Sunday, February 13, 2011

What the hell do vegans eat?!

Well, I made this blog to document what I thought was going to be a brief experiment in not eating animal projects. One year ago, I did a 30 day vegan challenge after purchasing The Kind Diet and, well nearly 400 days later, I am still going strong.

I get a lot of questions about my choices and even more about how I stay healthy, what I eat.. and why I haven't lost weight. People are mystified about having a plant-based diet and I find it funny because I am mystified as to why people are mystified!

Most have my posts have been recipes that I have made and I am thinking now that I have been going a year strong, maybe it is time to share some vegan secrets to de-mystify the plant-based diet. Here are some answers to the common vegan questions:

  1. Why?!?! Meat and Cheese is sooo good OK, I have many answers to this question. As I had mentioned, I started a plant-based diet as a challenge for me. I stuck with it simply because I felt better and I ate better. When I was not vegan, I found that a busy life was an easy excuse to live on pre-made foods, processed foods and restaurants. Even though I tried to eat healthy, It was just so easy to be lazy about it. Eating vegan I found was a bit limiting in the processed food area. Eating fresh food, it is not limiting at all, but I could just pick up a box of man n' cheese if I was tired. Being vegan really forced me to rethink about what I ate.

    There is also the cruelty-free aspect of being vegan. While I have to admit, it wasn't the main reason why I chose to change my diet, it certainly is a nice perk. I think that people are so far removed from the food we eat, it is too easy to not think about what we are supporting when we eat animals. I am not going to get too deep into this topic as I know it is a touchy subject.. Maybe another day :) I am just not sure if we are meant to be eating animals.. and I am even less sure that it is ok to put a living thing through so much pain for our satisfaction that can easily be met without it.
  2. Where do you get protein from?I don't know how many times I get this question. I think pretty much every time some finds out that I don't eat meat. Please read closely... Meat and dairy ARE NOT the only sources of protein! Here are some samples of where I get protein: Soy milk, Tofu, beans, lentils, nuts, quinoa, whole grains, seeds, whole grain pasta, dark leafy greens (Spinach, Kale, Collards, Chard), peanut butter, tempeh, seitan, wheat gluten. That is just off the top of my head, so I am sure there are more that I eat. I am not sure who started this fear of not enough protein... (Dr. Atkins), but from what I have read, we are eating way too much now. To figure out how much protein you need, multiply you body weight (in pounds) by 0.4. (For example, a 130-pound person needs about 52 grams of protein per day). This is not difficult to get to, trust me. I found a good chart on plant-based proteins here if you want to check it out:
  3. I would love to try plant-based diet, but I couldn't give up Fill in the blank Well, maybe this is more of a statement, but it is one I get all the time. Like seriously, everyday. I guess I understand it. Before going vegan, I was a milk junkie. I drank at least eight litres a week. I also did not like soy milk. My favourite comfort food was cheese. The thought of giving these both up cold turkey seriously scared me to my inner core.

    I get it, from the outside, it seems impossible to give up something that we are addicted to. When I first went vegan, I specifically avoided food that I would normally want cheese in... this definitely helped get over the first two weeks. I don't recall having any real withdrawal, but it was easy to be tempted by a cheese platter or a good restaurant menu. I quickly learned the secret to giving up something that cause severe cravings: Look for the root cause of the craving... I read somewhere that people tend to crave very basic elements - salty, sweet, creamy, fatty. For example, if I am really craving cheese, I eat something that is salty and a bit fatty. The craving magically goes away without me even touching cheese. Does that make sense? Hopefully. I didn't believe it until I tried it, but it really does work. Maybe the next time you are craving something like fried chicken, try making a salty, crunchy non-meat alternative.

    Oh and, you really do forget what things taste like after a while.
  4. Taking out meat and dairy is too limiting, how do you make sure you are getting enough nutrients (Especially iron and calcium)First of all, being vegan is not limiting. In fact I think it is the opposite. Being vegan has opened my world to thousands of foods I doubt I ever would have tried if still eating meats. I am not completely sure why this is, but I think a big part of it is that people in this country tend to base meals around meat. Doing this already is limiting you as there are not really that many meats out there that we eat every day. Another big limiter is that we are slaves to marketing. As a vegan, I can't eat a lot of what gets marketed to me. Instead, I have had to look at other cultures for inspiration. Indian, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, south American, Italian, Lebanese, north African... the number of cultures out there that don't base diets on processed foods and meat is amazing. Because of this, I have really broadened my horizons in the world of foods.

    Some of the foods I eat now, that i had never thought of before going vegan include: Kale, Collard greens, Chard, Dandelion greens, chilies, yuca, beets, lentils, split peas, couscous, quinoa, Kamut, millet, polenta, seitan, tempeh, nutritional yest flakes, coconut ice cream, agave, brown rice syrup, adzuki beans, lima beans, turnips... ok maybe some of these you have tried, but really just eating outside your norm culture can really open your mind to new experiences.

    And my last one for now...
  5. If you are vegan why haven't you lost weight (AKA Are you just vegan to lose weight)
    Kind of seems like an inappropriate questions.. but people ask it in one way or another all the time. First of all, I did not go vegan to lose weight. I actually refuse to weigh myself, so I can't even say if I have really lost anything or not. I would say if I have, it is minimal. Many people who go vegan do end up losing weight. Sometimes because they are not eating enough, sometimes because they were eating very poorly before they changed their diet.

    I have made little to no effort to lose weight since going vegan. Maybe I should and maybe I will, but that hasn't really been my number one concern. I am trying to be a bit healthier.. laying of the junk, exercising more etc. maybe dieting will come along with that.

    Being vegan is not a weight loss plan, it is a way of life. To lose weight you need to take in less calories than you burn. Simple.. well.. on paper anyways. You can do this vegan or not. I did hope to eat more healthy after going vegan and I believe that I have done that. Before, I ate a lot of junk, a lot of pasta and cheese and very little vegetables. I still struggle with vegetables, but I think being vegan has made it so, so much easier to get a balanced diet.
OK, well... I think that is more than enough for one Sunday night. I hope to add on to this as these are not the only questions.. maybe even do something more detailed and researched, but hey it's a start right?

And for all the animal eaters out there... I don't think most vegans mind these questions, I know I don't.. Just be respectful about it. I did not stop eating animals to threaten your way of life. I did it for me. Instead of making assumptions, maybe give it a try. Make a vegan meal.. I bet if you think about it you already do...

Anyways, got a question... Bring it on! Ask me and I promise I will come up with an answer to post :)


    1. Really great post!

      It all makes a lot of sense. People (myself included till last year) just don't know that grains and veggies can give you calcium, protein, iron, etc.

      The only thing I take issue with in you whole post is the notion of people not being meant to eat meat. Being vegan (or just dabbling) opens your eyes to many traditional vegan diets/dishes, however, *many* (most?) traditional diets include meat and dairy. It's not as if people have only based meals around animal products in the modern age.

    2. Ah, I didn't mean that most cultures don't eat meat, more that most other cultures have a lot of traditional dishes that are meatless.. And a lot of old school meals are based around meat... before the industrial farm, meat was a luxury not a staple.

      Canadian cuisine hasn't been around that long, so I think that is part of the reason why we are so meat heavy. Maybe I am wrong... a big part of this is opinion... not thoroughly researched.... lightly researched.

    3. When I was vegetarian I didn't do it to prevent cruelty to animals I just love tearing those little leafy bastards limb from limb listening to their capillaries crunch in my teeth.... MMMM Celery....

    4. Thank you for informative article. I stop eating red meat for some time.

    5. If I continue I'll soon stop eating roots and grains, and whole of leaves of a plant : roots feel, and grains do once they begin to absorb water ;)