28 Days of the Vegan…
Why choose vegan? I officially declared I was going vegan on February 1st, 2020. Read about the trials and tribulations of my first month transitioning to a plant-based diet. To begin with, I am not a pure vegan. I mean to say, I have not adopted all the principles of being a vegan. Rather, I have adopted a Vegan diet. That is to say, I chose a fully plant-based diet.
Why did I choose Vegan?
Fair question. The simple answer is I see value in a plant-based lifestyle. Admittedly, I could give you the standard responses like animal compassion and planet sustainability, but these would only be partially true. However, I base my decision on two simple ideas. First, it takes far more effort and resources to produce one pound of meat versus one pound of vegetables. And not just a small amount either. In one case study, the amount of land and water required to produce 1 pound of beef would provide nearly 100 pounds of vegetables. I call this simple math. The second reason is people. The old saying is, “If you want to be a millionaire, then hang around millionaires.” With that said, I see the Vegan community as being the happiest and most friendly people. Simply stated, I choose to hang around happy and friendly people.
Why should you choose Vegan?
Another fair question. I realize my reasons above are not right for everyone. In fact, very few people would even consider them. So, let me list a few essential considerations.
Why listen to me?
When it comes to being vegan, I am a proverbial newbie. On balance, you might say I am the last person to take advice from about choosing to become a Vegan. Nevertheless, as a relative newcomer, I bring valuable insight to this discussion. I still remember the taste, texture, and smell of a meat-based diet. Accordingly, the vast majority of my recipes feature meat choices. By the same token, I remember the joy of creamy dairy-based sauces, not to mention cheese. Oh, the glories of cheese. In short, just one month ago, I was asking “Why choose Vegan?”
My advice: Make informed choices
My best advice is to act. Naturally, I would love to hear you have chosen Vegan. Saying that, you should actively pay attention to your diet choices. Pursue healthy goals, read the ingredient and nutritional labels, choose high quality ingredients and, of course, include more vegetables in your diet. On the whole, making better food choices will lead to a better lifestyle.
Start with small steps
Trust me when I say that I did not become a Vegan overnight. This decision was a long time in the making. So I have a few easy steps/goals you may wish to try.
- Stop eating at fast-food restaurants. Regardless of their claims of “healthy”, the food served at these establishments is nutritionally BAD. A point often overlooked is these establishments are driven by cost. They purchase the lowest cost ( consequently, minimal quality ) ingredients available. Conversely, the amount of effort and money to lure you in their doors is staggering.
- Stop drinking sugar-based cola. Whether you call it cola, soda, or pop, carbonated drinks are perhaps the least healthy liquid you can consume. Again, the manufacturers spend billions of dollars on advertising.
- Skip the Chip aisle. I always find it humorous that most grocery stores place the chips in the same aisle as the colas. On the other hand, it does make it easier to accomplish two goals at once. Let us call this idea healthy multitasking.
- Eliminate candy, cookies and sugary snacks. For those with kids, this may be impossible. However, that does not mean you cannot eliminate these items out of your diet.
- Start reading labels. Nutritional and ingredient labels can reveal valuable information. Avoid products that list high fructose corn syrup or long scientific names in the ingredients. Also, steer clear of high sodium products.
- Spend a little more money on organic. Many of us food shop on price alone. When buying packaged goods (box, bottle, can or frozen) look for the Certified Organic label. In most cases, the product will be more expensive. On the same token, the product will be higher quality and healthier.
- Reverse your recipe titles. Instead of “Chicken with spinach”, list the recipe as “Spinach with chicken”. Granted, it may sound silly. However, by focusing your attention on the vegetable portion of a recipe, you will sub-consciously develop better vegetable cooking skills.
Vegan transition ideas I found silly
As stated above, I did not choose to follow a plant-based diet in one day. Instead, my choice is the culmination of years of subtle changes. As I drew nearer to the fateful day, I intently listened to many ideas on transitioning to a Vegan diet. I found a few approaches to be silly.
- First and foremost is Meatless Mondays. In my mind, being meatless one day a week is the same as saying, “I am going to be a Vegan 14% of the time.” Why choose vegan at all?
- Next is Vegan before 6 pm. Again, I find the concept of part-time vegetarian to be dumb.
- Finally is Flexitarian where you eat mostly plant foods but occasionally include light portions of meat in your diet. What is the point?
There are several more appealing options too. Admittedly, I gave much more thought to these options. In the end, though, I still found these options to be unaligned with my nutritional goals.
- Ovo-vegetarian – (Plant-based diet plus eggs) – This is a very appealing diet lifestyle. I adore eating eggs. However, most egg recipes include the use of dairy-based cream. I feel leaving in the egg option would be too big of a temptation.
- Lacto-vegetarian – (Plant-based diet plus dairy) – Comparatively, I found this option to be the easiest to disregard. Dairy would lead to cheese, at which point I would include cheese in virtually every vegan recipe.
- Pescatarian – (Plant-based diet plus fish and dairy) – I would give a fish only option much more consideration. Again though, I feel not committing to a fully vegan diet provides too great a temptation.
What do I miss the most?
As I approach the end of my first month as a Vegan, I gave this question serious thought. I mean to say, it is so simple to say I miss meat or cheese or whatever. However, I drew a few interesting observations into why I still choose vegan.
Ironic Vegan Kitchen Story
Three months before becoming a vegan, I saw a video on creating the best scrambled eggs. After trying the method, I was amazed at the result – perfect scrambled eggs. I immediately posted three recipes featuring scrambled eggs. So here I am with this impressive knowledge and no place to use it. Perfect Scrambled Eggs Video.
Are vegan substitutes any good?
Here is where my pre-Vegan knowledge will be most useful. Despite what you have heard or read, many excellent plant-based meat and cheese substitutes are being sold today. Before exploring the alternatives further, I will give you one word of caution. Don’t be surprised that alternative Vegan ingredients cost more, a LOT more.
Plant-based Meat substitutes
More and more food manufacturers are creating Vegan meat-less options as the popularity of plant-based diets increase. This is excellent news for the “Why Choose Vegan” consumer. Not only does this provide more choice but also begins to lower the price as the companies compete for market share in this rapidly growing segment of the food industry. Here are a few of the most prominent “players” in the market.
- MorningStar Farms – I found their chicken options to be delicious. However, their beef substitutes are rather tasteless.
- Gardein – Their packaged meatballs and beef crumbles are excellent. I do not like their sausage offerings.
- Boca – If you are looking for a great burger substitute, look no further. Their burgers come in many varieties too. I am confident you will find one that appeals to you.
- Beyond Meat – Their burger options are overpriced. However, their sausage offerings are reasonably priced and taste very good.
Dairy-free Cheese alternatives
This category is a bit more difficult to navigate. I spoke of being a cheese person previously and I can assure you that finding a decent Vegan cheese is a frustrating and rather expensive journey. Despite a few pleasant surprises, my the general rule is ALL plant-based cheese is poor. That is to say, the taste is substandard and the “meltability” is frustrating. Here are a few passable products. (So far)
|Daiya Block Cheddar Cheese||B-||C||[ Click here ]|
|Kate Hill Cream Cheese||B||C+||[ Click here ]|
|Violife Feta Cheese||B||B-||[ Click here ]|
|Daiya Cheddar Cheez Sauce||B-||B+||[ Click here ]|
Beware of sneaky labeling
The plant-based market is at its infancy. Historically, large food manufacturers use misleading labels and other subtle techniques to take advantage of unsuspecting buyers as these companies all race for a piece of the lucrative vegan market. I see no evidence which suggests the plant-based market will be immune to these less than reputable practices. Watch for green colored packages or pictures of leaves on the box. They may have words like lactose-free or plant-based. Nevertheless, a close inspection might reveal the product is not Vegan at all.
Final Analysis: Why Choose Vegan?
After one month, I lost some weight and sensed more energy. Also, I do not feel unfilled food-wise and I overcame several initial cooking challenges. However, I did not experience a ticker-tape parade or trumpets blaring. The stories of AMAZING results did not happen. Most importantly though and without a doubt, I can tell you I am healthier.
• My award-winning Vegan Chili Recipe