Vegan-ish

I love food. Baking. Cooking. Eating. Seeking out the best doughnut and the tastiest quiche.

But starting in November, I’ve been trying something new in my approach to food. After years of dabbling in Weight Watchers or trying just to limit sugar / eat more veggies / cut back on cheese, I’m taking a new perspective and trying Mark Bittman’s Vegan Before 6 (aka VB6) diet / lifestyle.

My coworker Theresa turned me onto the idea, and now my mom and aunt and I have all adopted different versions of it. The basic idea is just as it sounds – eat vegan until dinner each night, and avoid processed food and white sugars / carbs when possible. Eat whatever you want for dinner (which doesn’t mean eating until you’re sick, but it does mean you can have steak and fries if that’s what’s calling your name). The basis is that vegan food is better for lots of bodies and also better for our environment, but eating is also a highly social experience and any lifestyle that doesn’t recognize that and give you soon room to adapt to it is ultimately doomed to fail.

Unlike going totally vegan, this means that you can still just as easily digest milk and meat and whatnot when you do want them – that part of cutting something out of my diet never appealed to me (if I want ice cream, I don’t want it to come with an immediate stomachache). But it also means that for 3/4 of the day, you’re eating vegetables and grains and other whole foods.

The best part: it’s super easy to stick to. Yes, it means more oatmeal. But it also means that if I really love eggs (which I DO), I just eat them for breakfast and look forward to them starring in that meal. Dinner is just as easy – you can make a delicious meal with a side of meat / cheese and then just eat it without that piece for lunch the next day (like James’s delicious black bean soup mom and I made over Thanksgiving!). And because it’s flexible by its very nature and meant to be a sustainable lifestyle rather than a plan, if you decide that brunch is your non-vegan meal of the day or find that you need to make some swaps based on business travel restrictions (see last post), you don’t have to feel guilty, as some other tracking programs would have you do.

Mark Bittman said that when he moved to this model, it changed his perspective on life – he stopped just writing recipes and started writing more about food policy and production. And I can see it. By changing how I look at cooking and eating and dining out, it makes me want to focus on other, more interesting parts of my life – my guitar! Exploring new neighborhoods! Calling my friends who don’t live in Boston when I would otherwise be slaving over the stove!

It’s also opened my eyes up to how hard true vegans and vegetarians have it in mainstream food options. I was at the airport, looking for a healthy snack to take on the plane, and my only options were nuts or bananas. Not even an apple to be seen, or anything that wasn’t yogurt-based or a baked pastry. Or the time that we ordered pho and all the broth was chicken-based, or when wanting no egg in my pad thai meant that I couldn’t have any of the dozen lunch specials. It makes me want to cheer on people who serve almond milk along with the soy, or who offer tofu scrambles as an alternative to other breakfast items.

After doing this for a month, I feel better, lighter, and more free when it comes to what I eat, despite this new restriction. It makes me think – what do I really WANT now? That’s led to me leaving Bloody Marys sitting on the bar when it wasn’t the right thing for me, or spending more money to get two small vegetarian sides as a meal because nothing else was clicking.

Stay tuned for more vegan recipes ahead and other culinary adventures. If you have any awesome suggestions for vegan meals, please send them my way! And if you thought you could never be vegan, just wait until you hear about the muffins I made yesterday!

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