Food (aka the Story of a Veggie)

Time for my supremely awesome post of the year. It’s a bit long and the pics are big X_X…

First a vid… make sure you come back from Youtube though =)

Eat It

Disclaimer: To apply to be an MIT admissions blogger, we have to write about something we “find wildly interesting.” I’ve kinda breezed over this novel idea I have, I’ve done a bit with asian dramas and asian videos (XD) in past posts, but now – NOW – I’m going to do something new, something EXTREME.

I’m going to blog about my journey with food.

In the philosophical sense as well as in the, um, tasting sense. Also the health sense. And cooking sense.

If that makes ANY sense.

So let’s start from early times.

Part I – When I was a child, I ate “fun” (“normal”) food =)

In early times when I was still in elementary school, I thought food = food. I was the type of person that liked to try new things, even things like broccoli and spinach on the side. We went to McDonalds and Burger King pretty often, and I would always ask for the “Happy Meal” and get the little toys that would be useless after a few days but which delighted me to no end when they came out of their boxes. I would look at the Burger King “characters” and wonder if their coolness could compete with the coolness of the McDonalds playground. (Well, it was really no contest.)

Then my parents and I tried moussaka (ground beef in potatoes…) and I LOVED it. It was my favorite greek dish ever.

And I had mac and cheese and ice cream and all that and loved both the cool shapes and the chocolately toppings and sprinkles. The people in our soccer league would bring Entemanns donuts to every game for half-time. And I had soda like everyone else as well.

Part II – The beginnings of change

I think I started thinking more about exactly what I was eating when I was 10-12. I also heard that people were going vegetarian to help the animals (the one case for going vegetarian I kind of understood at that age), but I always thought, “Wow, those are OTHER people… I could never do THAT.” From here on I slowly learned more about the environmental side of vegetarianism, but for now I tried to make “healthy food choices” because my whole family has diabetes. I needed to control my weight and diet to avoid that.

I started hearing horrible things about soda (so much sugar! Toxic ingredients! O_O) so I stopped drinking it. I also heard horrible things about beef as a result of a mad cow case, so I “temporarily” stopped eating beef at age 12. I haven’t eaten beef since. It was only after then that I learned that…

– The beef industry uses about 2,500 gallons of water to process 1 pound of beef (approx.; http://www.vegsource.com/articles/pimentel_water.htm) – that’s like the most out of any animal we regularly consume!
– Methane emissions from cow burps and farts accounts for ~20% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions (again approximate – http://www.grist.org/article/2009-05-21-on-cow-burps-meat-and-methane/)
– Many cows in factory farms are living in HORRIBLE conditions (peta.org)

Besides that I ate in ways that I thought were healthy, making choices like:
– Turkey meatballs with whole wheat pasta
– Low-fat or non-fat frozen yogurt
– Cheerios, Go-lean, Slim, or other dry cereals with fat-free milk for breakfast
– Turkey burgers with sweet potato fries
– “Whole grain” chips and pretzels
– Eventually soy milk instead of milk, and then milk again

Part III – The Change

Then I went to high school. In junior year I took AP Environmental Science. Our teacher (and my environmental club’s advisor) was a vegetarian. He told us about how eating food lower on the food chain meant eating ten times less resources than meat. We learned about global warming – a symptom of the human species exceeding its carrying capacity on the planet earth. And we learned that the average U.S. citizen has the largest carbon (and ecological) footprint. (Btw if you want to know what this is or find yours, search “carbon footprint” on google to find tons of calculators. Here’s one.)

That January (’08) I stopped eating meat. And as of August 18, 2009, I’m still vegetarian!

But it’s not as easy as it looks. (If it ever looked easy. =P) Partly because my track season ended and partly because I didn’t really know what it meant to be a “healthy veggie,” I started gaining a bit of weight. Oh, and partly because I wasn’t getting enough sleep.

Luckily, I lost all that weight on a 21 day outward bound trip (Costa Rica!), but it’s hard to maintain that kind of workout in the city =( So I came back and invested in a few books (disclaimer: I’m not being paid to advertise them or anything… just some resources I found)

“Eat to Live” by Dr. Fuhrman
“Raw Detox Diet” by Natalia Rose
“Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen: Easy, Delectable Living Foods” by Ani Phyo
and, most recently,
“Joy of Juicing” by Gary Null, Ph.D.

All of these agree that dairy products = bad, cheese = the worst, and greens = miracle food.

Now, here are some bits of similar and yet contradicting advice in these books that advocate “alternate/holistic-type” diets:

– “Eat to Live” – Stick to three meals and no snacks (!) a day, limit carbohydrates (breads, pitas, potatoes, etc.) to one serving a day, soy is a good protein to eat, the goal should be to eat one head of lettuce a day, try to go for six weeks without eating any “bad foods/sweets,” eat nuts but eat in moderation or withhold them if trying to lose weight, overweight =! healthy

(The hummus from here is delicious XD I’ve had plenty of salads but none pretty enough to warrant a picture – just lettuce with almonds =P)

– “Raw Detox Diet” – Legumes (soy, peanuts, to an extent chickpeas and beans) are undesirable, eat nuts in moderation, drink a glass (preferably two) of juiced greens (with lemon and apples for taste) a day, try to “combine” foods right so they “pass through” the intestines fast, against “fake meats” that are overly processed, have dark chocolate for dessert

Thai Peanut sauce and Rainbow Salad

Thai Peanut sauce and Rainbow Salad

Raw susHi

Raw susHi

Thai Coconut Bliss! With shiitake mushrooms!

Thai Coconut Bliss! With shiitake mushrooms!

Rawviolis with homemade "pesto"

– “‘Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen” – Also against legumes, nuts are a base of many of her recipes because they are a “healthy” protein and fat, tries to make “fake meats” with natural ingredients and a blender, uses a dehydrator, sprouts nuts and seeds…
– “Joy of Juicing” – I love how this one doesn’t preach, it just gives you awesome recipes =) Made the brownies three times already!

Date Fudge Browniezzzzz =d (Made three batches of these)

Date Fudge Browniezzzzz =d

Burger on salad!

Burger on salad!

guacamolesalad

If you’re not following some of this (“combine”? “dehydrator”?) it’s OK, because I’m going to tell you what I’ve gotten out of these books:

– A ton of cool recipes 😉
– The idea that eating greens and less processed foods is healthier
– The self-control to eat oatmeal and fruit or just a banana shake in the morning (as opposed to my formerly favorite chocolate chip pancakes – bananas are so much cooler)
– Oh and eating legumes and nuts in moderation too (sometimes I splurge on almonds and hummus though X_X)
– Recognizing signs that I’m not eating well (if you want to know what those are, besides increased acne/weight/sluggishness, um… email me)
– Oh, and it’s still important to EXERCISE!!! (Gotta do that X_____X)
– Make sure to take multis plus B-12!

How can I miss the moussaka when there exist veggie recipes AND, believe it or not, veggie moussaka? (I tried it in Boston XD)

One more note before I end with the treat that I splurge on (not JUST because it’s from the Farmer’s Market):

It has oft been argued that not everyone can eat vegetarian or even healthily (btw most of the nutritionists I’ve been reading from say that the FDA guidelines are not actually “healthy,” they’re guidelines that were set in response to lobbying from the meat and dairy industries) because of where they live, their lifestyle/way of living (ex. fishermen that make their living off of salmon), etc.

Often people argue about whether humans can even BE vegetarian and say we can only be healthy eating meat, etc.

And then the price tag issues come up.

Well, being a vegetarian takes a bit of planning. But it’s all fun! And the point isn’t to be vegetarian right away either. It’s just eating while knowing that you have a choice (well, if you have a choice) about what to eat that can affect the rest of the planet.

And it can be cheaper to eat vegetarian than to eat meat… it’s definitely cheaper in restaurants =) And if you make your own smoothies/juices/foods in general it’s even CHEAPER XD

So that’s PLENTY to chew on, remember that it’s not a religion – even one choice makes a difference. No one says you have to choose one way or the other but yourself. Just remember that the world of food is more complex than you may realize at first bite =)

Further resources:

Books mentioned above =)
“The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan
“Student’s Go Vegan Cookbook” by Carole Raymond
And search the web! Talk to a nutritionist if you’d like!

Now for…

THE CHOCOLATECHIPVEGANWALNUTCOOKIE

THE CHOCOLATECHIPVEGANWALNUTCOOKIE