My Challenges of Going Plant-Based

I am shocked, the New York Times has an article titled The Challenge of Going Vegan today. First, I hate labels. I feel that calling myself “vegan” carries a negative connotation with it and immediate affiliation with PETA. I do however like to tell others I am “living plant strong” or “I eat a plant based diet.” Regardless of what you call me I can relate to the challenges of “going vegan” but not for some of the silly points in the article.

Use any search engine and type in “vegan recipes” or “vegetarian recipes” and one of the first things you will notice, the use of dairy, soy, tofu and most damaging, oil in vegan cooking. The common misconception is that vegan cooking is healthier. In my experience (all of 5 months) it can be, but continuing to cook with dairy and oil can be counterproductive and will continue to promote cancer and heart disease. See my article I wrote last month called Fat Vegans.

Next, I don’t get a shit which celebrity or athlete are “singing the benefits of a vegan diet.” It’s seems to be make headlines when some star promotes a vegan lifestyle. Following what these people do is ridiculous. If you want to change your diet…you lifestyle, then you do it for YOUR reasons, not because your favorite soap opera star did it.

It’s nice to see The China Study mentioned in the article. In my opinion this book should be a must read for EVERY American! While the article cites “meat consumption as the social cultural norm” it’s never too late to take health into your own hands and start living to eat. It’s not easy making a switch to a plant-based diet. In my case I gave myself a 3 month transition period in order to gain more knowledge and learn how to cook without meat, dairy and oil.

Unfortunately the articles fails when they begin citing “expensive” soy products. Personally, I think it’s wrong for those who are carnivores to immediate think soy and tofu are the alternatives to beef and chicken. They aren’t. In 5 months I have probably bought two soy products, these are not a staple in my “vegan” lifestyle.

When it comes to price I will also disagree with the article. I find my family and I are saving money when we go to the market. Why? We aren’t needed to pay for meat and dairy products, which quickly add it. It’s great to roll though those departments. I find that I can spend less and buy more when it comes to vegetables, legumes and tubers. The nice thing is being able to buy in bulk. We now buy 10 pound bags of potatoes, 8 pounds of onions, 5 pounds of pinto beans and 5 pounds of couscous, just as an example.

Being socially accepted has probably been the most difficult part. In my opinion, why should anyone care how or what I eat? They shouldn’t. I am now to the point where I will accept the comments and jokes are continually directed to me. Cooking for friends can be difficult. While I haven’t hosted a dinner party for carnivores, I have taken a few dishes to parties and many have times I have come how with no leftovers. People have commented on my three bean salad and tri-colored couscous salad. These are great dishes that can accompany any meal. I can guarantee the potato enchiladas I make would fill even the fiercest carnivore I know. Still many are under the misconception they need to eat meat to survive.

As for making a lifestyle change, I can’t call it a diet because it’s so much more than “just a diet” you must do it for YOUR reasons, not to be socially accepted. After learning, should I relearning nutrition and educating myself on what promotes heart disease and cancers making the decision to give up meat, dairy and oil wasn’t difficult. I mentioned a 3 month transition period earlier, this allowed me “break the rules” and still feel good that I am following a lifestyle that will promote a healthier lifestyle. Meat and oil were easy to give up, dairy was more difficult.

I found giving up cheese to be the hardest food to do without. I love the smell and taste of the wide varieties of cheese, which I would use in many dishes from pasta to casseroles. One thing I have learned, the use of substitutes for plant-based cooking. Now I use nutritional yeast combined with other ingredients to a make cheese sauce. Sure, its’t NOT real cheese, but after a few months it takes on a cheesy flavor. The longer I go without eating meat, cheese and oil, the more I enjoy my culinary experiences from the real flavors of the foods and spices I cook with.

While I would love to see everyone making the switch to a plant-based lifestyle, I know that will never happen. The meat and dairy industry back the USDA, who set the nutritional guidelines to keep Americans fat and unhealthy. It’s really a sad state of affairs when the nutritional guideline set are promoting a very unhealthy lifestyle. Not sure I will live to see a day where plant-based, whole grain lifestyle is the norm, but I am grateful I found it after 42 years. It’s never too late to start and the change doesn’t have to take place overnight.

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