Thursday, April 16, 2009

final thoughts on the vegan thing

So, Easter was the end of my little "Vegan 'til 6" experiment, and since then I've been trying to gather my thoughts on the experience. First of all, in many ways it was easier than I thought (and also harder--I'll get to that in a minute) insofar that I didn't feel terribly deprived most of the time and genuinely enjoyed the food I was eating. The oatmeal, the nuts, the beans and rice, the fresh fruit, the guacamole--all good. I also liked the instant upgrade to the healthiness of my diet, my increased awareness of how many animal products I really do eat throughout a day (more than I thought), and the freedom from so many distractions--muffins, cookies, junkfood--all out because they are rarely vegan.

On the other hand, it was hard. Hard because planning and cooking extra vegan food to have on hand for my (at work) lunches was very stressful and, near the end, just not doable. In week five I existed on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch. In week six I got by on a thin potato soup. My idea that I was going to make lots of grilled and roasted veggies and interesting salads was just not realistic. I did do a little of that in the first few weeks, but here's what I have come to know and understand from the experiment: I have little kids. I have a teenage daughter who enjoys spending time with me. And I have a full time job. So spending lots of extra time cooking and cleaning up on the weekends so that I can follow a special diet? Not worth it. If anything, I've come to realize that I want to streamline my weekend cooking even more. My little boys are growing up so very fast and I love them so much at this age. I'd much rather be doing something fun with them than be tied up in in the kitchen. Faith we be gone and off to college in a little over two years (!) and I'd much rather spend time with her while she actually enjoys my company than be roasting up a batch of veggies for my lunches.

Yes, it's easy to cook beans, throw a tray of veggies into the oven for roasting, make a pot of brown rice to have onhand for the week, but all these kitchen tasks (and their cleanup) add up--at least they do for me. I still want to eat healthy and still intend to, but will be going back to my eating leftovers from last night's dinner for lunch routine. Hooray! And yes, throwing in more fruit and nuts and fewer animal products I anticipate.

{egg salad for lunch this week--a spring treat}

So, did anyone else play along on the vegan 'til 6 thing? I'd love to hear your thoughts too.

11 comments:

woolanthropy said...

You are right about it being easy and being hard. It is hard to keep ahead of the menu for the week, so to speak. At the same time, I guess that is the part about being more conscious and engaging with the food. Towards the end I found myself switching it up and maybe having meat for lunch and then a vegan dinner. But yesterday I had a tuna sandwich for lunch. It was the first time in weeks that I was not ravenous by 3 or 4 o'clock. It was kind of interesting the not being hungry after lunch. My hubby and I are planning to continue the plan but take Sundays off. Sometimes you just want eggs for breakfast.

Mary Beth said...

Oh, yes, I do love an egg breakfast. And, yes, about the being hungry in the afternoons--I totally agree. I was starving and wanted dinner on the table by 5!

Joy said...

I'm glad it was a largely good experience for you. We mostly eat vegan for b'fast and lunch, although not always. Having 2 kids in a row with dairy allergies will aid in that. :) We've had lots of egg salad this week too. Gotta do something with all those colored eggs!

Kelli said...

I grew up on a beef farm so I am not so much into a vegan thing but I agree with any diet it takes so much. Before I had the two little ones I remember (so long ago) juicing veggies for a one liter drink throughout the day, I did it every other day, wow, where did that time go, preparing and cleaning up. I am with ya, kids grow so fast, more fun to be wiht them than in the kitchen.

Our Green Nest said...

Since it's the way we eat, we don't think much of it - as far as it being harder. I don't personally think it is AT ALL if it's the way your whole family eats! But yes, if you were making separate meals for yourself, I'm sure that took quite a bit of extra time every week. Awesome that you did it though and it sounds like it's made you more mindful of how many animal products you were consuming before and that you're going to lessen that, which is a great thing. If everyone would do that, our environment and country would be alot healthier!

Mary Beth said...

Our Green Nest--exactly! That is the point that Mark Bittman was trying to make in his book--if we could all lessen the animal products that we eat it would do our environment a world of good. And I very much want to do just that--for the whole family, not just for me. Thanks for your insights!

andrea said...

I too read the Mark Bittman book and have been trying to cut back on animal products. My husband would happily do away with all meats(mainly for environmental reasons), but I would miss them. So, he is able to eat a veggie lunch at work each day and I have been trying to make dinners w/o meat 4-5 times a week. But I do find it hard to come up with good meatless meals that my 3 and 6 year old will enjoy too. They are not fans of beans yet. I am trying and some weeks I am inspired and some weeks it is just easier to go back to the old standards that involve chicken or beef. I agree with you Mary Beth, it is important to find the balance and to spend that precious time with the kids instead of extra cooking and cleaning. It has made me more mindful of what we are eating and what I'm buying at the market though. And with prices going up and up, buying less meat has helped in keeping the grocery bill manageable. Enjoy the rest of your spring break!

Saver Queen said...

I think you've got your priorities straight!

I was vegan for many years and I know from experience that it is tough to do. It requires a lot of planning and a lot of thought to make sure that you're getting all your nutrients. And, like you say, you can rarely eat any processed foods, which means everything has to be done by scratch.

Lia said...

I have recently cut meat out of my diet after reading about the processing business. I'd like to cut back on dairy too but we eat a lot of cheese, eggs and milk in our house. I have been chopping a lot of veggies and although it takes time I have loved every fresh tasty new recipe. I'm putting the Bittman book next on my list. I found your vegan til 6 so inspiring Mary Beth, thank you.

Andrea said...

I had good intentions of trying something similar--trying to cut out all the bread and cheese and eating a basically vegan diet, but after the first couple of weeks, I just felt soooo hungry all the time, I hated the oatmeal for breakfast (I tried microwaving it at work--yuck!) and I didn't have time to cook anything special for the week, that I gave up and went back to my old yogurt and cereal for breakfast, and either leftovers or sandwiches for lunch. I did, however, give up sugar, which was not very difficult, and having had a few sugary things since Easter, which always make me feel very ill, I think I will try to make it a long-term trend (after I eat the granola bar I brought for breakfast today!)

Anna said...

I found "Food Matters" inspiring and fascinating, but the menus he suggested were definitely for someone without kids and a job. Everything was easy to make, sure, but there was SO MUCH of it.
As a working mom (who admittedly LOVES to spend time in the kitchen), I find it much easier to implement his ideas over the entire week--not make special meals for breakfast and lunch.
I make a pot of one kind of bean a week and use it for multiple family meals--sometimes with meat as a "condiment." I have a post detailing a week of chickpeas up at my blog right now.
We all eat leftovers for lunch.
Breakfasts are cold oatmeal with rice milk, fresh fruit in season, and dried blueberries and raisins. (This is delicious, really. I have no idea why everyone cooks their oatmeal.)
It wasn't until I had a child that I understood the appeal of routine and repetition. I think my old self would have run screaming at the idea of chickpeas times six! Now I realize that it buys me time to play in the mud with a two year old.