When I was 50, I said goodbye to all dairy, eggs, bread, pasta, and white/wheat flour products and converted my vegetarian status to vegan. I’d been flirting with the idea for years ’cause it fit my way of thinking. I’d already proven that I didn’t need to consume flesh to be healthy. So, it seemed logical to take the next step and clean up my nutrition even more.
That was five years ago. I became the vegan I wanted to become. My weight nose-dived
under a steady regimen of beans, nuts, and some tofu for protein, plenty of fresh and frozen fruits and veggies and limited amounts of starchy potatoes and rice – parlaying those staples into bean/lentil burgers, smoothies, stir-fries, soups, casseroles, plus veggie cheese whenever I needed a cheesy moment.
I felt great! I was running more then so coupled with my exclusive vegan nutrition program, I dropped one whole dress size and went from medium to small in my nursing uniforms. I was ecstatic!
But was I healthy?
I was doing everything right: eating all the right foods daily, without snacking on Doritos and Munchos (my favorite salt resources), boiling an egg for my salad, or having my own homemade quesadillas – that I’d make for my grandchildren – because of my no bread products rule. But I didn’t feel healthy – in my mind. Physically I was giving my body everything it was supposed to have and supplementing with vitamins just to make sure. But even after two years of vegan nutrition, of nixing all the foods that were supposed to be bad for my body, my mind still wanted an omelette once in a while, or a random, single-serving bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos. I felt unbalanced. How could I hope to continue on this vegan journey if I kept craving the foods that I really
loved? Oh, I’d found some vegan-friendly salt substitutes like Beanitos to snack on. Delicious! And Google is loaded with vegan-friendly ways of creating banana bread using oatmeal flour, and omelettes using silken tofu and nutritional yeast. But healthy to me means mind AND body, and my mind was telling me that I didn’t need to be vegan to be healthy. Then I found Peta’s “Accidentally Vegan” list here, which verified my thoughts.
Processed vegan nightmare
See, for me being a vegan wasn’t just about protecting the animal’s health by eating animal-free food, it’s about protecting my health too. Peta’s list detailed a wide variety of foods that are vegan friendly: Lay’s potato chips, Fritos, Doritos (not the Ranch flavor), and a host of cereals, condiments, and drinks. If I added the foods on the Peta list to my vegan program, I’d definitely have variety in eating, but I’d be back to square one with too much salt, too much sugar, and and too much fat in my diet. And if a vegan diet allows that, what’s the point of being a vegan?
So, I left the vegan family and brought cheese, eggs and bread back into my life. And just in the nick of time! My client taught me how to make challah – super delicious
bread made with yeast and egg. I’m finding that being labeled a vegan was easier – as long as I stuck with the basics: beans, fruits, veggies, oats and nuts – I could eat what I want and overeat if I wanted to (except with the nuts). Now it’s more work: on portion control, limiting processed foods, and watching salt and fat.
But I feel healthier.