Tuesday, March 8, 2011
I'm Going Vegan...for 40 days
By now you’ve probably figured out that my daily meals don’t include a lot of animal products. My reasons for this are detailed and personal and range from the desire to lower my cholesterol and lose weight to protest over factory farming’s use of antibiotics and even animal cruelty concerns. Nonetheless, I still indulge on occasion and I don’t stress about following a vegan diet – particularly when I’m dining out.
If I’m going to plunk down some cold hard cash for a meal, it might as well be something delicious right?
Well, that’s all going to change now. I’ve been wanting to become a full-time vegan for a while, but I’ve been scared off from it because sometimes it’s really difficult. I didn’t want to be that girl. You know the one. The one that the chef had to whip up a special meal for or the one that the chef’s feelings were hurt because I didn’t want to try her extra special pot roast.
Wait a minute…whose life are we talking about here? The chef or mine?
If I want to eat vegan and my only major reason for not committing is because I’m afraid of hurting someone else’s feelings, than I haven’t got a leg to stand on anymore. So for this Lent, I decided that I would give up meat and dairy and test out the real vegan lifestyle for 40 days.
By now, I’m sure you’re imagining that I’m going to munch on granola, tofu and broccoli for the next couple of weeks. Hardly. There might be some interesting items on the menu that aren't part of a typical diet, but for the most part it will be an international menu full of flavor and nutrition.
But I know that there might still be a lot of questions about what vegan eating really means, so here’s a Vegan primer. Aside from animal products, it also eschews products derived from animals like beef or chicken broths and gelatin. Although, many vegans do choose to allow a few exceptions.
Vegetable-broth based soups
Stir-fries (beware: restaurants may use fish sauce or a meat-based broth)
Seeds - seasame, pumpkin, sunflower, etc.
Coffee, tea, sodas, (most) beers, wine
Fruits & vegetables
Most Baked goods – like cookies and cakes
Cream based soups and sauces
Some forms of gelatin - included in many candies - particularly gummy and non-chocolate candies
Common Vegan Substitutes:
Milk: Almond, Soy, Rice or Coconut Milk (not the canned type, but another type that is sold in the dairy section of your grocery store). I prefer soy milk because it has more protein than the others.
Butter: In cooking, margarine and coconut oil work. As a topping for things like toast, nut butters, hummus, honey, avocado spreads all work well too.
Ice Cream: Besides imitation products, there are sorbets and frozen fruit purees, plus banana ice cream (post to come on this delicious invention).
Cheese: Nut cheeses, nutritional yeast, hummus, avocado mayo plus fake cheese substitutes, like Tofutti. (Warning: many fake cheese contain whey or casein and are not vegan.)
Eggs: Tofu scramble, chia seed gel, or egg replacements
Meat: See this link for a more detailed list, but tofu, seitan, and texturized vegetable protein are all primarily protein sources and can serve as imitation meat. But I prefer to eat lots of foods with moderate protein levels to satisfy my needs: quinoa, bulgur wheat, kamut, wheat berries, legumes, nuts, whole wheat pastas, hemp seeds, nut butters, vegetables, and soy milk for example.
There are a lot of great fake meat and dairy products out there that taste just like the real thing but are vegan. Those items like veggie burgers and chickenless nuggets are a great way to start out but they are processed foods and as I have gotten more comfortable and creative with my meals, I turn to those items less and less. They are now occasional treats.
So if you participate in Lent, what are you giving up?