28 March 2009

2/3 Vegan

I don't know what else to call it and I've been thinking about it for more than a month--specifically thinking about how to talk about how I eat. Because it confuses people.

So, here is how I eat:

For 2/3 of my day, 2/3 of my meals, I try to eat plants or things that until very recently were plants (cracked wheat, nuts, oatmeal). I avoid packaged, prepared foods.

For the other 1/3 I eat whatever, but I still avoid meat and most ready-made stuff.

That's what I'm doing, but before I get too far into why I'm doing this I think it would help to clarify two points. This is what I'm not doing:

1. America's Beef/Poultry production facilities are sickening, thoroughly revolting, inhumane, and unworthy of the name "farm". We've all known this for years, but it has never been motivation enough to transform me into a principled, committed vegetarian. Consequently this is not about animals. I've just never been able to work up the empathy (which is pathetic and small of me, and I accept that as it is). I'm not trying to rescue animals from their situation even though that would be a defensible, morally sound position.

2. If a diet is the temporary medicine applied to a condition called "fatness", this is not a diet. I'm not fat and have no weight-loss ambition.

Now that we have that out of the way we can move on. Here's the case I'd like to make for being 2/3 Vegan, choosing a diet that is mostly made up of plants (vegetables & fruits yes, and also beans, grains, nuts).

1. Meat production in the US is not environmentally sustainable. The meet producing factories in this country pollute terribly, create environmental waste that we would be better off without, and rampantly consume tremendous agricultural resources. I do not have to provide financial support (my food-buying dollars) to an industry that is bad for the earth.

2. Most Americans eat many times more meat each week than is good for them. We are a culture bent on the over-consumption of meat, and it is killing us. Animal fat has a terrible impact on the health of humans. It isn't healthy, and the research on the topic has born that out again and again. I want to be healthy and live fully for as long as I can. That desire is completely inconsistent with a lifestyle that embraces heavy meat consumption.

3. Often, the only thing better about packaged prepared foods (think of the boxed Mac & Cheese dinner) is their marketing. They are persistently advertised and promoted, but from my own experience the quality is crazy-inferior, the cost is much higher than the from-scratch counterpart, and usually these products don't save much (if any) time. When I make mac & cheese or cookies or pizza, I know what is in it, I know what isn't. I also know that (whatever it is) it wasn't mass produced in a factory and then shipped half way across the country. It hasn't already been on a shelf for two months by the time I eat it.

4. Sugar. Americans eat way too much of it. Left to my own devices, I would eat way too much of it. It can be hard to keep sugar consumption in check because it lurks in the oddest places. Most packaged, prepared things have too much sugar in them, and that's another good reason to make things from scratch. Anyway, a while ago I realized that being a vegetarian or vegan would not save you from eating highly processed, sugared, unhealthy things. But, emphasizing plants leaves little room for sugar, and that is as it should be.

5. So, with so many reasons to eat plants, why am I stopping at 2/3? Why not try to be 3 for 3 and drop the whole "eat whatever I want" thing for the third meal? Well, food is a big part of our culture. Food is an integral part of the way we socialize and celebrate, it connects people. To be so rigid as to uniformly reject a piece of birthday cake just because it was made from a box mix, or to pass on a glass of egg-nog on Christmas Eve because of the dairy, or to refuse to try a neighbor's BBQ -- any of these things would diminish my quality of life. I don't want food or the enjoyment of it to cease to be meaningful, so 2/3 is enough. The shift is significant enough to make a difference in my health, my budget, and the environmental impact of my food choices while retaining the ability to eat otherwise when that is called for.

Let me know what you think, or how you eat. Tell me if this approach to food would work for you, or if it wouldn't and why. Maybe there's a better way out there, or maybe someone out there has a better name for it than 2/3 Vegan.


Karin said...

I am very glad you posted this. I've been trying to adapt to better and healthier eating habbits. Out of pure common sense and out of necessity. Being the perfectionist I am I already get to frustrated just by thinking of what all I would have to change so Most times I stop befor I start. I think 2/3 could work for me, Maybe I should start out with 1/3. I wold like to name one more reason to cook from scratch. I thik cooking can be a form of art and a form of meditation, it is something useful and productive and it can be turned into a bonding expireince for mother and child(and thus turns into education). Well I am afraid that was more than just one reason. I would appreciate it if you would keep us (me) informed on how you are doing it. sometiems I feel the only recipes I know include meat and the vegetarian recipies I get are just usually revolting...so if you have a tasty hint or 2 it would be more than appreciated!

Mary Ann said...

I love the idea of sharing recipes. I'll post a few in the coming days.

Most of what I eat has no recipe though. For example, I'll toss spinach and romaine lettuce with oil/vinegar/herbs and eat that for lunch. Or maybe I'll steam two heads of broccoli, or roast some cauliflower.

Usually a small portion of something like that would be a side dish, but I'm eating a lot--enough for it to be the central part of my meal. I guess it's just an effort to no longer see vegetables as the accessory on a dinner plate.

Anonymous said...

Great post.

I am very much on board with both your justifications and the realistic approach you are taking.

It is strange to me how much more socially acceptable it seems to indulge rather than to attempt to achieve a healthy balance like you are doing. Granted, I agree that some things are just too good to pass up all the time (like nachos...) and so that 1/3 reservation comes in handy.

And there is nothing like fresh fruits and veggies from a farmer's market, luckily you have 2 very close.