating and question if they believed what they were eating was helpful or harmful.
I would love to hear what you are learning as you journey on this eating adventure. I keep hearing lots of great things from my friends and family who have joined the veggie side! Feel free to comment below and share with us.
Tags: blood, changes, cooking, flavor, holidays, kids, learn, learned, meals, recipes, social, tastebuds, ten, things, weight, year