Today I embark on something new. I figure no time better than the present to “up the ante”, so to speak, when it comes to my personal health. And, my decision to undertake this new challenge , just so happens to coincide with the on-air folk on my TV show stepping up to their very own health related mission. Yes, today, the hosts of “The Morning Show” begin their week long raw food cleanse, and I venture into the vegan world. Timing is certainly everything.
Host, Kris Reyes's Raw menu for today! (http://belmonteraw.com/)
By now, you all know that I have long been into the science behind eating healthily, and to that end I have learned a few things that have helped sort out some personal digestive needs, and also what it takes to feel like my optimal self. Since 2009 I have adopted a virtually wheat free diet, spent a time eating “in the raw”, and have dedicated much of my downtime to learning all I can about nutrition and fueling my body in the best ways possible. While in college I spent a big chunk of time living a vegetarian lifestyle, but back then was not armed with all the necessary information to do so in a balanced way and was just not getting the protein I needed to function properly. It wasn’t long before my body gave out a bit, and I decided to go back to meat in order to quickly and easily regain my strength and energy. Over the last few years, I have found myself again inadvertently leaning towards veggie-like eating habits, and have really directed my focus into that realm of foodie culture. Earlier in the fall, I was lucky to meet Neal Barnard, M.D., author of “21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart: Boost Metabolism, Lower Cholesterol, and Dramatically Improve Your Health”, when he appeared as a guest on our show. I have gotten about halfway through my copy of the book, and am quite inspired by many of the ideas, studies, and recipes it includes (to be clear, I am NOT in this for weight loss; the book is actually a blueprint for eating vegan, and is a definitive resource for those interested). As a further push, I am super stoked about my upcoming “Culinary Nutrition Expert” course, with Meg Telpner, as I know the foods we prepare, the knowledge we acquire, and the overall outlook I walk away with upon completing the course, will fully support my decision to go vegan. My commitment to fully exploring a plant based diet is totally personal, and I am choosing to do so for my pleasure, vitality, and overall health. Don't get me wrong; I have seen "Food Inc." and the others, and I am fully aware and educated as to what goes on in factory farms, and the brutality that unfolds in the meat, poultry and dairy industries in our nation. It truly is a disgust. Because of this, I am also very pleased to be doing my part to help alleviate some of that suffering, knowing that my contribution, albeit small, can help in the big picture. But I am not here to preach, just to eat the way I want to eat, and if I happen to convince a few others to try it out along that way, all the better!
So, I have not eaten meat or poultry since Thanksgiving 2011. I have, however, developed a knack for creating super yummy meals that include an array of meat alternatives such as tofu, tempeh, nuts, legumes, and seeds, and have also whipped up a plethora of grain and vegetable based dishes that would have even the meatiest of meat eaters salivating. Perhaps the hardest part for me will be giving up on dairy, a point my sister brought up when she found out about my vegan plan (via Twitter!). It is true, I am totally a cheese gal; goat, Manchego, old cheddar, you name it. I do love my cultured milk products, especially with a nice glass of wine…(more on THAT later). However, as strange as it sounds, I think the toughest one for me to give up will be my daily cottage cheese fix. It has been my quick and delish go-to breakfast choice for ages, but as of this past Saturday, it too has officially been replaced by almond milk or coconut beverage fruit smoothies. As for the rest of it, well, I have also learned a great bunch of recipes for creating various types of “nut-cheeses”; creamy concoctions consisting of soaked and softened nuts and seasonings, pureed into ricotta like textures. With the addition of a little nutritional yeast, they really do taste pretty darn convincing as a dairy replacement, and the yeast supplies a one-two punch, as it contains much needed vitamin B12, something vegetarians and vegans alike are oft deficient in.
One of my tempeh veggie meals.
So, as I move into this next phase, making substitutions, altering recipes, and exploring the unknown, I am thrilled. I know I won’t have the full support of a few people in my life who think all my food adventuring is silly, but I am up for trying anything that may better me physically, offer me more youth, and prevent illness in my body. And you know what? I am doing this for me, and it doesn’t really have to affect anyone else!
Although, I do know full well that this may just earn me the title of “hardest-to-go-out-to-dinner-with friend”.
I am going to give it my all, but I am not going to make myself crazy. If the feeling really hits me, say, when I am out at dinner, and I decide I REALLY feel like having a touch of cheese, then I will. If I want a coffee and there is only cow’s milk available to lighten up my cup of joe, so be it. When I am at my mom’s and she forgets and puts eggs in a meal meant for me, I will smile and graciously dig in. I will plan to do whatever I can within my own personal power to make this work, but if there are a few slides along the way then “c’est la vie” shall be my motto. And I also go into all of this knowing that I can decide to re-introduce any food I want, at any time.
Vegan…hmm. I am excited! I can’t wait to see how I feel after a week, month, (year?). I bet things will really feel a whole lot different.