Winter Wellness Series: Flexitarian February

Building a Pantry

I have very clear memories of my grandparents’ pantry. I knew just where my favorites were in the little closet space (plus all the hiding spots for chocolate). My childhood is framed with the love and meals that filled that home: ham steaks & mashed potatoes, homemade chicken noodle soup, beef stew and so much more. Due to health and other reasons, that same pantry would not work for me moving into adulthood. I had to change and rebuild my pantry twice over the years; the first change created a vegan pantry and then a gluten free one. 

During college, I became vegan after months of observing, thinking and learning. I wanted to explore my food choices and the mechanisms behind the food industry. What should my role be in the food chain? I read books like “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.” I watched documentaries, like “Earthlings.” One day, I found myself morally unable to eat animal products, especially dairy. The shift in perspective changed the course of my diet for the rest of my life.

Fortunately, I never liked dairy! It bothered my stomach and caused my autoimmune disease to flare up. My desire for meat also dissolved over time. I had new cravings and tastes that delighted me. My pantry kept growing with new vegan things, plus a lot of the same things. For nearly 5 years, I followed a vegan diet. 

My pantry shifted again to include gluten free products. About a year into becoming vegan, I realized I had issues with gluten (thanks autoimmune disease!). A close friend described her symptoms which alerted me to my own gluten intolerance. It took a full 6 weeks for the gluten to clear out. I immediately felt better at the 6 week mark. The difference was extraordinary. I have been gluten free for 10 years. 

What about now? I’d say I’m a flexitarian. 

Flexitarianism sounds a bit made up, right? It might be! But, I get to eat what I want without stress or guilt. Making healthy and compassionate food choices does not have to be a battle. Nor should it be an all or nothing ideal. I think any and all mindful and healthy choices can be embraced. My diet is based on informed choice and consent. While I eat eggs regularly, most of my diet is entirely plant based. I’ll go stretches without any meat. Other times, my family will have meat a few times a month.

Even though I can’t make the exact same meals from my childhood, I have come up with very good variations on the theme, so to speak. I can honor that legacy, plus instill a bigger lesson for my kiddos when it comes to their food choices. Food can make such a difference in a person’s health and mindset. My pantry has changed over the years to accommodate my health and to reflect my perspective on food and living a compassionate lifestyle. Give veganism a try. You might find yourself in search of a new pantry too. 

We often eat mashed potatoes, veggies and tofu for dinner. It’s delicious, simple, affordable and very accessible to kids and non-vegans. Give it a try!

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