Wednesday, July 9, 2014

What I Ate Wednesday + Nature

I am finally back and settled from a crazy June where I spent as many days out of town as at home!I have to admit that during my travels I didn't always make the best food choices due to both time/locale constraints and an inclination toward indulgence. I stayed pretty dedicated to my fitness and have been able to mix in some fun things like hiking and snorkeling. My second trip in June was for a work conference in Las Vegas so I didn't take too many food pictures, but I did sneak a few. Here are some food/travel highlights from the past few weeks.

Scenes from Vegas: Bellagio fountains, 2 of 3 Elvises, conference pool party, Dr. Evil on the Strip & my new favorite shirt

The first night of the trip the girls I was staying with and I made dinner in our suite. Kale salad with chickpeas to start things off healthy!

Staying fit at the gym, strawberry gelato, spicy noodles, vegan hot dog on the Strip & baked potato with BBQ sauce that I found in the conference center.

Our last afternoon some of us took a trip to the Mt. Charleston area about an hour outside Vegas for a 3 mile hike to Mary Jane Falls. Nothing like pizza and beer after a good hike!

Comfort food

Tofu and veg in a sweet & sour broth plus a veggie roll at Izziban. 

Comfort food #2.

OMG Vegan potluck! Orlando has a great veg group called VegCF that hosts a monthly potluck. I was able to go for the first time and I will go back every single time that I'm able. It was a wonderful meal with great conversation and a community spirit that was very moving. Please come if you're in Orlando on the first Monday of the month!

On the 4th of July I took a road trip with a new friend to Devil's Den for some underground snorkeling. It was such a cool place, literally, the water was about 70 degrees! 

Friday, July 4, 2014

Two Years Plant Based!

Today is the day, the anniversary of my decision to be fully plant based two years ago. I get asked about my decision quite often, so I thought I'd share my story here.

I was a vegetarian for a little over a year in high school, and by that I mean I ate potatoes and noodles and fruit. I ate some veggies, but sparingly. I hadn't yet fallen in love with hummus. I was not in a healthy place and it didn't stick.

In 2007 when I was at my heaviest, I started learning more about food and the impact of diet on more than just weight. The quest to lose weight morphed into a quest to be healthy, and I did a lot of reading and documentary watching in that time. I was heavily influenced by The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan, and I think everyone should read it.

After I learned about the factory farming and big Ag industries I started doing my best to make more informed choices. I stopped buying conventionally farmed meat and tried to buy as much organic as possible. I was living in Baltimore at the time, and it was easy to find access to local and sustainable sources of animal protein.

When I moved to NC it was more difficult to do this, and I was still educating myself about food and the industry that provides it. I watched the documentary Forks Over Knives in close proximity to reading Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. The documentary convinced me that removing animal protein from my diet could greatly improve my health, and the book showed me how significant the environmental impact of eating animals can be.

I had a moment at work shortly after this where I was chewing the sausage in my Jimmy Dean sandwich and felt disgusted by it. That was February 3, 2012 and was the last time I ate meat. I spent the next few months stressing about getting enough protein by putting cheese on everything I ate. At the same time I was starting to read vegan/plant based blogs and literature and began mentally accepting the idea that I should cut out eggs and dairy as well.

I decided to make July 4th my first day fully plant based because it was 5 months after my vegetarian-versary and an easy day to remember. My last vegetarian meal was a few slices of the closest to NY style pizza I could find in NC. My first big vegan meal was this cherry tomato focaccia bread and some assorted salads that I made for a 4th of July hike.

My eating style has evolved since then. I started out relying heavily on vegan versions of traditional foods (fake meats, sandwiches, pasta, etc.). I struggled a lot at first with deciphering what ingredients were plant based, until I had the epiphany that I shouldn't be eating foods with unfamiliar ingredients in the first place!

I was greatly inspired by the Thrive series of books and online information from Brendan Brazier, and because of this I eat a pretty healthy whole foods plant based diet. You should know this if you follow my blog! Here are a few highlights of some amazing meals I've had in the last two years:

Burger at Pure Food in NYC, still the best!
Rawco Taco Salad at Luna's Living Kitchen in Charlotte, NC
Smoothie bowls with granola, just about every weekend
Raw pasta with hummus or pesto, at least once a month

Bun salads

Roasted beet arepa at Tako Cheena in Orlando, FL.
Can't forget about dessert! Treats from Raphsodic Bakery in Orlando, FL

One of the best things about this lifestyle for me is that I don't have to count calories and can eat until my hunger is satiated. It's gotten easier to eat plant based in the last year and I think many more restaurants and stores support eating this way. I can't say that I'll always eat this way, and I can't truthfully say I haven't eaten anything from an animal in the last two years. Some things may have slipped by. For now, it's still working, and I'll continue on my merry plant based way.