So you’ve climbed Mount Vegan – congratulations!! You’re no longer eating meat, fish, dairy, or eggs. THAT is a huge accomplishment!!! Maybe you did a 30-day kick start program or maybe you did it on your own over a period of months or years. You feel good. You look good. But now, you think you can do more. You want to do more. From the top of Mount Vegan, you can see infinite possibilities. The question is, “Where will you go?”
Nine years into my vegan journey, I was asking the same question. I had been hearing some new (to me) terms, like “whole food plant-based” and “plant strong” and “plant perfect” and even “starch-centered”. And the people using these terms were highly-respected individuals in the fields of medicine and nutrition. I read more. I became aware of new, exciting dimensions of diet and lifestyle – dimensions that could help me take another quantum leap forward in my health and well-being. If you are looking to do the same, consider making changes like these:
More whole foods
Try eating foods in their original “packaging”, as nature delivers them. Eat the orange rather than drinking the juice. Choose the edamame over the tofu. Eat the nuts rather than the nut butter. Make your own veggie burgers from whole beans and grains rather than opting for the frozen hockey pucks. And skip the oil – it’s not whole, it’s not health food, it is liquid fat.
More organic foods
A recent landmark report from the President’s Cancer Panel actually (gasp) urges the American public to eat foods grown without chemical pesticides, fertilizers, hormones, or antibiotics. Why? By reducing your exposure to environmental toxins, you reduce your cancer risk. Another plus: I think you’ll find that organic foods really do taste better. Much better. Yes, organic is more expensive – but we’re talking about your health and well-being here. If you’re still hesitant to spend more for organic across the board, start by replacing the “dirty dozen” with their organic counterparts. If you really want to go all out, grow your own food organically. Caroline and I have found that growing lots of our own food is fantastic. You get great, fresh-tasting, and very “local” fruits and vegetables. You get great exercise. You get to photosynthesize when you’re out in the sun. And you know exactly how your food was grown.
If you’re anything like me, when you started your vegan journey, you thought about all the foods and goodies you’d be giving up. But before long, you became aware of numerous new and different foods – ones you never experienced. There is incredible variety in the plant kingdom, from grains (e.g., amaranth, spelt, and millet), to beans (e.g., Vermont Cranberry, Jacob’s cattle, and even the humble garbanzo might be new to you), to veggies (e.g., swiss chard, bok choy, and purple potatoes), to fruits (e.g., black raspberries, kiwi, and persimmons). There’s no need to wallow in a “same old, same old” rut for meals and snacks with this plethora of possibilities all around.
Enjoy nature’s sweetness
Sugar was a luxury at one time. High-fructose corn syrup wasn’t commercially available 40 years ago. Some way, somehow, the human race survived without these highly-processed – and addictive – additives. Challenge yourself first to refrain from adding sugar or sweeteners at the table to your foods or drinks. Next, choose oatmeal with berries over boxed cereals. If you can, drink more water or tea and say goodbye to soft drinks and drink mixes. You might be amazed how sickly, super-sweet a Coke tastes after you’ve “re-booted” your palate. When a pear or apple tastes sweet to you, you’re in a whole new world.
You can add in the usual way, and you can add by the subtraction of negatives. In each of the above areas, you can have more (more whole foods, more organic, more variety) and enjoy more (natural sweetness). At the same time, you can subtract the processed, the super-sweet, the grown-with-pesticides, and the same old, same old.
Thoreau exhorted, “Simplify, simplify!” You have ascended Mount Vegan. Take a good look around, especially in the direction of simple foods, grown simply, and simply prepared. Then climb your next mountain. It’s simpler than you might imagine.