Trying out air frying

As I’ve done more exploration into the plant-based eating lifestyle, I’ve encountered a lot of people who talk about the healthier benefits of air fries over traditional deep frying. I’ve talked to friends who’ve picked one up, and so tonight I finally decided to take the plunge myself.

I went with the Instant Pot Vortex Plus, a nice simple model that came recommended to me. In addition to air frying it also dehydrates as well as baking. I got it set up and decided to try some frozen french fries to see how well it works.

I found a few different methods online, and decided to try the one that used the rotisserie function. I loaded up the basket with some frozen fries and set it to 17 minutes. The only other step was pressing the rotate button to get the rotisserie spinning. Seventeen minutes later I had fries.

I made more than I needed for an evening snack so I dumped some off on the child before digging in myself. I added no oil to these, and I was surprised at the light crispiness that they had. They even nicely browned on some of the edges. I think I could have gone closer to 18-20 minutes to really get them crispy, but this was still much nicer than just baking in the oven.

My next adventure will be fried tofu. I love the tofu that I get on some asian takeout dishes and would love to be able to put something crispier like that on things that I make at home. I can’t wait to give it a try.

Some diet updates

It’s been quite a few months now doing the whole plant-free diet. My weight has stabilized around 152 lbs. which puts me well within the recommended BMI limits. My body is getting used to it’s new normal, and I’ve had to deal with purchasing some different clothes. I was already wearing a belt on all of my pants, and this weight loss pushed me over the edge into needing to size down.

One of the things I’ve noticed is that despite craving things like cheese, if I end up accidentally having some dairy, my gut rebels. The other week I ate out and had what I thought was a simple plant based item, but in retrospect it probably used egg as a binder, and sure enough the next day my gut rebelled. Based on that reaction, I’m curious if it really has always been a dairy issue for me. Maybe someday I’ll try a little bit of meat and see if that causes issues.

For now though, I’m still really enjoying a lot of great plant based meals. Friends have sent me some killer recipes, including one for a “comfort mac” that really hit the spot the other week. I’m also learning what “substitute” products I like, and which ones aren’t worth the effort. Sometimes it’s best to not try to recreate something, and just look for something new and different.

It feels like an adventure, and I’m happy that it’s working out for me. It’s not always easy (especially when traveling), but I can’t argue with the results.

Seeking more health improvements through plants

Most people who have known me for a while know that I’ve gone through a lot of ups and downs when it comes to general health (not any specific ailment). After my divorce I put on a lot of weight (I wasn’t terribly healthy before either), and found myself in a place I didn’t want to be. Back in 2010 I made some hard choices and overhauled how much food I was eating, and took up running. The difference was amazing. I lost around 40 pounds in 6 months and was running a half marathon by the end of the year.

Since that time I’ve kept the running going, added in biking, and generally managed to maintain a mostly healthy lifestyle. But despite all of that a few of my numbers haven’t ever been that good. In particular, my cholesterol tests has consistently shown me in the elevated range (over 200), or just right below it. After some issues earlier this year, I was sent in for a CT Angiogram. In this test they put you in a CT scanner and inject you with radioactive dye to get a clear mapping of your arteries and heart.

When I got the results back, I was told that I had a calcium score of 11. Now on a scale of 1-300 that’s not bad. However, with years of high cholesterol tests, it put me solidly in the “mild” category, and the with it came the recommendation to start a low dose statin. Not the words I wanted to hear.

Don’t get me wrong, I know statins have worked well for many people, but I really don’t want to start a drug that is basically considered a lifetime drug. I decided that it was time for some radical shifts in diet, to see if this is something that I can get under my control. I opted not to start the statin, and instead have embarked on the journey of a plant-based whole-food diet.

We picked up a subscription to Forks over Knives meal planner (review coming in the future), and for the last few weeks I have cut out meat and dairy almost completely. The meal planner made this a lot easier than doing it alone, but it’s certainly been a big shift in our eating habits. I went from a pretty big meat eater, to a 99% vegan.

However, the one thing I can’t complain about are the results. When I started this diet I started tracking my blood pressure and weight every day, as well as journaled a few thoughts on how it’s been going. One other marker that had been inching a lot higher in recent years was my blood pressure level, so I was hoping this might have a positive effect on it as well.

When I started this my blood pressure was averaging around 125/76. Not bad, but the American Heart Association considers this “elevated”. In the most recent 15 days I’ve dropped that to 110/72, which is solidly in the normal range. In addition I started this journey at 177 lbs, and this morning weighed in at 165. That’s a HUGE result just over 20 days in.

On top of it all, I’m enjoying the food we’re eating. Some recipes have been flops, but we’ve found so many that are really solid, that I haven’t missed my old eating habits as much as I thought I would. In fact, what I pine for most often is “convenience”. I miss the idea of just opening a tasty bag of chips and scarfing that down, instead of doing the work of making something that is just as filling, but healthier. This certainly takes more work, but along the way we’re finding lots of things that bring back some of that ease.

The real test will be in August when I go back for a cholesterol test. If I am not showing any signs of improvement on that test, then I’m probably headed for a statin. However, if it looks like I’m making solid progress, then I’m going to keep going, and keep getting my lipids tested every three months for the next year, possibly going in to get another CT Angiogram at the end.

It’s full steam ahead on a change that is hopefully what my body has been asking for. And don’t worry, I’m not turning into an evangelist. I’m just looking for what works right for me, and right now, this seems to be what’s getting me results.

Reducing the meats

Something that I’ve known for a long time is that in general, American’s eat more meat than they need to, and not enough veggies. For the past few months I’ve been trying to drop a few pounds and it just won’t budge. At the same time I’ve come across a few different books and videos that have talked about eating a more plant focused diet to be healthier. Therefore, I’ve decided to try and drastically reduce my meat consumption, while increasing my plant intake.

For the past couple weeks I’ve been consciously avoiding meat based foods. I’m not experimenting with veganism, as I just love cheese too much, but I’m trying to not go crazy with replacing meet with cheese. I’m not a big dairy guy (I don’t drink milk straight), but I do enjoy cheese, sour cream, and ice cream. In two weeks I’m down 6 pounds in weight, and I haven’t felt hungry, or that I’m starving myself in any way. I’m enjoying many of the same foods I’ve eaten before, just without meat content. This means I’m eating a lot of Mexican and asian dishes, as it’s very easy to make those without meat, and with extra veggies.

I’ve also been doing some basic stir-fry dishes at home which consist of just rice, or rice noodles, and some frozen stir-fry veggies from Target. Toss in a bunch of asian sauces and you have a good meal, pretty darn quick, without much work. We’re also trying out a few different dishes from some meatless cookbooks that we have around the house. I believe tonight is spring roll night.

This isn’t to say I never eat meat at all. Maybe 2-3 times over the past two weeks I’ve had something with meat in it. But it’s a fun challenge to try and avoid it as much as possible, and see how creative I can get with my eating. I’m not big on “mock” foods such as fake chicken and veggie patties, so I’m trying to avoid just replacing meat based foods with knock-offs. However, it is nice that most places will do a veggie burger as a fall-back.

I much prefer what the restaurant Happy Gnome (down on Selby in Saint Paul) does. They have a veggie Jucy-Lucy, but it’s nothing like a traditional meat Jucy-Lucy. It’s a bunch of stacked veggies with a slab of mozzarella in the middle. They then bread it all and deep fry it. Holy crap was that tasty. Or the always tasty wild rice burger from Great Water’s Brewing in Downtown Saint Paul. It doesn’t pretend to be meat, but it’s delicious in it’s own right.

I’m curious to see what the next few months will hold for me as I continue on this diet. It’s feeling very natural and easy to do, and I’m liking the results, both in my weight and general feeling of health. I’ll make sure to post some periodic updates on how things are going, and what type of progress I see overall.