Vegan Living Recap

As many of you may remember, I made a New Year’s Resolution to go vegan. For the past two month, my trail run has been a success and I have had many people ask me “how do you like being vegan?” so I thought I would do some reflecting on this question.

From this experience, I have learned to

  • Try new foods– My vegan experience has allowed me to try a variety of new and exotic foods that I may not have otherwise ever tried. A few of these foods include Swiss chard, dandelion greens, tempeh, seitan, almond milk, coconut milk, spelt, oat flour, Earth Balance butter, mirin, arrowroot powder, soy yogurt, and coconut ice cream bars. I really came to love some of these foods (coconut ice cream bars and Earth Balance), while others I was less thrilled about (soy yogurt and coconut milk). But the only way to find new foods you like is to try it all!
  • Try new recipes – I have purchased a few wondergul vegetarian/vegan cookbooks and magazines these past two months (including Eat Drink and Be Vegan, Clean Food, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, and Vegetarian Times), which I have become more than pleased with. I absolutely love the recipes from these sources; some of my favorites include Chocolate Chia Energy Bars and Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies!
  • Buy bulk foods – I have become completely obsessed with the bulk bins at my local Whole Foods. I love the variety and the opportunity to buy as much or as little of what I want at a time. I have especially grown fond of trying a new granola and trail mix every time I go grocery shopping! I have also discovered my favorite berry, the gooseberry, from this experience (more on this later!). It’s been fun trying all the new healthy foods available on the market.
  • Read ingredient labels – The most important thing that I am taking away from this experience is my new awareness of the ingredient labels on foods. From reading the ingredient labels in more detail than I used to, I discovered a number of foods containing milk and egg ingredients that you would never expect. Not only did this surprise and bother me, but I also found that some of the foods I used to buy contain extremely strange chemical ingredients. For example, does my peanut butter really need corn syrup or yellow No. 5? Peanuts, oil, and salt alone will suffice. As my days of ingredient label reading progressed I not only became concerned with whether or not the product contained animal products, but I began contemplating every ingredient on the list deciding if it was really something I wanted to put in my body.
  • Order carefully at restaurants – This was probably my biggest struggle as my boyfriend, friends, and family love going out to lunch and dinner on weekends to relax and break free from home. I did my best to select foods that, based on the menu description, sounded “vegan” but was never a stickler to the waitress about requesting meal items that were strictly vegan – for my purposes I didn’t find that necessary. I enjoyed having to think about exactly what was going into the food I ordered rather then choosing a menu item on impulse just because I was starving. I also liked how I found myself contemplating whether or not I really needed cheese on my salad or sandwich, something which I think everyone should do now and again.
  • Seek out new restaurants – During these past two months I have discovered restaurants that offer a variety of vegetarian and vegan options. Two of my favorites include Karyn’s Cooked (a cozy casual vegan restaurant in the city), and Raw (a vendor at the French Market in the Ogilvie Metra station that sells some of the most incredible raw desserts I have ever tasted!).

So what now?

I think my time of being a strict vegan is slowly coming to an end. I miss things like Greek yogurt for breakfast.  fresh mozzarella cheese on my homemade pizzas, and grilled salmon. As a future dietitian I feel that eliminating major food groups from my diet is doing a disservice to my clients; I want to be open-minded to all foods, try new things, and be able to make the best recommendations to people searching for the perfect diet.

But I wouldn’t give back the experience of going vegan for the world. It has opened my eyes to so many new things and I have learned more from it then I ever imagined I would. There are many things that I am taking away from this experience that I will, without a doubt, continue to do. I will still read ingredients carefully and choose only whole, natural ingredients to fuel my body with. I will continue to obsess over the bulk bins at Whole Foods and try new exotic foods. I will still eat meals with tofu, tempeh, and seitan as I have grown to love these protein sources. I will still cook vegan recipes time and again – there is something irresistible about cookies without eggs. And I will definitely still dine at Karyn’s Cooked and purchase the mouthwatering vegan desserts from Raw.

Will I resort to eating meat again? Maybe occasionally. I have always led a primarily vegetarian lifestyle and have never really been a big meat eater. However, I would be open to cooking recipes with the right meat from the right market ensuring it was humanely raised, grass fed, and not part of a revolting concentrated animal feeding operation (if you are unsure about what I am talking about, watch the film Food Inc.). On this note, I actually came across the Eat Well Guide at where you can find vendors, grocery stores, and restaurants near you that sell and serve local, organic produce and anti-biotic free, grass-fed meats products.

Overall my vegan experience has been nothing but positive. I would definitely recommend trying a trial vegan lifestyle if you feels you need a push towards truly assessing the foods that you are putting in your body. Take the time to think about the food you eat and the source from which it came. Doing so will help you make the most nutritious food choices to support your healthy lifestyle!

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