Going... Going... Gone Vegan!

Back in February I watched some alarming videos about the food industry and how genetic engineering, portion sizes, and food processing have changed over the last few decades. This post is a follow-up to describe why we've taken the plunge and been fat-free non-processed vegan since March.

Let me state for the record that I grew up next to a dairy farm, and if I had to draw you a map of my favorite meaty dishes from all over Europe and the Americas, it would look like this: It is true, as a German, I have had my fair share of Schnitzel and Currywurst. And you can bet your sweet tooth that my weekend breakfasts in Scotland involved rashers, not to mention the odd bacon-butty with HP's brown sauce on the go if I was late for class. I don't remember eating much meat in London, but that's because I was poor and London was expensive. Not sure if there's an "economic vegetarian" to the list, but I digress.

Barcelona was a lot more about the sea food, like gambas al ajillo, dorada a la sal, or any variation including melt-in-your-mouth chicken thighs on paella - all of them doused in litres of olive oil. In the Canary Islands we had a barbecue at least once a month, and my mother-in-law is the Queen of Bistec - the thinly pounded, well oiled and begarlicked version of Schnitzel. The tacos in Mexico had perfectly seasoned carne asada machacada on them, and let's not even talk about the menudo.

Where was I?

Ah yes, trying to make a point that I do believe humans have teeth that can gnaw meat off a bone for a reason. I grew up as I'm sure many of you did having to drink the milk and eat the meat. In fact, when I told my parents I no longer do that, they started fearing for my health. Right after seriously questioning my sanity.

Plenty of meat-eaters live long, healthy, productive lives and never have any problems. Going vegan is a lifestyle choice (unless you have lactose intolerance or other allergies, of course) and just because there's plenty of evidence linking meat and dairy to serious health issues right now, doesn't mean science won't find something wrong with veganism eventually. After reading up on some of the most prevalent objections, however, I've decided it can't hurt.

In very simplified terms, we now get our protein needs filled from broccoli, brown rice, and other plant-based sources. Most vitamins are covered with fruit, vegetables, and salad: except B12, which you can get from fortified nutritional yeast. Those flakes taste great on pizza (instead of cheese) or over popcorn. To help the body absorb certain nutrients, we get our fats from olives, avocados, nuts, and seeds. As for variety, yeah, we repeat our favorite meals, but then again - that's what we did when they still contained meat as well.

Six weeks into the new diet, we had our blood chemistry checked by our physician: there were no deficiencies, and all areas like blood sugar, cholesterol, and insulin were at optimum healthy levels.

I've been baking (something I didn't do before) and substituting butter with apple sauce. My favorite snack these days is a thick warm out of the oven slice of home-made bread with mile-high home-made hummus and a bunch of grapes.

Jack Canfield said, "99 % is a bitch, 100 % is a breeze" meaning it's easier to stick to something completely without making exceptions. The all-or-nothing approach worked best for me when I gave up cigarettes, and this time, too. Once we decided to go vegan, we finished the food we had in the house and then didn't buy any more chips, oil, or other processed, fat, meat or dairy-containing stuff. Having a cheesy pizza or tiramisu is simply no longer an option. We needed to re-read many labels to check for sneaky chemicals and dairy, but that's easily done.

The first few days I went through Coke Zero withdrawal headaches, but here's what makes it easier to stick to eating healthy: After about a week, you'll notice your digestion improving. I got compliments on my skin looking better after about a month. In other numbers, my husband lost 45 lbs in 3 months. I gained 4. This is where there may be a half a percent non-breezy: we found certified vegan dark chocolate and organic Sauvignon Blanc. What's a girl to do?

Yes, it is expensive to go to Whole Foods and buy organic, but since we no longer eat out and take our lunches to work, food expenses are the same as before. Food preparation takes a little more planning, but having one big cooking session with batches of grains or legumes done in a pressure cooker to then store them in the fridge or freezer until needed is easy-peasy. For recipe ideas, we use the Forks over Knives cookbook and www.fatfreevegan.com.

If you're considering going vegan but wondering if you could EVER live without ___ (fill in the blank), I say give it a try. Don't over-think it, just make the decision and see what happens. We walk past the stuff we used to by in the shops without a problem, not missing or craving anything.

Let's see how easy it will be to keep this up at the end of the year when we visit our families in Europe. I guess I'll be having more of the potatoes and sauerkraut in Germany, and a potaje de berros and grilled veggies in Spain. What do you think?

Photo found on nutritionistics.wordpress.com