The good news is, spring is springing. Most of the snow has dissolved, except for a few dirty icebergs in the parking lots, and we've had quite a bit of sun this last week, as well as a day when it was over 60 degrees. I have seen enough people in shorts on the 30 degree days that followed to realize that it's not just me that is ready to say goodbye and good riddance to Old Man Winter this year. It's like we got a taste of the good weather and we refuse to give it up! That means the local farmers' markets will be coming soon. I've done a CSA in the past, but I think I'm going to skip it again this year. It's kind of hard to tell what you will get, and I don't want to see another giant bag of beets. I think CSA shares are a great idea for some people, but for me, nothing beats actually seeing the selection and choosing for yourself. Plus, I'm a control freak. (John nods.)
The last bit of fantastic, amazing, super-awesome news, which is probably the number one thing that inspired me to get back on my blog is that (drumrolllllllll.......) my mom and stepdad have decided to go vegetarian! Yay! Cartwheels! My mom is a bit of a reluctant meat-eater to begin with, and she has always been right on board with the way John & I eat, but my stepdad, who never met a pork product he wouldn't love to grill up, is the shock of the century, and it was actually his idea. They are young (early/mid-50's) and in excellent shape, but in the last year or so, I guess they have been having some stomach issues and generally feeling kind of not great. When John & I visited last year, our appearances and moods really made an impression on stepdad James, and apparently made him start thinking about what we are doing and why it might be a really good thing. Hearing this really made me feel so happy, because I try very hard not to be a vegangelical, but I do want to help people make the right choices (for themselves, the animals, and the world). I guess I can't do any better than Mahatma Gandhi: "Be the change you want to see in the world." (I even have that quote on a t-shirt.) I am always open to discussing my diet and life choices with anyone who is interested, but I think because I don't look like a typical vegan stereotype that other people want to look like, I'm not sure that my message gets across that well. People don't usually want to give up a lot of their favorite foods and still be fat. But this made me realize that the people who know me do see a big difference in me, and they want to know what the secret is. Probably all of this sounds a little self-important, and for that, I apologize, but I am trying to be very honest, whether it's good or bad.
Understandably, my mom has a lot of questions and is looking for some advice on how to make this lifestyle change. I've managed to bully her into giving up dairy in addition to meat, since I think dairy and digestive systems are mortal enemies (especially for my family), and she will be trying a few weeks gluten-free as well to clear out her system and then reintroduce later to find out if there is an issue there for her. At the moment, she may keep eggs in her diet, as she gets them from her own chickens, and they may eat fish once in a while as well. In addition to those concerns, she works a full-time job and weekdays mean quick and packable breakfast, lunch and snacks, and mostly quick and easy dinners. James is a truck driver and is really only home a couple days a week on average, so he presents even more challenges and I'm honestly going to admit, I'm not sure how to handle that yet. If anyone has any advice or ideas, I'd be happy to hear it. With their challenges in mind, I came up with some general advice as well as a quick & dirty meal plan that I think will be helpful to them, but also to anyone who wants to try eating low-fat vegan and feels overwhelmed. I am going to include my general advice and post my meal plans in segments here on the blog, and I'd love to hear any additional suggestions that people may have, especially for those of you who may be vegans who live in the boonies and don't have easy access to a big, well-stocked supermarket.
- Get a reference book that gives you the science behind the diet. There are a number of books that were very informative to me in this regard, including The China Study, Eat to Live, and even Skinny Bitch. If you are worried about your ability to meet nutritional requirements, Becoming Vegan is a good choice, but I didn't read it until after I already had some experience with eating as a vegan. (Just as a disclaimer, I'm not making any money off of recommending these books.)
- Use the internet! Vegan blogs are insanely awesome in showing you what you are gaining rather than what you are giving up, and you can get a lot of good information on making the transition to vegan by reading how others have handled it. Both the ups and the downs. You do have to be somewhat selective in your choices and have the ability to not believe everything you read. But there is at least as much good as bad out there.
- Don't be an all or nothing person. If you end up eating something that you had decided you weren't going to include in your diet, don't beat yourself up. Use it as a learning experience. How did it make your body feel? Did you notice a difference in your digestion? Your skin? Your fatigue level? Maybe you didn't. Maybe you did. Either way, you just found something out about yourself, and there is no reason to feel guilty.
- Get a good all purpose vegan cookbook that uses ingredients that are familiar and easy to find, at least for the most part. Once you are good and ready, there are a ton of great cookbooks on the market, but if you can start with something that gives a good overview of the basics, you will feel more comfortable with your transition. I am not trying to play favorites because I love all my cookbooks, but if I had to choose a couple that fit this category well, they would be How It All Vegan, The Happy Herbivore Cookbook, or Veganomicon (my mom bought Happy Herbivore, which I do think is the best choice for her based on her location and her particular needs, and again, I made no money recommending these).
Simple Breakfast Plan
Disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist, and all I know about nutrition is what I've learned from eating vegan and reading about eating vegan. This plan is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor or to cure or treat any disease. It's meant to be a simple guide to make meal-planning easier for a new vegan, and I wrote it as off-the-cuff as I could to preserve simplicity. Please note that as she is going to be going gluten-free for several weeks, she will be choosing gluten-free options based on my suggestions, which are not gluten-free in and of themselves.
- Lowfat granola or other cereal with non-dairy milk (almond, hemp, coconut, or soy)
- Oatmeal made with water or non-dairy milk (may include mix-ins like nuts/nut butter, maple syrup, agave nectar, fruit, applesauce, non-dairy chocolate chips)
- Toast with fruit spread, nut butter and fruit
- Breakfast burrito/wrap (a tortilla filled with leftover tofu/veggie scramble, or nut butter and banana, or non-dairy cream cheese and jam or berries)
- Fresh fruit or fruit salad
- Non-dairy yogurt parfait (coconut or soy yogurt layered with fresh fruit and granola)
- Tofu scramble (include lots of veggies for extra nutrition)
- Tofu frittata
- Non-dairy, egg-free waffles, pancakes or crepes
- Breakfast potatoes (with onions, peppers, and mushrooms if you like)
So, taking into account my mom's likes, which I am fairly familiar with, those are my recommendations for vegan breakfasts, especially for a beginner. And now that I've written a completely picture-free wall of text, which I expect will have multiple comments of TL;DR, I am going to sign off, with the promise that at the very least, I will come back soon to post lunch and dinner ideas. If you read all the way to the end, thank you. The cookies are in the mail. :)