Michelle Kemper Brownlow: I have always dreamed of having the energy and know-how to go full vegan, but with kids and time crunches, I never thought it would happen.
But as we planned our annual spring break trip to the Outer Banks, North Carolina, I thought about how "yuck" I have felt each of the three years prior. I wanted this year's vacation to be different, so I decided to go "raw foodie" for the month prior to heading to North Carolina. Going raw opens your diet up to healthy, disease-fighting enzymes that you will not ingest if your food is cooked.
Raw veggies, fruits, nuts, salads with raw cheeses ... I was in heaven. But what about snack foods like chips and salsa, you ask? Solution: I bought a food dehydrator and a mandoline and a couple pounds of sweet potatoes. Food is considered "raw" if it is not brought to a temperature above 125 degrees, so I could dehydrate sweet potato slices at a low temperature and have my own chips for salsa.
My favorite standby while eating raw was a bean salad. I couldn't keep my raw-skeptic vacation-mates away from it! Here's my recipe:
1 can each, black beans and garbanzo beans, rinsed
(The rest you can add as per your preference -- I don't measure any of it):
Chopped red onion
(I have also added chopped tomatoes, cucumbers and jasmine rice to stretch the recipe.)
I enjoyed my vacation with crazy amounts of energy. I lost my "fuzzy mom-brain" (something I had just learned to live with, having no idea it was food-related), and my state of mind was clear.
Since vacation, I have added cooked foods back in, but am currently eating gluten-free and mostly vegan ... not 100 percent, but close. Recently, when someone asked if I had before-and-after pictures, I dug out one of last year's vacation pictures and paired it with a recent photo from my 40th birthday. I was thrilled to realize that the way I feel on the inside was showing on the outside.
I had no idea how much of what I didn't like about how I looked and felt was completely connected to what I put in my system. Yes, I have dessert; yes, I have chocolate -- but it's all vegan, and damn, is it yummy!
The side effects: My kids are making healthier choices without my nagging. My friends are asking to share recipes, feeling the positive effects. I am happier, have more energy and I am a fun mom!
That, to me, is worth the time I have spent researching how to be a healthy vegan.