Monday, January 27, 2014

Meatless Meals - How I got started!

Organic carrots
I have always loved vegetables. It might have started when my Great Uncle, who had the best vegetable garden in town, took me out to pick carrots. He didn't speak a lot of English and I didn't speak Italian, but we understood each other. He helped me select the perfect carrot, washed it off for me, smiled as I enjoyed the sweet snack, and then brought me over to his rabbit cages to "recycle" the green tops.

Of course, I also loved meat, especially my Father's famous garlic-burgers which he prepared once a year while my Mom went Christmas shopping.

As an adult, it never occurred to me to give up animal products. Do without cheese? Get serious! Forgo that pork roast? Sacrilege! And don't even talk to me about eating anything other than a cheese and mushroom omelet on weekend mornings. Yep, I loved my animal products.

My other half, aka Art Ist, wanted to try a vegetarian diet. I smiled, politely said "yes dear", and continued enjoying my bologna sandwich. Then, we watched a PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) program about the typical American diet and how it was killing us. That program woke me up!

The host talked about common health issues, like heart disease and cancer, and their link to eating animal products. It surprised me to find out that most diseases are, at least to some degree, caused by the amount of animal protein we consume. He talked about a nutrient-rich diet which was low in fat and high in essential vitamins and minerals.

I don't know what the host's qualifications were. But what he said made sense to me.

Woman saying "Yes Dear"
So, I agreed to try a vegan diet for 30 days. After all, we can do almost anything for 30 days, right? In truth, even though the health benefits were convincing, I wasn't sure that I could give up a lifetime of eating a certain way. But, I did it for 30 days and enjoyed weight loss, increased energy, and a whole new world of delicious meals. More importantly, on my next Doctor's visit, my cholesterol, blood pressure, and sugar numbers were perfect, a surprise since heart disease and diabetes runs in both my Mother's and Father's families. That was over ten years ago and I've never looked back.

Once the decision was made, I jumped in with both feet. Some folks like to add meatless meals gradually. Not me! I'm an "all or nothing" kind of person. My process started by going through the refrigerator and pantry, eliminating anything which contained an animal product. This was an enlightening activity as I read labels and learned about food ingredients. Once the products were removed from the kitchen (given to a friend), we began searching out recipes and new ingredients like quinoa and nutritional yeast. We learned about nutrition ... did you know that iron from raw vegetables, like spinach, is hard for our bodies to absorb? The simple solution is to add citrus to the meal ... a splash of lemon in your water, an orange for desert, etc.

It has been, and continues to be, a fun and exciting journey!

The path I've chosen

My decision to adopt a plant-based diet was all about health. Along the way I've become concerned about the plight of animals, raised commercially for food, and learned how my food choices affect the earth. I've vacillated between vegan, vegetarian and even pescetarian.

In the end, for me, a vegan diet is best.

Have you considered a vegan/vegetarian diet? How would you (or did you) make the change?

Sneak Peek: Are you interested in making your own, natural household cleaners? You won't want to miss our next post!

Images courtesy of Simon Howden, imagerymajestic, and graur razvan ionut /