(Not) Vegan

Recently, I watched a Neflix documentary called Food Choices. Michal Siewierski, a filmmaker who recently lost 50 pounds by switching to a plant based diet, is trying to learn the truth when it comes to controversial food and nutrition topics. Most of the film is him introducing a topic of debate –  Is milk good for us? How much protein do we really need? What are the implications of grass fed cattle? – followed by various people who are experts in their field, creators of other food documentaries, or have personally experienced major life changes due to diet weighing in and educating the viewer.
It becomes clear early on that this film is STRONGLY biased toward a plant based diet, with quite a few of the panel members advocating for strict veganism. As someone with a degree in nutrition who has identified as one type of vegetarian or another for the past 18 years, I found the topics covered and these people’s viewpoints very interesting and informative. However, if I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that when it comes to food, diet, and nutrition, everyone has an opinion, and these topics can definitely be sensitive subjects for people.
For me, the movie resonated enough that I started to wonder. What would mornings be like without eggs? What if I’m really not doing myself any favors by including fish in my diet? And perhaps most importantly, would there still be happiness in my world if I stopped eating cheese? I dwelled on this for a few days and then got Adam to watch it too. There was definitely some skepticism, but after further discussion, we were both sort of, partially, maybe on board to give this “vegan” thing a try.
The crux of the plan was simple – try our best to remove the more concentrated animal products from our diet.
Allow me to explain further. We already eat a pretty veggie rich (thanks Grant Farms!) and very low red meat/poultry diet. I don’t eat any, and Adam has slowly adopted to my diet. Before we met he ate a typical diet of meat with every meal, and now eats meat when we go out. Typically the only “milk” we keep on hand is almond. We do cook fish or shrimp from time to time, but our most common seafood consumption is in Blue Apron meals, which decided to temporarily halt. As far as the animal products that we do eat, eggs and cheese are the biggies. So, it seemed like with just a few tweaks, we could drastically lower the amount of animal products we were consuming. And that’s what we set out to do.
It has started out simple enough. Instead of eggs in the morning, we swapped in a hearty bowl of steel cut oats topped with walnuts, raisins, apples, bananas, brown sugar, cinnamon, and a splash of almond milk. For our other meals, where I would have doused the whole dish in an obscene amount of cheese, I’ve just stopped. Some of our dishes have still been cooked with a little bit of cheese or a little bit of butter. And when we go out, we’re usually even a bit less careful. We’ve explored new places and new things that we wouldn’t necessarily have tried before and made the choices that seemed the most appropriate for us at that given time, but we haven’t gone out of our way to declare dietary restrictions or scour ingredient lists during date nights.
Our friends and roommates have grudgingly joined in the experiment. A couple of our friends invited us over for a mushroom and tofu dish that was absolutely bursting with flavor despite containing no animal products. Following the meal, there were very mixed emotions – contentedness of course but also surprise and maybe even a slight annoyance that something vegan could be so good. As far as the roommates, they’ve been good enough sports, sometimes even partaking without modifying the meal first.
I don’t think that either of us really intends to be 100% vegan. And vegan is not even a word that I would use in serious conversation – it isn’t fair to people who have made that commitment, it doesn’t accurately describe how I’m eating, and it invites a lot of conversations and opinions. I’m more interested in consciously making food choices that I feel will be the best for my overall health and hopefully minimize my own negative impact on the earth. To steal a term we’ve heard from more than one documentary, we are trying a plant based diet.
Stay tuned for updates and some of our favorite animal free meals!

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