Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Healthy Journey

The bout with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma that Carol and I had in 1994 (I had the chemo, she had the sick husband), marked the beginning of our inquiry into how to live more healthy lives. Among the changes we adopted progressively since then were changes in our diet. Carol was already a marvelous cook, and she began to change her approach to meal preparation. We started to move away from a meat centered, refined carbohydrate diet, and each year has seen us make some make progress on that healthy journey. During the course of that journey, Weight Watchers has been a great help, especially for me. For Carol the journey has included the joy she finds in the kitchen learning new ways to feed her family.

I have been reading a book called The China Study, as I have posted before. This book has captured my attention as nothing I have read in the area of nutrition. Its thesis is that a diet based on plant-protein and complex carbohydrates is the one that is most likely to result in one's living his life to its end in a way that is not compromised with an extended, final period of disability. At this point 15 years after Carol and I started our healthy journey, this thesis makes complete sense to me.

Today is the ninth day of my living a dietary life based on that thesis. I feel good, and not particularly deprived. We were very close to this life already, except for the dairy based food that we ate. The proportion of meat products was already relatively small. Giving up frozen yogurt, ice-cream, scrambled eggs and cheese (how we love cheese!) - that's more difficult for sure. But, still, we are getting along fine, even after just a week or so.

The weekend is when Carol goes grocery shopping, so we did the first grocery shopping under this new regime yesterday. On Saturday afternoon Carol brought home from Publix some "vegan" products, and then we went shopping together at Whole Foods and picked up some more.

This morning Carol pulled out of our pantry some relatively healthy canned foods that are not vegan. We took them to church this morning to put in the basket that goes to a church in Hialeah that distributes food to needy families. So now we are ready for week two of this journey.

As we go along, I thought I would let you know how we are doing and what we are eating.

Let me start with breakfast this morning. My usual breakfast has been oatmeal, plain yogurt and a banana or frozen berries. I have been having the oatmeal all week without the yogurt. At Whole Foods yesterday, however, we bought some yogurt substitutes of different kinds and brands. I used a half of a 6 oz. cup of WholeSoy & Co.'s strawberry "soy yogurt," and could not tell much difference when mixed with the oatmeal. I ate the rest of the cup as a snack later in the day, and it was good. It didn't taste exactly like dairy yogurt, but it was tasty and satisfying.

The entire cup has 160 calories, 25 from fat. It was quite sweet, and a cup has 21g of sugar, which is a lot. I am used to plain yogurt with my oatmeal, but I was worried that this product would taste awful. So I hedged by getting the flavored version. The sugars are "organic cornstarch, organic rice starch, strawberries, and natural flavors." I would be glad to skip the corn and rice starch. So tomorrow I am going to try Silk Live! Soy Yogurt in its "Plain" version on my oatmeal. (WholeSoy has a "plain" version too.)

These soy yogurts have "live and active cultures to help your body's natural defenses," according to the Silk container.

Lunch on Sundays has always been problematical, because we have it at church. Often what is served is full of a lot of fat and refined carbohydrates. There are always cookies and cakes, and I find that sort of thing hard to resist, especially when I have eaten sparingly of the "main" courses. But today I took with me an Amy's Black Bean Tamale Verde, put it in the church's kitchen freezer just after we first arrived for Sunday School and then pulled it out and microwaved it after the worship service, when everyone was lined up in Fellowship Hall for the usual spread. (This dish, according to the box is "Gluten free . . . non-dairy . . . no cholesterol . . . no trans fat . . . no added msg . . . no preservatives . . . no GMOs (whatever they are) . . . No Bioengineered ingredients." Whew!).

After I heated up the dish, I put it on one of the paper plates and got at the end of the line and got some tossed salad and some tomato slices, because the dish did not look like it would be enough. I sat down at a table and thoroughly enjoyed the food and the fellowship, and no one seemed to know the difference. The Black Bean Tamale Verde was excellent.

Carol and Mary have been talking on the phone this weekend about vegetarian recipes, and so I am looking forward to more good things from Carol's kitchen.

Carol and I have talked a good bit about the social issues involved with this development. We are not going to be crusading about this, and when social situations with others involve non-vegan dishes, we will certainly join in. The question is more about one's default approach to nutrition and also about developing one's own strategies to make this approach not a burden on others.

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