28 Days

A few weeks ago my running partner asked me to join a healthy eating program at WholeFoods. I did some marginal research and saw I'd learn about reading food labels and eating a plant-based diet. Sounded great to me! I'm always looking for new recipes and ideas on incorporating more vegetables into my diet. I should have done more research before I agreed. After I tell my running partner I signed up, she casually mentions it's a meatless diet. Say whaaaa??? I have no desire to give up meat. Eat less? Sure. Completely abstain from chicken, chicken stock, fish, bacon and EGGS? I'm all good on that. Come to find out, it's a rather stringent 28-day program.

Week One: No dairy, no processed foods (I take this to mean white flour/sugar)
Week Two: Same + No meat, fish, eggs
Weeks Three & Four: Same + No oils

I love cheese and milk with my cereal but it doesn't really love me so the idea of limiting my dairy intake had already been floating in my head. I also liked the idea of limiting white flour and sugar. Pork is increasingly distasteful to me so that wasn't much of a problem. The point where they COMPLETELY lost me was giving up oils. The reasoning? They're empty calories. I run 10+ miles every week. I'm pretty sure I can withstand a few extra calories. Especially if I'm eating all/mostly plants and whole grains.

One of the things my mom did all the way right was teach me to avoid diets. Her advice: Change your lifestyle rather than doing something extreme for a few weeks or months. I decided to give this plan a try anyway because I'd already said I was going to and for the other aforementioned reasons. I'm 12 days in so let's start with the positive things I've discovered:
  1. I love almond milk! I am all in for substituting it in baking (where possible), oatmeal, my rare coffee, cereal. This is one of the great joys of this process for me! It would've taken a lot for me to buy an entire carton of almond milk in case I didn't like it. Now I had an excuse. I also found I like the Harris Teeter store brand but not the Whole Foods store brand. I re-tried soy milk. Still don't like that. Sweetened oat milk? AWESOME! But has a crazy amount of sugar which kind of defeats the purpose, doesn't it? Hemp milk tastes like cardboard. It's almost grainy. BIZARRE. The WF almond, oat & hemp I tasted for free in store.
  2. Eggs are just as delicious with olive oil as with butter. I've ALWAYS cooked my eggs in butter because the times I had it cooked in oil, it seemed to be lacking in flavor. In retrospect, I think it was usually cooked in canola oil. Why? Just wrong. A dash (and really the scantest amount is enough) of olive oil in a non-stick skillet is enough to make my eggs a delight. Butter, you're out!
  3. Grilled veggie burritos are DELICIOUS! I really didn't miss the meat! (But the fact that it's only 60 cents cheaper than the meat burrito? That's a fail.)
  4. Eating fruit is so much easier when you are eating eliminating all that other stuff. In the last two weeks, I know I've had more fruit than in a shamefully long time.
I'm so glad to incorporate all of these things into my life! I love the positives! So much that I'm trying to be less effusive about the negatives... but for me, they're pretty big negatives.
  1. I'm starving. Not literally but I'm really, REALLY hungry, really, REALLY often. I don't stay full enough long enough. And yes, I've incorporated more fiber (oatmeal, whole grains, quinoa, barley, etc.) and still my hunger is OFF THE CHARTS!!
  2. I have NO desire to eat fake meat. You know "bacon" and "chix" which are made of soy/tofu or seitan or tempeh. If you call it what it is, maybe I'll eat it. But when you give it a name like an actual meat product? Automatic turn off. If I need to taste meat that badly, there's a simple solution: I'll just eat meat.
  3. It is woefully difficult to find appealing vegan recipes. I know they exist. I have found some but there is so much WADING through things that are too basic, not filling or that look like a collection of side dishes, soups, stews, curries and salads. The plan's own list of recipes was a huge letdown. I'm looking for things that expand my cooking repertoire, not just remove the meat and/or add tofu. 
  4. Vegetarian recipes are almost no help since so many (way too many, really) of them rely heavily on cheese. In most cases, if recipes use feta, blue or goat cheese, a lot of the dish's flavor resides in the cheese. I love cheese but it seems lazy to add it to things just to say you ate a vegetarian meal. I'm talking to you, food site that had MAC & CHEESE as a meatless monday meal. Again, if you want meat, just eat it. Come on, people. Mac & cheese as meatless monday is a cop out. And a side dish. I know that's a cultural thing but mac and cheese is a side dish.
  5. There are too few easy fast food/restaurant meal options, particularly in this city. When I don't feel like cooking, it is VERY difficult to find even varied vegetarian options. Remove cheese from the equation (+ my disdain for raw onions and winter tomatoes) and I'm so straight on buying a salad with lettuce, carrots and dressing. Let me just go get a piece of fruit. And then another one an hour later...
  6. Speaking of which, this isn't the plan's fault but I still hate apples as a snack. With most fruit, I eat it and I'm good for a while. I eat an apple and I'm not satiated, not hungry but RAVENOUS within an hour of eating apples. Like I might as well start cooking while I'm eating the apple if that's my snack. Because I'm going to be ready to eat a (meatless) horse in 5, 4, 3, 2...
  7. Shopping is incredibly time-consuming what with all the label-reading. Milk is in the weirdest places. Why is there milk in certain wheat breads? Only certain ones? It's bread. And a healthy bread. You don't need milk.
  8. There is only one vitamin you can only get from meat. B12... Which is essential for brain function. You can take a supplement, though. Pass. I like my brain functioning without having to supplement with a pill.
  9. It's making Rashan miserable. He doesn't want to tempt me by eating things I can't eat (no matter what I say) so he just mopes around the house when he's hungry.
  10. I'm probably not supposed to binge on the things I'm giving up the following week. You should've seen my meat and dairy binge preceding week one. I ate more milk and dairy than I ordinarily would. I also rarely eat dessert & suddenly became obsessed with it when thinking about all the dairy and eggs in my favorites. I never save bacon grease but I cooked Rashan some bacon last night (and actually didn't even want any!!) then wanted to fry something up in the bacon grease just because it was there. Ma'am...
I'm sure there are many, many, MANY things I don't know and haven't tried with this lifestyle. But I know one thing... I normally eat 5-10 eggs per week and after almost a week egg-free, those two eggs I ate as I wrote this post were FANTASTIC!! BABY, I'M BACK! Oh I know something else. I can definitely eat less meat. Most of the time I actually like the challenge of deciding what to eat when I'm not eating meat. But for me, this process became way too stressful and way, WAY too restrictive. Like everything else I do, I'll take what I need and leave the rest. I want to enjoy my every meal and I'm going to work hard to make that happen with and without meat. But on my own terms.


K. Rock said...

Wow! What an adventure. I know it would be hard for me because I am no fan of restrictive diets. I just try to make better food choices and live my life like that.

I have never even heard of hemp milk. Sound questionable.

I use vegetable oil spray to cook my eggs and most other skillet things. Very light. I hardly cook with butter anymore. I need to stop buying the big tubs because it takes me forever to use it all.

I find that I am hungry all the time too. Take into account that it may have something to do with how much you work out. I have a hunger that is never quenched.

I also have no desire for chic'n products.

Mac and cheese IS a meatless meal! Cheese is not meat.

I lovee apples! I eat at least one everyday. They work for me most of the time. Try almonds as a snack. They work too.

Eating less meat definitely isnt hard as long as the food you are eating is filling and more importantly, tasty.

SimplyB said...

This post was very interesting. Forgive me but I laughed a few times.

I have a love/hate relationship with meat but I doubt if I could ever give it up completely.

I try to never eat an oatmeal/apple combo alone. As soon as I get my last bite in my stomach is already growling!

My coworker is always eating a veggie dog or a tofu something that is supposed to be like meat. I hate it! Eat meat or don't.

I was just talking to a student at my job today who lost a considerable amount of weight and he talked about how important it is to read food labels. He also said it was a very time consuming process in the beginning.

God's Sprinkles said...

I invite you to follow my blog!

Sparkling Red said...

Interesting process. I'll have to give almond milk a try. I haven't tried any alternative "milk" other than soy in a long time. I recall years ago when I was working in a health food store they tried to launch a brand of potato milk. It didn't taste bad, but I also don't see it on the shelves anywhere, so I guess it didn't fly.

Nerd Girl said...

I can do restrictive - but only when fasting.

Don't care for milk in any form unless I"m using it to cook something or to lighten my coffee.

I definitely eat more when I'm only eating fruits, veggies, whole grains and beans.

I like chik'n. I like veggie patties - don't like veggie patties that try to taste like beef, hot dogs, etc.

I wholeheartedly agree with your Mom!

Good post!

1969 said...

I couldn't do it. I gave up red meat and pork years ago. I love my seafood and chicken. I love my ground turkey and the occasional turkey sausage or turkey bacon.

I am counting calories and have lost 8 pounds over the last month. I have learned that I need to make smarter choices but on days when you need a treat, it's okay.

On days you work out, you get to add more calories into your day.

Smart eating beats restrictive eating.

Jameil said...

k... hemp milk is extremely questionable. I'm always ravenous on workout days. I have been for years. It's worse now since on long runs I burn more than 600 calories. I am aware that cheese is not meat. But why aren't you eating meat? Is part of it not a health thing? No one thinks mac & cheese is healthy. Go eat some vegetables! I'm apple picky. My favorites are PINK LADY!!! Best apples ever! I don't really like almonds.

simply b... lol. I laughed while writing it. I'm so glad someone else has apple issues! Oatmeal keeps me full for a good long while so it's my homie! Veggie dog? Scary. I'd try it tho. I don't mind tofu just don't call it chicken or something like that. Food labels are so key. 7000 ingredients? Not for me. 5 or fewer is a trick I heard.

red... It's quite good! But potato milk!?! I'm frightened! Good gracious!

ng... I expected to eat more but I almost feel like I can't keep up with the amount of food I eat when it's only fruit, veggies & whole grains, etc. Ditto on the veggie patties. Just don't call it chicken.

1969... Sometimes I just need a good ole red meat burger! I like turkey & chicken sausage. I HATE turkey bacon. I'm really not worried about my weight. I eat what I want in moderation. It works until it doesn't anymore. Right now it works.

ShaBoogiesince1982 said...

Hubs is lactose intolerant and wanted to try hemp milk, I let him know it tastes like cardboard, lol

I'm am SO a butter with my eggs fan. I'll have to try EVOO! (In my Rachel Ray voice)

I am with you on the fake meat. No and thank you ma'am!

When X started eating solid food, I began reading labels.. OMG!! Why is there so much crap in bread?! High Fructose Corn Syrup? Really? WHY?!

Jameil said...

Yeah... of all the ones to try, hemp? ehhhh. You only need a teeny tiny amount of EVOO so that they're not oily. There is so much crap in a bunch of things. Part of it is to make everything last longer. It's RIDICULOUS.