Facing the Fats

Fats tend to get a bad rap. Not quite as much in the blog world, where almost everyone enjoys nut butters and avocado on the daily but they’re still viewed as somewhat scary. And I’m one of those people who used to be scared to death of fats. Because I thought they’d make me fat. I mean, duh, that’s their name, why wouldn’t they do that? Boy was I wrong!

My eating disorder days were when I feared fats the most. Can you blame me–I was a kid of the 90s, when low-fat was everything, and I was brainwashed by school nutrition programs to seek out lower fat options. Just before I was at my worst ED-wise, I replaced my old favorite snacks with fat-free pudding and those Snackwell cookies. What I didn’t realize was that low-fat is another name for more sugar, or more sodium. Without some fats, food doesn’t have much flavors (besides fruits and veggies, of course!) But I didn’t care, I felt like I was superior because I was eating little to no fat, unlike most people my age. In my worst days, I subsisted on black beans and rice, “light” toast, sugar-free Jell-O and fruit. The only real fat I was eating was maybe 1 teaspoon of almond butter per day. What a sad, flavorless life! At that point, I was not only afraid of fat but also carbs and my health and appearance were really suffering because of it. I took a nap almost every day after school because I had no energy–not something a normal 16 year old does. My skin was dry, my hair had tons of split ends and was falling out, I was super pale and just didn’t look happy and healthy. Little did I know that it was due to the lack of nutrients.

This is how the food pyramid should look!

During my early recovery, I started to eat more fats again, like larger servings of almond butter and guacamole, but I still shied away from them, especially saturated fats. I wasn’t so afraid of the total fat count, but I always looked at the saturated fat content on every food I bought. I tried my hardest to stay under 2 grams of sat fat total per day, which is damn hard to do. I looked longingly at Clif and Luna bars but always passed them up because most of them had just a little over my total saturated fat “allowance” for the day.

The Luna Bar I always wanted to try (but didn’t) because of the 2.5 grams of sat fat.

Unfortunately, this fear of saturated fat continued for almost three more years. I rejected foods I used to love, like dark chocolate, because they had too much of this scary fat. It didn’t help that most nutrition articles I read supported my fear. I continued to keep my saturated fat levels low…that is, until I transitioned to veganism almost one year ago.

As I embraced vegan foods and tried new things, I realized a lot of them had saturated fat–some more than the measly 2 grams I’d been allowing myself per day. Things like tempeh, nuts and dark chocolate all looked so good, but they were chock-full of fats, mostly the supposed healthy kind (aka unsaturated fats) but they also had a decent amount of saturated. Wanting to be a healthy, fats-embracing vegan, I decided to dip my toe into the world of plant-based saturated fats. And now I can proudly say that I’m never going back to the low-fat lifestyle again!

I would have never let myself eat this much guacamole a year ago!

I eat plant based fats on a daily basis and I love them. Nuts, seeds, tempeh, avocado, olives, dark chocolate and nut butters are my favorite sources and I don’t even want to try living without them. But coconut…that was a different story. I’ve feared coconut for at least 5 years, because it’s extremely high in fat, especially saturated. I wouldn’t touch the stuff with a ten foot pole, even though I kinda liked it pre-ED. Until a week or so ago, I hadn’t eaten it in any form since I was probably 13 or 14. Turns out, it’s not as scary as I thought, and I actually like it. Coconut milk ice cream is so much creamier than other vegan ice creams, and maybe even more than regular ice cream (from what I can remember). Coconut milk adds a really nice taste to curry sauces, and it works really well in Larabars. I’m even considering investing in some coconut oil for baking and cooking, since so many people love it and it’s a healthy fat. Yep, I said it, it’s healthy! Now I know that pretty much all plant-based fats are totally healthy, and offer so many benefits. And they taste so amazing!

How did I ever live without this deliciousness?

Basically what I’m saying here is if you’re like me and you are wary of fats, don’t be. Don’t fear the fats–they taste awesome and they’ll give you so much health and energy. I eat about 30 to 35% of my daily calories from fat, and I’ve never felt better! Stick with the plant based fats–nuts and seeds, avocado, coconut–and I think you’ll see the benefits too.

Have you ever feared fats? What’s your favorite fat source?

I’m Done…

I’m done…with focusing on calories, rather than nutrients

Larabars might have a ‘lot’ of calories, but they’re healthy and simple!

I want to be a healthy vegan, so what does that mean? Getting enough fats and protein. Instead of seeking out the lowest calorie faux meat products (which do have protein, but aren’t that healthy), I want to buy nutrient-dense things that will fuel my body and help me feel my best, like Larabars and Sunshine Burgers (made from seeds, beans and veggies). I want to stop shying away from coconut products just because of their high saturated fat content. I’m done with being scared of plant-based fats, period.

I’m done…with having tiny portions of everything

Four mini pancakes are NOT enough for breakfast alone!

I know I will always likely have a smaller appetite than a lot of people but that doesn’t mean I have to eat like a hummingbird! I’m sick of eating small amounts at every meal and feeling hungry and unsatisfied an hour or two later. If I want to feel more comfortable with eating more, I can choose to snack more between my mini meals or even just increase the size of my meals a little bit over time. I’m tired of only having 1/4 cup of oats at breakfast (even with toppings it’s not enough) and only allowing myself a teaspoon of nut butter per day.

I’m done…with restricting my calories and my life

Why can’t I feel okay eating an entire (170 calorie) vegan chocolate chip cookie at one sitting and more than a tiny bowl of almond milk ice cream?

I’ve wasted way too much of my life semi-starving myself and listening to ED’s stupid demands. I want to be okay eating the calories I need to live a healthy life. I want to sometimes order something other than a salad at a restaurant. I want to cook vegan things that even my omni family will love, because it’s full of nutrients and flavor. I’m sick of freaking out every day that I exercise a little bit less than I wanted to. I’m done with constantly tallying up my calories and macro nutrients and over analyzing them.

I’m done…with second-guessing my cooking skills

My first attempt at a homemade vegan ice cream pie for Father’s Day…everyone loved it!

I hate worrying about cooking things for my family and wondering if they’ll even like it, just because it’s something they’re not used to. I want to do even more experimenting with cooking for myself. I want to make even more vegan desserts to show my family that vegan things can be just as tasty as normal desserts.

Vegan Ice Cream Pie (vegan)

8 sandwich cookies, any flavor (I used Whole Foods’ store brand, which are all-natural, but Oreos and Newman O’s are also vegan)

1/2 pint vegan ice cream, any flavor or variety like almond/coconut/soy (I used Almond Dream’s cappuccino swirl)

1 tbsp dark cocoa powder or cacao powder

1/2 tbsp agave or maple syrup

splash almond milk (or water)

fresh berries/bananas, shaved dark chocolate, vegan whipped cream, etc. for garnish

Separate the sandwich cookies and set aside the filling. Crumble cookies by hand or in a food processor until finely crushed. Mix in filling until mostly combined and starting to stick together. Press cookie crust into bottom of medium-sized glass bowl or cake pan and freeze for at least 30 minutes. Let ice cream soften and spread 1/4 of a pint over the crust, smoothing down with a rubber spatula or flat wooden spoon. Place in freezer for 30-60 minutes, or until ice cream layer is hardened. In a small bowl, stir together cocoa powder and agave until mostly mixed, and add in a splash of almond milk or water until it becomes a thick fudge-like paste. Spoon over ice cream layer and place in freezer for another 30 minutes. Let ice cream soften again and spread the remaining 1/4 pint over the fudge layer and freeze entire pie for 1-3 hours. Serve topped with berries, shaved/melted chocolate or whatever toppings you’d like. Makes 4 slices. 

What are you “done with”? How do you feel about cooking for others?