Sunday, October 10, 2010

My veggie tales....

So bear with me dear reader, this will most certainly be the longest post to date. While most of you know me as the vegan I am today, there are plenty of you who remember me as the milk-chugging-contest participating, Rudy's BBQ loving, ham cooking, meat and dairy enthusiast I spent most of my life being. I started this blog with the sincere intention of sharing amazingly delicious veggie food with the world as my activism, without coming off as the stereotypical "preachy vegan". I feel that a delicious vegan cupcake or an incredibly sinful chocolate chip cookie will speak more than my words ever can. Recently though, I keep getting asked about the basics of my diet and how it got started-so that's what this post will be about. I've talked a lot about Bean, but not so much about my own journey. So here it is!

I know this might come as a surprise, but I am not an animal lover for the most part. In fact, I HATE dogs. Though I don't really want anything to suffer needlessly-I just don't get dogs (especially my neighbor's stupid dog who rushes me EVERY.FREAKIN.DAY when I'm taking my kids to school) The reason I initially considered a plant based diet was because it stalked me. Everywhere I looked, there it was in my face. It seemed like every new person I met, every event I went to, every article that came my way on the Internet was a big beacon shining on *Vegetarian*. When I had "Astroboy", I started to become obsessed with ways to lessen my carbon footprint. I actually had a reason to care about what goes on in the world after I was gone. I did everything in my power to make changes that would better the environment. Turns out that not eating animal products makes the biggest impact of anything you do. (For example, 2,500 gallons of water is needed to create one t bone steak. Or, a vegan can leave their shower on all day every day for an entire year-and still use less water than having a diet that features animal products) I kind of feel like if all the environmental doomsday stuff comes true and I leave this mess to my kids, I can at least say I did everything in my power to stop it.

Here's a little video that doesn't show graphic images of animals dying-so give it a shot :)

Another huge reason is the high risk of food contamination in animal products. While it does sometimes happen for vegetables, animal business is usually still at fault. It's gross, it's incredibly shocking and really really scary because it's so common.

In order to keep this at any reasonable length I'll recommend picking up "The Food Revolution" and also "Diet for new America" by John Robbins which has many things more accurately than I'll be able to type out without hours of interwebular searching.

Another motivation was health. My family has their lives seriously cut short or impacted by diabetes, colon cancer, heart disease and strokes. Each one of these is directly caused by diets heavy in animal products. Even the "good" white meat ones aren't really good at all. I don't want to die in this way if I know how to prevent it. Others that thankfully aren't in my family but are related to diet are breast cancer (note the irony that KFC has a breast cancer campaign), cervical and ovarian cancer and prostate cancer.

So when I first went vegetarian, loosing weight wasn't a motivator. Within 4 months however, 25 lbs literally fell off. When I went vegan, I was at a plateau with my weight loss after baby number two. I was doing two hours of hard cardio 6 days a week with almost no results. Going vegan jump started my weight loss process again. Not only that, but I noticed that I had more energy, had better breathing, less skin rashes/breakouts and could eat an insane amount and never see an ounce gained. I'm not kidding, there are days when I scarf 12 cookies. ( I can't verify that this is good for your health, but it's good for my mental health).
So I'm going to address some of the questions that I get frequently. If you have any more, feel free to leave them in the comments section!

How did you decide to get started?
When I first started thinking about it, it made my stomach hurt to think of how "final" it felt. What about thanksgiving? Dinner parties? Every social interaction people have? I love all kinds of food and didn't want to be a picky eater. So instead of saying "I'm a vegetarian" and confronting this huge scary thing, I just decided to try if for a week and if I hated it, no biggie. During that week, it wasn't super hard to do- it just required choosing different things. And you know what? Most of the time I didn't even feel like I was missing out. I was eating delicious, healthy meals that I probably wouldn't have tried before. I think the key to success is that for everything you don't eat, find two new things that you do eat and LOVE. I don't eat less now, I eat WAY more. Like wtf is kale? Same with vegan, it was WAY too scary to commit to, but after a while it was no big thing. I'm not going to lie and say it's super easy. My husband wasn't thrilled-he was a freakin hunter! But the more I learned, the less *I* could keep eating it, even less so feed it to my kids and then touching it grossed me out.
Everything certainly didn't happen at once. I always said if there was something that was totally going to break me if I didn't eat it-I would, and wouldn't feel guilty and do my best the next day. I started off liking lots of vegetarian foods, so that made it easier (falafel, eggplant Parmesan, Alfredo) but I also loved meat. The longer I didn't eat it though, the more light I felt in my body of course, but in my impact on the planet and on my conscience. Watching "Earthlings" and reading "Diet for a new America" and "Food Revolution" sealed the deal. My key with Bean was essentially making things that were similar to things he already liked and things that taste good. I pan fry things to win his heart, roast vegetables and make delicious treats. We don't eat low fat, first because fat is important for my precious little growing brains, but also because I straight up don't need to. I eat whatever I want and as much as I want and never worry about my weight. I can't promise that each person's body reacts the same way-but it's been like magic for me.

I try to avoid soy products, is it possible to still eat this way?
I actually try very hard not to eat many processed soy foods, just for the sake of health. There are however some really great fake cream cheeses that I buy on occasion when I'm craving something traditional or taking to a party (cheesecake, pink dip) though it's expensive so I don't buy it on the regular. My kids really love enriched rice milk (though I don't), so that is what they drink. It is fortified with b12, which is the only vitamin not available through a plant food. (Technically it is, b12 is a bacteria that grows on plants but modern processing removes almost all of it) The reason it's in animal foods is that animals would eat grass etc right from the source so it's concentrated in their products. I take a supplement, though in my opinion, everyone eating any kind of diet should take a vitamin as our growing processes, soil and cooking void many vitamins we expect we're getting.

What the hell do vegans eat?
Here is a quick run down of some of the substitutions I use for foods you currently enjoy.
Cow milk: Rice milk, organic silk soy milk, hemp milk
Cheese: Nut cheeses, daiya shreds(non soy and delish) or no cheese. Many things taste great with a mashed avocado or something else like a chipotle mayo that is creamy and fatty in it's stead.
Sour cream/whipped cream: I make a super easy version of both of these with cashews.
Eggs: For baking-oil, ground flax seed, bananas or applesauce, Ener-g egg replacer, silken tofu
For quiche/omelet/scrambled eggs: various firmness of tofu. Organic tofu is the way to go, as has less of the plant estrogens as per my understanding.
Beef: Wheat gluten product called "Seitan". Can purchase or make at home.
Sausage: Field roast is my absolute favorite and has pleased even the most discerning carnivores in my life. I can't get it here, so I make my own with wheat gluten (recipes are from "vegan brunch")
Meatloaf and roasts: Field roast makes a good one, or lentils/beans are a great replacement.
Bacon: The best bacon so far is made with a fermented soybean (sounds gross I know) product called "tempeh". It's fermenting process kills much of the plant estrogens, and leaves it with a much firmer consistency than tofu. Recipe for this is also from Vegan brunch.
Burgers: Portebello mushrooms are the bomb, as well as many recipes available online for burgers made with veggies/lentils/beans you name it.
Fajitas: Portobello mushrooms make AMAZING fajitas and are stupid low in fat. Using wine in your cooking process gives them an incredibly complex taste.
Mayo: There are many fake mayos out there, grapeseed oil veganaise is my fave and never notice a difference.
Sandwiches: I eat all kinds of "salad sandwiches" made just like a tuna/egg sandwich, but either using crumbled tofu or mashed chickpeas in place of the meat protein.

So what about protein?
This is almost completely a myth. Protein has been sold to us in a way to sell product and it's killing us. On average, a woman needs 52-65 grams per day, a 29 lb toddler needs 16. My breakfast of soy milk chai, pb on toast and fruit is around 27, which means at the end of the day-I could still be getting too much without one bit of animal protein. Too much protein leeches calcium from your bones, and can cause an increase in allergies and impacted kidney function. Protein is made up of amino acids, which are found in vegetables, grains, beans etc. So for example "two tablespoons of peanut butter or one-half cup of beans provide six to eight grams of protein each, which is about the same amount in each ounce of lean meat, fish and poultry. There are also two to four grams of protein in each serving of breads and cereals and one to three grams in a serving of most vegetables. "

Do you eat food that tastes good?
Not at all. I decided on becoming a vegan that I no longer would use my tastebuds. :D Ok, non assinine comments aside-some things like alternative cheeses took me not eating cow milk cheese to enjoy. And just like we don't like things as kids, our tastes change and evolve. Some things I didn't like at the beginning are favorites now.

So, now what do I do?
Well, that's up to you. Do you want to look better? Help the planet and save almost 100 animals a year from dying? Not have to worry about meat and egg recalls? Take the most proactive approach to preventing cancer and heart disease? Then try it. That's it. You can try it for one meal, you can try it for a week or you can try it forever.
If you've made it to the end of this, I want to thank you for stepping out of your comfort zone and for choosing to know. I welcome your questions and comments!


  1. Okay, so here's my question:

    How can I eat vegan on a budget? Money has been tight and with Tim and I to feed - we usually pick up a lot of cheaper meats and vegetables. Spices are usually not on our shopping list. Where did you shop in San Antonio and what are good meals for two on the cheap? <3 Kimmy

  2. Great question, Kimmy! It's actually been a personal challenge for us since moving back to Canada-food is way more expensive here, as well as cost of living. Unfortunately, San Antonio doesn't have a whole lot of vegan choices in the regular stores, and you're stuck to finding "Vegan stuff" like veganaise, feild roast, tempeh, seitan and the like at whole foods and sometimes sun harvest. Sun harvest frequntly has sales on produce, and buy X get the same thing free. Watch out when organic frozen berries are two for one-I make a fool of myself. For spices-try the dollar store or bulk sections at whole foods/sun harvest-that way you can get just a little bit and it will be like .30c. The bear bones of vegan-beans, rice, pastas, tofu are cheap! It's the fancy prepackaged vegan foods that really break the bank-and aren't that healthy for you anyways. I think learning to cook is THE biggest thing to save money. Dry beans are stupid cheap. Knowing how to cook means you eat the things you buy instead of letting them rot in the fridge, and you eat out waaaaay less (biggest money waste eva). Pick up a cookbook and just start at it! I credit "vegan with a vengance and Veganomicon" for taking me out of my comfort zone, and learning how to be bad ass in the kitchen. Taking the time to evaluate priorities makes a big difference. I don't have cable. I buy second hand when I can. Things like cancer are expensive, and healthy food is an investment in your body, life quality and life length. Thanks for the great question <3

  3. Wow Christina, thanks for this article. Finally able to read through all of it and I must say, its very interesting.

  4. Purple label vegenaise for the win! Make sure that rice milk is organic since rice is like pesticide city! Bleck. I'm with your kids, though. Love the stuff.