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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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How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids
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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Sunday, November 3rd, 2013
2 years, 11 months.
When I was a kid, I refused to mix the Play-Doh colors together or destroy any of my creations. I liked to create, and then eternally save, the same-colored animals and random creatures that I made.
I think I evidently believed that by destroying any of them, I was killing them. Apparently, I believed they had souls, too.
(This is starting to remind me of the plot line of the Disney movie, Spooky Buddies, that we just watched yesterday on Netflix.)
However, as for you, you’re totally cool with completely annihilating any “living” thing you make.
And honestly, I think that’s a good thing.
Because it also indirectly leads you to be able to mix the different colors of Play-Doh together and not feel guilty about that either.
You don’t respect the colors or creations of the Play-Doh… after all, it’s just a toy. It’s all just part of the same wad, as far as you’re concerned.
This morning as we were about to get ready for church, you made me some Play-Doh coffee.
I was quite impressed, actually.
Now that your newest Play-Doh set has been homogonizing for a few weeks now, it’s morphing into this reddish brown, greenish black color, with hints of caramel showing through.
You served it up real nice for me.
Then, after Mommy got you dressed for church, you and I went on our 1st ever father and son fishing trip; from a vegetarian’s perspective, at least…
You discovered that your Halloween glow stick stopped glowing, so no problem- it became your fishing pole.
And yes, the bait, as well as the fish you would catch, were both made out of that same reddish brown, greenish black Play-Doh, with hints of caramel showing through.
It’s funny how most of the time, in order to play with you, all I have to do is just sit there and look at you.
From there, you always figure out what to pretend to do. You simply entertain yourself, especially if you have some decent props.
Then, as I serve as the sole member in your audience, I also become the mandatory volunteer to help you act out your show.
I’ve got a front row seat!
Who cares that our family hasn’t eaten meat in 23 months? We went fishing anyway.
And we didn’t even have to miss church for it.
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church, fatherhood, fishing, parenting, parents, play time, Play-Doh, Sunday morning, vegan, vegetarian | Categories:
Nostalgia, The Dadabase
Sunday, September 15th, 2013
2 years, 9 months.
I should start off this letter to you with what I have as my current status on Facebook:
“In the past 5 years, I have completely and successfully given up pork, shellfish, processed sugars, then meat altogether, then dairy, eggs, and honey; more recently, all alcohol and carbonated drinks (which I only had in moderation anyway)… and all of that, was NOTHING… compared to my newest current challenge: Caffeine (and therefore, coffee). I have officially survived Day #1. I heard the first 5 are the worst. This is misery; suffering both physically and psychologically. Caffeine is a highly addictive, easily accessible, completely legal and unregulated drug that has got me in a powerful state of withdrawal right now. I shall overcome…”.
Yeah, that about covers it.
Our family drove home from buying groceries at Whole Foods today and all I could do was collapse on the floor once I walked in the door. You started to run over to me as if to tackle me. I had to say, “I’m sorry, Son. I can’t wrestle with you tonight. Daddy isn’t feeling well.”
You kept asking me why I wasn’t feeling well. How do I explain to a nearly 3 year-old that, without realizing it, Daddy has been addicted to coffee (in the form of one to two cups a day at work, then at least one Starbucks over the weekend)?
I was familiar with this sort of urban legend that Starbucks’ coffee has more caffeine than “normal coffee” you would make at work or at home. Mommy and I spent some time this week researching that claim. The best evidence was this recent article on The Huffington Post, called “How Much Caffeine Is Actually In Your Coffee, From Dunkin’ to Starbucks?”
The story included this pictogram which pretty much clears it up for me.
Part of the difficulty that comes with removing certain food and drink staples from my life, being that I could now be labelled as a caffeine-free, alcohol-free, soda-free, kosher vegan, is the nostalgia I have to let go of. And that definitely is the case here with caffeine.
After all, the friendship between Mommy and me, that eventually led to us dating, was first nourished in a weekly Sunday night meet at Starbucks; which didn’t simply include coffee, but more importantly, caffeine.
I’m not banning Starbucks as a company or a brand. I admire their cleverness. They have found a way to capitalize on one of the most addictive and unregulated drugs in the world and get people to pay at least 4 dollars a pop for it. I respect that, as a Libertarian capitalist.
But as for me, I plan for that half a cup of coffee I drank at work Friday morning to be my last ounce of caffeine for the rest of my life.
I just hate the thought of being at the mercy of a food, drink, and/or drug. Instead, I’d rather discipline my body and bring it into subjection (Biblical reference); especially knowing that the process of detoxing from caffeine makes me feel like a drug addict.
That is how I feel, by the way. I am a drug addict going through a baptism-by-fire withdrawal period. It is brutal.
I can feel my nervous system under attack right now. I’m a little freaked out by it, to be honest.
While I am so happy to have you and Mommy here with me now, I have to admit it feels like the Smoke Monster from Lost is trying to win this battle with me this weekend. That is how I am portraying my withdrawals from caffeine addiction.
I wish I could be fully present with you this weekend in mind, body, and spirit, but I know I’m not me right now.
From what I learned thanks to the girl in the tea aisle at Whole Foods today, who is now caffeine-free, having been through this herself, it takes a solid 10 days to recover from a caffeine addiction, but the first 5 are the worst.
I can do this. Cold turkey, to be exact.
Top photo: Coffee Addict Concept, via Shutterstock.
Note: This is an opinion piece of the author and does not reflect Parents magazine or the medical establishment.
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