I’ve always been pretty health-conscious, but after my cancer diagnosis, I thought a lot about changes I would make to my diet and lifestyle. There is so much buzz around the vegan diet and how it can reverse disease, lengthen life, prevent sickness, etc. While I don’t subscribe to a one-diet-fits-all approach, I do feel that many of the vegan tenets resonate with me. The hormones in chicken and beef, farmed fish, inflammatory properties of dairy – those are just a handful of reasons why I decided to make the switch.
Before you classify me as one of those crazy vegans, know that I try my best not to be weird about it. In fact, I hate the label “vegan” because truthfully, I still eat some fish/meat sometimes (wild caught salmon for the omega3s or high-quality, well-sourced chicken for extra protein after surgery) and let’s face it, there’s quite a stigma to it. For me, it’s less about what I DON’T eat than what I DO eat. Because I eat a whole lot more fresh fruit and vegetables, I tend to eat less meat and dairy, and by virtue of this, am more “vegan” than not.
The “diet” I most consider myself following is a whole-food plant-based (WFPB) diet. This means most of my meals are derived from whole foods (not the grocery store), which means the whole fruit and vegetable. This means very minimal processed food and more simply-prepared dishes made out of fresh produce. A grocery trip for me usually means tons of greens, a variety of seasonal fruit, plenty of mushrooms, sprouts, and the basic cooking ingredients. I also eat healthy multi-grain or sprouted bread, cashew-based yogurt, almond milk, beans/lentils, nuts, seeds, matcha green tea, and sometimes seitan or Beyond Burgers for protein.
Contrary to what most may think, eating WFPB is not just eating salad. If it was, I would’ve quite long time ago. There’s a lot to be said by how creative people are nowadays so that many classic meat/dairy dishes have plant-based alternatives. One cookbook that is near and dear to my heart is Angela Liddon’s Oh She Glows cookbook. All the recipes are super easy to follow and the end product actually tastes really good! Some of me and hubby’s favorites are the chickpea “egg” salad, broccoli and quinoa wrap with cashew-based cheese sauce, and chocolate chip cookies. On YouTube, I follow Jill’s channel The Whole Food Plant Based Cooking Show where she shares so many yummy recipes using whole fruit and vegetables without any salt, sugar, or oil (crazy, right?!).
As far as eating out goes, my favorite plant-based restaurant in NYC is Jean-Georges’ abcV in the Gramercy/Flatiron district. I know, I know, it’s fancy but their philosophy of providing plant based, non GMO, sustainable, artisanal and organic whenever possible food sourced locally and globally from small & family farms is just too good! All restaurants should strive to be this way!
Experimenting with these recipes and finding creative ways to make old favorites healthier and plant-based has really inspired me to cook and bake almost everyday. My body doesn’t feel bloated, my skin especially my rosacea has cleared up, my energy levels are steadily high throughout the day, and I generally feel good. This cleaner way of eating paired with regular exercise has really made a difference not only physically but mentally as well. And that, is what has made it so worth it.
I’ll share more recipes and resources for clean plant-based eating, but for now, I hope this clears up some of the misconceptions around my vegan/plant-based diet, and maybe inspires you to try it out some time. Happy eating! ❤