Vegetarianism. Veganism. Plant-based. Whatever you call it, it’s becoming increasingly popular in both the U.S. and around the world. If you’ve been eating and living this way for awhile, you know that things have gotten better–more people are aware of the health and compassion benefits that shunning animal products have, and the food choices have exploded…even in the average grocery store.
I started on my journey to veganism just over 3 years ago. You can read more about my decision to become vegan here, but long story short, I learned a LOT more than I ever wanted to know about the meat and dairy industries in a moral & ethics class my freshman year of college. During that year, I ate mostly vegetarian while at school, because I was not a fan of the dining halls and having a small dorm and a mini fridge made it easier to stick to veggie-based meals. After learning more about the atrocities of conventional animal raising, I began to think a lot more about what I was putting into my body. I was lucky to have the support of my omnivorous parents, who believed that eating mostly vegan was very healthful, as long as I made sure I was eating enough and supplementing with multivitamins.
Since then, I’ve eliminated all animal products (aside from local honey) and I feel great about my decision to eat plant-based. Before I became vegan, I was still tied down to restrictions I established during my anorexia–mostly still under-eating and avoiding fats. As a vegan, I had to embrace the healthy plant-based fats in order to thrive and now some of my favorite foods are these fats, like coconut and avocados and nuts.
Being vegan does NOT (and should NOT) be restrictive, in terms of calories or variety. I used to eat a lot of the same things before becoming vegan, but once I transitioned, I discovered new foods and new recipes that I never would have had I stayed an omnivore or even vegetarian. Cooking is now one of my favorite things, and I love experimenting in the kitchen, particularly with raw foods. I have an interest in the healthfulness of eating raw, and while I still eat some cooked things, I would say I eat high raw on a daily basis.
Veganism isn’t just about the food, of course. It’s also about the animals and the planet. I’ve always been an animal lover and at one point was shadowing a veterinarian because I wanted to be one when I grew up. However, I never really connected the animals on my plate to the ones in nature, or even in zoos or on farms. I never questioned the status quo of eating meat–it never crossed my mind that it was wrong or unethical, because that’s how I was raised. I never ate a meat-heavy diet, but my mom would serve meat at dinner every day, and our fridge was stocked with dairy products. Looking back on that, I wish I was raised in a more health-conscious and compassionate (towards animals) household, but I’m glad I became vegan when I did, and that I’m having a subtle influence on my family’s choices. I’ve taken them to a few vegan restaurants (that they all enjoyed) and my mom eagerly attended VegFest with me recently and I think it got her thinking about her food choices. I’m thankful that they’re so supportive of my decision to eat consciously, though they aren’t doing the same (yet!)
I’m passionate about veganism not only for the benefits it has for animals and our world, but especially for it’s health benefits. It makes me sad that so many Americans are unaware or just don’t care about what they’re eating and buying, especially the people I love. My parents were both born and raised in Wisconsin in the 70s, and as such grew up eating plenty of meat and dairy. My extended family for the most part still eats this way and luckily my immediate family members are a bit healthier, but I want to change their habits substantially so they can live long, healthy lives. People just get stuck in their habits and can be hard-pressed to be convinced that they’re unhealthy. I really hate the misconception that eating healthy is boring, expensive, or tastes bad. It really doesn’t have to be any of the above! Everyone can find something healthy they love (or can learn to) and you don’t have to eat something just because it’s healthy. For example, I hate tomatoes–they definitely have health benefits, but I choose not to eat them because they have never appealed to me. I love a lot of other healthy foods so I don’t sweat it if I don’t like everything.
My vegan diet is constantly evolving as I’m finding new foods to love and ways to eat even more consciously. Currently, I’m eating high raw (which means for me 90% raw) and loving the energy it’s giving me. A typical day of eating right now is usually chia protein pudding or raw flax pancakes for breakfast, a salad or zucchini noodles or a smoothie for lunch, and a variety of different fun raw recipes for dinner…and of course snacks in between of fruit, veggies raw vegan protein powder and nuts to round out my day. I’m eating all foods I love, TONS of produce and I don’t feel deprived at all. Just goes to show you what fueling your body with the best nature has to offer can do!
I’ve linked up some of my favorite posts about my vegan lifestyle–feel free to browse and hopefully you come away with some valuable information. Even if you’re not currently a vegan or plan to be, I’m sure there are little tweaks you could make to your diet to make it a little healthier and more animal-friendly!
The Ashley Diet (what I eat)