It’s so good to see your bright eyes gazing intently at this space once again, and may I be the first to say that all of those carrots you’ve been munching on seem to be paying off ;) Since you’re baaaack, that means that you’ve carved out a bit of time from your busy schedule to pick up where we left off yesterday – addressing the most memorable things I’ve experienced about being a weekday vegan -- so believe me when I say that I’m going to make sure that it’s worth your while.
Just a quick note about the term ‘weekday veganism.’ While it may seem like a noncommittal way of approaching what should technically be a full-time, animal-protein-free lifestyle (especially if those, myself included, choose to slightly relax their self-imposed dietary restrictions as soon as the weekend rolls around), I’m a firm believer that starting somewhere is better than never starting at all.
There are countless reasons why people may hem and haw about removing animal-derived foods from their repertoire -- many of them actually revolve around human psychology, such as force of habit, a perceived sense of deprivation/lack of mealtime ‘fullness’, pride in one’s salary being able to command the ‘better things in life’, etc. Nevertheless, those who step up to the plate, even on a part-time basis, are still making a positive lifestyle adjustment that can potentially lead to a full-fledged habit that benefits not only animals and the planet but also their arteries. What’s so bad about that?
Without further ado, I bring you my most notable observations about pursuing Monday – Friday veganism:
1) MALES WHO JOIN THEIR SIGNIFICANT OTHERS ON A VEGAN DIET TEND TO BE WHINEY LITTLE CRY BABIES.
Among the common, mini-temper-tantrums that you might be privy to, there are a few doozies that typically rise to the top of the list:
• You mean I can’t have egggggggggs or bayyyycon?!?!?!? What about just a tiny bit of each? Are you kidding me? Don’t EVEN waste your breath selling me on how %*#@in’ great Fakin’ Bacon tastes. Get out of my face right nowwwwww.
• If I wanted soy-freakin’-milk in my cereal, I’d squeeze it straight from the bean with my own two vegan-emaciated hands. Don’t kid yourself -- I’ll NEVER be that desperate. Just gimme the cereal box and I’ll pour it straight into my pie hole…oh wait, I guess fruit baked in a flaky pie crust is off limits now, too!
• Sour cream – not even a little?! Good God, woman. You’re absolutely killing me.
• Last time I checked, bees were NOT animals. Exactly how does my honey-topped peanut butter sandwich compromise their livelihood?!?!? No...I really want to hear your explanation. Please enlighten me with your wisdom. Is it about their bruised wings, egos or both? Seriously, I quit. Gimme my squeezeee honey bear. I'm not kidding around. Hand it over or I'll bite off your knee caps.
2) FOR WOMEN, CUTTING ANIMAL PROTEIN OUT OF THEIR DIET IS A BREEZE.
Personally speaking, removing all sources of animal protein from my meal time strategy has been pretty easy – probably because I never ate that much of the stuff to begin with. I think that for the most part, many women will agree. Now, I don’t want to make sweeping generalizations, but it also seems that those of the fairer sex also tend to be far more receptive to exploring vegan-friendly alternatives because we treat the experience like a culinary and health-bestowing adventure rather than a dreaded chore. Men, on the other hand, are deeply attached to meat-eggs-and-cheese, perceiving a vegan diet as the penultimate plan for penance…at least that’s what I’ve gathered these last several weeks while witnessing my dearly beloved’s cranky man-o-pause-like behavior.
3) WHEN IN DOUBT, GO AHEAD AND SPROUT.
If I’m ever lacking vegan meal time inspiration, the lazy girl inside of me bows down to the simple convenience of one go-to-meal -- jamming a bucket-load of homegrown sprouts into a whole grain wrap slathered with hummus…and if I really want to get crazy, I add roasted peppers or diced tomatoes for even more pizazz. My local natural food store sells a high-protein seed blend in bulk, which I’m convinced is one of the most ideal, affordable vegan ‘fast food’ options out there for culinarily compromised people like me.
4) I’LL EAT MANY HEALTHY (and EVEN WEIRD) THINGS, BUT I DRAW THE LINE AT TEMPEH.
I’m sorry if I offend all of the tempeh-lovin’ devotees out there, but there is something about the alternative fermented protein that gives me the willy-nillies. Although I’m well-aware of how it’s made and how nutritionally beneficial it most certainly is, every time I pick up a package at the supermarket and consider finally giving it a whirl, I can’t seem to get past its petri-dish-like appearance. Silly, yes. It’s just beans, after all…but beans that look like they’re masquerading as wicked little E. coli bacteria. Did I mention that I have a wild imagination?
5) PRE-MADE VEGAN BURGERS ARE MY SPECIAL FRIEND.
I know, I know…as highly processed as they are, vegan-friendly frozen burgers pretty much defeat the purpose of pursuing a healthier diet, but in a meal time pinch, I’ve got to admit that they do come in particularly handy. I don’t know about you, but one of my absolute favorites is the organic falafel patty made by Sunshine Burger, filled with a high protein, stick-to-your-ribs blend of sesame seed paste, split peas, chick peas, sunflower seeds, brown rice and various spices. When I have a lot more time on my hand, I’ve also been known to whip up a mean homemade black bean-red beet-and-brown rice burger …boy oh boy, it sure hits the spot.
6) UM…ON FRIDAYS, I DREAM ABOUT PIGGING OUT ON JUNK FOOD ALL WEEKEND LONG.
Here’s the thing. As much as I hate to admit it, I am a total junk food addict, with sweets of any type being my particular weakness. I’ve noticed that my body is quite happy during the week when I fuel it with more veggies than I ever imagined were possible to consume in one sitting. From Monday to Thursday, I can stick to my healthy dietary goals without wavering one bit, but once Friday rolls around, I instantly obsess about all of the very bad mainstream things that I want to gorge on, you know, for the reward that I think I so rightfully deserve.
Oh no…I’m not talking about porterhouse steaks or 4 cheese quesadillas or lobster with clarified butter, either. You can keep your artery-clogging goodies and just gimme the trans-fat laden cakes, cookies and candies, instead…which – when push comes to shove -- are still artery-clogging goodies. I’m sure that there’s a way that I can break myself of this insane weekend craving, but I haven’t figured it out quite just yet.
7) IF I STEER CLEAR OF THE VEGAN CONVENIENCE FOODS, THIS DIET IS PRETTY AFFORDABLE.
While I pine away for the instant gratification of quite a few refrigerated, vegan-friendly heat-and-eat entrees and meal time staples (Field Roast Grain Meat Company’s extensive and seriously delicious meat substitutes being at the top of the list), my modest ‘starving artist budget’ doesn’t allow me to indulge in them on a regular basis. What I’ve found, however, is that if I try to make the majority of my meals from scratch, what I lose in personal prep time I more than make up for in taste, nutrition and overall economics. When you think about the cost of the majority of the plant-based ingredients that get the big-time vegan thumbs-up, the majority of them are sold in the bulk section (beans, rice, nuts, cereal, etc.), resulting in serious savings at the cash register.
8) I CAN GET EXTRA VEGAN BANG FOR MY BUCK BY VISITING THE MARKDOWN/CLEARANCE SECTIONS OF MY LOCAL NATURAL FOOD STORE.
This strategy doesn’t seem to apply to mega-purveyors like Whole Foods Market, but at least at a smaller mom-and-pop shop that I make a habit of frequenting, I regularly score $1.00 bags of admittedly seen-better-days produce – which, when peeled and cooked, can camouflage a multitude of sins -- and significantly reduced vegan-friendly refrigerated/frozen items that are either beyond their ‘best by’ date, seasonal or merely not popular. Who cares if it’s not exactly perfect? If it’ll help me to stick to the plan, Stan, then I’m happy to work it into my plant-centric diet.
9) GOING VEGAN DOES NOT ENSURE WEIGHT LOSS, ESPECIALLY IF YOU PIG OUT ON WEEKEND JUNK FOOD.
I recently read an article about how traditional dieters typically undo much of their weight loss progress by plowing through too many calories during their ‘cheat days’. Hell yeah, I can attest to that, but I didn’t exactly embrace veganism to become svelte. Still, with no meat and dairy in my diet five days out of the week, it’s easy to convince myself that a little nom-nom-nom action on the weekend is an acceptable and even healthy way to keep myself motivated to stay on course. Perhaps for some personalities, yes, but not for me. This weekday vegan is seriously thinking about going full throttle (even on Saturdays and Sundays) for maximum health...except that I still have a lot of devilishly delicious holiday treats stockpiled in my cupboard for mood boosting emergencies. It would be a shame to waste perfectly good sugary food. Plus, I'm a greenie. Waste not, want not....right?!? You see my dilemma. What a curse!
10) THIS WEEKDAY PLAN ISN’T PERFECT, BUT I STILL FEEL PRETTY GOOD ABOUT GIVING IT THE OLD COLLEGE TRY.
Since I’m cooking for two adults – one of whom thinks that all animal-based foods are like pure ambrosia – it can be kind of tricky keeping the aforementioned party on course. In fact, it requires a lot of creative culinary inspiration on my part, and given my time-compromised schedule and lack of innate chef-worthy skills, sometimes we end up eating healthy yet admittedly uninspiring meals. Still, I’m pretty pleased that we’re close to one month in on the program and have agreed to soldier on for another thirty days.
With each new day that I contemplate additional vegan-friendly meal options, I’m reminded of our culture’s love affair with animal-based foods and how they’re in a staggering amount of edibles. In America, even if you THINK that you’re eating a relatively healthy diet, unless you’re a compulsive label reader and you’re up-to-date with the latest studies, chances are good that you’re cruisin’ for a bruisin’ in the health department. If this experience has taught me one thing, it's that the smartest thing we can do to ensure our own health is to become educated and proactive through smarter consumer choices. I've got the veggie-eating down pat...now all I need to do is tame the sugar monster. GULP. Is there a patch for that?!?!