quite possibly the longest post ever . . . . grab a cuppa

Your questions and interest in my 30 day vegan challenge were awschum!  In fact, one of you was so anxious to hear some details I received an email asking me to fess up and give her a few snippets early. Good thing I responded because that was just the motivation I needed to get my brain clicking and organizing (ha!) my thoughts.


On to the questions!

Wait . . . let me ease into this and give you a little explanation.

Wikipedia definitionVeganism is the practice of eliminating the use by human beings of non-human animal products. Ethical vegans reject the commodity status of animals and the use of animal products for any purpose, while dietary vegans or strict vegetarians eliminate them from their diet only

We (our family) chose to practice eliminating animal products from our diet, but not our lifestyle.  Early on I also chose to use honey (from a local source) and eggs, although I think we only ate them 2 times during the 30 days.

Now, on to the questions:

Nikki asked if 1) I had seen the Oprah show about her vegan challenge?

I did not see the vegan Oprah episode, but from what I can gather the show really focused on 'substitute foods' for dairy and meat. In my opinion, this is not the healthiest way to go about it (buying fake meat, cheese, etc) because of all the processing in those type of products. I am a huge supporter of Michael Pollen and his theory: "If my grandmother wouldn't recognize it, I won't eat it!" I did make a few exceptions like tofu and nutritional yeast (good source of minerals - used as a topping).

2) did I notice a difference in Ellie's (my T1D) blood sugars?

As far as the diet impacting Ellie's blood sugars, it was hard to tell. She is still honeymooning and prone to wild fluctuations in her numbers for no apparent reason other than her pity little pancreas. I was also fearful of taking away milk, cheese and all meat for her. Protein is difficult to get in if their little taste buds aren't accustomed to lots of greens and beans. She did, however, try everything I made. We would add a little cottage cheese, milk or some grilled chicken breast to round out her meals. She LOVED the addition of nuts and seeds and the variety of grains. I found the grains were spot on with her carb ratios and I felt like her numbers post meals really reflected that.

Jules wanted to know:

1) In your opinion would it be possible to do this alone in a family?

My friend whose arm I twisted who signed up for the challenge did just this. I think there were good days and bad days for her, as cooking separate meals is always a strain on the chef in the family. I know she added meat and dairy to the vegan recipe once she removed a portion for herself. This is a great way to introduce new tastes and textures to otherwise picky eaters.

2) Is there a good range of different foods?

Absolutely. In fact, we tried several new foods. This was a surprise to me as I felt we were a family who ate a big variety of foods. Here are some of the types of things that were on my shopping list. The theory maintained you purchased ingredients (filling your pantry) instead of ready-to-eat or boxed/bagged meals.


- almond milk (for cereals and cooking; I did not enjoy the taste enough to drink a glass like I would have with cow's milk)

- coconut oil or cold pressed olive oil

- tofu & tempah - for protein

- pasture raised chicken eggs farm a local source

- tahini (sesame seed paste)

- tamari (fermented soy sauce)

- gomasio (sesame seeds with spices and a little salt - awesome topping for lots of flavoring)

- Silk coconut creamer (I am a coffee drinker and my old choice of creamer was a splash of half-n-half (better than the chemically laded creamers) so I did suffer through several days of black coffee before I found a coconut milk creamer. I love it so much I will not go back to my old habit!)

- soaked 7grain mix for breakfast

- green smoothies

- fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables

- kombucha (fermented black tea with fruit juices for flavor)

- natural peanut butter

- sprouted and un-sprouted bread

- toasted sesame oil

- brown rice vinegar

- brown rice syrup (sweetener)

- long grained brown rice

- quinoa (red and white, grain)

- lentils, split peas, chickpeas, canneli beans, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, black beans

- soba noodles, udon noodles, linguine

3) How was eating out for you?

We only ate out a couple of times since I really enjoyed the cooking process (and the results!), but when we did we were just mindful of the ingredients we DIDN'T want in the foods and just requested they be left off.

4) Did you find yourself licking the butcher's shop window, or staring glassily at the cheese counter in the supermarket, or dreaming of steak like Alex the Lion in Madagascar?!?

Ha! Personally I did not experience cravings for the things removed from the diet. The workshop's creator, Heather, spoke early on about the theory to 'crowd in' new foods verses focusing on taking foods out. It was NOT about depriving yourself . . . . instead you had so many new choices of foods to eat you just didn't have room, and therefore crowded out, meat and dairy.

My husband mentioned he 'missed' meat a couple of times and felt like he was 'grazing' more (probably due to the decrease in calories and speed of digestion of all the fruits, veggies and grains). I encouraged Maddi to follow her body's needs and give it what it was craving. There were a few times she wanted cow's milk and asked for some chicken to add and I feel her growing body needed it.

The younger 2, Ben (6) and Ellie (8), significantly decreased their consumption of meat and dairy. I required them to try each new dish and much to THEIR surprise they found they liked it.

5) Would you do it again?

I would do the 'stricitly vegan' eating plan again if and when I feel the need to clean up my eating. Personally I lost 7 pounds during the challenge and have continued to lose during the transition.

I have found we are slowly introducing some meats and dairy back into our diets, but being very mindful of portion sizes.  Using the meat and dairy as an added texture or flavor to the meal rather than a stand alone portion.

Wendy was curious about snacks, saying "I feel like I need more than an apple for them after school...they're very cheesy kids :)"

My kids adjusted, as I believe all will, with the different snack options. If I have chips, cookies, gogurt, cheesy crackers, etc. in the pantry/fridge . . . they will scarf it up. If, however, the only choices are fruits, veggies (with a pureed bean dip or simply oil dressing to dip), green smoothies, granola, muffins, nuts, etc., then the kids adjust pretty quickly. A few complaints escaped their lips, but as long as I offered a variety of choices.

Hallie wrote: I want to know everything!!! Spill it!

How am I doing? Covering everything?

I know it would be helpful to include the recipes, but I feel that would be a disservice to Heather and all of her hard work to put together the online workshop. She provided a separate blog, 4 weeks of recipes, education on ingredients, shopping lists and oodles of inspiration throughout the 30 days. Her fee was a pittance compared to the wealth of information provided.

I will provide some of links of either books or website I used for additional recipes and ideas to carry this eating style into our life:

Simply in Season - I had this recipe book prior to the challenge and I fell in love with it again.  It is not especially vegan, or even vegetarian for that matter, but you easily remove meat and or dairy from most recipes.  The best book on eating seasonally, in my opinion.

Heidi Swanson's website 101 Cookbooks and her cookbook Super Natural Cooking.  Another book I had prior to the challenge.  Fabulous foods and photos, and vegetarian to boot.  Easily adaptable to vegan as well.  Heidi just came out with another book last week titled Super Natural Every Day.  Let's just say it is already in my Amazon cart. 

A really awesome site is Cookus Interruptus and the cookbook Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair.  You simply must go to her site and watch some of her how-to videos.  Humor and information all rolled up into yummy goodness.  This book also walks you through feeding young babies and adjusting the recipes as they grow.  I wish I had known about this book when my kiddos were younger!

These websites are pretty cool, too:
The Vegan Stoner
Moosewood Restaurants
Lunch Box Bunch
Chicken Tender

To sum up this epic post, the 30 day vegan challenge helped me and my family to hop back on the healthy and whole food bandwagon.  For me personally:

Overall benefits to my 30 day vegan challenge:

- more energy (I attribute that to drinking more water and eating more fibrous foods)
- quicker digestion ('nuff said)
- weight loss (as I already mentioned 1 lost 7 pounds in 30 days. . . quite a bit, but I have those and about 30 more to get rid of)
- desire to try different recipes and therefore a desire to cook again (I cooked a lot before, but was getting bored and tired of the same meals)
- taste buds changed, or lack of cravings for sweets and salty foods
- no more 'heavy stomach' feeling after meals

We will not continue to stay completely vegan, but instead will incorporate many of the recipes and habits into our home. I will continue to find new protein sources for Ellie (to balance out the carbs and have them last longer in her system) and wean off so much cheese ;)

Oh, and the best part E-V-E-R?  Our family purchased a share in one of our local CSA's (Community Supported Agriculture) . . . Blue Gate Farms(hi Sean and Jill) Beginning in June and lasting 20 weeks, we are signed up to receive a weekly produce box, eggs and honey.  This will be an exciting addition to our healthy eating.  As well, an opportunity to support a local farm and business.  In addition, I will be visiting our Farmer's Market to supplement and to support other local businesses.  WooHoo!  Only 24 days left until opening weekend!

Oh, I almost forgot . . . one last question:

Joanne asked:  Is candy involved?

Of course ;).  After all, Ellie needs to have quick, simply sugars to bring up her lows.  All in moderation, right?


Reyna said...

Well I'll be a Fig Newton! You have been a busy girl over there Miss-Healthy-No-Meat-And-No-Cheese AND only a couple of eggs ANDseven pounds lighter lady! This was so interesting Amy. Thank you for sharing...and I am so excited for you guys with the CSA. We have been participating in one for 3 years now and the kids and I LOVE it. They even get to harvest some of our veggies.

Michael Pollen is the BOMB! YOU.ARE.TOO!!!

Nikki of Our Diabetic Warrior said...

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!!

muffinmoon said...

Amy, I could hug you! What an inspiration you are. I am struggling with D-Mum exhaution and being too heavy for my height and this has given me an insight into the approach of kindness and balance. I am so pleased you took the time to tell us all this and I am most definitely signing up for the next one, although I imagine Heather will only do it once a year as it must be a full-time month for her!
Thanks so much for sharing this information.

Joanne said...

You can eat candy??? I'm SO in! Woo-hoo!

Seriously though... cool post. Thanks for sharing!

Wendy said...

LOVE THIS! Thank you so much, Amy! I really appreciated your incredible overview.

We participate in a produce co-op and love it.

After reading this, I could totally see myself trying it :) This is right up my alley, considering the journey I'm starting!

Denise said...

great stuff...been thinking of incorporating more vegan cooking. will check out some of your links/books. thanks!

Heidi / D-Tales said...

Fantastic, thorough post that made for great reading, too! You have my mind spinning. I'm thinking...thinking...thinking...of changes we need to make over here.

Jen said...

What a great summary! Feeding the Whole Family has been one of my go-to cookbooks for a while now..it is amazing! I am looking forward to checking out the other sites and books you mentioned.