Sunday, February 17, 2013
I am on day 46 (+/-) of eating vegan. As I've said before, I am not doing this to become a vegan. I am doing it to make more room in my diet for higher quality foods, namely vegetables, fruit and plant-based proteins.
I have tried many times in the past to improve the quality of my diet but have always focused on what meat/poultry/fish to start my meal with. I'd decrease the size of that protein and increase the vegetables. By eliminating animal-based proteins (and dairy) it has forced me to deal 100% with the things that I tend to avoid - vegetables.
So far so good. I have fewer cravings. I don't feel deprived. I haven't followed the vegan diet 100% (and probably never will) but it has been surprisingly easy.
Last night we ate at a typical restaurant where the fare included burgers, sandwiches, steak, chicken and a few salads for those who want something lighter. We were meeting friends, so I didn't have much control over where we ate. The closest thing I could get to vegan was a salad. There were fried mushrooms, fried green tomatoes and fried onion rings that were probably vegan but the nutrition of the vegetables was certainly lost in the frying process. Ha! So I had a salad with grilled chicken on top.
The salad arrived and it was such a disappointment. Iceberg lettuce, a few mealy chopped tomatoes, a little shredded cheese, a few olives and a dry grilled chicken breast. In the past, this salad would have delighted me because it's low- fat and includes vegetables. I would have felt like a diet champion. And truly, it is a good food choice given the array of fried, oil-based and fatty foods that were on the menu. I could have requested it without chicken or cheese to be vegan but I felt like I needed a protein for it to be more satisfying.
Since I've begun investigating vegan/vegetarian, I've been eating far fewer salads. Salads used to be a nightly "vegetable" for me. They were a way for me to choke down my vegetables after eating yummy chicken or beef or fish. But the reality is the kind of salads I was eating - Romaine lettuce, tomatoes and dressing and occasionally cucumbers - was devoid of nutrition. They were low-cal yes but they didn't have much fiber or any other nutrients. And they took a lot of work. In the last week alone I've had - broccoli, potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, tomatoes, onions, green peppers, roasted red peppers, zucchini and more. And no salads.
Last night's salad-for-dinner was a disappointment. There was a time when last night's dinner would have been a victory. And for some diets, it is. But for the stage I'm in right now, it was a non-meal. It was a little salad with a small chicken breast on top. A little water with a little protein and fat. Since going mostly vegan, I eat A LOT of food now. Most of it is nutrient dense, so I can eat a lot more of it. I don't worry about portions (at least not yet. Maybe that will come.)
It's amazing how my go-to vegetable dish, the unassuming salad, has now become a non-food to me. And it's not a non-food because I am leaning more on meat, chicken or fish. It's a non-food because I have discovered other vegetables that taste better and are far more satisfying. THAT is a victory for me.
This isn't a perfect journey but for now I am glad I have given the vegan diet a chance. This is the first time when I've been able to eat mostly vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes and not feel deprived.
And the journey continues...