Let me preface this post by saying that I am not neurotic about the way I eat, but I am conscious about what I put in and on my body. There are people who have questioned my happiness due to my food choices – they think I am miserable because I am so restrictive. In reality, I have never been happier or healthier. I LOVE to eat and in my free time I’m experimenting with new recipes or just throwing random things together. I feel blessed to have found out the knowledge early on and realize now that my earlier choices weighed me down physically, mentally, and emotionally. To some, I may come off as being “preachy,” but the way I see it is that I’m passing on what I’ve learned….I, in no way, expect anyone to fully follow what I share, but I do hope to broaden some horizons.
As I’ve mentioned earlier, I have been faced with many questions and comments regarding veganism or the raw food diet. People want to know how to start a vegan diet, what to eat, or how to stick with it. One of the biggest comments I hear from people when they find out how I eat – “I tried being vegan for a while, but I missed cheese too much.” Or, “my body couldn’t take it.” Usually I just nod and say, “at least you gave it a shot.” What I want to say to anyone looking to change their diet is…..baby steps. When you dive head first into a new diet, you shock your system. By eliminating one thing at a time, you avoid setting yourself up for failure. I’ve heard so many stories of frustration because people miss certain foods or crave something they shouldn’t be eating. It’s ok to give in every now and then to a craving. Eventually you will notice a change in your body and the way you feel – you will also begin to feel how certain foods effect you (good and bad). I have to share a quick story about my early days of being vegan….
My husband and I made the decision pretty much overnight to eliminate all animal products (we were already vegetarian)….so we knocked out eggs, milk, cheese, etc. About a week or two later we were both craving an Oberweis milkshake (for those of you who live near one, you know what I’m talking about). We gave in and splurged on a mint chocolate chip shake….it was so good, but our bodies sure paid the price. Both of us had horrible stomach pains, bloating, and felt extremely weighed down. Needless to say, that was our last experience with dairy or any animal product. We never wanted to feel that way again. Sure, we still get that sweet tooth or a craving for a shake, but now we know how to make a healthy raw version….no guilt whatsoever.
As far as the baby steps….
How about dedicating one day a week to be completely veggie? If you can accomplish that, increase it to a few days a week! I promise you, you’ll notice a change in the way you feel!
Get rid of your canola oil, vegetable oil, safflower oil, etc and only use raw virgin coconut oil and/or extra virgin olive oil.
If you love to bake, replace your eggs for banana, homemade applesauce, chia ‘egg’ or flax ‘egg’.
You can replace your dairy milk with fresh nut milk (hazelnut or almond) or hemp milk. It is so quick and easy to make, especially if you have a high-speed blender. Just throw in some nuts and water, blend on high until smooth and frothy. Then pour through a nut milk bag to remove the pulp. You will be amazed at how creamy it is! If you don’t own a blender, there are some decent store-bought nut milks, but watch out for the added sugar and carrageenan. When in a pinch, we buy Trader Joe’s brand unsweetened almond milk (can be found in the refrigerated section).
Since cheese seems to be a big factor in going raw or vegan….if you’re going to eat any “cheese” alternatives, I recommend Daiya or We Can’t Say it’s Cheese. Neither of them contain gluten, soy, or bad oils….and they actually melt like real cheese. We were completely hooked on both of them for quite a while early on, but when we went mostly raw, there wasn’t a need for them anymore. Today we make our own cheeses and sauces with very few ingredients and all raw. For example, to make a raw parmesan cheese, all you need is raw cashews, sea salt, and garlic….or for a really good raw cheese sauce all you need is raw tahini, nutritional yeast, sea salt, water (or fresh nut milk), and seasonings!
I highly recommend investing in a good blender and a dehydrator. Having these two tools will open your options up immensely! You can make raw breads, burgers, granola, cookies, and much, much more!
Check out books from the library for motivation and inspiration! You’ll be amazed at how many books there are on the topic. Michael Pollan is my favorite – any of his books are great reads.
It is also a good idea to plan your meals and bring your lunch to work….to avoid temptations of fast food. We go grocery shopping once a week with ideas in mind of what to make and that has helped us to stick to a healthy diet and a budget.
If you’re still not sold on the idea of going vegan or raw, here are some links to check out the health benefits and effects on the environment. I’ve also included a site on steps to a healthier you!
If you’re looking for veg-friendly place to eat in your area, here’s a great site: http://www.happycow.net/browse.html