I never thought I would give up meat, let alone dairy. Cheese, how could I live without cheese? I felt like my body needed meat and dairy. When I tried this route before I failed miserably. I had taught my science students that we are omnivores with dentition for a variety of foods. It seemed like eating sustainably and humanely produced animal products should be fine. The keyword here is sustainably and humanely produced- something the USA is not very good at. They are not widely available and often very expensive.
The tipping point for me to go about a 98% plant-based diet was after I viewed the movie “What the Health” a documentary on Netflix several months ago, right as the pandemic hit. I realized while watching it that some information was taken out of context and exaggerated to a degree. But the vast majority of information jived with what I had investigated already- that large scale animal farming harms the environment and contributes to climate change. It was the focus on the horrible animal cruelty in the industry that ultimately swayed me to make a major change. The cruelty is so horrific that there are laws that prevent filming in chicken, pork, and other meat operations. The industry does not want the public to bear witness to these atrocities. People would quit or reduce their meat consumption instantly. Lastly, there are the health benefits of a plant-based diet. In my later years, this is especially important to me.
Changing ones dietary habits are difficult but I decided to try being a vegan for 30 days. Hey- what better thing to do during a pandemic! Thirty days seemed like a doable amount of time for this experiment. So the day after viewing the movie I started, totally unprepared but determined. I told my spousal equivalent that this was my thing. He had the option to be on board or not. I would, however, make accommodations in my cooking if he wanted a meat option. He opted for full participation.
As I anticipated, my biggest challenge was getting over half and half in my coffee and tea and CHEESE. Cheese is addictive. Cheese happens to be especially addictive because of an ingredient called casein, a protein found in all milk products. During digestion, casein releases opiates called casomorphins. Casomorphins play with the dopamine receptors and trigger that addictive element. Could I give up my vices?
Here are the results of my 30-day transformation from omnivore to herbivore…
It took a week to get over my cravings for meat and dairy, but after that I was fine. Oat milk is a good and healthier substitute for half and half. Some (like Silk “Oat Yeah”)are creamier than others. Though I don’t use it much, there are some fine vegan cheeses out there (I like the Daiya brand).
It’s a great time to be plant-based. I was especially pleased to discover oat milk for half, cashew yogurt, and good cheese. Convincing meat substitutes found in the meat section of the grocery store enabled me to make dishes like spaghetti that tasted almost identical to my original recipe. I found everything from sausage, ground meat to burger patties. Veggie burgers and vegan pizza are available as well.
There are lots of interesting things you can do with tofu and tempeh.
We both have found the foods I have prepared delicious and interesting. Vegan recipes are generally more creative with seasonings and ingredients. Cookie and Kate is one of my favorite sources for recipes as well as Pinterest.
We have both felt satiated with no cravings.
My brain is clearer and my memory has improved.
After a recent blood test, my bad cholesterol is down 20 points and I am no longer in the prediabetic range!
Take time to read some websites or a book before you start.
It pays to be prepared. Stock up on beans, grains, pasta, nuts, frozen vegetables, and seasonings,
Be adventurous with your eating. Try new combinations of foods, condiments, and spices. Don’t be afraid to try tofu and tempeh.
Having a garden helps but if you don’t, have a good source of fresh veggies and fruits. Frozen works well in a pinch.
The meat and dairy lobby has been key in brainwashing the public and influencing the USDA that we need way more protein than we do. The USDA created the food pyramid and “my plate” in accordance with panels of agricultural industry lobbiests.
You don’t need to be all or nothing. After four months we are continuing this way of eating but without the label of VEGAN. That means we enjoy eggs from our neighbors once a week and sometimes sustainably caught wild fish. If sustainably and humanely raised meat, or game meat was offered we would eat it in moderation. If we are invited to someone’s house we will eat the food put before us (with the exceptions to those foods I have food sensitivities to). This is our choice and I will not make others bend over backward because of it. When asked, however, I say that at home we follow a largely plant based diet. Do what you can live with.
What one eats is very personal and can have a lot of emotions tied up with it. Through this journey, I am glad I shattered some of the mythology I have had about my diet. Yes, I can live comfortably without cheese and half & half, I won’t be hungry all the time, I don’t need meat, dairy, and excessive amounts of protein dairy to be healthy and happy. You will give up foods but new ones will take their place.
All things considered though, I feel better physically and emotionally as I know eating as I do now is a better choice for our family, the planet, and a lot of animals! I highly recommend trying your own experiment with more of a plant-based diet.
Also blogging at byalannapass.com