Updated: Apr 4, 2019
Originally published in the Oakland Press and Macomb Daily newspapers.
You’ve heard that plant-based eating is healthier for you and the environment. But maybe you were concerned that vegan eating is limiting. Well, you have no excuses — veganism is becoming more mainstream.
You can still eat at your favorite places and shop at your favorite stores. And it’s simple to stay within a budget.
Being vegan is not a trend, it’s a lifestyle, growing in popularity. It does not mean deprivation. You won’t starve. You won’t get weak. You’ll be healthy, vibrant and have more energy.
Giving up meat doesn’t mean limiting your options to vegan restaurants, or missing nights out with friends. I can eat plant-based wherever I go. Mexican restaurants often have several vegetarian options, including veggie burritos. At a Thai restaurant, I may order stir fry but ask them to replace the meat with another vegetable. When I dine at my favorite Thai restaurant, I enjoy sweet and sour veggies with steamed rice. It’s amazing!
If a restaurant serves pitas or gyros, order them with everything but meat. Add fries, if you like. You’ll feel like you’re eating the same as everyone else at your table.
If a restaurant doesn’t have a vegan entrée, I’ll make a meal from two or three appetizers. People are often surprised to learn that I frequently dine out with friends and family at steakhouses. I feel like I have more options than anyone who sticks to standard entrees. The other night, I ordered sautéed spinach, a salad and mashed potatoes.
There’s also a good reason for frequenting nonvegan restaurants. Asking for plant-based options directly affects their menus. When I first started going to one of my favorite restaurants, for example, I found only one plant-based main meal option. But after just a couple of short weeks, it rose to three. And I wasn’t the only customer eating the plant-based dishes anymore.
Affordable vegan foods
People think going vegan is expensive. It’s not. Beans are excellent protein sources and very budget-friendly. I often buy in bulk to save money. To encourage local retailers to make vegan products available, I’ll sometimes buy four or five of my favorite vegetarian products so the store has to re-stock.
You can also find vegan clothing. While high-end brands such as Stella McCartney fashions do not use leather or fur, there also are affordable alternatives.
Here are some of my favorite vegan products:
1. Gardein, for meat-less entrees: When I first went vegan, I wanted to veganize my family’s favorite dishes to assure that the transition was as smooth as possible. I came across Gardein’s meatless products and now we can’t live without them. I love the beefless and chick’n strips. You don’t have to learn how to cook (or like) tofu!
2. Arbonne, for cleansing and makeup: Arbonne’s formulas contain no animal products or by-products. It’s very important to me that what goes on my body is not at the cost of an animal’s well-being or life. Not only should we not be using products that have been tested on animals, but we should verify that no ingredients are made of animals.
Plant or Animal?
Labels can be confusing for any of us, and deciphering what is vegan and what is not can be especially complicated. Some ingredients — such as lecithin, glycerides and lutein — can be sourced from animals or plants. How to tell the difference? One of the best things to look for on labels are phrases such as “plant-based botanicals” and “not tested on animals.”
Other animal-based ingredients are more straightforward. They include albumin, a protein component of egg whites and often found in processed foods; gelatin, a protein made from the bones, cartilage, tendons and skin of animals which is found in everything from marshmallows to frosted cereals; and carmine, a red pigment made from ground-up insects that is used in bottled juices, some candies and other confectionery products. A full list of animal-based ingredients is available on www.nafsika.ca.