Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Transitioning to a Vegan Diet

Okay...let me preface this post by saying that I'm not going to start solely blogging about my new meat-free diet. But lots of you have had questions, so I'll try my best to answer a few! But first of all, I'm still feeling great about this new lifestyle change! However, in the last week, we were invited to eat out a few times. And the places we went? Famous Dave's BBQ and Tucano's Brazilian Grill. Probably the last two places I would've picked--they definitely cater to the carnivore's--but I survived! And I actually discovered how good the salad bar at Tucano's really is! I'm usually too full from eating all the meat to go back for more salad!

As for the questions I've gotten from countless skeptics, a few that keep popping up are "How will you get the protein you need?", "How will you substitute dairy?", and "What will you give your baby once she's weaned in place of whole milk?" Good, honest questions, right? Here are my answers...

The Protein Issue
As Americans, I think we've sort of become obsessed with protein. Protein is definitely essential in our diets, as it helps our bodies function properly, but we don't need HUGE AMOUNTS OF IT! Only about 10% of what we eat really needs to come from protein. But here's a newsflash: meat isn't the ONLY source of protein out there! Nearly all vegetables, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds contain some, and often a lot of protein. Fruits, sugars, fats, and alcohol don't really provide much protein, so if you were to eat a diet based only on these foods, it probably would be too low in protein.

Protein is made up of amino acids (sometimes described as building blocks). We have a biological requirement for these amino acids, not for protein itself. As humans, we can't make NINE of the TWENTY common amino acids, so these are considered essential in our diets.

Eggs, cow's milk, meat, and fish are usually considered high quality protein because they have large amounts of all the essential amino acids. However, soybeans, quinoa (a grain pronounced KEEN-WA), and spinach are also considered high quality protein. Other plant-based protein sources also have all of the essential amino acids, but the amounts of one or two of these may be low. But it's not something to stress about! As long as you are eating a variety of vegetables, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds, the protein issue really isn't an issue.

And here's a link to an AWESOME quinoa recipe (which you can buy at Costco, by the way) that my brother made for me when I first decided on my new eating plan...I LOVED it:


So far, we've been drinking almond milk and rice milk. As for soy milk, there's a lot of controversy (about soy estrogens and the havoc they wreak on your hormones), so I'm sort of shying away from that one. My kids, and even husband (a HUGE milk drinker) love the almond milk (unsweetened) and the rice milk. Both are still fortified with vitamins and minerals. Almost all the fat in milk alternatives is heart-healthy, unsaturated fat. Milk, on the other hand, contains mostly undesirable saturated fat (which isn't the reason I'm giving it up, as you know).

I have a few recipes I'm going to try (and if I like them--I'll share) for homemade oat milk, almond milk, rice milk, pecan milk, and even coconut milk kefir (one of the best sources of healthy replace our yogurt). We'll see how it goes.

But to answer the underlying question, will I get enough calcium? Actually, calcium from plants is easier for our bodies to digest than calcium from animals, so yes! (Read The China Study for more reasons why cow's milk ISN'T really good for us!)

This is obviously controversial, but here's my plan. With my first two babies, I nursed them until they were about a year old, and eating the same solid foods we were. If all goes as hoped for, I'll do the same with this baby. The reason we're supposed to give our babies whole milk is for the FAT that helps with brain development, not for the MILK itself.

Here are a few sources of healthy fats:

Avocados (so easy to mash up for little mouths)
Coconut Milk
Flax Seed
Olives and Olive Oil
Peanuts and Peanut Butter
Sunflower Seeds

My research isn't done, but I'm still feeling really good about my decision to eat a whole foods, plant-based diet. I'm a bit overwhelmed by all the amazing things real Vegans such as this mother of five, and this one make for their families. But the good news is, it can be done! My menu for the next week is planned, and I'm excited to try lots of good-for-you stuff! Keep the advice and questions coming!


lera said...

I nursed all six of my children for about 18 months each. They never liked cow's milk after having breast milk. And it has not affected their brain development one bit.

Michael said...

That was a good post. Glad to hear you're still on track with the new diet. One question: Has your stomach been upset at all with the transition? I seem to remember Dr. Campbell saying something about that, but I can't remember--it's been three years since I read it.

Bonnie Wayne said...

To me one of the silliest questions is - what are you going to do in place of milk? The milk most america drinks has no real benefits because all the good properties have been homogenized and pasteurized out of it, its full of hormones and residues from antibiotics from what the cows have eaten, and the calcium that it has it not very available to the body - AKA it absorbs very little in that state...not the mention the Casein that the China Study did enlighten me on - as being a protein in milk that causes cancer 100% of the time above a 20% of the diet mark.

We are the only species that drinks milk from a different species, and the only species to drink milk past infancy - both lead to many sensitivites to milk, even if you DIDNT look at all the other points of why not to drink it.

I use it to make kefir, even though I do concur that I SHOULD be using either raw milk, or the elusive (to me at least - I can never find it and coconuts are expensive and time consuming to tap into...anyone else know of where to get it) COCONUT MILK. I did try soy milk and the kefir ended up dying so I haven't tried it since. I may try almond milk with kefir - that sounds pretty good.

Robyn said...

We're drinking rice milk and almond milk. My husband prefers (and actually really likes) the almond milk. I actually found a recipe for coconut milk calls for lite coconut milk, (which I found in a can) and coconut water (which I've yet to's probably at Whole Foods or Trader Joe's...I wish we had a Trader Joe's here) along with kefir starter. If you try the almond milk kefir, I'd love to hear how it turns out!

Diane said...

All the girls here in Dr. B's office make Kefir. We had a patient who brought some grains in one day when I wasn't here so I didn't get any. They are going to give me some to try. I guess it's pretty easy. It seems there are many varied benefits of drinking Kefir, one of which is better dental health. It tastes a lot like buttermilk to me, so I don't know if I'd like it as a milk replacement. I think the rice or almond milk may be a better substitute for milk. Let me know what you think. Good luck!!

Diane said...

Oh....the reason everyone decided to try Kefir is because of the amazing change this woman had in her gum health since she began drinking it.

Robyn said...

I don't think Kefir would be used as a milk's a probiotic, so almond milk kefir or rice milk kefir or coconut milk kefir would be substitutes for the "milk-based kefir" and a substitute for yogurt.

Gretchen said...

Jamie (Sayer) Johnson did a meat-free diet with her family and blogged all about it.

Gretchen said...

oh, this is her food blog...