To be vegan is to be a strict vegetarian; they eat no meat or meat products! Nothing that has an ingredient from an animal will touch their lips! No products with eggs, no products with fish, no products with dairy, or any ingredient made with anything meat related, including clothing like leather, fur, wool, or any product that has been tested on an animal! It is all about a total plant based diet!
There are many reasons for this diet, but the main ones are: healthy eating, prevention of cruelty to animals, and protection of the environment, all great causes! Many people think this is a salad diet and poke fun, but that idea is far from true, and this diet can be a healthy choice and a good lifestyle solution, if you know what you are doing first!
This Diet Includes:
- All grains, beans and legumes, vegetables, and fruits, nuts and seeds, and dishes combining these foods! Many of the dishes look familiar with a meat or bean substitution added. You can use regular recipes, but just sub in your protein of choice.
- Meat-free protein products like hot dogs, soy crumbles, textured vegetable protein, seitan, Portobello mushrooms, Tempeh, Tofu, or Burger patties, Chicken patties/nuggets/strips, Bacon, Buffalo wings, Beef, Ham, or Turkey or protein powders! There is a meat free substitute for everything! Many of these products are so similar in dishes that you will not know the difference! My family has yet to notice when I use Boca burgers in chili recipes!
- Dairy substitutes like soy cheese, non-dairy margarines like Earth Balance, dairy-free sour creams, soy, and rice, coconut or almond milks.
- Learning new ways of cooking or recipes to make up for lost products. Ener-G Egg Replacement for baked goods works great, but replacing eggs with smashed bananas or applesauce works too, on certain recipes. Recipes might not be as light and fluffy using these products. There is some trial and error involved in learning to remake your favorite recipes! When you get it right, write it up! I keep a separate recipe file for egg free baked goods and recipes that work great using Ener-G!
- All processed foods that do not include meat products! It's possible to fill up on processed foods that are not healthy choices, just like regular eaters! You know that chip habit you might deal with could still be practiced on this diet!
- Premade products. Stores have caught on to the Diet and are producing products that cater to it. Whole Foods even produces fresh vegan donuts? Not sure that is a great choice! Veganaisse on the other hand is a great product.
I love meatless meals, especially when they are made with products I love like beans and legumes! Some of the other substitutes are a personal choice! I would encourage you to always read food labels and avoid foods that contain chemicals. I love eating real foods and many of the vegan substitutes are highly processed. I personally don't like Tofu! It's all about what you love, and it is not difficult to find substitutes for most of the products that contain animal products!
Difficulties in the Vegan Diet
Difficulties in this Diet:
- Nutrients: Care needs to be used when eating this diet, especially a raw diet! Vitamins B12, Vitamin D, Calcium, and Iron are the nutrients that can become problematic in this diet! Make sure you are taking a great vitamin supplement or eating a fortified breakfast cereal for Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, and Calcium. Iron can be found in leafy green veggies and beans, but it is a different type of iron than found in meat. It is not absorbed by the body as well, but eating fruits with Vitamin C greatly helps. Care must be used with supplements too, because some need to be taken with a meal, and some on an empty stomach for optimum absorption!
- Protein: Protein can be limited in this diet. Care needs to be given to meal planning and making sure you include protein in your meals and snacks! It is not that difficult, you just need to be on top of it!
- Eating Out: Eating out is difficult, unless you go to a restaurant specializing in this diet. Some choices are usually safe though and most restaurants are accommodating. Ask for recommendations from friends in your local area.
- Eating at Friends and Families homes: Accept the fact that most people are not meat free. They will not necessarily think of including you in their meal plan. They are not intentionally being hurtful; they just do not understand your diet. Be flexible and bring your protein choice to be included in the meal or an awesome bean/veggie dish to share with everyone. I would recommend bringing a dish similar to a familiar dish rather than a tofu laden dish that others might consider weird, if you plan to share that is! If you want to take home leftovers, weird is great!
Vegan Veggie Bean Soup
The Vegan diet is one that should be researched and understood before you just dive in! It can be a healthy diet habit, if you do it right, but I would recommend educating yourself first. Great resources to use are: