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An omnivore's journey to veganism

People adopt a vegan lifestyle for a variety of reasons: smaller carbon footprint, sustainability, health, etc. Me, you might say I did it for the animals — but I should be clear that the animals were my teenage daughters.

As many teenage girls do, mine started flirting with vegetarianism in middle school. As a culinary grad, foodie and omnivore, this was mildly annoying for me. I became a vegetarian by default when cooking at home, but still enjoyed my omnivore habits when dining out.

By the time my oldest reached high school, she wanted to go vegan. To say I was against it was an understatement.

“Where will you get protein? Calcium?” (I later learned there is actually more calcium in non-dairy milks). “What are we going to eat? Are you out of your mind?” I ranted.

That same weekend, my kid sister and her family announced they were going vegan. Their house became the mothership of all things vegan. My brother-in-law happens to be in the medical field. He told me to watch “Forks over Knives,” which is an interesting documentary about plant-based eating, its effect on long-term health and the potential for actually reversing many chronic diseases.

I begrudgingly watched it. It made just enough sense that I was curious, but it flies in the face of what most of us “know,” how we grew up, how we eat, our relationship with food, and, for that matter, our relationship with and management of our health.

I decided to go vegan for four weeks. I announced if there was no real change, they were just going to be plain old vegetarian and leave me alone.

Three years later, we are still vegan (one teen is vegetarian).

It should be noted that we are an active family; no one is lolling about in a protein-deprived stupor. We run (a lot), bike, ski, golf, ice skate, hike, etc. We are not suffering from bone loss, hair loss or malnutrition. We are all thriving.

At 46, I can honestly say I feel great and, more importantly, my interior health reflects my lifestyle choice. Over the last few years, I’ve realized my decision to remain vegan is based primarily on interior health.

I love food. Really. I do not sustain myself on “rabbit food” or salad. I probably have salad as an entrée about as often as you do. Quite possibly less.

I will drive great distances for food, plan vacations around restaurants I want to visit, and spend hours flipping through cookbooks and food magazines. I honestly love going to the grocery store. I am a foodie. I just happen to be a plant-based foodie.

I look forward to sharing my dining experiences with you and welcome any questions.

Crystal Hallwood is a vegan living in South Bend. Along with fellow meatless maven Rama Ganesan, she plans on bringing you stories and tips about dining out vegan in Michiana through the new Flavor 574 blog Vegan at the Bend. To make sure you don’t miss a thing, subscribe to the Vegan at the Bend email newsletter.

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