Living vegan is wonderful, that is assuming you live alone or live in a veg-friendly home. Outside the four walls of your cruelty-free sanctuary can often be tough to navigate. This journey might feel daunting and lonely. People will question you and your choices and you may wonder if it’s all worth it. Stay strong and have faith in yourself and your beliefs. You will come up against a lot of questioning, teasing and sometimes just plain rudeness. I look at this as an opportunity to engage and educate. In my experience I’ve found the people around me extremely receptive to my life choice and I think people are more open than we give them credit for.
For example, at a work picnic, a very thoughtful co-worker made potato salad and brought a little bowl of vegan potato salad for the veg folk in the group. My dear friend Natalie went well out of her way to ensure I would have something to eat for dinner at her upcoming wedding reception. For every jerk that asks you “would you eat pork chops for a million dollars,” there are really amazing and considerate people in the world.
Continuing the Going Vegan blog series, this post will answer the common diet-related questions you may encounter as a vegan and will provide you with more information about this lifestyle.
HOW TO EAT
Invest in a few great cookbooks, this will help you with meal planning and grocery shopping. My favourites include: The Oh She Glows Cookbook by Angela Liddon, Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, the Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone, UnDiet by Meghan Telpner and reFresh by Ruth Tal.
Vegan / vegetarian blogs (ahem…) will be your new best friends for support and amazing recipes. Here are some fabulous ones: Oh She Glows, Happy Herbivore, Vegan Culinary Crusade, Fat-Free Vegan Kitchen, Cupcakes and Kale and A Dash of Compassion.
Consider taking a vegetarian cooking class. If you live in Toronto check out: Marni Wasserman, Meghan Telpner, Arvinda’s and Live Nutrition. The Big Carrot and Loblaw’s also offer vegetarian workshops.
WHAT TO EAT
When I first went veg I consumed a lot of faux meat products. Slowly, I became more comfortable in the kitchen and before you know it, I was in school for Holistic Nutrition. A great way to get people on-board the vegan train is through food, often dessert. You will hear “this doesn’t taste vegan” a lot. You just have to roll with it.
Breakfasts may include oatmeal, organic cereals and smoothies. Snacks could be hummus and veggies, trail mix with nuts, seeds, raisins and shredded coconut or simply a piece of fruit such as a banana or apple. Dinner is just like any other dinner…without the meat, dairy and eggs. Salads, rice and beans, steamed veggies, stir-frys, stews, soups. The possibilities are endless as long as you keep an open mind. Some fun treats that you can purchase at health food stores and select grocery stores include kale chips, raw macaroons, coconut ice cream, vegan pizza and more!
SO…WHAT ABOUT THAT PROTEIN?
The most common question vegans are asked is “where do you get your protein?” Meat has protein, yes. But so do plants, nuts, seeds, beans and legumes. The difference between the two lies within the amino acid profile. Amino acids are the building blocks that make up protein molecules. The human body can produce all but nine of the 22 amino acids we need. These nine “essential amino acids” must be obtained through food. Once consumed, proteins breakdown in the body to their various amino acid components and then build new protein molecules. Animal protein is considered to be a complete protein, meaning it contain all essential amino acids whereas protein from plants typically do not. Animal protein is more similar in structure to ours and therefore is easily used by the body.
However, having a whole food plant-based diet that is full of variety can ensure you are receiving all the amino acids you need.
Some great plant-based protein sources are: spirulina (a blue-green fresh-water algae available at health food stores in liquid and capsule form), quinoa, hemp seeds, chia, buckwheat and kale. There are some high quality protein sources available including Vega and Sunwarrior.
There is without a doubt a veganized version of everything – from nuggets, ground “meat,” milk, ice cream, pizza and butter. Unfortunately, many of these are options are junk and really not healthy. There is a term, “junk food vegan” which describes people who live a vegan lifestyle but not in a balanced and healthy way. The thought is, if it’s vegan, it’s ok to eat.
That is not necessarily true. While it’s ok to get caught up in being able to have ‘regular’ food that you can eat, these vegan substitutes should be consumed in limited quantities. Too much processed food, sugar and soy is no good for our health. We are far better off with well-rounded diet that includes fresh vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, whole grains and superfoods.
While the vegan diet is a large component of the lifestyle, there are many other factors that go into living vegan. Stay tuned for more posts!
“Just how destructive does a culinary preference have to be before we decide to eat something else? If contributing to the suffering of billions of animals that live miserable lives and (quite often) die in horrific ways isn’t motivating, what would be? If being the number one contributor to the most serious threat facing the planet (global warming) isn’t enough, what is? And if you are tempted to put off these questions of conscience, to say not now, then when?” – Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals