Today’s post is a guest blog from Wade Wingler – a coworker, fellow foodie and now, an author (check his bio at the end of this post). Wade was one of my biggest supporters when I started my food blog. He gets credit for teaching me much of what I know about blogging and social media, and he gave me the confidence to get out there and just start doing it. Recently, Wade made a life change and adopted a vegan diet for himself and his family. Here he discusses how that transition has changed him for the better and where he thinks it will take him. And, I think he may have inspired me to whip up a few vegan dishes for Solid Gold Eats!
“41-Year-Old Vegan,” by Wade Wingler
As I sit here writing, I’m eating my new breakfast. My old breakfast was a huge bowl of cheerios, three sausage links and a huge cup of dark roast coffee – complete with splenda and half-and-half. My new breakfast is a reasonably-sized bowl of oatmeal, sweetened with low-sugar strawberry jam and blueberries, and a huge cup of decaf tea sweetened with agave nectar. My old breakfast was okay. My new breakfast is even better.
Here’s what happened: A week ago yesterday, I was sitting in my doctor’s office, awaiting the results of my A1c test. That’s the test that tells diabetics, like me, how well their blood sugar levels have been doing over the past three months. I already knew that my weight was up and I was feeling tired. When the doc arrived, he told me that my A1c was 8.7%, which is far too high. After having been on a low-carb diet for almost ten years, I was instructed to watch the movie “Forks Over Knives” and to consider starting a “whole food, plant-based diet” in order to get my health back under control. That night my wife and I watched the movie, ate our last meaty, cheesy meal and started our new adventure as vegans.
Some folks like to ease into new diets – especially one so radically different from the main stream. I happen to be an all-or-nothing kind of guy. There’s not much easing in my life. Once I committed to this new way of eating, I was locked in and committed to eating only plants. No meat, no fish, no dairy, no eggs, and limited amounts of oils.
Fortunately for me, my wife is very supportive and agreed to going along with this change. She even said “You know, Babe, I’ve been thinking we needed a change in our diet. This might be a very good thing.” Our two little children are too young to really perceive any difference. My teenaged daughter, however; freaked out! She loves the following foods (almost exclusively): Sausage pizza, macaroni and cheese, and anything dipped in Ranch dressing. I’m pretty sure she stole a bottle of Ranch and hid it in her room… just in case.
It didn’t take long before I found lots of vegan recipes on Pinterest and thanks to Facebook, I connected with a few friends who knew a lot about veganism and my kitchen counter is full of vegan cookbooks, loaded with all kinds of great recipes and ideas. To give you an idea of how this diet works, here are some examples of the things that I have been eating at home in the past week: Burritos (made with texturized vegetable protein a.k.a. TVP), spaghetti with garlic bread, minestrone, biscuits and “TVP-sausage gravy,” quinoa-stuffed peppers, brownies, salads, popcorn, black bean soup, and lots of fruit. I’ve only eaten at restaurants twice and I had a yellow tofu curry (at Thai Lann in Avon) and Jimmy Johns’ amazing “Gourmet Veggie Club” on their tasty 7-grain whole wheat bread (minus cheese and mayo). I wasn’t unhappy with any one of these meals. They were both great!
I’m happy to report that, after one week of eating a vegan diet, the world has not ended. In fact, I have been pleasantly surprised with almost every aspect of our new diet. My blood sugar levels have been better than they have been in years! I have more energy than before and I find myself enjoying the taste of foods more than I remember when I was eating lots of meat and cheese. I suspect that these claims may sound a bit cliché but they’re true. For example, last night my wife made “spicy African peanut slow cooker soup” which contains chickpeas, sweet potatoes, curry powder, garam masala, fire roasted tomatoes, coconut milk, all natural peanut butter, and lentils. You will notice that there is not a buffalo wing or any sharp cheddar cheese in there at all! It was not just good. It was amazing! The flavors and the textures were sharp and savory. I found myself wanting second and third helpings of this dish – although I restrained myself after one bowl – plus just a little more. I haven’t been disappointed in a single meal in the past week. Coming from a guy who has eaten only meat, dairy and other low-carb foods for the past ten years, this is pretty impressive.
One lesson that I’ve learned as I have transitioned to a vegan diet: I find myself looking to replicate some of my favorite recipes as well as trying all sorts of new things. In doing so, I’ve relied a little too heavily on soy products like tofu, texturized vegetable protein and soymilk. A word of warning: not only are there some questions out there about health risks associated with soy, SOY IS MADE FROM BEANS! In short – use soy products in moderation or you may have a bellyache – or worse.
It’s also worth mentioning that this change in our life hasn’t been cheap so far. We emptied out much of our pantry and most of our freezer and fridge. We spent almost $500 restocking our food supplies on our first major shopping trip. (Please understand that it won’t cost this much every time because, this first time, we had to buy many staples that will last for weeks and months.) We also have invested in a way cool “Blentec” blender to assist with making green smoothies, hummus and other healthy vegan foods that will help ensure that we rely less on store-bought processed foods. Our food budget for our family of five was $150 per week before this change. With all the fresh fruits and veggies added to the shopping list and the meat, eggs and cheese removed from the shopping list, I anticipate that our budget may increase to $200 each week. This will be totally worth it if we continue to see the health benefits that we are enjoying so far.
So, where do we go from here? I’m convinced that this diet and lifestyle is completely “doable” for us. My wife and I have been surprised at the food choices and health improvements, and our two little kids haven’t really noticed any difference. My teenaged daughter still wrinkles her nose at some food choices and we still keep a bottle of ranch dressing and some boxes of mac and cheese around for her – just in case. I hope to be able to follow up in a few months and report that, not only will my A1c test be back into the normal range, but also maybe my pants-size will even be down a bit.
Wade Wingler is the host of the Fathers Over Forty podcast (www.FathersOverForty.com), a regular contributor at Prime Parents Club (www.PrimeParentsClub.com), and the author of God Plays Trombone and The Skinny On Cycling – both can be found on Amazon.com.