Food Mysteries

At least alligators don't have to worry about what to eat... they just grab whatever slithers by...

At least alligators don’t have to worry about what to eat… they just grab whatever slithers by…

Food is just a mystery to me.  I can’t seem to figure it out.  I came from a meat and potatoes family and it was almost funny that I turned the tables and refused to eat certain foods that I was raised with.  At first my family just made fun of me and then they started making me BBQ chicken when the entrée was pot roast or beef ribs.  They didn’t raise their eyebrows any more if I opted to only have the salad or passed on the bacon.  It was obvious that my tastes were changing.  Not only my tastes, but also my views on food.

I pretty much always knew that fast food was a fast way to heart disease.  Yet, that thought never stopped me from consuming crap during my twenties.  Hey, it was fast, easy and very tasty.  My three pregnancies were an excuse to eat whatever and whenever until I finally started to realize that my unborn baby was eating exactly what I was eating.  Yeah, that might have screwed them up a bit, but I somehow ended up with a child who isn’t a fan of french fries (totally not my response to fries), two that absolutely love seaweed (not my favorite delicacy) and one that loves baked goods (okay, she might have gotten that from me).  As parents, I suppose we still have a chance once they come out of the womb.  They obviously see what we eat and eat what we feed them.  It is up to us to do the right thing.

Just over one year ago I decided to cut out all poultry, beef, pork, lamb, buffalo, kangaroo, ox, snake and deer (okay, so maybe I never even tried half of that…but it is true that I have tried kangaroo).  What I am trying to say is that I sort of became a vegetarian, but I can’t really say I am a true vegetarian because I still eat seafood.  If I try to tell someone that I am a “pescatarian” they just give me a strange look and say that they never heard of that religion.  Seafood is a mystery to me.  I love my omega-3s (my healthy fish fat) and I trust that the Mediterraneans know what is going on.  I also somehow believe that my mom’s family has roots in the Mediterranean region.  And you know what?  I love me some seared ahi and couldn’t commit to giving it up.  Plus I figured that this is MY diet so I can eat whatever the hell I want.

That’s why I can say that sometimes I feel like being a vegan.  I know I am not a vegan in the definition that vegans have for vegans, but remember that this is MY diet so I can take a little bit of veganism if I want (just like I took a little bit of vegetarianism).  Maybe I could just call it pescavegarian.  I tend to bake things that are dairy-free because my husband is lactose intolerant.  That means that I buy tofu sour cream to make that chocolate cake or use almond milk mixed with vinegar to add a bit of “buttermilk.”  Then there is that little known fact that I often order soy lattes and drink almond milk in my cereal.  I choose to eat the soy or coconut milk yogurt.  I thought I was doing the right thing for my health.  It didn’t seem like too much of a mystery.

Then the matter of soy came to light.  Soy has become a new mystery.  And darn it, I like soy lattes better than non-fat lattes.  I tend to include tofu on our weekly menu at least 2 times a week.  Those soy beans are pretty darn good too.  Then I recently became diagnosed with hypothyroidism.  I learned that certain foods (including soy) may have a negative impact on thyroid function.  Of course soy is a discussion of debate, but there is no point risking additional thyroid issues with overconsumption.

This is MY diet and I will do what I see fit for my body regardless of what anyone else says.  I am pretty darn open-minded, so I often do my own research and then decide what will work for me.  And I don’t need to label it vegetarianism, veganism, paleoism, or whatever other terms mainstream society is using these days.  I will just call it the “Heidi diet” and I am set.  This “Heidi diet” is always in a state of flux because I am constantly learning new things about food.  Some of these new ideas only make food more mysterious, but sometimes it does make sense (like avoiding McDonald’s at all costs).

Did I mention that when you include fitness into the mix that there is an entirely new mystery to be resolved?  It is called what to eat while on the run.  Um, I am talking literally here.  How many calories to consume before a run, during a run and after a run.   I have to figure out what will keep me satisfied and what won’t cause tummy troubles.  They tell you to eat sugar, but then you wonder if you will go into a diabetic coma from eating so much sugar.  Make sure you are getting those electrolytes too!  Sometimes I get it right and I feel great.  Other times I slam into a wall (not literally) and feel like I am a sputtering engine trying to chug up the street at super slow speed.

Fortunately my family doesn’t mind my compulsive need to solve these food mysteries.  They try the chocolate mousse made with tofu (even my meat-loving father was impressed) and aren’t taken aback when my daughter asks my stepmom with surprise:  “you have never had tofu before??”  My husband just goes with the flow and tries everything I put on his plate, while my daughters aren’t always so laid back.  Yet, we encourage them to try and then move on from there.  Eventually I hit a home run (for some reason my baking experiments seem to have more success).  It is definitely a learning process and new mysteries are often sparked by new ideas.  I don’t know if I will ever get it right, but what exactly is right?

The Veggie Experience

So, today is day 8 of our vegetarian crusade.  Well, I suppose it is not really a crusade.  We are not animal rights activists (but that doesn’t mean I don’t care about the welfare of animals).  We are just looking for ways to live a healthier life and the vegetarian option sounded like it might keep us on the right track.  I will tell you that it is so much easier to talk about it… actually doing it is not so easy.

I can read all the hype in magazines, on blogs and facebook pages.  These people say this and those people say that.  It all comes down to what I want to do and what is right for MY body.  No two bodies are the same.  My husband and I ran into an old friend of ours a few weeks ago and she discussed her new raw vegan diet.  I was a bit perplexed about the concept, but I have always been very open-minded.  More power to her for doing that because it must take a lot of time and dedication in order to do it right.  Some people will say that it is not healthy, but others will argue differently.  It all comes down to knowing your own body and finding out through trial and error what works and what doesn’t work.  Of course my husband argued with our friend and told her that humans were meant to eat meat.  He is a big time meat-eater.  Actually, he wasn’t always so fond of my turkey substitutions.  I have never been a big fan of beef or pork.

Then, one day my husband surprised me by saying that he would be willing to try the raw vegan cleanse (lasting 10 days).  However, that just wasn’t very plausible and I honestly didn’t even think I could do it.  I talked him into a vegetarian cleanse instead.  We needed to take one step at a time.  The idea was to do it for 10 days to find out whether or not it suited us.

I must admit that it hasn’t been an easy journey so far, especially with 3 children.  As you know, most children are picky.  We knew that we couldn’t expect them to refrain from meat completely, so instead, we just require them to try our new vegetarian dishes during dinners.  Just the other day our oldest daughter returned home from her weekend Girl Scout camping trip and she talked about the pulled pork sandwiches she had for dinner one night (one of my husband’s favorites).  However, they seemed to enjoy the eggplant parmesan (actually more than my husband and I did) and they absolutely love tofu.

After the first few days we started thinking about how to better diversify our menu.  I know that I couldn’t just live off of tofu and vegetables.  We tried quinoa for the first time which is a grain with a lot of protein packed into it.  The whole family enjoyed that!  I know that I could survive by eating black beans every day (not a problem when I went to Central America and ate rice & beans every day), but our oldest daughter does not eat any type of bean.  My husband seems to have fallen in love with the tofu burritos at Moe’s.

Eating out… now that is another challenge.  Fortunately, being vegetarian kind of helps us save money (and calories) because there are not very many options when you go out.  It’s not like I am going to go to Chick-fil-A and order a chicken sandwich without the chicken.  Last weekend we planned a day trip to St. Augustine.  As part of that plan we were going to eat lunch somewhere in town.  I actually had to go on the internet and research restaurants.  I found one that offered a bit a variety, but when we got into town we actually came across a regular restaurant with a big sign that read “Burger of the Month: Chipotle Black Bean Burger.”  That was easier than we expected!  Of course we didn’t even bother to look at the menu and I was thankful that I didn’t have to refrain from eating fries with my “burger” (which was way more delicious than any real burger I have ever eaten).

However, there are the tummy issues.  We are all of a sudden incorporating more fiber into our diet and most of you probably know what that means… a lot of regularity.  I guess we are really being “cleansed” in some way.

So, now we have decided to invite our neighbors over for dinner.  It is a very regular gathering so we didn’t think twice about what we would actually eat.  I asked my friend if she had ever had a black bean burger and she said no.  So that is what’s on the menu for tonight!