How To Become A Vegan…From Guest Blogger Jeffrey Haney
While lying in bed, racked with an alarming case of pneumonia that was making it hard to breathe (in summer time of all seasons), I reached for the remote and turned Netflix on. I needed to watch something about getting healthier. Maybe something about athletes or what old men with big bellies can do. Scrolling through titles like “Super-Size Me” (not a bad film if your jam is junk food) or, “Why are we getting so fat?” a British doc exploring the obesity epidemic in the UK and USA. I turned to a documentary that sounded interesting called ‘Forks Over Knives.” Forks over knives changed my life as I know it today.
I was the kind of guy that loved all kinds of food. I lived to eat. Give me Indian, give me Thai, give me bacon double cheeseburgers! BBQ, seafood, pate, foie gras, bacon, pork and chicken with a side salad as an accompaniment to everything else. This led to me where I was on, July 5th, 2018. My cholesterol was frighteningly high and I was diagnosed with Early onset diabetes. It was during this time that I watched “Forks Over Knives.” One profound statement after another started throwing me mind bombs. The author, Dr. Campbell, conducted something called the China Study. The increase in populations switching from the Western diet, high in proteins and fats, to a whole food, plant based diet, was staggering.
What Is A Whole Food, Plant Based Diet?
A whole food, plant-based diet, consists of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains. It also means avoiding animal based food like meats, dairy, and eggs and taking out processed foods including enriched flour, refined sugars, and oils.
The Forks Over Knives documentary explained that what I was eating was making me sicker and sicker every year. I grabbed a day-old slice of pizza with chicken, bacon and ranch. Before I put it in my mouth, I looked at it closely. Coagulated fat on top of the gobs of cheese, bits of burned bacon and processed chicken. It made me feel sick just looking at it. I realized that I am the one making myself sick. I am the only person that can make a change to become a healthy person once again.
July 5th, 2018 was the day I became a vegan. And if I, a 32-ounce, T bone eating, butter adding, milkshake drinking, high cholesterol, early onset diabetic, one-time athlete can do it, well hell, you sure can too.
Films That Changed My Life
Here are a few films that you can stream on Netflix if you’re interested in changing your life. These will help you take the initial baby steps.
Sitting in bed sick that day in July, looking at that pizza, I started typing VEGAN into the streaming search on Netflix. And more than one film came up. IMHO, the flagship of all whole-food plant based diet films is the aforementioned “Forks Over Knives.” With cookbooks, no oil dressings (which are very good by the way, but a bit pricey) and meal planners under the FOK umbrella, it’s more of a movement than a movie. But this is where I started and T. Collin Campbell is the author of the comprehensive resource on the health benefits of a vegan diet.
In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. A PBS film
Next, I watched author Michael Pollan’s PBS film “In Defense of Food.” While it’s not about veganism, Pollan delves into the problems of a Western diet and the repercussions that we face eating diets high in fat and red meat. He shows how young kids who learn to start gardening get connected to food. This is arguably the better jumping off point than Forks Over Knives if you don’t want to start as a strict vegan. What this film does very well is explain the problems of eating red meat and what cholesterol fatally does. This film is very revealing and I like the way he talks to the viewer in a friendly, informative way, and not like he’s demonizing you for your previous life’s choices.
Conspiracy & What the Health, by filmmakers Kip Anderson and Keegan Kuhn
“Cowspiracy” and “What the Health” helped me shape why I decided to become a vegan, besides the obvious health benefits. The former talks about the animal agriculture system and ecological crisis, such as global warming, ocean dead zones, and water shortages. The latter delves into the reluctance of health and nutrition organizations to point out the negative health effects of consuming animal products. “What the Health” was eye opening, and made me question the St. Charles Health system in Bend when I couldn’t find a doctor who subscribed to a whole food, plant based lifestyle.
The second part to changing my diet was the way that I prepare foods. I cut out highly refined oils, animal products; like butter, fish, poultry, and meat. Rather than focusing on the cutting out, I’m going to discuss what I’ve added to my diet, which has been transformative, exciting, and in most cases delicious. Don’t ask my wife and child though. Their attachment to oil, butter, and fat leave them thinking that most of my new recipes are bland.
Non oil salad dressings
There are innumerable recipes online that show you how to make fresh, clean, and yummy oil-free dressings. I’m not going to fool you and tell you that’s what I do every week. I work and I want something I can grab out of the fridge, shake, put on my salad and eat. I eat a salad every day for lunch, loaded with fresh vegetables. I was using 2 tablespoons of dressing but after watching the films I mentioned above, I’ve learned that I can opt for oil free dressings. Whole Foods makes a Garlic Tahini dressing that is sugar and oil free and tastes really good. The Forks over Knives dressings aren’t available in stores but their website includes recipes like Orange Sesame Ginger, Balsamic Fig, and Pomegranate Tarragon. I’ve bought all three and really like them. If you don’t mind having healthy oils like avocado and sunflower, try Primal Kitchen’s Ranch & Honey Mustard, Tessamae’s Lemon Garlic, and Chosen Foods Orange Balsamic.
I’ve also fallen in love with legumes, and in particular lentils. I soak and eat red and green lentils every week. I’ve fallen in love with using them in main courses, stews, by themselves with just spices and spinach, and anything else under the sun. I’ve also been partial to brown rice pasta, edamame noodles and all kinds of high protein carbs that are good for you and packed with nutrients.
Even vegan’s can be junk food addicts
As much as possible I try to stay away from vegan processed food. Vegan fake cheese, yogurt, and the tofurkey are examples of highly processed foods and should be avoided. I’ve made one exception I’d like to turn you on to. Light Life’s Smart Ground Meatless Mexican Crumbles. I loved taco’s and this satisfies my taco urges. They are spicy, flavorful, yummy, and my non-vegan wife will actually eat them as well. I make them once a week with roasted red peppers, avocado and hot sauce and they are deeelish! One can’t be perfect when it comes to processed food, and this is where I make my main exception.
Favorite Vegan Restaurants And Quick Stops In Bend, Oregon
Fortunately, in the small town of Bend, there’s a wide range of vegan dining options. Hands down my favorite, and also in second place (because just being in first doesn’t do it justice) is A Broken Angel Food Cart, behind Palate coffee. Chef Richard Hull creates truly the best vegan food in Bend and I only wish that someday I can cook like him. Be a sport and bring your own container for his salsas. Order his grilled super burrito…It’s the freakin’ bomb! Or try the house scramble of organic tofu, crimini mushrooms, roasted chilis, squash and braised greens tossed with smoked turtle beans, roasted chili’s and caramelized onions. Add avocado and choose his potatoes over the dill jasmine rice. This is my go-to every week if I’m anywhere near-or not near downtown. If you’re in a pizza mood, my fave is Bend Pizza Kitchen. Get the Vegan Prima Patata, which has a garlic olive oil sauce, vegan mozzarella, roasted rosemary potatoes, caramelized onions, roasted bell peppers, vegan feta cheese and topped with fresh basil…so good! Lastly, I’ll mention Bethlyn’s Global Fusion. What once started as a food cart is now a brick and mortar and it still doesn’t disappoint! Order the Fried Avocado Tacos with roasted tomato salsa or the Thai Coconut Curry Noodle Bowl. Both are really amazing! This town doesn’t stop at these three either. Places like Fix and Repeat (Vegan Gazpacho), Active Culture (Lentil burger made with a BBQ beet sauce), Mantra Indian Kitchen & Tap Room (Vegan Samosas and the special Thai meals) and Salud Raw Foods (Over the Moon). All of these have some very good items on their menus.
How To Tell If It Is Vegan? Look For VG On The Menu
DF – Dairy Free
VG – Vegan
V – Vegetarian
GF – Gluten Free
PL – Paleo
And there it is, in a rather long nutshell. The why and how I became a vegan. And if I can, you can too!
Thanks Jeffrey for your wonderful blog post, if anyone else has vegan products they love or vegan places they love to eat at, please leave a comment, we would love to hear from you!