Being vegan isn’t a panacea, but it is one of my best decisions

The most common question I am asked is “Why did you become vegan?”. The high level answer to that question is that it started as a health issue and morphed into a choice to be compassionate.

Why Vegan

I started suffering from a serious digestive problem when I was 23. I had never had great digestion, but suddenly it was a disaster. I spent YEARS going from doctor to doctor with very few answers. Out of frustration I started researching diet and wellness tips to see if I could help myself. From what I read I decided to become a vegetarian. This was a fairly easy decision since I was an animal lover and not a huge fan of animal protein.  I was the person ordering my filet mignon well done to everyone’s horror.

As a vegetarian I started to learn more and more about nutrition and improving my digestion. My sister gave me a gift certificate to take vegetarian cooking classes. These classes were taught by well know vegan, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. Through Colleen I learned how to make vegan meals and ultimately volunteered to help her teach her classes. Through Colleen, and my own research, I decided to try being vegan. I was very hesitant as I didn’t identify as an activist. I really loved the idea of not eating animals and having a compassionate lifestyle. However I am not a hippie living on a commune, I don’t have vegan friends and I worried that I was going to alienate myself from a life of meals out and fun with friends by being vegan.

Fortunately I gave being a vegan a try and I have never looked back. I have maintained a full, fun life without harming animals AND without becoming socially isolated. I am very fortunate to have a supportive husband who embraced my move to veganism, even though he did not want to become vegan himself. By allowing each other to be our own people and respecting each others decisions we have not had any food issues in our vegan/omni household.

While being vegan has been awesome it has not alleviated all of my health issues. I wish I could say that I became vegan and that I have had perfect health ever since. It turned out that many of my digestive issues were actually caused by severe endometrosis. Being vegan helped with many of my symptoms, but the endometriosis did not disappear. I have had many surgeries to remove the endometriosis. I have also recently discovered that I have an autonomic disorder. Specifically I have Post Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) which has caused a number of issues (fatigue, dizziness, rapid heart rate etc) that I will deal with for the rest of my life. I have most likely had this disorder since I was a teenager.

I share this information with you because I originally hoped being vegan would be a panacea. I thought if I had the “perfect” diet I would no longer have any health problems. This just isn’t the case. Diet is very powerful, but it can’t stop every health problem. You will be disappointed if you hope being vegan is a cure all.

Becoming vegan has been one of the best decisions of my life. Everyday I get to make choices that completely align with my values. I feel that I am taking excellent care of my body even while I deal with other health issues. I encourage anyone who is interested in adding more plant based meals to their diet or becoming vegan to give it a try. It has been so fulfilling for me, but it will not magically make you perfect.

A year ago I saw something that Kris Carr said that really resonated with me. Kris’ journey has always been an inspiration for me (she has been living with cancer for over 10 years). I was watching Super Soul Sunday and she was featured to give an update on her health. During the interview she said, “I may never be healthy on paper, but I am well”. This is what I strive for everyday…to be well.

Vegan Pizza Roll Ups

Packing a lunch everyday can become a drag, and packing a vegan lunchbox is no exception.  It seems like I am always inspired to pack interesting, creative lunches at the beginning of the school year.  By the time October rolls around I am packing boring sandwiches again.  This year I was determined to get out of that rut, and for the most part my plan has worked.  My main strategy has been to plan 1-2 creative meals that can be repeated during the week.  I especially like meals that can be frozen so I can use it a few times in one week and freeze the rest for another time.  One of Trey’s favorite meals this year has been Pizza Roll Ups, which he also calls pizza cinnamon rolls.

Vegan Pizza Roll Ups

These rolls were inspired by Cinnaholic, a vegan cinnamon roll shop in Berkeley.  We have been big fans of Cinnaholic ever since it opened.  The brilliant concept is to offer a variety of frostings and toppings to customize your own cinnamon roll.  If you are in the Bay Area it is a must stop.  You can also order rolls online.

Cinnaholic started offering pizza rolls occasionally a few years ago.  I tried one and thought it would be a great school lunch for Trey.  I did some research online and found a few non- vegan versions and then made my own.  They have been a big success.  Success to me means half of them don’t come home with the “I didn’t have time to eat those, Mom” excuse.  Trey eats 2 at lunch with a fruit and vegetable on the side.

To make the rolls buy fresh pizza dough at the grocery store or local pizzeria.  I usually buy mine at Whole Foods.  Let the dough rise in an oiled bowl on the counter for about an hour.  Next roll the dough out into a rectangle.  Top the dough with pizza sauce, Daiya cheese and vegan pepperoni (or whatever toppings your family likes).  Trey really loves the pepperoni since it looks like the pepperoni his buddies are eating.

Ready to rollOnce all of the toppings are on the pizza roll up the whole rectangle into a long log.  Then slice the log into 8-10 pieces (depending on how thick you want your pizza rolls).  Place the slices into an oiled baking dish.  Bake them at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, until the dough is golden brown.

Vegan Pizza RollsI make these about once per month.  I pack them for Trey twice the week I make them and freeze the remaining rolls. Several times during the month I will pull 2 rolls out of the freezer and pack them for another lunch.

I would love to hear anyone else strategy for packing a vegan lunch beyond the standard sunflower butter and jelly sandwich.  Please share your tips and strategies in the Comments below.