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Wednesday, December 4th, 2013
Today, rapper, record producer, and entrepreneur Jay Z has asked for my advice on his 22 day experiment with veganism, with wife Beyonce joining him.
Okay, well, I should clarify…
Jay Z isn’t asking for my specific advice, but he is asking his fans. Given that only about 2.5% of the American population identifies as vegan, I happen to be part of that curious minority who lives the plant-based life every minute of every day.
While I’m already witnessing on the Internet a wave of criticism for his decision to try out, and possibly stick with, the vegan lifestyle, I happen to be one of the few to actually have some good advice for Jay Z.
Because when it comes to being a vegan, I know what I’m talking about.
I’m not a heckler in the crowd who mocks veganism by saying, “We’re all going to die at some point, right?” Instead, I am a living science experiment for everyone to see.
This very week makes 9 months that I’ve been a vegan (an extremely strict one, too: no honey!) and 2 whole years since I’ve been a vegetarian.
Of course, my dive into the plant-based life was several years in the making, since I started out 5 years ago by going kosher (no pork or shellfish).
And that journey led me here.
So, if by some chance Jay Z happened to read this letter I am privately writing to you today, what would be my best advice for him?
It’s not about what you “can’t” eat, it’s about what you can.
I break it down into the 6 “Vegan Food Groups” or what I call, “The Big 6″:
Vegetables, fruits, beans, grain, nuts, and seeds. As a vegan, you can eat as much of those 5 things as you want. And it doesn’t take long before you realize that those 6 things are so full of protein, fiber, “good fats” and “good sugar” that you aren’t left wanting for more.
Basically, and this is only my theory, being a vegan means your cholesterol intake is more than 0% (from good fats, like avocados, cashews, coconuts, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, etc.) but less than 1% (because of no animal fats). I think part of the reason vegans feel so much better after nixing animals products is because they are no longer experiencing another living (at one time) animal’s cholesterol and fat running through their veins.
Based on how much better I feel after having become a vegan 9 months ago, I believe the human body functions perfectly on more than 0% but less than 1% of the daily allowance for cholesterol. (One large chicken egg alone equals way more than half of the daily allowance.)
Yet, I don’t believe everyone should “go vegan.” It’s something you have to want in your heart, especially after having watched any of the following documentaries on Netflix:
Forks Over Knives, Hungry For A Change, Vegucated, The Beautiful Truth, Dying To Have Known, Supersize Me, and Food, Inc.
Also, it’s important to listen to your appetite. If you’re craving a big, fat, juicy cheeseburger, ask yourself what your body is actually craving.
A large cheeseburger contains a lot of (and by that I mean way too much!) protein and saturated fat.
So, out of vegetables, fruits, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds, which have a lot of protein and fat?
Protein: Vegetables and beans.
Fat: Nuts and seeds. (That includes avocados, cocunuts, and cashews; all of which are in weird food categories.)
But after all that, you’re still craving something sweet, like soda or candy?
Well… how many servings of fruit have your had today?
Craving sweets is your body’s way of telling you that you need the nutrients of fruits, which are packed with “good sugar” (as opposed to Monsanto-drenched high fructose corn syrup) and fiber.
The bottom line is this, your body tells you which of the “Big 6″ (vegetables, fruits, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds) you need.
The problem is, if you’ve grown up with the Western Diet of eating highly processed foods, at first, your brain only knows to speak to you in the form it recognizes by experience.
So you have to retrain your brain on where to get the best source of the nourishment it’s actually wanting.
Granted, this means there’s no such thing as a “quick bite from the drive-thru” anymore.
In the likeness of how Dave Ramsay says you have to tell your money where to go or it will tell you where to go…
You have to plan your meals out days in advance. You can’t leave it up to the mercy of a busy schedule to dictate what and when you eat.
That’s why Mommy keeps a schedule on the fridge so everyone knows all week “what’s for dinner.” (Most of her recipes are from the flawless vegan recipe website: Oh She Glows.)
Anyway, that’s what I’d tell Jay Z if he happened to somehow be reading this.
But, hey, you’re my son, you live with me and know all this stuff already first hand. It’s “normal” to you.
Or, I should say… It’s a plant-based life for us!
Note: This is an opinion piece of the author and does not reflect Parents magazine or the medical establishment.
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Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013
So, seriously… this is a pretty big deal in my book. And by “my book,” I’m evidently referring to this ongoing collection of the 846 letters and stories (so far) I’ve already written about you or to you in regards to being your dad, called The Dadabase.
For the first time ever, over Thanksgiving weekend, you traveled in a car to a restaurant not wearing a diaper and didn’t have an accident. That’s awesome!
After Mommy cooked our fancy vegan Thanksgiving feast (and I did the dishes), we were ready for a meal without work required. So Nonna and Papa (my parents) took us out to our to our favorite restaurant, The Wild Cow Vegetarian Restaurant.
While I am sincere in saying that it’s our family’s favorite restaurant, it’s also the only restaurant in Nashville that we ever eat at… unless Whole Foods counts.
I’ve admitted before that you could have probably already been officially potty-trained a few months ago if Mommy and I only had the time to focus on it with you.
But since we don’t, whenever Nonna and Papa drive up from Alabama, they work on that with you.
In the midst of all the Thanksgiving activities, I didn’t realize you were exclusively wearing your new set of Disney “big boy underwear” the whole time.
I remember halfway to the restaurant, driving us in the Rav4 that I was reviewing, thinking, “Oh… Jack’s not wearing a diaper! This could be bad… What happens if he can’t hold it until we get there?”
Not only did you not have an accident, but you went potty, twice, in the Wild Cow Vegetarian Restaurant while we dined on our divine meals.
Mommy and I were so proud of you, we decided it was only appropriate to let you have a special dessert treat: A vegan chocolate cupcake, shipped in from Nashville’s vegan bakery, Khan’s Desserts.
It apparently was so good, you went cuckoo there for a minute…
I have a feeling now that you’ve succesfully been in the car for more than 20 minutes one way in the Rav4, and then back, plus making it through our entire meal without having an accident…
But instead, going potty in the bathroom there, I think Mommy and I are at a good place, concerning your journey of potty training.
It’s not something I’ve let bother me. Maybe I should.
Nor is it something I compare myself to other parents about. Maybe I should.
Really though, I don’t think I have to worry about you. You are so seriously motivated by getting to wear your “big boy underwear” and not getting them dirty, the motivation is there for you already.
All I really have to do is facilitate the situation.
I wasn’t expecting this part to be this easy.
And by the way…
You lasted about 5 minutes in the car ride back home before you crashed on Papa’s arm, for Napsville.
Yeah, you were no match for that well-earned vegan chocolate cupcake.
Disclaimer: The vehicle mentioned in this story was provided at the expense of Toyota, for the purpose of reviewing.
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Sunday, December 1st, 2013
I’ve noticed that in the 2 years our family has been vegetarian, and for the 9 months that I have been a strict (!) vegan, I have less and less of a desire to talk about it publicly.
While I’m definitely passionate about living this alternative lifestyle, which is often misunderstood and (until recently) poorly represented, I know I have become tired of explaining it to people.
I have found that in an effort to simply answer the curious (and sincere) questions I get from people at work who see me eating my vegan lunch (which I always eat cold because I don’t believe in using microwaves), it becomes difficult to simply explain my lifestyle without making the other person feel like they have to defend themselves.
Like I’ve said before, I don’t want other people to convert to my lifestyle. Instead, I want people to eat what makes them happy. I eat only plants because that makes me happy, but I respect people who don’t eat the way I do… because that’s 98% of the American population.
But I have to get better about communicating this lifestyle to those who ask. I need to be more upbeat about explaining my food choices… but again, only when people ask, because I never want to come across as “preachy.”
So here it goes…
One of the questions I get is, “What do vegans and vegetarians eat for Thanksgiving?”
As the pictures in this letter demonstrate, I suppose we can eat all sorts of things- given that they don’t contain meat (for vegetarians)… or cheese, eggs, milk, insect-based food dyes, or gelatin (for vegans)… or honey or petroleum-based food dyes (for strict vegans, like me).
I think a lot of my challenge in having this conversation with people is to make it clear this lifestyle isn’t about what I can’t have… but instead, all the things I can have.
For Thanksgiving this year, another plant-based family brought over several dishes to combine with ours, to have quite the vegan spread.
Since some at the dinner were vegetarian and not vegan (like you and Mommy), cheese and milk were available, but not included in the ingredient list for the dishes.
Based on what I remember from looking at these pictures, we had salad, green bean casserole, lasagna, lentil loaf, bread, apple cider, hummus and pita chips, and stuffing.
And for dessert… chocolate pie, cranberry pie, and apple crisp. (You were quite excited… so excited, you got serious!)
In an age where Google is king, vegan recipe websites like Oh She Glows make it really convenient for us to find solid meal ideas that are as easy (or as complicated) as Mommy needs them to be.
We didn’t have to go this fancy for Thanksgiving, but it was sort of a fun challenge for our family. I bet next year we’ll just do a salad, veggie lasagna, and chocolate pie.
But at least when people ask me if I had a big Thanksgiving this year, I can honestly say yes.
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Friday, November 15th, 2013
2 years, 11 months. (The day before you turned 3.)
It’s equally funny and sad that it’s extremely (!) difficult to find cupcakes that do not contain artificial coloring from either petroleum (labeled as Red 40, for example) or the crushed and boiled bodies of cochineal insects, or as I call it, “bug juice” (labeled as Crimson Lake and/or Carmine.)
Like I would make something like this up…
Mommy and I were determined to buy edible cupcakes for your classmates at school to celebrate your 3rd birthday, which is tomorrow.
But we didn’t have to search far.
We already knew that one of the easiest places to get vegan chocolate cookies is Whole Foods Market, so that’s the first (and only) place we turned.
It’s not even that we were definitely seeking vegan cupcakes for your birthday, but I learned that by the time I sought out cupcakes that didn’t contain petroleum or bug juice, the only grocery store that that had them available could just as easily make them vegan, so that I could try one too. (I’m a vegan; you and Mommy are vegetarians.)
I accept that it may seem a bit extreme that I special-ordered your cupcakes for your classmates to instantly munch down in celebration of your birthday.
But for me, I couldn’t see it any other way.
I would never seek out petroleum to add it to your food, nor would I capture and boil bugs to color what I give you to eat. That’s just ridiculous and absurd.
Yet it’s normal unless someone makes the effort to find the exception to the rule.
So with much pride in the fact that edible cupcakes were actually obtained (ones Mommy didn’t have to make herself) I delivered the dozen vegan (as well as, petroleum and bug juice free) cupcakes to your class, just as you and your friends were all waking up from your afternoon naps.
And with much pride I looked forward to seeing you wolf down your pre-birthday cupcake.
Instead… you were stoic.
That’s how you always are when I drop you off and pick up from school each day.
It’s like you get trapped in this limbo universe where you don’t know how to react to both me and your teacher.
It’s like you get confused by the jurisdiction of it.
Who’s in charge? Daddy or Ms. Lauren?
While your friends (like Sophie, featured up top) didn’t hesistate, you stared at the wall as long as I was there.
Needless to say, I didn’t get to see you actually enjoy your cupcake.
Yep, you waited until I left and Ms. Lauren was officially in charge.
You’re a funny kid.
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Wednesday, November 13th, 2013
2 years, 11 months.
In the midst of a dozen other bloggers at the GM and Buick headquarters last week in Detroit, it was discovered that I was the only one there who… doesn’t have a smart phone.
(Just so you know, back in the year 2013 when I wrote you this, that meant major cool points were deducted from my street cred score.)
I sincerely laughed along with my fellow blogger friends in their amazement:
“How is it that the daddy blogger of Parents.com doesn’t own a smart phone?”
We all laughed even harder when I explained to them that my “dumb phone” is brand new… I just got it like three weeks ago.
The fanciest feature my phone has is a full texting keyboard. Yeah…
But the more we talked, it made a little bit more sense to all of us: They all blog as their full-time career, whereas I have a day job in HR, in addition to blogging.
Second, I don’t know that my psyche could handle a smart phone. It would totally mess with my internal feng shui.
The thought of “being on all the time” stresses me out. I need time to mentally rest and meditate throughout the day.
In addition to driving you to school each morning (1 hour), working at the office (8 hours), then driving us back home (45 minutes), then helping with dinner and cleaning up afterwards (1 hour, 15 minutes), and writing to you (1.5 hours), it essentially means I work all day long.
What I would love is a routine, whole, solid day off each week, like the Seventh-day Adventists practice… religiously. In so many ways, I already live their lifestyle and subscribe to their doctrinal beliefs.
However, I’m not ready (if ever?) to be so literally serious about taking 24 hours off from any kind of work, as instructed in the Ten Commandments.
So until then, not having a smart phone is my sabbath.
It’s my way of having sanity throughout the day- to not have to wait and wonder who might have Tweeted me or sent me a Facebook message or emailed me.
Until I become a VIP, I will continue living with as much peace of mind as I can, not having a smart phone.
And more importantly, not having to pay for Internet on my phone when I already have it here on my $290 ASUS laptop from which I write to you.
I’m going to stop talking now, because I am losing street cred points by the minute…
[Changes batteries in Walkman Cassette player and continues listening to Collective Soul.]
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