It’s been two weeks since I started my vegan odyssey and it’s been a remarkably easy transition. There have been a few moments of weakness (which I indulged) but the vast majority of what I’ve eaten since early October has been vegan. I’ve even tried out some new recipes that I LOVE and know Louise will love when she comes home from college. (She’s already warned me that she’s going to eat us out of house and home.)
I feel better – lighter. My skin has cleared up. I have lost weight, have more energy and am sleeping better. The one thing I have noticed, however, is that being vegan is NOT convenient. There’s SO much food prep involved and it’s not conducive to an active lifestyle. But I will persist until Halloween.
Recently, I went to a diner with some girlfriends to catch up on old times. This diner has a 10 page menu that contains both diner classics, perpetual breakfast and some innovative and interesting entrees. Nice place to sit and chat. There is nothing on the menu that does not contain animal products except half a melon and cocktails (and even some of them contain cream). Everything else contains dairy, eggs or flesh. You can certainly order something like a salad without the goat cheese or get your sandwich without mayo or cheese, but it was no small source of frustration to not be able to sit down and just eat. Even the menu items “vegetable wrap”, “eggplant panini” and “grilled vegetable quesadilla” contain dairy. Another time, I stopped at a Cumberland Farms store, famished during a long road trip, and there was not a single thing that I was able to eat. Well, I could have gotten a bag of potato chips and a soda, but chose not to go that route. Then, just this week, I went to my local grocery store to buy some whole grain bread and, in the entire aisle, there was only ONE loaf that was vegan. Why is it so hard to find food that contains no animal products?
This morning I made a breakfast scramble with tofu, onion, red bell pepper and tomato. I served it with a small piece of whole grain toast (with non-hydrogenated vegan margarine) and sauteed Yukon Gold potatoes with caramelized onions in olive oil. I drank a small glass of organic pineapple juice and a cup of coffee with coconut milk creamer. It was a delicious, leisurely morning. However, if I am having a grab-and-go morning, my options decrease significantly. A piece of whole grain toast with peanut butter and jam is usually what I manage on workday mornings.
I’m not complaining; I’m observing. It seems to me that a society in which 68% of adults are overweight or obese (and that includes me) should push a health solution that includes eating better. Obviously, you can’t legislate what people put in their mouths. However, you can offer tax breaks and other financial incentives to restaurants, health food stores and grocery stores selling vegan options. Make fruits and vegetables cheaper than potato chips. You shouldn’t be able to buy a box of faux-food Little Debbie cakes for .99, while apples are $2.49 a pound. Apples should be .99 and Little Debbies should be $2.49. ESPECIALLY in our current economic mess, we need to address the fact that it’s expensive to be healthy.
It shouldn’t be. The food industry needs to restructure its pricing to make highly processed, industrial Frankenfood more expensive than low-on-the-food-chain options. This morning I spent 30 minutes preparing a nutritious, delicious breakfast. It cost around $7.50 to make. I could have gone to McDonald’s and gotten a sausage burrito, hash browns and a coffee off the dollar menu. $3 plus tax. However, that “convenient” meal would have fed me with 460 calories, a whopping 26 grams of fat and 13 grams of protein. Instead, my meal contained 370 calories, 11 grams of fat and 16 grams of protein. Had I gone without the margarine on my toast, the counts would be 320 calories, 5 grams of fat and 16 grams of protein. Now why is the cost of my meal more than double that of the McDonald’s Frankenbreakfast? It shouldn’t be.
I realize that I am tilting at windmills here, and that taking on this Goliath would be foolish. However, it is said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. By telling our local stores that we want less processed food, by patronizing markets that sell local food in season, by writing to people in the FDA and the USDA, we can plant seeds that will grow in the future. The future health of humanity depends on feeding it good food today.
Go vegan one day a week. Then stretch it to two or three. If you are an avowed carnivore, start by eating smaller portions of leaner meats. Be open to new tastes and textures. Try it! Nobody ever died by eating fewer Twinkies. However, I’m pretty sure that eliminating Twinkies will help you live longer.
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