OUR VEGAN(ish) LIFE: The How’s, Why’s and What’s of Our Decision to Live a Vegan Lifestyle…

So, if you know me, you know that for a few years now, my family and I have committed to a vegan-ish lifestyle. I say “vegan-ish” because, we are not ALL the way vegan. As a matter of fact, I don’t even like the label itself as it is very specified and leaves little room for variation. Nonetheless, we often lean on this title as it is the closest to describing our eating habits. Interestingly enough, I find more and more when I explain to people that we are a vegan, it elicits a host of questions and even frustrations that ultimately lead to confusion. And for this reason, I am writing about our journey as veganists. 😊

What: What is your practice? Overall, my husband, two teenagers and I eat as clean, natural and healthy as possible. That means we see food as medicine, or nutrition our body needs to perform the many tasks we all do. Though we love our food to taste good, (and we see to it that it does 😊) we try to view food as source of fuel vs. a substance of pleasure. Therefore, the things we eat are generally fresh, whole (unprocessed/unrefined), natural, locally grown (when possible) and mostly plant based.

Why: Why have you chosen a vegan(ish) lifestyle? Though there are many diets and eating trends people currently follow, our decision was not based on a fad, weight-loss goal, or even illness. Since the beginning of our marriage, my husband and I have been healthy eaters and have always benefited from that way of life. However, over time, we noticed the increasing level of negative news regarding the unnatural processing of the animals we generally consumed, their poor treatment and the affects it was having on our country. After extensive prayer and research, we further investigated our concerns and concluded that our family could live without the consumption of animal products. We discussed it together and decided to move forward with our decision to eat what we call, a whole food, plant-based diet.

How: How have you maintained this lifestyle? As a homemaker one of my major responsibilities has been preparing meals that nourish our family as well as teaching our children how to make healthy choices. This decision required a ton of research. We have all come to lean on the nutrients provided in meat and dairy, such as protein, iron, zinc and magnesium. It was important that I included substitutions and even additions for some of the vitamins and minerals they would not consume while eating a plant-based diet.  I have been careful in the planning of meals and snacks to ensure we are not just checking off a box that says we don’t eat meat, but that we are intentional about providing sources of true nutrition to sustain overall health and wellness. We create a menu each week and grocery shop to prepare those specific meals accordingly.

What don’t you eat? We generally don’t consume foods made by animals, including meat, eggs, or dairy products. We don’t eat fast or highly processed foods. We don’t use the microwave or eat pre-cooked foods or dairy/meat substitutes. As a rule of thumb, we try to assess the origin of the food and determine if it came from the ground or if it was made in a factory. Can we recognize or even pronounce the main ingredients? If not, we generally do not eat it. Though this seems to be strict criteria, we have found that it works for US. Our decision comes with no judgement or sanctimony, only a measuring tool for maintaining our goals.

What do you eat? Many people assume vegans eat celery and lettuce for breakfast and run around all day feeling weak and depleted. On the contrary, like most people, we eat 3 meals per day and snacks throughout.

A typical breakfast in our house could be steel-cut oatmeal, stone-ground grits, avocado/cinnamon/garlic toast, fruit/veggie smoothies, buckwheat pancakes, fried potatoes and even an all-natural cereal with almond milk.

Lunch for my husband is generally leftovers from the prior night’s dinner, but for my kids, they pack a lunch that consists of an entrée, fruit, vegetable, starchy snack and desert item. Which generally means a pb&j sandwich, peanuts/almonds, carrots, raisins, avocados, apples, oranges, grapes, chips/pretzels, granola bars, cookies, dark chocolate, popcorn etc.

Dinner changes all the time. Vegetables are the main staple and we generally form each entrée around a large variety of them including veggie soup, chili, sushi, burritos, pizza, tacos, pastas etc. We eat from a large selection of beans as well and use them as a great source of protein, iron and fiber. Many times, we have beans and rice coupled with collard greens or some other main vegetable. We also enjoy various salads and sometimes a simple loaded baked potato.

Why do you say vegan “ish” instead of vegan? Most true vegans do not use animal products at all. They don’t even wear leather. That is not us. The greatest part of the “ish” in my description comes from the fact that we do include a small amount of fish in our diet a couple times a month. We try to buy local or at least wild-caught fish when possible, but this decision allows for a bit of balance for us all. However, we are strongly opposed to the harmful/unethical treatment of animals and do not support any form of it.

Do you eat out? Of course. At least once a week, we either get take-out or dine at a restaurant. You would be surprised how many establishments cater to vegan/vegetarian diets. We especially enjoy Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Mexican, even Indian and Vietnamese restaurants. They tend to provide vegetable rich options and use herbs and spices as a means to add flavor. However, I can generally find acceptable meal selections at typical mainstream establishments like Chipotle, Cheesecake Factory, and the like.

Effects: How has a vegan(ish) lifestyle impacted your life? First of all, though it wasn’t the goal, I personally lost 25+lbs immediately, while my husband and children maintain a healthy weight overall. We have not missed a day of work or school due to sickness. We have energy and stamina to maintain a very active lifestyle. Both my kids are in year-round sports, while my husband and I are avid hikers and enjoy outdoor activities on a regular basis. I have experienced a major balance in my hormones and have overcome challenges with acne, thinning hair, migraine headaches and other nutritional/hormonal imbalance related issues. Overall, I feel full of energy and my body and mind are strong and alive.

I am fully aware of the various diets and trends many follow today. For some, veganism is just that. I am careful never to push our beliefs on anyone or look down on people for the choices they make for themselves or their family. I fully believe we have to be led and must do what works BEST for us individually. However, it is so important that we do our diligence when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Many of the methods of production of the products we consume are unclean and unethical.  It is up to us to make informed and sometimes uncomfortable choices that will benefit us for the long haul. God has called us all to do amazing things in this life. I am prayerful that though many of the producers continue to create harmful food options, that other ethical farmers and producers will continue to create ways to grow and sell foods that give life and wellness so that we may enjoy a long, healthy, happy, amazing journey… 0000000





Cover photo cred: greenermums

YOU MAKE ME SICK!!!!

Last week our district had to close school because there were too many kids absent due to various illness such as the flu, strep throat, sinus infections and the like. In all my days, I have never seen this happen, yet recently this was the case in several parts of the country. It was sad to think so many children were at home feeling miserable and fighting for their health. Regardless of their age, most kids are pretty much helpless in this situation because they are unable to make the informed decisions necessary to maintaining their health.  However, we, as their parents can play a more proactive role in keeping them well. I know, I know… we are all super busy, we are on tight budgets, and viruses are highly contagious…we are ALL susceptible. Right? I TOTALLY get it. However, it IS possible for our kids to be in such great health that they are more immune to various illnesses and don’t get sick. Now, this may be difficult to do if our cupboards are filled with Oreos, our menus consist of fried chicken wings from KFC and our schedules are booked to the max, but perhaps we can step up our game on ways to build up a better immunity for them by making some minor adjustments.  Here are 5 ways to help keep our kids virus-free.

  1. Get adequate rest. Kids need to sleep. Though it seems like school is a light-weight job that requires minimal effort, it is only a small portion of their day. Many kids participate in extra-curricular activities, work, sports, church, chores and other things that keep them busy most parts of their day. They need to rest their bodies and minds so they can perform at their highest level. They are still growing and developing and need at least 8 hours to restore, rejuvenate, repair and develop. You will find once they are rested they will be more attentive, can function at a greater capacity and will resist illness. My kids are 14 and 15 and STILL go to bed at 9:00pm! 😨😨😨 (TV’s off, lights out, computers, video games and phones powered down!!!) ☺☺
  1. Eat nutritional meals: I get it, we are on the go, go, go… cooking???? “Ain’t nobody got time for that!!!” lol! 😬😬 However, the purpose of food is not to fill our bellies, but to nourish our bodies. Our children need nutrients for their mind and body to function. It is imperative they get at least 5/6 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Start them as early as possible to develop an appetite for healthy options. That will be impossible if tomatoes are in competition with Cheetos. Remember, YOU buy the groceries. They can only eat what you buy. Of course, they can enjoy snacks, desserts and fast food periodically, but if it has become a regular part of their eating plan, their bodies are not getting the nutrients necessary to fight off illness, let alone perform the tasks they need to do each day.
  1. Get that body moving: This can be a challenge I know, as many of our kids are strapped to some sort of device that only requires movement of the fingers, however, we must help keep them active. At least 3 times per week, they should get that heart rate up and get that blood pumping. Consider options such as walking the dog each day, going to the rec center a couple times a week, getting into a local sports team, gardening, or regular household chores. Whatever the case, when that blood is circulating through the body, it can adequately combat various symptoms.
  1. Take a daily vitamin: It can be tough to get in all the necessary vitamins, nutrients and minerals each day through food alone. However, while their brains, bones and muscles are developing, it is important they not lack the essentials. Taking a good (preferably whole food) 1 a day multivitamin, will help pick up where their diet leaves off.
  1. Joyful living: Many of our children are plagued with a stressful existence.  This can greatly impair their defense against illness. They are juggling several tasks before, during and after school and are already starting a life of busyness and stress. We must help them add balance to their daily regimen so they can enjoy their days to the fullest. Each day should somehow include elements of fun, peace, and joy. Their home environment should be a place of safety. Not one where they are overwhelmed with our stresses (bills, money, car trouble, divorce, etc..) each night. When they can live in a place that is consistently peaceful, they can rest knowing they are safe and can enjoy themselves.

I know this is not easy. However, as adults, we can make informed decisions. We are charged with the duty of training our children and helping them develop habits they will take into adulthood. I realize our lives are difficult as well, however, children are innocent bystanders of the life we serve them. Show them early how to defend against illness so they can live long, peaceable, happy, healthy lives. They have a whole world to go impact. No time for being sick! ☺☺☺