My food evolution

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I've always been a girl that likes to eat. Fortunately, I grew up around a lot of home cooking, so it's not a big surprise that I love to cook today! Unfortunately, as a kid we also had an endless supply of Kool-Aid and junk food...but in defense of my family, it was the norm for the neighborhood. That reminds me, I never cashed in on all the Kool-Aid points I painstakingly clipped!

My taste buds have changed drastically in the last 10 years or so. Back in college I was good to go with some Ramen Noodles (who wasn't?). When I got my first apartment, I entered phase of really learning to cook and plan for myself. There were some major learning curves as I got my first job with a cafe in walking distance and had to figure out the hard way that cafe chicken strips and cookies were a sure fire way to outgrow my jeans. Let's not even talk about the waiting job I had where the house specialty was a creamy french onion soup laden with butter.

It was at that point that I discovered the South Beach Diet. I am not a nutritionist by any means, but I think that there are some ok qualities about the plan. After all, it helped me shed an addiction to processed carbs and start incorporating a lot more produce into my meals. I never disliked produce, but a bag of pretzels was always more convenient. The South Beach Diet also got me trying new recipes on a regular basis, which is a habit that I am very glad I started. There's nothing worse than feeling like you are in a food rut.

My next food phase was Weight Watchers, which I also think has some good points. I learned a lot about portion control and conscious eating through their program and lost the couple pounds I'd gained after discovering Papa John's breadsticks and garlic dip. I followed the program with and without the formal group for some time, but I have to admit that I did get tired of points, tracking and worrying about nutrition labels.

Fast forward to summer 2009. I had slowly started decrease the amount of meat in my prepared meals and was replacing it with more veggies. A friend introduced me to In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan and The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. These books blew my mind. I had no idea what was going on the the world and what it had to do with the food that I was putting in my mouth.

Before even finishing reading, I declared myself a vegetarian. I lost all interest in eating meat and meat by-products. After easing into meatless meals, this wasn't a huge shock for me, but it was a big move for my husband who I am eternally grateful to for his support. I have been meat-free for a year (with limited dairy and egg consumption) and hubby eats the same as I do at home. When he's dining out, he orders whatever he feels like. However, he's noticed more and more how he feels heavy after eating animal products, and has been making veggie choices on his own. Good for him!

My personal decision for going veggie was first and foremost for health reasons. A lot of the information in the books I read (and materials I continue to read) point to animal products as the source of countless health issues. No thanks. I prefer being healthy. The other drivers for me are animal cruelty (cause for two years of semi-vegetarianism back in the day) and environmental impact of animal agriculture. I won't get into all the details here - maybe on another day when I have some citations handy. For now, check out the books I mentioned as a starting point.

There you have it. My food history. Today I am within days of being a vegetarian for a full year and I LOVE it!. I don't worry about calories, fat content and the like because I am eating fresh produce, whole grains and healthy sources of protein. I do have cheat meals and treats just like everyone else, but I try to keep those in moderation so I don't have to stress about it all. Besides, the healthy stuff tastes just as good as the cheat stuff most of the time! I'll be sharing some of the recipes I've found and tested as well as a few things I have discovered for myself. Enough now...I'm making myself hungry talking about food!


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