Wife of the Month: Sarah

7:00 AM

Hi there, Newfangled Housewife readers! My name is Sarah Swingle, and I'm thrilled that Emily asked me to guest post.

My blog is "What I Vegan" - where I share what I eat, what I buy, what I wear...what I vegan!

OK, stop for a moment and reflect on your reaction. What did you think of just now when you saw the word 'vegan?' Was it one of the below maybe?
• Granola-hippie-with-dreads-and-no-shoes
• Punk-rock-pierced-tattooed-type
• Angry-animal-rights-activist
• Thin-pale-weak-only-eats-celery
• Preachy-judging-nose-in-everyone’s-lunch

Yeah, I admit, I thought that too before I learned more about being vegan (and ultimately decided to eat and live this way!).

I’ve since found out that even though these stereotypes, like most, might hold a tiny kernel of truth in there somewhere, they simply don’t apply to everyone in a group. I know many vegans, and they’re actually a diverse and pretty awesome crowd.

But if you had told me in college that I'd be vegan in the future, I wouldn't have believed you (and I probably would have thought you were crazy). It seemed too weird, too ‘out there,’ and I was way too addicted to cheese to ever even think about giving it up!

But here I am now - vegan! And just a regular gal too (yay for breaking stereotypes!). I like fashion, reading, hanging out with my husband and friends, watching 30 Rock and college football, going to the beach (I live in Charleston, SC), and traveling. I'm not a chef or a nutritionist, but I make being vegan work for me.

Of course I wasn't always vegan. My transition actually started a little more than 5 years ago. After hearing a gross fact about dairy milk from a friend, I started researching how animals are treated in agriculture and the other effects that a meat-and-dairy-heavy diet has on things I care about (my own health and the environment included). Even though my husband Hanes and I had been together for almost seven years, we had been married for a little less than one year at this point, and my new interests took him by surprise. They took me by surprise too, really.

Hanes grew up in a Southern household, so naturally his diet was 'meat and potatoes' - bacon and eggs for breakfast, a hot dog or cheeseburger for lunch, a chicken dish of some sort for dinner - this was a typical day, just like it is for many Southern families. So when I broke the news to him that I thought I wanted to become vegetarian, he was concerned and taken aback. Even aside from his feelings about the issue, there was the practical problem of what in the world would we make for dinner?!

Did we have arguments? Yes. Could it have gone terribly wrong for our marriage? Yes. I admit that my transition was hard on our relationship for a few months there. I was undergoing a philosophical shift after so many years of being together, and it took us by surprise. We weren't sure how to deal with it.

Like Emily and Clark, Hanes and I got married young (I was barely 21 and he was the ripe old age of 21 and 9 months). Our family was very supportive, but others would say things like, "Getting married in college? Good luck." "People change and grow away from each other. Are you sure you want to make that commitment so early?" "It's silly to get married so young."

Did we listen? No. Did we experience some of that changing and growing that could have pulled us apart? Yes (even though I didn't want to admit it). But seven years after our wedding, I'm so glad we didn't listen. We worked together and came out of my vegetarian (and then vegan) transition experience stronger and even more bonded than before.

I'm grateful that Hanes was open-minded enough and loved me so much that he was willing to look through those vegan stereotypes and the scariness of change to come with me on this journey. I never thought it would happen, but after learning about the benefits and taking in all the information for himself, my meat-and-potatoes hubby is vegan himself now. (That just proves to me that anything is possible!)

So, what are those benefits of a vegan diet that were so compelling to both of us?

- Health Benefits:
A vegetarian or vegan diet can lower your risks of certain cancers, diabetes, heart disease and more. The American Dietetic Association says that not only are vegan diets “healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases,” but that they are also “appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.”

Vegetarians and vegans also tend to have lower body mass indexes, so it's a great way to lose weight. For more info on vegan health, click here. Also, a great film that talks all about the health benefits in an entertaining way is Forks Over Knives, available for free on Hulu.com.

- Environmental Benefits:
If every American went meatless just one meal a week, it would be like taking half a million cars off the road! Isn’t that amazing? Livestock causes 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than the entire transport sector put together. That's a big impact for a small action.

- Benefits to Animals:
This was the most important one to me. Animal agriculture today isn’t what it was on our grandparents’ farms.

Ninety nine percent of meat in the US is from factory farms – nasty places where animals suffer tremendously (note: this link is not graphic) before they're slaughtered. I just couldn’t stand the thought that I was causing harm to animals who are just as smart and sassy as my own dog and cats. (Did you know pigs have an IQ higher than dogs? I didn't!)

It took me a while to actually embrace the change of a vegetarian and then vegan diet. It was a slow process of learning, kicking my cheese addiction, and figuring out what worked for me. But in the end, it did work for me!

And it could work for you too, as much or as little as you want! It's important to realize that vegan isn’t all or nothing. You can incorporate healthy and delicious vegan foods into your life one meal at a time.

A great place to start is Meatless Monday, an international campaign that encourages people to cut down on their meat consumption one day a week. Celebrities like Oprah, Jessica Simpson, Olivia Wilde, Paul McCartney, Gwyneth Paltrow, and even chefs Mario Batali and Giada De Laurentiis promote and participate in Meatless Mondays.

Going meatless one day a week is actually easier to do than you might think. You don't even have to try a new recipe - you can use one of your favorites just by replacing the meat with a meat substitute. Spaghetti with meat sauce? Use Boca Burger meatless crumbles instead. Your recipe calls for chicken broth? Use vegetable broth or "No Chicken Broth" - equally delicious! And it’s all available at almost every grocery store, not just at “natural” foods stores.

Of course you can always try something different. Here are a few resources for all sorts of recipes from creamy fettucine alfredo to decadent chocolate desserts.

VegWeb.com - Search the world's largest collection of vegetarian recipes here for whatever it is you’re craving!
Chef Chloe – She’s an adorable vegan chef with mouth-watering and visually appealing recipes ranging from Hawaiian Sloppy Joes to Salted Caramel Pretzel Ice Cream.
A Guide to Meat Free Meals - This is from the Humane Society of the United States and is free to download with lots of yummy recipes, including creamy mac and ‘cheese’ and Rocky Road cupcakes, and even tips for eating out.

I want to share one of my favorite things to eat. It’s a vegetable that was the childhood enemy of millions of people around the globe: The Brussels Sprout.

Despite their bad reputation, they're incredibly healthy for you, an easy side to a meal (I usually make red curry quinoa to go with it), and absolutely delicious when prepared simply and well, like below.

*Look! It's smiling at you. Your Brussels sprouts will love you back!*

Happy Brussels Sprouts

1 pound of Brussels sprouts
2 tblsp. Earth Balance buttery spread (a vegan butter that tastes just like the real thing, available at regular grocery stores)
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Thoroughly rinse the Brussles sprouts
2. Cut the stem from each Brussels sprout and pull away any loose or yellow leaves
3. Chop them in half, length-wise.
4. Melt the Earth Balance buttery spread over medium-low heat in a large pan
5. Place the Brussels sprouts face down in the pan, stirring them around occasionally. Sprinkle the salt and pepper over them.
6. Cook the Brussels sprouts until they're browned nicely
7. Enjoy this new favorite! :)

Here's a picture of the finished Brussels sprouts with red curry quinoa. Delicious and filling!

Incorporating vegan food into your life is easy and makes you feel great. It's a win-win-win for your and your family's health, the animals, and the planet.

To making it work for you!


P.S. For about a year, I kept a Facebook album of photos of what I eat as a vegan, which eventually led to my “What I Vegan” blog! To see my pictures of the wide variety of vegan foods I enjoy, click here!

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