Yup, we’ve been doing the vegan thing for not quite a year. Like much else in life, diet is a personal decision – so no hate. Veganism is the latest in our list of eating quirks. I’m GF, my son is allergic to tree nuts, my husband and daughter cannot tolerate milk products but – funny thing – it’s not the lactose that bothers them. We don’t know what it is. Being vegan(ish) makes life easier in some ways, and harder in others. I think we’ll stick with our version of veganism (not rigidly) for the foreseeable future.
We eat eggs, honey, and oysters and call ourselves vegan instead of vegetarian because we’re really picky about the source of these animal foods. No, we will not join you for breakfast at the diner and order eggs. My daughter and I don’t eat any animal products, except the eggs our chicken’s lay, honey from the bees who live down the road… and oddly, oysters. Although tbh, we’re still kind of on the fence about the oysters.
My husband and son, on the other hand, are not above the occasional indulgence in sardines, herring, or pepper jack cheese. They indulge in one of these treats every three months or so – and seem to enjoy the indulgence as a bonding activity more than they enjoy the sustenance these foods provide. We girls do not judge, but enjoy the dark chocolate chips that accompany these food-focused outings. The boys also accept food-gifts from family when offered – these food-gifts include chicken or turkey in a thousand different combinations, while us girls opt for vegan friendly snacks.
Our daughter is sensitive to the plight of animals in the livestock industry and has been since she was a little girl. I think she was five when she decided she wanted to become a lacto-ovo-vegetarian. By the time she was ten she quit dairy altogether and would only eat the eggs that her hens produced, citing,
My chickens are happy, healthy, free-range babies. I take care of them, I love them, and they lay the eggs. It would be wasteful to let them rot.
She’s rubbing off on us. Turns out veganism is contagious.
People ask, “…but what about protein?” So I’ll try to explain what we do to make sure we’re healthy. We eat a lot of beans, lentils, chickpeas, nuts, and seeds. We eat Mexican dishes, Cajun dishes, Cowboy dishes, lentil soups and stews, chickpea salads, soups, stews, and hummus on all the other veggies. For iron, we devour the burritos, meat-free jambalaya, beans and cornbread, incorporate seeds and nuts and these legumes into soups, stews, and salads. Vitamin C helps us absorb the iron so we have lots of pineapples, oranges, o.j., lemon juice as a seasoning, broccoli, and brussels sprouts too. We also love spinach and tolerate kale (kale chia chips are pretty yummy).
Getting enough fats is the hardest part of maintaining our healthy vegan diet. Growing up in the 80’s and early 90’s, fat was the enemy. It’s been difficult for me to see fat as a friend and ‘good’ food. In addition to the miracle of coconut oil, and olive oil, we recently added farmed oysters back to our food list. The omega’s that eggs and oysters provide help our brains function. Avocados are mainstays, and Country Crock (of all things) is important too. Concerned for cholesterol, we only use the Churn style, which contains no mono- or di-glycerides. We conclude glycerides make the other styles of Country Crock more spreadable. The Churn style is thicker but nowhere near as thick as real butter and so, is easier to spread than what we used to use!
Reasons going vegan is easy? It limits your options… in a good way.
- Grocery Lists – You can eliminate perhaps 80% of all grocery store products from your planning.
- Meal planning – Once you identify which cuisine your family likes, 1/2 of the meals they offer go out the window because they contain meat or animal products.
- No more calorie counting – When your diet is plant-based you can pretty much eat all day and not worry about eating too many calories.
- Hydration – it’s easier to stay hydrated when the water it takes to digest a parcel of food is (mostly) included in the food. Most veggies are waterful, so most of our meals are also waterful!
Reasons going vegan is difficult? It limits your options… in a bad way.
- Grocery Lists – You have to read the ingredient lists on e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g, and google the unknown ingredients. Or – always stick to the same (boring) items and never try anything new. Or – decide that you are doing enough by avoiding what you can, and accept that life and the grocery store are full of unknown unknowns. 🙂
- Meal Planning – Beginning vegans are really limited by their knowledge (and love of cheese). It takes time to develop a vegan meal plan that you’ll be happy with, let alone everyone in your house.
- Not enough fat – When eating a plant-based diet you have to make sure you get enough fat. If you don’t, you’ll have a spike in cravings. I craved chili cheese tater tots and milkshakes. Without the cheese, and with vegan chili, the dish tasted flat. It was the cheese I wanted, the fat. An almond vanilla smoothie was slightly more satisfying, but the slushy consistency was just not the same as a milkshake, and there was not quite as much fat! Just remember Healthy Fats are your Friends!
- Salt – A lot of processed foods marketed as a vegan (or low-fat, or vegetarian, or gluten-free) option, are higher in salt than their traditional counterparts. Just check those levels when you’re reading the ingredients and keep your numbers reasonable.
Our list of pros outnumber our list of cons (to say nothing of the broader implications of an ecologically low-impact diet) so we’re sticking with this vegan(ish) thing. Every day is easier than the one before and after a year we can feel the effects of this diet choice; We’re healthier, happier, and a little bit leaner all around.