Vegan Resolutions by Jennifer Margulis
Making a New Year’s resolution to “Lose Weight” is so 1990’s. What are you going to do next, tape a picture of Kate Moss to your locker at the gym and religiously attend the next two weeks of Jazzercise? Please. It’s 2019, and millennials have ordained it hip to be vegan.
Beyonce turned vegan this year in preparation for the music festival Coachella. Venus Williams adopted a raw vegan diet to regain her strength and prowess on the court after being diagnosed with autoimmune disease. Even supermodel Gisele Bundchen swears by a vegan lifestyle for herself and her children because it “feels good and is good for the planet” (learn more here).
When MoveHub.com ranked the most hipster cities in America, one of the top criteria they took into account was the presence of vegan restaurants. But the vegan craze has extended beyond liberal “counterculture” and infiltrated the mainstream masses. Now McDonalds, Burger King, even White Castle have veggie burgers on their menu. So why not kill two birds with one stone (or rather, feed two dogs with one bowl) this year: Shed some of the animal products in your diet, and if Gisele Bundchen is any example, you’ll probably see some extra pounds fall off, too.
According to one report, vegans accounted for 1% of the US population in 2014. Three years later, vegans accounted for 6% of the population. That’s a sixfold increase! Each person who decides to go vegan is responsible for 198 animals not being produced for meat consumption per year. And because animal production uses more water than crop production, each person who goes vegan is also responsible for saving 219,000 gallons of water per year. This upward swing in vegan popularity is making huge contributions towards a happier, more sustainable planet.
Growing up as a vegetarian, I was constantly asked if I ate milk and eggs (I did), chicken (I did not), fish (I have gone on and off). There are as many permutations of vegetarian lifestyle as there are animals in the wild. When adopting a more plant based diet, you don’t have to go all or nothing. If you stop eating bacon every morning for the next 62 years, you will save a large number of pigs from the slaughterhouse. If you decide to have tofu instead of chicken for lunch five days a week, that will make a sizable difference. And if you make the decision to consume only organic milk and eggs, then you’re insuring that the animal products you support were manufactured exclusively under humane conditions.
Here are a few ways you can gradually protect the animals and the environment without giving up “cold turkey.”
Start with one meal
For some people, it’s easiest to think about removing meat from one meal a day. Do you really need bacon with your eggs every morning? Could you try a meatless substitute? Morningstar makes a valiant replacement product with about half the calories, half the fat and none of the animal sacrifice. You might also consider substituting an avocado which would give you the same amount of (healthier) fats to keep you satiated until lunch.
One day a week
Other people prefer to assign an entire day of the week to exclude all meat products from their diet. Meatless Mondays became a trend in the past few years. They’re conveniently scheduled right after Sundays, either as an immediate detox from a weekend of boozy brunching or as a wise capitalization on the extra time to meal prep before the week begins.
The number one concern people have when considering a plant based diet is: “How will I get protein?” As a fitness professional, I coach clients on my feet for 5-7 hours per day, and perform at least one, if not two high intensity workouts. I know I need ~88g of protein in my diet. Here’s how I do it:
Breakfast: Organic Greek Yogurt (vegan yogurts are also available) with Almonds
Pre-workout: Quest Protein Bar
Lunch: Quinoa Bowl with Tofu, Edamame, Avocado, Veggies, Black Beans
Snack: Apple with Natural Peanut Butter
Dinner: Tofurkey Italian Vegetarian Sausage or Trader Joe’s Meatless Meatballs with Zucchini Pasta
Know Your Protein Formula: Your Weight in Kilos x 0.8
Take your weight in pounds and divide by 2.2 to convert to kilos. This is the protein an average healthy but sedentary person requires to prevent protein deficiency. So if you weigh 150lbs, work a 9-5 job and rarely exercise, you need about 55 grams of protein every day. People who exercise at high levels of intensity require more protein.
If you’re highly active, multiply your weight in kilos by 1.4. So the same 150lb person who is a firefighter and hits the weight room five times a week, needs 98 grams of protein. When people consume more protein than they expend (through calories being broken down during exercise), the extra protein is saved as fat. So chances are, if you drink bottomless mimosas all day Sunday, don’t set foot in the gym, and devour meat lovers nachos with your roommates at night: that protein is not being stored as muscle.
Is That Why You’re Skinny?
No. There are plenty of vegans and vegetarians who eat cake and Doritos all day, but if you plan ahead, you can fill your home with healthy vegetables, fruits, plant proteins and legumes. A study in the European Heart Journal showed that every serving of produce you consume lowers your risk of ischemic heart disease by 4%. Ischemic heart disease is the leading cause of sudden death. If you eat eight servings of fruit and vegetables in a day, well, you do the math. Your chances of living longer are a lot higher. Besides, the high fiber in vegetables and legumes is instrumental in fighting the free radicals that cause cancer. So, how lean you are depends on the decisions you make and your activity levels, etc., but if you gravitate towards a more plant-based diet, you’ll be around a lot longer to figure it out.
Do You Crave Meat?
Sometimes. Lucky for me, I can make a “bologna” sandwich anytime I want, enjoy a veggie dog, or have an imitation tuna salad. These meatless substitutes are comprised of tofu, soy and seitan, all concentrated plant proteins. If you still find yourself craving meat, you may want to add some other healthy fats (nuts, avocado, chickpeas) to your diet that will leave you feeling full for longer stretches. Some vegans or vegetarians take a B-12 or iron supplement since these nutrients are hard to find naturally in a plant based diet.
If I Go Vegan, How Will I Feel?
Lighter. Is the number one feedback people say after eliminating (or reducing) animal products from their diet. Meat is tough to digest and often stays in the stomach for a long time after ingestion (12-48 hours, red meat up to 72 hours). That “food coma” or “stomach baby” sensation people allude to after Thanksgiving or dinner at a steakhouse, correlates largely to the bloating effect of meat. The high fat content of some meats is a prime cause of indigestion and the high iron is tied to constipation. So if you transition to a diet rife with water-based vegetables, it may feel like you’ve dropped a ton of bricks. And according to one study recently published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the average person who adopts a vegetarian lifestyle loses 7.5 pounds. So you may feel lighter...because you are.
Glowing Skin, Smarter Taste Buds and More Energy!
The extra energy goes hand in hand with feeling lighter (ever see a dog take off on a run after he has done a number two outside?). For humans, that extra energy may also stem from having a greater consciousness about what chemicals and processed materials you’ve allowed inside your body and what kind of impact you’re choosing to have on the world around you. One side effect that rings true for all vegan and vegetarians is the impulse to discuss their new lifestyle with people around them. If that is you, it is wonderful to be excited, but make sure to understand that everyone has their own journey they are on.
Ultimately, the only way to know for sure how you will feel is to dive in, make the plant plunge and see what it’s all about. Welcome to 2019, where Beyonce is the new Britney, White Castle is serving the “Impossible” Burger, and it seems pretty clear that Green Is the New Black!
Opening photo credit: Mulberry and Vine.