You went vegan? Why?

A few weeks ago, I decided to make the shift from vegetarian to vegan.  Without fail, people respond to that news by saying, “Why?” They quickly follow that by saying, “What DO you eat?”  

So, for my first post, I’m going to try to attempt to answer the first of those questions.  But, disclaimer: I can’t properly answer that questions without sharing some pretty disturbing things.  I try not to be preachy about my food choices versus what other people eat.  To each their own.  But in order to really explain why I have made the choices that I have made, I have to present the facts.

I have been a vegetarian for several years now.  I can’t really remember how long it has been to be honest.  But I do remember that the movie Food, Inc. played a large roll in that decision.  I have always had some issues with animal farming but this movie really solidified those issues for me.  

First of all, consuming meat has a huge environmental impact.  18% of man-made pollution comes from the meat industry.  It takes about 40 calories of fossil fuel to create 1 calorie of feed-lot beef.  In comparison, it takes 2.2 calories of energy to create a calorie of plant products.  I think we could all afford to take a good look at our environmental impact.  Just saying. 🙂

Secondly, eating vegan is pretty healthy. 🙂  There is substantial evidence that increased consumption of fruits and vegetables lower rates of certain cancers.  Additionally, a vegan diet has been linked to lower BMI’s, reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, and lower incidents of cardiovascular disease.  I’ll take it. 

And finally, the conditions in which animals live in factory farms is deplorable.  It is really hard to ignore this information.  I mean, I really think that we all have some knowledge of this information.  And it’s just not something that I can be a part of.  

When I first became a vegetarian, I felt like at least I wasn’t consuming dead animals.  But…animals being used for milk and eggs are clearly not being treated any better.  It felt like so much effort to be vegan and how was I going to get enough protein? But, really, the effort is worth it when you are no longer a part of this mistreatment of animals.  And really, it’s not that hard to get protein.  There are so many natural ways to get protein.  

The other thing I’ve been hearing lately is that it must be impossible for you to get enough protein without consuming tons of soy and don’t you know that too much soy is bad for you?  Well….I actually eat very little soy.  I do occasionally eat tofu but in reality I get plenty of protein from beans, lentils, nuts, qunioa, etc.  

So, here are a few links to websites.videos that have been game changers for me.  It would be great if you checked them out.  🙂

 A clip from the documentary Sansara…a look inside animal farming and a good depiction of the business of food production.

Glass Walls….a video narrated by Paul McCartney.  If slaughterhouses had glass walls, we would all be vegetarians.

14 Things You Need to Know About Your Bacon…pretty self explanatory.  🙂

People have also asked me, “why can’t you just eat meat/cheese/eggs/milk, etc from a local farmer whose farming practices are better?”  Don’t get me wrong, buying animal products from a local farm that is transparent about their animal farming techniques is a huge step in the right direction.  But for me personally, I just don’t see a need to kill an animal in order to eat it when I can get all the nutrients I need without doing so.  

Like I said before, I am usually pretty quiet about why I make the decisions I make regarding food.  But people have asked me repeatedly, so I decided to answer those questions.  Future blog entries will be used to answer the second question, “What DO you eat?”  I have been eating some amazing food that I would like to share.  Plus, this is a great way for me to be able to look back and get some ideas when I am in an eating rut.  🙂

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I’m back….

Whew…summer gets crazy doesn’t it?!

After a visit from my brother and his family and some crazy Madi sickness, I am back.

Three days ago, I started a fitness boot camp.  Can I just say that I am so ridiculously sore.  I cannot even believe it.  I have known for a long time that strength training was my weakness.  It is something I have always avoided adding in to my workout because I don’t know what I am doing.  And to be honest, I just don’t like doing it.  Well, the first three days of this boot camp have reminded me why I so desperately need to add these things to my routine.  My arms are so sore that it hurts to just talk on the phone. Haha! I am hoping to see some good results after these 5 weeks are up.  And I know for sure that I will have some good techniques to add to my normal workouts.

Let’s see….here are some new recipes that I have tried.

Part of the meal plan at boot camp is a post workout protein shake.  I have to say, I was really dreading these because I figured they would be disgusting.  Protein shakes just sound gross, right? WRONG!  These don’t call for any gross protein powder.  Just a natural quick way to get 15-20 grams of protein…here are a few I have tried so far…

Mango Raspberry Shake

1/4 c raspberries

1 mango (I used a fresh mango one day and a cup of frozen mango the next. I prefer the frozen because it makes the shake extra cold and more like an ice cream shake. 🙂 but the fresh are really good too)

6 oz. vanilla greek yogurt

1 c. skim milk

Anti-inflammatory Shake

1 c. blueberries

2 T nut butter

1 c milk

2 T ground flaxseed

1 small banana

For breakfast, I have been eating 3 egg whites and 1 whole egg scrambled with a TON of veggies and topped with about 2 T of sharp cheddar.

Another really delicious breakfast recipe is this Fruit and Yogurt Parfait…

1 c greek yogurt (plain or vanilla)

1 t honey

1/2 mixed berries

2 T chopped almonds or walnuts (I used slivered almonds because that’s what I had and I loved the texture)

fruit and yogurt parfait

Dinner-wise, the newest recipe that I tried was for Creamy Zucchini Pasta with Shrimp.  I almost never eat meat but on a very occasional (as in about once every 3 months, I will have some shrimp). So here goes…

4 zucchini, peeled and julienned

9 oz. of shrimp

1 can diced tomatoes

1 avocado

1/4 c fresh basil

2 T water

salt and pepper

1. Saute shrimp in pan

2. In a separate pan, sauté zucchini

3. Blend tomatoes, avocado, basil, water, and salt and pepper

4. Once everything is done cooking, add the zucchini and sauce to the shrimp and mix until sauce is heated.

Here are my notes on the recipe…My knife skills are not amazing so it took me forever to julienne the zucchini.  I know that the idea is for it to seem like pasta, but to me, it still seemed like zucchini.  Plus, I may be totally wrong, but I sort of feel like I am missing out on some nutrients by peeling them.  In the future, I will probably just save myself a lot of time and slice them.

I am not posting a picture because, to be honest, the sauce is a really gross color and if I saw a picture of it, I would not want to eat it.  But it really is good.  The only thing is, it is not very flavorful.  The whole dish is really pretty bland.  But remember, I tend to go light on spices.  So I put very little salt and pepper in it.  Next time I make it, I will be a bit more heavy handed on the salt and pepper.  I will probably also add some crushed red pepper to the sauce for a little more flavor.

My last note on this recipe is that it makes 2 servings…or so they say.  I have no clue how you could eat half of this at one sitting.  It makes A LOT.  I would say it is at least 3 and more like 4 servings.  But if you are really hungry and eat half of it, no worries, you are only eating 1 serving. 🙂

I have been really trying not to do a whole lot of snacking lately.  But here’s a “Trail Mix” that is crazy delicious….

1/4 c unsalted almonds

1/4 c dried cranberries (make sure to get the unsweetened ones)

2 T dark chocolate chips.

I could eat trail mix all day and often don’t realize how much I have eaten because I eat it mindlessly.  So, this is great to just mix up as you want it and then just eat what you’ve made so you don’t go nuts. 🙂

On a personal note, I have been dealing with some crazy illness with Madi.  Two days ago, she woke up looking like this…

madi's face

I have to admit, I panicked a little bit. 🙂  Turns out, she has hand, foot, and mouth disease.  The poor thing is miserable.  Monday night we literally got no sleep because she was just so uncomfortable.  So all day yesterday she was both grumpy and incredibly frantic/manic all day.  She did manage a decent nap and slept well last night after she finally got to sleep.  I feel so bad for her.  She keeps coming up to me and saying “cheek hurt” and rubbing her face on the couch, a pillow, my leg, anything she can find.

While we were at the pediatrician, I also found out that she has another ear infection.  I was somewhat suspicious that she might have one but I never know with her.  Not only does she have an ear infection, but one of the tubes that she got put in 2 months ago is already out and the other one is plugged and therefore not functioning.

So, we went to the ENT yesterday who wants to put tubes in a third time but use bigger tubes this time.  I am just feeling hesitant because I feel like I have already put her through two surgeries and they haven’t helped.  And I just wonder what kind of long term impact these surgeries are having on her ear drum.  Additionally, the doctor wants me to consider eliminating all dairy from her diet.  She suggested waiting until after getting the next set of tubes in to try it as it is a pretty effortful dietary change…especially since all of Madi’s favorite foods are dairy.  But, it seems like if it would potentially help after the surgery, it would potentially help now.  I am just sort of torn about the whole thing.  Allergy tests show that she is not allergic to dairy but the ENT said that dairy can cause extra secretions in the upper respiratory system even if you aren’t allergic.  So, since Madi struggles with an extra junky upper respiratory system, eliminating dairy might be helpful.  But I hate that she is going to have to always bring her own special foods places, etc.  I also don’t know if this is a long term thing or something she might grow out of.  Any thoughts??

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Swim and Sun…and a whole lot of cleaning

The last couple of days of food journeying have been pretty boring.  I have gotten in to a pretty good rhythm of cooking up a big meal and then eating on the leftovers for a good long while.  So, I haven’t tried out any new recipes.  However, if work allows, I am going to try out some roasted zucchini fries tonight.  I will be sure to post how that goes.

Yesterday at work, we all ended up going out to the cottage that the boys go out to during the summer.  It was a ball.  We spent several hours in the water swimming away.  Madi is now completely fearless in the water.  I am glad that I have always put her head under the water from a young age (not in a creepy trying to kill your kid way but rather in a trying to get her used to the water so she doesn’t panic if she goes under water kind of way).  I really think she is going to be an early swimmer.  She has already learned to blow bubbles if her mouth goes under water and she floats on her belly and kicks away.  And yesterday, she slipped under water a couple of times and she just calmly stood right up.  Of course, I was there to help her if she needed it, I am not negligent. 🙂 Anyway, it was a ton of fun.  I am hoping we can spend a lot more time doing that this summer.

The only downfall is that I now have this crazy rash all over my neck and face.  Luckily I seem to be the only one affected but I can’t imagine how else I would have gotten it except for from something out at the cottage.  It is driving me insane!

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Food journey day 8 — Week 1 progress update

So, we are one week in to the food journey.  And, well, I have lost 8 pounds.  Seems crazy.  I really didn’t think that was possible unless you had a personal trainer and a personal chef.  But apparently if you stop eating processed crap and feed your sweet tooth with strawberries instead of candy, it is possible.  I am not fool enough to think that this pace of weight loss will continue, but it is a nice jump start towards my goals. 🙂

So, this morning, Madi and I went to the farmer’s market with my sister and Max.  We picked up some more kale (since I went through 3 bags of it last week), a bunch of zucchini, an onion, and some blueberries.  I wasn’t really planning on the blueberries, but after Madi was allowed a sample of them, we had to buy them for a snack. 🙂

I had intended to go to the gym after the farmer’s market, but Madi was having such a fun time with Max, it didn’t seem fair to drag her away to go to the gym.  So…I will have to find some time tomorrow for a run instead.

After Madi’s lunch, we went swimming.  I recently bought Madi a life jacket suit and this was her first time in the pool with it on.  Madi has always loved the water, but she clings to my neck for her life while we are swimming…laughing and clinging.  But that life jacket turned her in to a little fish.  Instantly.  She didn’t even want me to hold her hand.  She just wanted to float around and roll on her back and float.  It was seriously amazing.  We were in the pool for about 2 hours…so much fun!

Today’s food…

Breakfast — quinoa almond sundae

Lunch — none.  Oops…I took a nap instead.  I didn’t think I was hungry but I guess I was since I had a dream about eating a whole bunch of junk food.

Dinner — sweet potato with kale and white beans.  A peach.  Delicious.

And now, I think I will have some popcorn. 🙂

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Food Journey day 7

Seriously had the yummiest breakfast….Warm Almond Quinoa Breakfast Sundae (

This is the best meal in the morning.  It is a great way to use up some leftover quinoa.  Basically, you just take the quinoa, yogurt (I used Banilla), chopped up apples, slivered almonds, warm almond milk, melted peanut butter, and a drizzle of honey and layer it in a cup/bowl.  Deliciousness.

warm quinoa with apples and yogurt

I had to go back to work today and Madi also had a doctor’s appointment in the morning, so I didn’t get a very long workout in.  But I did get a 3 mile run in before work.

I have a feeling that going back to work after a week off might be a bit of a transition for me.  There are a lot of delicious, snacks that I shouldn’t be eating there. 🙂  I am just going to have to plan well.

Anyway, for lunch there, I had a super delicious salad with romaine, blueberries, cashews, and poppy seed dressing and a greek yogurt.

salad with cashews and blueberries

Dinner was just some more leftover soup. 🙂 Nope…not sick of it yet.

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Food Journey Day 6

Took me a minute to remember what day number I was on. 🙂

No pictures today…so, what a lame entry it will be.

Madi slept in until 9:15 this morning…and I had to wake her up then! I guess Fredrick Meijer Gardens really did tired her out! She went to bed at 7:15 last night!  We were quite late for our play date this morning, so we had smoothies to go.  The bad news is that Madi refuses to drink smoothies out of her sippy cup with a straw.  I think she was traumatized by our first attempt at smoothies.  I am going to have to buy her a new straw cup. 🙂

For lunch…more soup.  Exciting isn’t it?

Dinner…left over black rice and asparagus salad.

But here’s the highlight of my food day.  Sometimes, we all have a little sweet craving, right?  Well, here’s your solution.  Fried bananas in honey!!  What?!?!  I found this recipe online somewhere but I didn’t write down when.  So….here it is for you.  LIGHTLY drizzle a non-stick pan with olive oil and heat over medium high heat.  After the oil is heated, arrange a sliced banana in the pan.  Cook each side for about 1-2 minutes.  They should crisp up a little.  (I really wish I had a picture but my camera was acting up).  While the banana is cooking, whisk 1 tablespoon  honey and 1 tablespoon water.  After the banana is done, remove from heat, pour the honey over it and sprinkle with cinnamon.  Are you kidding me? Delicious!!

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A journey to the Fredrick Meijer Gardens.

Food Journey day 5 also included a journey to the Fredrick Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids with my mom and Madi.

Yesterday was about as close to a perfect day as one can have.  I somehow managed to get up at 5:45 to get to the gym before everyone got up.  I am so not a morning person…so that was a major accomplishment for me.  I ran 3 miles and biked 7.  The gym is such a different place early in the morning.  It is so quiet.  And, all the TV’s are on news. haha.  When I got there, 3 of the 6 TV’s were on fox news, 1 was on msnbc, 1 on cnn, and 1 on espn news.  🙂  I don’t really care what is on the tv when I work out but I usually do end up watching a bit of what was on.  Highlight of the news yesterday morning was when the closed captioning referred to Shimon Peres as Sigh Moan Peres.  Yikes.

Anyway, I got home at about 7:45 and the house was still quite.  🙂 So, I was able to get cook myself some eggs with zucchini and peach on the side.  I actually was able to cook and eat my breakfast before Madi’s little voice started calling for me.  It was pretty darn peaceful.

After Madi woke up, we quickly headed out.  We had hoped to get out about 8:30.  So, getting on the road by 9 was not bad.  Let me just say, Madi loved every minute of our trip.  When we first got to the Children’s Garden, there was a big statue of a bear and a bear cub.  I was honestly not sure that we would ever make it beyond that statue she loved it so much.  She started talking to it, saying “hi” over and over again.  I don’t know why, but I responded to her in a deep “bear” voice.  I was standing behind her and I am pretty sure she had no idea that I was the one talking.  She just started giggling and carrying on a pretty extensive conversation.  🙂  We had to really entice her just to move on to something else.

The next thing we saw was a small little fountain area that kids could play in.  Madi jumped right in.  🙂  I didn’t realize going there that she was actually going to get wet…so I didn’t bring her swimsuit.  But luckily I had brought 4 changes of clothes. 🙂  So, I let her just get her clothes all wet.  At some point, I did take her pants off her and let her play in just her diaper…classy, I know=


photo (5)

Then we moved on to the boat area.  We didn’t spend quite as much time there though because Madi kept trying to climb into the boat area which is generally frowned upon.  🙂

photo (8) photo (7)

The best part about the day was that Madi was genuinely excited about everything that we did.  At every new statue we came to, she would exclaim “Wow!”  My mom and I both agreed to just let her do what she wanted for as long as she wanted since it was her trip.  We had brought her stroller but she pretty much walked the whole way.  By the time we were heading towards lunch, she was really dragging. Tired girl.  🙂

photo (12) photo (10)

On the way home, she immediately started saying “Sleep Baby” over and over.  And within 5 minutes, she was sound asleep.

photo (17)

As for the food part of the day, I had originally thought I would have to bring a lunch for myself.  But I checked the menu of the gardens restaurant and felt pretty confident that there would be something I could there pretty healthily.  And I was right.  I ordered a salad with spring greens, sweet potato chunks, almonds, blueberry quinoa, and a citrus vinaigrette.  yummy. 🙂  Seriously, it was so good.

photo (13)

I did cheat a little yesterday and had a tiny bit of frozen yogurt with Madi on the way home.  at 9am, when we first started out, she said to me, “eat ice cream.”  Really? 9am?  So, we did stop for some on the way home. I think I had 9-10 bites….no big deal really.  Come on, live a little. 🙂

For dinner, I really wasn’t that hungry so I had some greek yogurt.  And I was exhausted.  So, I took myself to bed at about 8:30.  How exciting is that?!

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