While researching healthy eating plans for a weight-loss focused issue of Natural Foods Merchandiser, I couldn't ignore the mounting evidence in support of a meat-free diet. I knew that vegans and vegetarians have significantly lower rates of cardiovascular disease, breast and colon cancers and type 2 diabetes, but I didn't know how many doctors, registered dieticians and naturopaths recommend ditching animal products all together. In fact, it was hard to find an expert who supported regular meat consumption at all. This information, coupled with an interview with Rip Esselstyn, author of The Engine 2 Diet, and plenty of encouragement from meat-free friends, led me to try a vegan diet starting Jan. 1.
Because I'm a food editor, I gave myself leniency with the new program. I do eat animal products when called to do so for work. When eating out, I stick to vegetarian options. And when I join my grandmother for a meal, who also enjoys fine dining, I enjoy whatever I like without guilt. I liken my rules to those of Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman who both lean vegetarian but do partake in well-sourced, humanely raised meats here and there.
Nearly a month into my plan, I'm finding that cutting animal products is affecting my health in profound ways. I have much more energy in the morning, likely because I'm sleeping more soundly. I don't feel heavy, tired and bloated after I eat, or at all throughout the day. And, now this is a big one, I've stopped craving sugar. You may remember from an earlier post that I have quite the sweet tooth. Now, a few pieces of dried fruit after dinner are enough to satisfy me. I'm honestly not sure why this is, but I'm thrilled!
Another bonus is that because I'm swapping meat and dairy with whole grains, nuts and beans, my grocery bill is significantly lower. And, I've been so impressed by the number of delicious meals that can be made with just vegetables. This weekend I whipped up some black-eyed pea croquettes and dipped them in a blend of brown rice syrup and Dijon mustard. They're like a tastier chicken nugget.
I've met other vegan eaters and meat-free dabblers by attending cooking classes at my local Whole Foods Market and checking out vegan-friendly restaurants, but I'd love to connect with the bigger vegan community.
If you're a vegan or vegetarian, I'd like to hear your story and what's kept you motivated to stay on the diet? Are there blogs and apps you love? What about go-to cookbooks and favorite recipes? Please sound off below.