The pictures above are just a sample of a few of the meals I have enjoyed while transitioning to a Vegan Diet- Yum! My favorite starchy vegetable is still the sweet potato. My curret favorite spice is tarragon. I am still not a big fan of kale but I can now prepare southern greens as my girls say "all by myself!" Interestingly, our grocery bill has not changed much since meat is the most expensive food to buy and the spice cabinet is now stocked. During the last 5 months I have learned of more and more restaurants catering to this lifestyle in North Texas, including V-Eats, Taco Ocho, Best Thai, LYFE Kitchen, The Loving Hut, and Jeff's Vegan.
I would like to say that after 158 days, I am officially "vegan",... but not so much. Full disclosure- I may need a cookie-anonymous support group. The funny thing is, I was doing great until I made VEGAN cupcakes and VEGAN protein balls with my girls! They were so good and so much fun to make, but boy did my sweet tooth wake up!
Attention all cookie enthusiasts! MY INNER COOKIE MONSTER DOES NOT DISCRIMINATE AGAINST VEGAN COOKIES!
I have also learned that I must read the label! A lot of foods labeled "vegetarian" contain animal products such as milk, cheese or eggs. Sticking to foods labeled vegan or preparing your own meals is the only way to be sure these are not included.
Other lessens I have learned in the last 158 days:
1. "Going vegan" is really what you make it. You can be a "hard-core" vegan, but that would mean I would have to sell my leather couch, leather boots, leather jacket...yeah, I'm not quite there yet- just being honest! I guess I would categorize myself now as "Vegan-ish..."
2. Everyone will NOT drink the Kool-Aid. Sometimes we get so excited and passionate about a change that we can't understand why others are not jumping on the bandwagon. Each one's choice is their own to make. I have figured out ways to decline certain food items without causing offense or spouting off vegan statistics. At the same time, the idea of eating a plant based diet is becoming increasingly popular. My niece and nephew had lots of questions and enjoyed helping me cook this Christmas! I have found the most effective argument is the taste test, so I am building up my repertoire for potlucks and family gatherings.
3. Prepare for the blank stare you will get from waiters and waitresses after asking them to remove meat from a meal. You will repeat this request often, but no matter how you phrase it, the stare always comes! I found knowing which local restaurants have vegan options or asking for a vegetable plate helps tremendously in this area.
4. Cut yourself some slack if and when you miss the mark, especially during the holidays. You won't implode and Santa won't drop a lump of coal into your stocking! Remember, this change is new for you, your friends and your family; there are bound to be some hiccups along the way.
If you know of any other restaurants with tasty vegan options, or have the number to Cookie-Anonymous, please comment below!
Why, you ask, is my daughter making that face while eating one of the most treasured kid foods in America? Alana, my 5 year old, is frowning because the vegan cheese at a local pizzeria DOES NOT look nor taste remotely like real cheese! She really tried to like it, but she just couldn't do it. So began my mission to find a kid's taste-worthy alternative to dairy cheese. We have tried well-known and not so well-known brands of vegan cheese, nut cheeses and soy cheeses but NONE of them have passed the test. A few months ago, we thought we hit the jackpot with "Go Veggie"'s vegetarian mozzarella cheese but, (sigh) it was not vegan. It contained casein, the milk protein that specifically worsens asthma and allergies! There is a vegan "Go Veggie" cheese, but it is not sold anywhere in North Texas and they do not ship! Argh!
Backstory: Before Zari, my 7 yr old, was diagnosed with Asthma this summer, both of my girls ate cheese like it was going out of style! Why? Because cheese is the "go-to" kid food! It was an easy weeknight dinner option, breakfast option, any time of the day option! They ate so much cheese, I referred to them as "my Minnie Mice"! It was cheap, it was a "good source of protein" and I could count on them finishing any meal without any problems! It also however, caused abdominal pain and constipation (who can bear their child crying on the potty?!)
Both my girls were already taking allergy medicine for their eczema and allergies. Alana started taking low dose pepcid for heartburn at the beginning of summer. Things seemed to be controlled until Zari started playing soccer this summer. We decided to take her to their doctor (yes my girls have a great doc who is NOT me!) after she kept asking to be taken out of the game for chest pain. Zari was diagnosed with asthma and began treatment. A few months later after picking up THREE asthma/allergy meds one night, my husband and I decided to make some changes. Could it be the cheese? They don't drink cow's milk and we don't cook with it. Any other exposures to it would be at school or daycare, so we sat them down and explained why we wanted to try stopping cheese for a little while. At first they looked at me like I had 3 heads, but realizing we were serious, they went along with it.
It has been a few months now since we decreased their dairy cheese intake and, though it has been a rocky road, (see picture above) they have survived. Zari broke down only once, actually at the pizzeria shown above. She looked at her sausage pizza with vegan cheese, threw down the slice and sobbed, "I will never, ever, ever, be able to have regular pizza ever again in life!" But now my girls no longer complain about not having cheese. They order plain burgers with ketchup (remember they are NOT vegan!) or tacos with rice, beans and chicken. They actually prefer the spaghetti with veggie meatballs which is spicier than the regular beef ones. Alana no longer has reflux and Zari is weaning off of Flovent!
While they still have traditional pizza once a month at their daycare, it no longer worsens their asthma or allergies and they can still go to the bathroom without straining! No more complaints of abdominal pain! So maybe letting them have it every once in a while will still be sufficient for them to be a "normal American kid" without the "side effects". For Christmas, Zari requested home-made mac 'n cheese. As a show of good faith and appreciation for their willingness to try so many new foods this year, I agreed. Guess what?! Both girls ate only 1 helping! Zari went back for seconds, but she returned with a plate full of veggies- greens and green beans and black eye peas! I think this means their taste buds are changing! (At first I thought it was because I messed up the recipe, but nope- other family members finished off the rest!) What a great Christmas gift!
Alana and Zari though good sports, are VERY vocal in their reviews of dairy foods now. They give thumbs up or thumbs down during a meal...often. If anyone has any recommendations for a healthy replacement for cheese, PLEASE share- I have 2 girls who are all ears!
Yup, that's right! I have decided to eliminate all animal products out of my diet.
I can hear my fellow Texans asking, "but why???" Well, I believe this has been a long time coming actually. Though I am a Texas girl and have had my share of good ol' barbecue chicken, pork and beef as well as plenty of dairy, the short-lived enjoyment of eating those foods inevitably faded as their side effects took over-increase in body weight and abdominal bloating, decrease in energy level and mood!
I have toyed with my fair share of diets and "lifestyle changes" over the years and I have always done better when the diet of the moment was predominately plant based. I don't like deprivation diets- I love to eat- but I have always had to put my mind in a "suspended state of disbelief" when eating meat. It was always harder for me to eat fish that looks like fish or to see meet at a butcher shop- I opted for fillets, nuggets, boneless, skinless- whatever. So, after searching for a way of eating that made sense to me intellectually and physically- a vegan diet is what I found.
I decided to attend the International Conference on Nutrition in Washington, D.C. this summer to increase my knowledge base on the subject. (Physicians get very little if any training in this area of health believe it or not). I wanted to be a better resource for my patients who were on the same journey as I was. I knew there was more to it than a "calories in-calories out" equation. I also knew you can't exercise your way to health, eating an unhealthy diet. I chose this particular meeting because it is held by Dr. Neal Barnard's Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine a group of health care providers focused on providing evidence-based information on the benefits of healthy food on disease prevention and treatment.
For 3 days, I soaked in information from varying well known speakers arguing the case for a whole food, plant-based diet. We discussed peer-reviewed research studies and meta-analyses on the state of obesity and chronic disease in the US, behavioral studies, governmental policy, behavioral effects, food addiction, and even how our gut is connected to our overall health through our food choices. To prove that a whole food-plant based diet was also tasty and filling, we ate only from a vegan menu the entire time! That really made an impression on me. Not only was the food good, but I didn't crave junk food, and I didn't get sleepy in the afternoons! I also saw that I did not have to skimp out on my servings! Veteran Vegans in attendance loaded up their plates and bowls with each meal and seemed to really enjoy the different flavors and textures of the food! There was way more variety of food at this conference than any conference I had ever attended. By the end of that weekend,, my belly was flat and my mind was filled with possibilities...
When I got home, I knew my current cooking and food knowledge would not allow me to dive right in without some preparation, so I started with a pescaterian diet (Vegetarian, + seafood) minus the dairy. Then I began doing more research online and reading books about the Vegan movement. Several books and movies kept coming up in my research- "Forks of Knives", "What the Health?", "Food Inc.", etc. so I decided one day to watch them- all of them- in one afternoon. That pretty much sealed the deal for me. I could not unhear and unsee what was portrayed in those documentaries and coupled with my personal research and the information I learned at the conference, I decided I would adopt a vegan diet.
I am just in the beginning of this transition and really enjoying it. I have cooked more than ever (but not difficult things) which increases my mindfulness and appreciation for the food that I've prepared. I am discovering other people making the same transition and can't help but tell anyone who wants to listen what I am doing! I can still have chocolate, chili, pizza, burgers, etc. I just have made an adjustment- no meat/dairy. At first I thought it would be tough, but now even my daughters are starting to participate (I am in no way forcing them to be vegan however I remove as much dairy out of their diet to decrease the potential effect on their asthma and allergies).
In the end, I want to practice what I preach. Adopting a vegan diet falls right in line with BloomMed's health approach. It gives me the clarity of thought and energy I need to take great care of my patients. I am transitioning to a more eco-friendly way of life and I am making more objective dietary decisions for myself and my family.
In upcoming blogs, I will share updates on my health status, pictures of meals I have prepared and links to videos or websites I have found helpful. Maybe it will inspire someone else to start their own journey towards a healthier and more satisfying life.
What has been your health journey so far? Comment below!
Weeds have no place in a garden. The dandelions in this picture may look pretty to my kiddos, but they're still weeds.
According to Merriam-Webster, a weed is (1): a plant that is not valued where it is growing and is usually of vigorous growth; especially one that tends to overgrow or choke out more desirable plants.
The term "weed" is also used to refer to "an obnoxious growth, thing, or person".
BloomMed's name developed out of the idea that we can care for ourselves like a gardener cares for its most precious plants. People with the best health are intentional, making health a priority. They do not participate in unhealthy lifestyles, like smoking or sitting around. They are active and fill their lives with purpose, fun and interpersonal connections. These people have an amazing resiliency because their bodies and minds have been primed for self repair and healing. Being around them energizes others and encourages them to be their best. On the other hand, unhealthy people may complain of feeling tired, lethargic, and drained. They get sick often, and may not seek out their social connections like they used to, They do not seem to get the same out of life as their more healthy counterparts.
Can you think of some proverbial "weeds" in your life? Keeping in mind the definition Merriam-Webster gave us, what in your life is of little value? What is out of place and yet stealing your ability to do more productive and enjoyable things? Maybe it is a workout that used to motivate you but now only bores you. Perhaps the diet you used to eat, now seems to only add weight to the "bottom line". Maybe it is a friend that encourages unhealthy habits or even a more destructive lifestyle. Or, maybe it is the habit of making excuses and procrastinating, afraid of what lies ahead.
If you are not sure where the weeds are in your life, here are some tips:
1. Identify the dreams you used to have.
Those are your beautiful blooms you planted in the "garden" of potential. This could be your dream profession, completing those last few college courses, having children, going to an overseas country or just having peace in your home. It could mean spending more time with your kids, or competing in America's Ninja Warrior! Maybe it is getting off all those medications your doctor prescribes or not dying from a heart attack like all the other members of your family. Your dreams are as various as there are beautiful plants in nature and they are yours to cultivate!
2. Identify ALL the things that are keeping those plants from flowering.
It seems ridiculous for a marathon runner to go to a restaurant, enjoy a healthy meal full of gorgeous super-foods, then walk outside, light up a cigarette and smoke, right? Of course! Why would we expect to be healthy doing unhealthy things? They just don't go together. It is true the old adage- you are what you eat. If you ingest and breathe in toxins, they become incorporated into your body, affecting chemical processes and enzymes, even turning on and off your genes- You literally will become toxic. But, if you eat healthy things, those same chemical process, enzymes and genes are affected positively, promoting repair and healing. You could become the picture of health!
3. Identify what activities or things consistently drain you and lower your motivation.
Some people complain that when they first start working out, the increased effort drains them. It may do that physically at first, but then they also notice they sleep better and the next day, though their muscles are sore, their mind is more refreshed than before! Does drinking alcohol energize you? Does it really improve your well being or does it numb away pain, and steal your time? Those with ADHD take stimulant drugs, but when used appropriately, patients report increased productivity and improved sleep quality and duration. They feel settled, not wired as if drinking 10 cups of coffee! In patients with clinical ADHD, a stimulant may not be a weed, but only that person and their prescribing physician can determine that.
Now that we have identified our weeds- let's start removing them! If we are serious about cleaning up our garden, we must have zero tolerance for weeds. Gardeners are constantly be on the lookout for weeds in their garden. As soon as one is spotted, they remove it from the root. But they don't usually start there. Gardeners may use some sort of weed - killer to remove them faster and even better, they include a weed cover as part of their garden's design, preventing new weeds from growing! It is the same with our health. You could try to fight temptation every time it comes, but wouldn't that be exhausting? Why not just not prevent the trigger in the first place?
Some of you know my nickname as a kid was "cookie monster". I earned that nickname, let me tell you. I was helpless around them- even as an adult! Why? One cookie wakes up the insatiable monster in me- they may taste good, but instead of satisfying a craving, they only increase my desire for more! Will power is ineffective with pulling this weed! Instead of torturing myself by bringing cookies into the house- I don't buy them! The "weed killer" was identifying healthier substitutes that satisfied the craving. My "weed cover" was recognizing my triggers for cookies in the first place and preparing for them in advance so that I can move on with my day.
I would like to challenge my readers to think about their health as a proverbial garden, one that needs tending to. Where are the weeds and where are the blooms? What areas are bare and what areas are overrun? This is the first step to healing! Are you ready to get your hands dirty?
I love to teach! I love to share what I know with others but teaching is only teaching when there is someone willing to take that information in. Otherwise, what's the point?
I am sitting in the leasing office of a local retirement community. I woke up this morning at 6 am and made sure I was prepared to give a wonderful talk on Type 2 Diabetes and Hypertension to a group of at least 10 seniors (not a lot of people I know, but definitely enough to foster a thoughtful conversation.) I have a table of materials, an area to check blood pressure, blood sugar and hemoglobin A1C, and a funny and informative power point presentation. The colors are coordinated with my scrubs and giveaways with my business cards are on display. But after an hour of eagerly waiting .... I still have no one to teach!
I am bummed to say the least. Usually the retirement community has a great interest in learning about hypertension and diabetes! Maybe that interest is not the same on the weekends. Maybe they are busy and will stop by in the next hour. Maybe the folks here are super healthy octogenarians and don't need to learn anything else about improving their health. Maybe the residents just didn't get the memo, or maybe, there just isn't as much interest in the self management and prevention of the most common diseases in the US today, (sigh).
Enough moping! I will not be deterred! I now have the motivation I need to begin the blog that has been swirling around in my head for the past year!
I titled this blog, "Did you know?" because when my 5 and 7 year old daughters want to share something they just learned, they always began the conversation with this phrase. I actually refer to their practice as "dropping knowledge" because my girls share what they have learned with such authority, I picture them dropping the mic at the end of their session! So, whenever I get some great health information that catches my attention and can influence our lifestyle choices for the better, I will post a "Did you know?" update! Please read and share this information because knowledge is power!
If there is are topics you would love to learn more about, please comment below!