Summer Reading Ideas (Or Hippies, Tie Dye T-Shirts, and Hairy Legs)

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A blog changed my life. And not my blog, mind you, as this was BIBB-Before I Began Blogging. Besides, that would be borderline egotistical, don’t you think?  

Almost three years ago, I accidentally stumbled upon Eat Good 4 Life, a blog authored by a clinical dietician. It was on this blog that I read “My Food Philosophy”.

At the time, food and I had an extremely dysfunctional relationship. This was my first exposure to the concept that I could maintain a healthy weight without counting calories, or exercising to extremes. I discovered why dieting. Simply. Does. Not. Work. (Looks funny, but I want you to read it that way.)

Too good to be true? Yeah, that’s what I thought. But, I was intrigued. Eager to learn more, I searched for, and found books like Eat to Live, Intuitive Eating, SuperFoods, the End of Dieting, and Eat, Drink and Be Healthy. I began to understand that ingredient labels were far more important than nutrition labels (specifically caloric information). I also started listening to my body, recognizing true hunger, honoring cravings, and identifying what foods made me feel good.

I invested in a food processor and a blender. I cleaned out the processed foods from my pantry and freezer. I experimented with recipes and created meals from real food. I tried new foods. I joined a CSA.

And I hungered for more (sorry…I couldn’t resist).  I spent hours at Barnes and Noble pouring over books, investing in: Super Immunity, The China Study, and Whole.

I learned how degenerative diseases could be controlled, or even reversed, by adopting a whole food, plant based diet. I became aware of how lobbyists, the government, and scientists contribute to the confusion about the food we eat. I became knowledgeable about the science behind the evidence. I developed an awareness about how scientific paradigm ignores the intricacies of the human body, and why, despite everything we know, we haven’t changed our eating habits.

I kept reading: Main Street Vegan, Vegan for Her, and Veganist

Yep. Here it comes. The “V” word. At first, I didn’t even acknowledge the word. I didn’t want to freak people out. I realized that to many, the word vegan created visions of hippies, tie dyed t-shirts, hairy legs, Oregonians, and bumper sticker covered Subarus, so I would say a whole food, plant based diet instead. I’m not much of a rebel that way. I much prefer to fly under the radar.

In the past 2 1/2 years, I’ve become more comfortable using the “V” word, but to be honest, I don’t feel it completely defines me.

Why? Well, it’s not just because I live in Wisconsin, shave my legs and drive a SUV. (Not to mention the fact that I don’t own a single tie dye t-shirt.)

I have an issue with a vegan diet composed primarily of processed foods. You can adopt a vegan diet and never eat a vegetable.  I get quite agitated about all the crap that is put in our foods, and this includes vegan foods.

How about this vegan meal plan…

Breakfast: Kellogg’s Brown Sugar Unfrosted Pop-Tart and a Starbuck’s soy chai latte

Snack: Ritz Whole Wheat crackers with Skippy peanut butter

Lunch: Smucker’s Uncrustables Peanut Butter and Grape Jelly, Ruffles BBQ potato chips, Mott’s apple sauce, Oreo cookies

Snack: Nature Valley Crunchy Granola Bars (Maple Brown Sugar)

Dinner: Simply Asia Sesame Teriyaki Noodle Bowl, Fritos, and Jello instant chocolate pudding (made with nut milk of course)

Snack: Famous Amos Sandwich Cookies (Vanilla)

If you’re looking for foods abundant in a bunch of unrecognizable ingredients, look no further. The above foods are vegan, but they are also filled with ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, artificial flavors and colors, and preservatives.

Vegan does not necessarily equate to healthy eating.

While my diet is vegan, I also feel passionate about eating whole foods. I know I am positively impacting the environment, and showing compassion towards animals. I feel I am at my best, physically, mentally, and spiritually, when I eat whole foods.

If I were forced to choose between an Oreo (vegan btw) and a Great Harvest cookie (not vegan, but made from real ingredients with no artificial flavorings, or additives), I feel a Great Harvest cookie is the better choice. Luckily, there are healthy(ier) vegan options available out there like Alternative Baking Company cookies, or a slice of Chicago Diner cake when I feel the need for a bakery treat, making it easy for me to “have my cake, and eat it too”. 

Reading books like, I’m Mad as Hell and I’m not Going to Eat It, No Happy Cows, Voices of the Food Revolution, and In Defense of Food increased my awareness of how my food choices affected the environment. I became aware of the harsh realities of the meat industry.

I realize that a vegan diet, based primarily on whole foods is rather “extreme” for most people. There are many benefits in eating more plants, and less animal products, but food choice is highly personal. My hope is that I can encourage increased consumption of whole foods, plant based by creating an awareness of the numerous benefits of a plant based diet, and by sharing delicious vegan food.

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