Friday, January 5, 2018

Veganish Vol. 1: How to Babystep Your Way In & Ditch Dairy

Veganish 2018: Monthly baby step challenges towards a healthy, plant-based diet | www.enrychment.comSomething you may or may not know about my family is that the five of us are totally gluten free.

Our oldest son was sick for years, and after lots of trial and error, we finally discovered that his gut was an unhappy and unwell place. Which is devastating to a little body - the GI system is the home of the immune system. Little ones come across germ after germ, and his defenses were down.

Dropping gluten was a big change, and one we made to try and kick-start his path to wellness. At the same time, we were filling him with supplements and all sorts of things, totally unsure if it would ever work. That's one thing to know about a holistic approach to healing from an illness - it takes a while. It's a REAL fix...not a bandaid. You can't just pop an Z-pack and be well in 2 or 3 days. It takes months to bring a body back to a healthy baseline. So we put all of our trust and faith into these healthy changes for 4 months before things started changing. But by the 6 month point, Luke was a healthy kid again.

There's so much more to the story (which you can read some of HERE), but the changes we made for him trickled into our entire family, and I've since been reading books and articles and even taken a course on a more natural plant-based diet to further our progress and protect the rest of us.

That said...I'm not clueless when it comes to health.

But I am an over-loaded, stressed-out, time-crunched mom with A LOT on my plate. So I often ignore my nutritional knowledge for the sake of convenience and time, and a lot of my food comes with a side of guilt. I'm also decently well into my 30's now, and keep feeling as though this decade and the next are really what determine your longevity and quality of life in older age...and I want to be healthy and strong. I have to pay attention and try harder.

But the thought of it really does make me want to cry. Meal planning, making shopping lists, grocery shopping with an errand-crabby 4 year old, organizing the fridge, cooking and cleaning up after meals, convincing my kids to is the bane of my existence, y'all. The most complicated and frustrating part of my daily life, without a doubt. I know, first world problems, but that's the truth.

And I also happen to be a habits rebel (if you have no idea what I'm talking about, read THIS), so every part of me wants to say, "forget it, brew another pot of coffee and pop a few chocolate chips and let's keep moving." steps.

I've decided that I'm at a point where I can no longer ignore the bad habits in my diet. I've focused on fixing Luke and urging my kids towards health for so long, that I often forget about myself. I have to put "eat breakfast" on my to do list every day so I actually do it. I eat lunch maybe 2x a week. In fact, on the weekends, Matt often complains that I didn't plan anything for Saturday & Sunday lunches and every week it dawns on me...oh yeah, other people eat lunch. Oops!

Going full-on vegan is just way too much for me right now. And also, through trial and error (including being a vegetarian for a full year), I know that my body does better with animal protein. Not a lot - just some, and very specific, lean, organic, animal protein (basically chicken breast, eggs, and some turkey, the end. Unless you count fish, then I eat some salmon & tuna, also.)

So I have declared that in 2018, I will be "Veganish"

Which means that each month, I will challenge myself to form a habit that brings me closer to a plant-based diet.

Veganish 2018

Will my whole family be joining me in this? Probably not. Mostly because our diet is already so restricted, and Henry is unhappy about eating anything that isn't pizza. There will be some things they have to deal with (like ingredients in anything we bake will be changing), but for the most part, they will be eating normally. (Well, OUR normal.)

So here's what this year of nearly-Veganism will look like for me.

1. Instituting a Vegan Day
For the sake of ease in meal planning (see: meal planning is the bane of my existence) I like to label the days of my week with a theme so that picking a meal is a lot simpler. We have taco Tuesday (duh) which is just mexian, not necessarily tacos, sheet pan Wednesday, (gf) pizza Thursday, and food prep/freezer cooking Sunday. (Fri & Sat anything goes, usually.) Mondays are now our Vegan days.

2. Staying Away From Sweets & Processed Foods
The thing is, you can eat nothing but potato chips and black coffee for every meal of the day and call yourself a vegan, but that would defeat the purpose. I'm after health here, obviously, so saying no to things like candy, chips, desserts, and anything processed and pre-packaged is my goal. I shudder a little at this one, but it's gotta be done.

3. Eating Smart
I used to see eating as just one of those necessary chores we all have to do and kind of scoffed at athletic types talking about their foods fueling their bodies in a certain way. But HELLO, that is totally the point, right? So I'm going to look at my food as the right means to a healthy life - good food has high vibes, and if I want to live a high-vibe life, I need to power it accordingly! Also, no eating after 7:30pm, because that's always out of boredom or comfort. I also want to work on choosing foods that create an alkaline environment in our bodies.

4. A New Veganish Habit Each Month
Sometimes these habits will be things that eliminate animal proteins from my diet, but sometimes they'll simply be healthy steps to further my healthy eating mindset. I debated on whether or not I'd share my steps with you ahead of time....partially because I may want to edit them later, and partially because if you're considering following this process, you should focus on the task at hand and not worry about or consider what's coming later. But I thought it might be helpful to show you what I've got planned for this year, and to create a resource to keep coming back to.

So here's the plan:

Veganish Month 1: Ditch Dairy
Veganish Month 2: Cut Back on Refined Sugar
Veganish Month 3: Superfoods
Veganish Month 4: Stop Microwaving (mostly)
Veganish Month 5: Only Eat Meat 1/2 The Week (3 days)
Veganish Month 6: Rethink Breakfast
Veganish Month 7: Make Use of In-Season Plants
Veganish Month 8: Veganize Summer Treats
Veganish Month 9: Try 2 New Vegan Recipes Per Week
Veganish Month 10: Veganize Fall Treats
Veganish Month 11: Say Goodbye To More Meat (1-2 days)
Veganish Month 12: Get Festive & Celebrate

As you can see, January's challenge is to ditch dairy. Oooooh the ice cream I will mourn! The creamy goodness in my morning coffee. Those are probably the only two things I will struggle with, honestly. But as someone who's been GF for a year and a half and that has learned to not miss the things I'd said I'd struggle with...I know I'll adjust.

And here's the thing.

If you were to ask me what things to change in your diet RIGHT NOW to live a healthier life, hands down I would say: get rid of dairy and gluten.

They are both hard to give up. Like really hard. There's A LOT to consider and look out for. But they are probably two of the scariest things that we (as a society) put into our bodies every day. And they probably make up the majority of what we're putting in our bodies! That is really terrifying to me, actually...knowing what I know about them.

I've already done the gluten it's time for dairy. Sigh.

How to Ditch Dairy!

Dairy (even when you get the hormone free stuff) does ugly things to your body. I am oversimplifying here, and you'll have to do some research if you want more info, but during my plant-based healthy eating course I learned that the presence of dairy in your body essentially turns on the cancer switch in your body. Did you know that your immune system is fighting cancer cells all the time? Dairy is likely the reason why they are there (though any inflammatory foods like dairy, gluten, refined sugars, and processed food chemicals can contribute.) Our bodies were only designed to take in dairy for the first two years of our lives...and yet we base a ton of our diets on it as adults.

Because this is the biggest hurdle to jump in becoming Veganish, this is why I chose it for January. It's still a baby step - I have 31 days to find dairy-free alternatives and adjust recipes and daily life for this new habit - but because I have the new-year motivation, and the full moon "clearing out" energy in my favor, I decided to jump in feet first. It will also make the biggest difference physically, which helps with momentum! When I avoid dairy...bloating goes away, my face clears up, and I even drop a few pounds because there's less fat and inflammation entering my body. I mean, who doesn't want those things, right?

This post is LONG (I'm sorryyyy!), but it's so important to talk about this and to make each other realize that this mainstream version of how we eat? It's not okay. And that the fear behind making your life more complicated shouldn't be what keeps us from being healthy!

I am the LAST person in line to sign up for making things from scratch, having a messier kitchen, making it harder to deal with picky kids, and having to stop for fresh produce more often. And that's why I want to share this journey with you....because with baby steps and support, we can ease our way into it.

I would be honored and delighted if you decided that this was a journey you'd like to experiment with as well! I'm going to track things on Instagram with the hashtag #VeganishWithRych if you'd like to follow along or join in, and of course, I'll post here at the start of each month with info on the new month's challenge as well as progress from the previous one.

Before I go though, I have to clearly define my dairy goals so I'm able to stick to it!

1. Probably the most obvious, but.....don't eat dairy!
2. Find a coffee creamer replacement that I love.
3. Swap cheese for Daiya.
4. Try my Starbucks orders with soy (tried them with almond milk already...blech.)
5. Sample a few dairy alternative products (like other kinds of yogurt, cream cheese alternatives, and do more research on ghee - it's kind of debated whether it's considered vegan, veganish, or not at all)
6. Swap butter for olive oil in cooking, and use oils or other fat alternatives in baking.
7. Start reading labels for dairy and whey ingredients, and shopping for "dairy free" labeled products.
(BTW, we switched from dairy milk to almond milk years ago, so that part's already done!)

Have a healthy 2018!

Phew! That was a lot to cover, but we're ready now, right? Okay, well, I am anyway. ;) And you're welcome to follow along if you're interested!

Here is to a healthy 2018! xo

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  1. Hey Jenn! What do you use for butter? I'm considering cutting dairy for a few weeks to see if I feel better, but I eat tons of butter! Thanks!

    1. Hi!! So, I actually just completely stopped eating butter at first, but I eventually found a good vegan butter called Earth Balance. I find it at Wegmans, but I'm sure many stores carry it!