First off, let me say that eating plant-based isn’t a new thing for me so much as a reoccurring theme that has waxed and wained a bit over the years. My parents were kind of leftover 70’s hippies when they were raising 3 kids in the 80’s and they did things like grind up mushroom lentil stroganoff leftovers for our baby food meals. The story goes that my sister was over at my cousin’s house and when she asked what was for lunch my aunt jokingly said “lentils” and my sister replied, “yum!” Anyways, we definitely had more meat come into our family diet as the years went on but still not nearly as much as is probably common in other households. I guess I was never a giant fan of meat to begin with since my Mom says I would always pick out a lot of ground beef from stews or only eat a small portion of a steak, etc. Once I was old enough to be interested in reading about food, I remember pouring through one of my parents books on more plant-based eating (Diet For A New America) and just being fascinated by the material. The author of that book, John Robbins, was actually one of the heirs to the Baskin and Robbins ice cream empire so for him to make a full 360° on how he viewed milk in particular was pretty astonishing.
I was a bit on and off to say the least with my eating during college and for a few years after. I didn’t think animal based products were healthy for me based on what I had read earlier, buuuut I was also in my early 20’s and I guess everyone thinks nothing can really harm them and they will live forever at that age so I wasn’t too strict about it. Most big life events can also trigger other changes in its wake and getting married at 25 helped me to rethink how I wanted to eat. It was partially because I read Skinny Bitch around that time (a great book!) and partially because Todd’s bachelor diet had always been less than stellar to say the least (a lot of ramen, grilled cheese, candy, and soda) and I wanted him to eat healthier as well, but either way I asked him if he would be interested in trying a more plant-based diet with me and he agreed to give it a shot. After a few weeks of eating that way I asked him what he thought of the new plan and he said that he felt less heavy after a meal and had more energy to go for a walk or something rather than just sink into the couch after dinner—he really liked it!
We followed that eating path pretty well with a few regression periods here and there, but I really got away from eating plant based when I got pregnant last year. I actually did a pre-pregnancy detox to prepare my body after reading How to Conceive Naturally: and Have a Healthy Pregnancy After 30. They do use a lot of animal protein in that book but they talk about a lot of other things that I thought were fascinating too so I just did all the things that they recommended. Once I did get pregnant I think I just really felt the pressure that is directed towards pregnant women to consume pretty high levels of protein. It was recommended that I have upwards of 80-90 grams of protein a day and I struggled so much with trying to get that all from plant-based eating. Let me tell you, there’s not enough time in the day, or room in my stomach for that matter, to eat 90 grams of plant based protein. You would have to eat a literal mountain of food. Add that in with being nauseous and not wanting to eat much and a shrinking stomach as Baby grew and it really felt impossible. So, what did I do? I increased the meat, egg, and dairy intake at a level that I have never eaten before just to try and reach that protein number (although most days I could still barely get to 70 grams).
I continued eating that way through the pregnancy but the whole time I was just frustrated and kind of sad about it. I just kept thinking about the Blue Zones book I had read that summer before where they find the top areas of the world where people live the longest with the best quality of life and study what they eat and how they live. Guess what? They are mostly plant-based eating cultures (with a few pescatarian elements in some locations). And in case you were wondering, one of the zones is actually in California too so it’s not a gene pool lottery that Americans can’t achieve. Anyways, that’s how I wanted to eat, but I felt there was this magic protein number floating out there that I had to reach to be a good Mom-to-be so what choice did I have? And the food recommendations for breastfeeding aren’t that different so I didn’t feel like I could get back to plant-based anytime soon after birth which made me feel worse.
Anyways, it was always in the back of my mind, this problem that I didn’t know how to solve, but once Lola was born I was reminded about The China Study book and I remembered hearing about some of the research it contains in the Forks Over Knives documentary I have watched several times over the years. I was so curious to read the whole thing, and while it is a dry book to be honest, it’s heavily focused on research and studies and pretty overwhelming with results that point to a whole foods plant-based diet as the key to healthy living and avoiding most of the “common” major diseases that befall Americans. Again, all things and conclusions that I had read several times over the last 15 years from different sources, but just insanely supported with scientific data. I was so curious to read the sections on protein because of my current eating conundrum and I was fascinated to read about how much protein they conclude we really need (hint: it’s nowhere near 80 grams a day) and how our health compares with other people groups that eat way less protein (most of it being plant-based) and have much better health than we do as a nation. Reading all that along with watching a newer documentary called What the Health (a little intense but still thought provoking) just really put me back on the path of wanting to eat primarily plant based again for our health but also for all the environmental factors as well (if you’re interested in being more eco-friendly, look into the effects of raising crazy quantities of animals just to eat —it’s pretty nuts).
Currently, How Not To Die is my all-time favorite book for the case for plant-based eating and it’s the main one I recommend now to anyone that’s interested—it’s got a crazy amount of research and studies like the China Study book, but it’s presented in a very easy to understand manner and it’s got a huge section on practical ways to reach your top nutrition goals each day with their “daily dozen” checklist of food categories in the back. They even have an app you can use to keep track of which categories you consumed so far that day (and we have the cookbook too). I really can’t recommend this book enough.
So, how do I feel eating this way? I don’t really have a list of a million things that I feel when I’m eating well to be honest, BUT, I really notice a difference when I’m not eating quality meals. I can only go so many days around holidays or vacations of eating crappy food and animal based products before I feel sluggish and start craving fresh and healthy meals instead. I do eat more frequently throughout the day when eating plant-based as I get hungry faster after meals, but I think that’s because the food is easier for me to digest than a heavier meal that is harder for it to process. I love this plant-based food blog for recipes over the years and lately I’ve been cooking a lot from this cookbook where there are so many recipes that I love so far (the falafal tacos, black bean soup, buffalo cauliflower bites, and saffron cream sauce are delish). And just to also be clear, while I want the large majority of what I eat to be free of animal protein, there are times in the week that I have pizza with real cheese or an egg out at brunch and I’m ok with that. Based on what I’ve read, if we all ate 95% plant-based it would still solve a lot of the health and ecological problems that come with the traditional American diet while still affording indulgence in those areas here and there. So, if you see a slice of regular pizza on my Instagram stories, chill out, I’m aware that it has cheese.
Obviously this is my personal history of food and everyone has to (and should) put a lot of thought into coming to their own conclusions about what’s the best way to stay healthy and responsibly kind to the planet, but I just wanted to put a few resources out there since people seemed really interested in why I like eating this way. Believe me, I know that sometimes we are too scared to look into something if we think it may change or take away something we love (like eating cheese because cheese tastes amazing) but don’t ever let that stop you from learning something new! At the end of the day you can take or leave the information but don’t let fear be what makes your food decisions especially when what you put in your body can really be the biggest contribution (or detriment) to your overall quality of life and health. If you have any plant-based cookbooks you love to use, let me know! I’d love to check them out!
Well said and great resources. I’ve been Plant based for about ten years but even with a vegan diet we all fall off healthy eating at times especially with pregnancy Vegan cream cheese and bagels were all I could eat for months and cold cereals.
Hi Laura! I’ve been a vegetarian for 12 years and totally felt the struggle in trying to get enough protein while I was pregnant last year. I ended up eating a lot of dairy and eggs (which I am trying to cut down on now, this post was a good reminder!)
Any thoughts on how you will feed Lola when she starts eating solid foods? We have been keeping my 14 month old vegetarian for now (and she will always eat veg food with us at home) but I am still debating what to do when she gets older if she does want to eat meat.
We have a 2.5 year old who has only ever tried salmon. I think one day he will try meat, and I have decided it’s okay– lord knows I ate some crazy stuff growing up but have always reverted back to a healthy vegetarian way of eating, just like I was raised to do. I wonder how it will affect their tummies when the time comes…?
I think I’ll probably do the same thing that I try and do for us…mostly vegetarian and plant based but won’t stress out too much if she has a regular cupcake here and there 🙂
Yes, cheese does taste amazing! But I’ve learned over the years it doesn’t agree with me 😉
Being vegetarian/vegan is hard! I haven’t done it (yet), but I’ve known people who have done it. I love veggies, but I also like chicken and fish a lot, but yeah, it’s crazy how many resources (how much of a carbon footprint it takes) to feed animals! We’re passionate about trying to eat healthy, organic foods as much as we can afford (even trying to eat grass-fed, hormone-free meat.) Not always easy to eat whole, healthy foods, but we’re working on it! Major props to you and Kirsten for sticking that well to veganism/vegetarianism!
Thank you for using the correct term “plant-based”(we all know you have too many leather jackets to be a real vegan ??)
As a Vegan, I’m really glad you’re sharing your story with a plant based diet! I love Angela’s blog and her cookbooks so much! Some of my other favorite cookbooks are these –
Isa Does It: Amazingly Easy, Wildly Delicious Vegan Recipes for Every Day of the Week
But I Could Never Go Vegan!: 125 Recipes That Prove You Can Live Without Cheese, It’s Not All Rabbit Food, and Your Friends Will Still Come Over for Dinner
These ones are by Erin McKenna who has an AMAZING bakery in New York that you have to go to if you’re ever there!
Bread & Butter: Gluten-Free Vegan Recipes to Fill Your Bread Basket
BabyCakes Covers the Classics: Gluten-Free Vegan Recipes from Donuts to Snickerdoodles
BabyCakes: Vegan, (Mostly) Gluten-Free, and (Mostly) Sugar-Free Recipes from New York’s Most Talked-About Bakery
Vegan Casseroles: Pasta Bakes, Gratins, Pot Pies, and More
Chloe also has a spot to eat in New York as well which is also amazing!
Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen: 150 Pizzas, Pastas, Pestos, Risottos, & Lots of Creamy Italian Classics
And then this is one of my favorite spots to eat when I’m in Chicago, which I was this past Saturday!
The New Chicago Diner Cookbook: Meat-Free Recipes from America’s Veggie Diner
I hope you will enjoy some of these cookbooks! I love the feeling of eating plant based, it really does give me more energy and I don’t feel sluggish, unless of course I’m eating “vegan junkfood!”
Have a great week! xo
One of my favorite blogs is http://www.dollyandoatmeal.com
It is mostly plant based, and gluten free, but she focuses on using seasonal produce as well.
Cool! I’ve found so far in my 36 yrs that as my body changes my food needs change. I think it’s so important to listen to your body (unless it’s telling you to eat all ice cream allll the time! 😉 ) and be willing to try new things. One of my favorite cookbooks that is plant-based is Cut the Sugar you’re Sweet Enough by Ella Leche
Thanks for sharing! I highly recommend cookieandkate.com — Kate has a magic touch when it comes to making plant-based meals incredibly flavorful. They’ve convinced many of my meat-loyal friends that plant-based eating can be AMAZINGLY delicious. Start with her reader favorites: https://cookieandkate.com/category/food-recipes/reader-favorites/
I’m still breastfeeding my two year old son, and I found that throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding, I couldn’t sustain a fully plant-based diet without feeling fatigued and shaky. My meals are still veggie packed and minimally processed, but I have to keep adding animal protein for energy and strength, especially now that I’m pregnant again. I now consider myself a part-time vegan haha. I agree that plant-based is healthy and there should be way more veggies on our plate than anything else, but I kinda err on the side of urging mothers to just listen to their bodies and do what makes them feel best without guilt. We all have different needs and a restrictive diet can be hard depending on those needs. Many of my meals throughout the week are from Oh She Glows as well, and I do love eating that way most of the time. I’m with you in that I find all of these articles and books about diet interesting. Thanks for sharing!
Thank you for sharing! I have never loved meats, but I have recently developed a pretty strong aversion to them. Chicken, in particular, makes me nauseous to think about. I don’t want to spend money on ground turkey or sausage, so I’m trying a more plant based approach. Getting protein is always the hardest!
I eat it all but have been very inspired by Sarah Britton and her website My New Roots: https://www.mynewroots.org/site/. I have both of her cookbooks and find myself cooking from them (and her blog) pretty frequently. Her recipes are well-tested!
I’m so glad you wrote this! I’ve been eating plant-based for 4 years now (and started my own blog to inspire others to do the same) and it always makes me really excited when people I admire start to eat more plant-based or go vegan. It’s not about being perfect, but just doing your best. Looking forward to hearing more from you on the subject. xx
MinimalistBaker.com is my go-to site for new recipes, and her Everyday Cooking cookbook has some of my favorite recipes (chickpea noodle soup is perfect for when you’re not feeling well). The Vegan Pantry is also a really great resource if you’re interested in making some of your own staples, like “cream of” soups or stocks, condiments, etc. While I love the ease of pre-made vegan mayo, sometimes it’s a treat to make it yourself!
I have a couple of the vegan cookbooks that Sarah mentioned above & they are awesome! Of course Pinterest has thousands of amazing recipes too! I hope that you continue to eat plant-based food & hopefully ONLY plant-based food. It’s 2017 & plant-based proteins are plenty! My latest blog post is on the new-ish beyond meat beyond burger. The same size vegan patty is compared to a beef patty & has two grams more of protein & is just healthier as a whole. I have been vegan for 3.5 yrs, as has my husband. My husband went vegan post his motorcycle accident in which he was on a ventilator, unable to eat for wks, bed-ridden for months. He’s 5’10” & got down to 130lb (lower actually but that’s what he was when he was able to stand on a scale after a few wks of eating again). He’s now 190lb of sexiness. Muscle. ALL put on w a vegan diet. It’s good that you are now more aware of the health reasons to eat plant-based, now I urge you to watch Earthlings, so you can understand the ethical reasons to eat plant-based, & more. Pizza was my fav food before going vegan & it’s my fav food now., There are a ton of vegan cheeses on the market & a ton of vegan pizza places too. Some take a little getting used to, but then you’ll love them! As a mother, you should hear that the dairy industry is THE cruelest industry on this planet! Like humans, cows only produce milk when pregnant. How do these cows get pregnant? They are artificially inseminated while tied to a rack that’s literally called the rape rack (that’s what THEY call it, I don’t make this stuff up). After the cow has her baby, then baby is either taken from the mother or left w her put they put a ring on the calfs nose which has spikes on it. This ring will stab the mother if the calf tries to nurse. The calves are then given formula. YES so humans can drink breast milk intended for the cows baby. If the calves are male they are sent to slaughter at just a few wks old for veal. If they are female, they are likely to live the same horrible fate as their moms until they too are eventually slaughtered for meat. The dairy industry IS enslavement, rape, torture, suffering, & death, there is NO exception in the milk you’re going to buy in any store or in any dairy-filled product. No other species drinks milk past infancy, it’s just downright absurd & perverse – cow titty milk w pus. Eeeek!!!
I haven’t eaten meat since I was 17– 31 next week!– and I have a two and a half year old who has never had meat, neither in his amniotic fluid or his plate. He has had salmon here and there, and I eat some dairy and eggs. I didn’t worry too much about protein while I was pregnant, just about healthy choices. I have the best eater! He loves all vegetables and fruits, he loves grains of all kinds, and he will mug lox and bagels. A lot of his “meat eater” friends will only eat goldfish and chicken nuggets, so I’m feeling pretty good about my kid’s diet. He is healthy, smart, and happy– I still nurse him, which might make up for anything he’s lacking dietarily, (he’s never had cow milk) but I have never questioned my decisions. I know he will try meat and maybe eat it one day, but I also know it will never be a huge part of his diet. Good luck with your changes!!
Aw, glad to hear everyone is doing well! And I’d like to nurse for a long time too so hopefully we can!