The 12 days of Veganism

March 17, 2013

As part of my schooling in nutrition I’ve really been making an attempt to “try on” as many different ways of eating as I can.  Every week we tackle a new dietary theory and when we reached “veganism” I have to admit I was intrigued.  What would it be like to rid my diet of all animal products?  How would I survive without burgers, milk, or cheese?  What does one eat when they aren’t eating eggs, chicken parmesan or pork chops?  These are questions I was curious to answer.  Mostly, I wanted to see if I could do it for at least 1 week and to see if I could lose a little weight.  So it was a game of will power and weight loss, most of my games are.

I set out to try it for one week and ended up lasting 12 days before I added eggs back into my diet.  I felt really good while being vegan, and have been trying to keep up the healthy ideas I learned.  I don’t think veganism is a good long term diet for me, but I do think some of the lessons I learned are definitely great to be incorporated into my diet on a regular basis.

First, restaurants have great vegan options.  I found it useful to ask the server what vegetarian options they recommend, and from there you can decipher if it is merely vegetarian or vegan.  I had a delightful vegan veggie enchilada at Jolie Cantina in Brooklyn that was delicious and made me feel like I wasn’t missing out on anything at all.  In the past it would have never occurred to me to ask for a vegan/vegetarian option.  It would also never occur to me that there would be delicious options.  I also tried vegetarian options at Bark in Park Slope and Shake Shack, both with great results.  I’m actually still dreaming about the ‘shroom burger from Shake Shack.  I definitely plan to scope out more vegan options while eating out – who knew they’d be so yummy?

Another revelation: brown rice can actually be tasty!  Previously, I thought brown rice was like chewing on pebbles. It was always so hard and grainy it totally took the fun out of Spicy Tuna rolls.  I tried making it with the directions from the package a few times, but it was basically inedible to me and to my family.  After a while I just gave up and when back to white rice.  But being vegan for 12 days, I wanted to try brown rice again.  I turned to my guru Gina who writes the blog Skinnytaste.  She had a brown rice recipe similar to her Baked Rice and Peas where you steam the rice.  The recipe was super easy to follow and the results were fabulous.  It was the first brown rice I ever tasted that was light and fluffy enough to be mistaken for white rice.  It was also a large batch so I had plenty to enjoy all week.  I even made a porridge with some of the brown rice for breakfast!  Even my husband liked it – now I know I have a winner.  Moral of story – try new things, you might be surprised with the results.

If you ask for special dietary treatment, you will usually get it.  During my first week of veganism I had to attend a bridal shower at a catering hall on Staten island.  These types of affairs (when you’re Italian-American) usually include a lot of food – most of it smothered with cheese!  The menu included zero vegetarian options.  When the server came to me, I simply asked “Do you have any vegetarian options?”  He responded they’d be able to make me eggplant parmesan.  “Oh, with cheese?”  The server said, “Do you want vegetarian or vegan?”  I was shocked!  I didn’t even have the guts to ask for vegan, I just assumed that this type of restaurant wouldn’t be able to accommodate me.  The server told me it was no problem to make me a grilled veggie risotto, a pasta dish with garlic and oil, and a salad course with no cheese on it!  He totally hooked me up.  It was such a surprise and the food was great.  Again, I didn’t feel like I was missing anything.  I ate good food and had a great time at the party.  By this point I’m realizing just how much of my food choices aren’t really about food.  There ‘s this lingering feeling within me that if I go to Shake Shack and don’t have a burger that I’m missing out on something.  But I’m not.  I’m still there with my friends or family, talking and laughing.  I’m still a part of things even if I’m not eating meat or cheese.  Perhaps this is a deep rooted issue with eating that I’ve been dealing with for my whole life?  What will I miss out on if I don’t eat something?  Now I know the answer, nothing.  

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