Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Healthy Home | How it All Vegan

Nope, not a typo.

I said the V word.

That naughty little word, that when muttered to my family, caused looks of complete and utter horror. They looked at me as if I had just said I was leaving my husband to become a nun.

Food is THAT big in my family.

I have been toying with idea of going vegan for sometime now. Every time I declared to my hubby that I was going to give it a go, he pointed out the existing dairy in my current (and nearly lifelong) vegetarian diet: skim milk in my morning latte, greek yogurt in my smoothie, egg whites and feta and tzatziki in my dinner. He was right...I couldn't possible live without dairy.

A couple of months passed and it still weighed on my mind. What if giving up dairy was the key to my health? I've been eating healthy, working out regularly, but I feel like I'm stuck. Maybe dairy was my roadblock?

I still didn't have the guts to give it a go (and I knew the reaction I was bound to get from my family), so I just went along with my dairy-filled life as happy as could be.

Cue a rainy September Sunday, when my good friend/co-worker filled me in on a few books she was reading that promoted plant-based diets. She was going to go vegan for 6 weeks, and I figured this was my cue. What better time to try it than with someone I spend 5 days a week with- someone whom I share more meals and snacks with than my husband! We both started the very next day, and had one another to root each other on, which certainly made it easier.

I committed myself to 30 days, and made it through with only one slip up that involved phyllo pastry, tomatoes, basil and cheese on day 28.

It has now been 5 weeks since I cut out all dairy and animal products (less the one night I cheated), and I am here to say, I'm going to stick with it for the long haul.

There are three factors that lead to this decision which I will thoroughly explore in another post (hope you don't mind if you have no interest in vegan, but maybe there will be some healthy tips and delicious recipes coming up you won't want to miss?), but for now I wanted to give some tips and ideas that helped me through (and continue to do so.)



If you are considering being vegan, these are merely just suggestions based on my own experiences (clearly, I'm not an expert after a month, but might help some "veginners"). Please consult a medical professional before changing your diet drastically!

1.) Milk Subs. If you like to drink milk cold, Rice Milk + Almond Milk = best tasting milk replacement for a cold glass of milk. If you drink lattes, I learned the hard way that it does not translate well into steamed milk. Yuck! Soy Milk is the only yummy milk for lattes I've tried so far, however I have yet to try hemp milk (coconut was not my fave).

2.) Even if you are not a fan of tofu, it can be used in many ways you never thought possible. Blend silken tofu for many baking recipes and you won't even know it's there. My favourite recipe I discovered my first week is what I now call Tofeta. Cube some extra firm tofu and toss in a marinade of red wine vinegar, olive oil, herbs and salt and let sit for at least an hour. The resulting taste is quite feta-ish and even the texture is close. Of course, it won't melt and it's not the exact same thing as feta, but it does trick your brain a little and beefs up your salads.

3.) Nutritional Yeast. I had never ever heard of this product before, but once I started my vegan kick I read a few blogs that mentioned it. When I spotted it in a bulk foods bin, I bought some and decided to try it with a roasted chickpea recipe. Oh. Em. Gee. Sooo yummy. I still don't know quite what it is, but it is tasty! Looks A LOT like flaked goldfish food. Don't let that deter you. You can also sprinkle on salads or popcorn, and there are quite a few "cheesy" sauce recipes out there that use nutritional yeast.


4.) 3 Ingredient Vegan Chocolate. My one vice is chocolate. I luuuurve it, especially around that time of the month. Most commercial chocolate contains milk solids. Most vegan chocolates are expensive. So, why not make your own? I LOVE Chocolate Covered Katie's blog, and when I found this recipe for making your own chocolate bars, I just had to try. How have I never known that you can make delicious dark chocolate bars at home for a fraction of the price with healthier, fewer ingredients? You can even cut them up after into chocolate chips, or melt it for a nice little fondue to dip your fruit in. Why oh why world did I not know this before? And thank you CCK for enlightening me!


4. ) This tip has helped me stick to  my vegan kick without much trouble. The trick is: fill up with oatmeal and smoothies! I find between my smoothie, my overnight oats, and my fruit and big salads, I am too full to actually crave anything else.




5.) Don't try to make everything taste un-vegan. My first day vegan, I went to a pizza party for my brother's birthday. I decided to try and make a vegan pizza, so I used tomato sauce on a whole grain tortilla topped with a few veg and vegan Daiya cheese. YUCK! Vegan cheese does not replicate dairy cheese. It melts, it's sort of orange, but it doesn't taste anything like real cheese. Was it the cheese's fault? Nope. It was mine. I tried to make something taste like something else. As I was eating it, all I could think is, if only I had loaded this with more veggies and only a sprinkle of the Daiya cheese, this would be so much more enjoyable. And it's the truth. I'd have rather just eaten a full on veggie pizza, sans cheese. So don't try to recreate, just make an altered version with anticipated different results.

6. Be creative. You will be amazed at the amount of foods out there that are actually vegan, but beyond that, the kinds of foods and treats you can make that are vegan. I had so much fun playing around with different recipes and ideas (perhaps a little too much fun!).


7. Beans beans, the magical fruit! Lol. I've been eating beans for so long, that the song DOES not end "that way" for me, fortunately! I did, however, kick up my bean intake a bunch. One thing I've learned through this whole vegan thing is to try and use as many sources as possible. Don't just eat carrots for your vegetables. Have a huge variety everyday, and same goes for beans. I like to have 3 different kinds on the go (eg. black beans, garbanzo beans, lima beans), and I can toss some in a salad, eat as a snack, purree as a spread/dip, or stir into a stew at a moments notice.


8. Make sure to supplement. Because I'm not a fully educated vegan, I didn't want to risk ruining my health by depelting my body of necessary nutrients (to be honest, I have been terrible taking vitamins as a vegetarian, but this has helped me get motivated to take a daily). I found one called Vita-Vim made specifically for veggies so that you get your recommended B12 and other essential nutrients you could be lacking if you aren't sure you're getting a well rounded plant-based diet. It's totally worth it.

9. Preparation is key. If you have nothing to snack on, or to pack for lunch in a pinch, you are likely to make poor choices based on pure hunger and lack of time. I use my days off (non-consecutive which works for this) to prep my food for the week. I usually make a big batch of stew or veggie chili for the week, and cook some dried beans and make a salad base. I also make my own salad dressing (one I love right now is just nuts, frozen mango chunks, basil, salt and pepper in my Nutribullet).



10. Educate yourself. If you're already considering going vegan, be it for a short while or forever, your interest is hopefully piqued by some cold hard facts and not just the fact that it seems to be a "fad". I will share more on this topic in the future, but to give you somewhere to start, please go and visit my newest online obsession (and virtual wannabe bff Dr. Greger) over at Nutrition Facts. NutritionFacts.org is a not for profit website bringing you the latest in nutrition data and research in short, easy to digest videos. I dare you to watch just one. I started watching and about 4 hours later, I decided I wish I had gone to school to be a nutritionist and not an economist (which I didn't end up becoming anyways), because it is just that fascinating. The more I learn about nutrition, the more I want to follow my vegan plan faithfully.

Anyone else vegan, or thinking about giving it a go? I would love to hear any tips or advice you would be willing to share!


7 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing all this info - I don't plan on fully adapting a Vegan (or even Vegetarian) diet - but I'm definitely trying to eat healthier (ongoing struggle - story of my life!!!)

    I wish I had read this 2 months ago - I gave up dairy for a while (to see if it would help with some acne problems I was having)...I found that giving up dairy prevented new breakouts from forming (but it wasn't the source of my acne...)...I'll admit though, once my acne cleared up - I skipped, hopped and jumped right back to dairy LOL! It's crazy how integrated it is in my life - cheese on my egg white omelet, in my morning coffee, yoghurt in my drinks or snacks, milk in my porridge.

    One tip I learned when I made the switch from dairy to almond milk in my porridge was: cinnamon makes everything taste better LOL!

    Am going to try incorporate more smoothies and porridge and salads into my diet...and beans too.

    I look forward to more posts like this <3

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    1. You are so right, cinnamon DOES make everything taste better! I just bought a LOAD of it (because it was going on my porridge, in my smoothies, in my lattes, etc) only to find out that the cinnamon I buy (and most prevalent) is not the best out there for you. Cassia cinnamon is the most readily available, and is not good for you unless used sparingly. I'm trying to get my hands on the much healthier Ceylon variety. Will let you know if I come across any in Canada!

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  2. Big change, Jen! In an absolutely non-judgmental, just curious way, I'm wondering why you're ready to stay in it for the long haul. Have you noticed big changes in your energy level, general health, etc? I am quite certain I will never give up cheese or eggs and therefore become a vegan, however, I love fruits and veggies and eat a ton of them so I'll be looking forward to seeing how your new food lifestyle shapes up in the recipe department :) I'm especially excited to check out that chocolate bat source. Totally a "duh!" moment for me too!

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    1. Hello there! It is a BIG change - especially being vegetarian since I used dairy (mostly eggs and cheese) as a substitute for meat. My general health certainly went through some changes, but overall results are very positive. I have a lot to say about my reasons for staying vegan, so will have to wait for that post (too much to explain in just one comment!). Definitely try out the chocolate! Such a brilliant idea!

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  3. Personally, I will never become anywhere close to 100% vegan. It's just not for me. I did give it a try for a few days years ago, and the change in my energy levels was amazing, but it wasn't a long term change for me. It seems like you're taking a smart approach in your transition by adding in a supplement just in case, and not trying to recreate your favourite foods with substitutions (that's expensive anyway). I wish you the best, hopefully this is a positive change for you.

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    1. Good for you for giving a go! I certainly don't think it's for everyone. My carnivore of a husband thinks I'm crazy. The only message I want to get out there (if there was one) is just for people to eat more fruits, veggies, nuts, and beans. Whole foods. Good foods. Grown on earth and not from a package foods. If people can do that, and still enjoy some meat, I'm a happy camper. I know most of us tuned into the internet and blogs have a greater sense of nutrition, but there's such a lack of information out there, that I'm always happy to spread the word. I have some (in my opinion) exciting ideas in terms of food, that taste good, are nutritious, and SO CHEAP!

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  4. My hubby and I are on round 2 of attempting a semi vegan lifestyle. Round one this is what we ate: http://www.discoverystreet.net/2012/06/what-we-ate.html

    We are trying to just be healthier and cut down on animal products in our diet...our goal isn't to become vegan, but to eat better...I think we're doing great the second time around as well! here is our second round update!
    http://www.discoverystreet.net/2012/10/recipe-quinoa-stuffed-acorn-squash.html

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Thanks so much for your comment! You made my day :)