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Warning…this is a ‘think-out-loud’ long-winded type of post.  Continue reading at your own risk.  🙂

Last year I read an article about being a better runner by eating a vegan diet.  I was intrigued by this concept because I wouldn’t have put those two topics together on my own.  At the time I was running regularly and had even competed in two 5K’s so I was definitely interested in improving stamina and speed and having more energy in general.  As I looked into this topic further, I came across much information about eating animals/animal products and illness (cancer, heart disease, etc.).

I’ve always found it frustrating (and only slightly comical) that a food or ingredient can be on a ‘top five super foods’ or some other type list and also on the ‘worst food in the world’ type list all at one time or in short order.  It seems we are always being told different and sometimes conflicting stories about what is healthy and what is not.  How’s a person supposed to know?!

Having been a chubby kid growing up and then gaining more than the Freshman 15 in college, I’ve been interested in health and nutrition ever since my Sophomore year of college.  I didn’t grow up eating particularly healthy food.  With five kids at home and two full-time working parents who were on opposite shifts, we ate food that was common and easy to prepare.  I’ve definitely had my fair share of Hamburger Helper, pizza, meatloaf, spaghetti, chili, and canned veggies.  Oh, and let’s not forget the never-ending soda, ice cream, and Little Debbie Cakes.  I never wanted to continue those habits for myself or my family but being a full-time working parent myself (until next Friday anyway :)), it has been hard to keep my menu fresh, healthy, and kid friendly over the years.

I haven’t been a beef eater since I was a child.  I grew up eating beef but I discovered that it makes my stomach very unhappy so I gave it up and haven’t looked back (except for a rare occasion while eating out or being someone else’s guest).  Prior to reading the article about running vegans, I primarily cooked with chicken breasts, ground turkey, pork tenderloin, and tilapia.  I was getting tired of trimming chicken breasts and pork loins on the weekends and I had started to find bone fragments in the ground turkey which had always been so consistently without them before.  So, at that point, the thought of giving up meat for a while was ok with me although I figured my family would need some convincing.  I discussed my thoughts with my husband and he was on board with me changing the way I cook as long as he could eat the way he wanted outside the house.  That was fine with me of course.

So, we started our journey of vegan eating.  I had an entire book of commonly used recipes but only a few of them were vegetarian and none of them were vegan.  For a busy working mom, the thought of starting over was a bit daunting but I wanted to give it a try.  I researched recipes and ideas whenever I could but the task of preparing a weekly menu and grocery list became quite a chore and normally kept me up hours after my family had fallen asleep on Friday nights.  It became much more daunting than exciting!

It’s been a rollercoaster of ups and downs in the food arena since May 2012.  We’ve found some new recipes that we really like but we’ve also thrown away more leftovers than ever before which I really don’t like to do.  Even worse, when a recipe fails or the leftovers don’t heat up well, I end up eating junk food or fake food instead.  I never intended to become a junk food vegan!  Worse still is that my kids are only willing to eat a rare meal that I cook these days.  They used to eat almost everything I cooked (including brussels sprouts and broccoli) but now they go to bed with little or no dinner regularly and then eat junk at school the next day.  Don’t worry, they’re still well fed and not wasting away in any manner. 🙂

So, lately I’ve been really thinking about all these changes and how I want to feed my family moving forward.  One of the main attractions to eating less meat and dairy for me is less exposure to hormones and antibiotics.  If I can keep my kids from entering puberty at 10 years old, I’m game for that!  However, I’m not in favor of fighting over meals and throwing food away every day.  Besides, there are some really good meals that I used to cook that I’d like to have again (and I know my family would too).  I never gave up meat, cheese, and eggs due to an extreme love of animals.  It’s only been a sacrifice in favor of health but it just isn’t going as I hoped it would.  😦

I’ve seen some posts on Facebook from a page called ‘Just Eat Real Food’ and many of the recipes caught my eye and appeared to be vegan but then I started seeing many recipes with meat and cheese.  Confused by the unusual variety of ingredients and recipes, I pulled up information and found out that it was a page advocating the Paleo diet.  I’ve heard about the Paleo diet but never really looked into because I thought it was a primarily meat and cheese diet (which I’m not interested in).  I still don’t know much about it but I looked it up and saw that the diet advocates eating more vegetables than meats which was a surprise to me.  Also, when eating meat/cheese/eggs, the diet recommends grass-fed, raw, non-homogonized, non-pasteurized options when possible.  The diet also recommends limiting sugar consumption which, I think we can all agree, is a good idea. The part of the diet I find strange is that they avoid grains.  I like grains and think that they (and animals) have been naturally available for human consumption since the beginning of times. All that being said, the two diets are both proponents of healthy and whole eating despite their differences.

***I apologize to any Paleo followers if i’ve gotten these details wrong.***

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not getting ready to start following the Paleo diet but I’m also not set on continuing the vegetarian/vegan diet either.  I want to eat whole food.  I want to eat real food.  I want to know that the food I’m eating hasn’t been altered or tainted from it’s originally intended form.  I don’t want to fill up on junk food and fake food.  So, what’s the answer?  I guess just that…eat real food…but without arbitrary limits and boundaries…and without guilt over not ‘getting it right!’

To that end, I looked into the local Co-op in my area and am considering joining in order to get locally grown/produced meat and dairy products (and honey for allergy resistance purposes).  With the loss of my income in the near future, we won’t have the money to go all out at the Co-op but we can be more selective of some food items instead of eliminating them altogether.

I also plan to keep eating some of the new foods I’ve discovered like lentils, chickpeas, quinoa, and hemp seeds.  Those are great foods too and help to cut down on food costs.

So, what do you all think?  Does anyone else out there get tired of all the mixed messages we are exposed to about food?  Does anyone else wish that you had all the food you want naturally available in your backyard so you knew how it was grown/produced?  Does anyone else struggle with these decisions?  Does anyone else find themselves being super selective in the meals they cook just to end the night eating Doritos and start the day with Splenda in their coffee (because those are such whole food products!)?  Let me know that I’m not the only one out there…

For those of you who stuck in there and read this entire post, you deserve a treat! 🙂  Here are links to some of the favorite recipes I used to cook (and will again one day soon) for your enjoyment.

BBQ Pork Hoagies

Chicken Philly Sandwiches


Golden Winter Soup (above)


Pork and Peanut Stir-Fry with Hot Sichuan Green Beans (above)

Mexican Chicken Casserole

Skillet Fillets with Cilantro Butter

There’s so…many…more, but that’s enough for now.  Have a great night!