Monday, April 02, 2012

Adventures in Occasional Veganism

I could never "go vegan."

This has been my position ever since I first heard of veganism (or "advanced vegetarianism," as I sometimes think of it). Forever foregoing any animal product - not just meat but milk, eggs, cheese, ice cream, and did I mention cheese? - is perhaps noble, but I just can't see myself maintaining that level of nobility for the rest of my life. For one thing, it's difficult to find things to eat outside the home, aside from specialty restaurants. Sure, it's getting easier these days, especially in metropolitan areas, but even vegetarian items on most menus include some form of dairy. Beyond the logistical difficulties, though, I just like cheese. And, you know, steaks. I didn't really miss eating meat all that much, during my several years as a vegetarian, but I think I'd probably miss it more now. Older and more set in my ways and all that.

Given the title of this post, however, I suspect you can likely divine there's a big "but" coming.


Last week I went to the doctor for my first physical in about 5 years. It was time. As she was asking me basic questions about my diet & exercise, she came to the subject of calcium, and whether I was getting enough of it.

"Well, I don't drink milk, but I do like cheese." (I may have actually said "love.")

"I see. We'll definitely be checking your cholesterol then."

Pre-kids, I had some elevated cholesterol levels. Particularly in college, when I was a vegetarian and eating lots and lots of (wait for it) cheese. Then I had a few years when I got to stop thinking about it. Cholesterol, as it happens, is vital for building brains in utero, so pregnancy meant a little hiatus from that particular worry. Post-kids, however, I fully expected to get a call from the lab after my bloodwork, chastising me for cultivating plaque colonies in my vascular system.

The doctor asked if I was ever getting my protein from non-animal sources (beans, lentils, soy, etc.), and I said yes. But it later occured to me that even on those occasions that we have a vegetarian dinner, there's almost always at least some butter or sour cream involved. Still anticipating that call from the lab, I decided to take some preliminary steps toward a cholesterol-lowering regimen. I went to the library and checked out a couple of vegan cookbooks.

My thinking was this: a complete transformation to a full-time vegan lifestyle is not realistically sustainable for me, or my family, but occasional veganism? That we can do. I decided to dedicate a couple of nights a week to trying out some vegan recipes at dinnertime.

Tom initially scoffed at my plan, but the two dinners I made last week were actually very tasty. Healthy, low in calories, yet reasonably filling. I've got a bunch more recipes tagged to try in the coming weeks, despite the fact that... bloodwork came back totally fine. No elevated cholesterol (guess I have the little weasels to thank for that). Huzzah! I do still like the idea of cruelty-free eating on a more regular basis, though, so we're going to stick with it at least for the time being. I don't see anything wrong with continuing to eat meat and cheese and eggs, but I also don't see anything wrong with reducing our consumption of those things, even just in a small way. And if we can do so without feeling utterly deprived, all the better.

The cookbook I checked out is called Appetite for Reduction, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. (I actually got two, but I ended up not liking the other one and returned it the next day.) I'll post about some of the recipes in a few days.


Anonymous said...

When I was younger, on a whim I had my cholesterol checked at a Bimart. The results showed an elevated level of the bad. I was able to quickly change it around easily with a few diet changes. Fast forward and at my last physical bad cholesterol up good down, so in addition to taking a statin I (we) went almost vegetarian.
I am amazed how my taste buds can be fooled by faux chicken, beef and my favorite homemade faux polish sausage. My levels have really come down and I get to fool myself into believing I'm eating meats.

Grandpa J

susan said...

That pesky cholesterol. Glad you're able to keep it down with diet. I think I actually prefer the Morningstar veggie crumble "taco substance" to actual ground beef, taste-wise. Go figure.