Food and Vegan Living
Food & Vegan Living
Basic information and resources for people considering becoming vegans and those who have recently made the transition to veganism.
Vegans Vs. Vegetarians
Many people do not understand the difference between being a vegan and being a vegetarian. A vegetarian does not eat meat or flesh of any kind from animals, including fish, but does consume eggs and dairy. They might also wear animal products such as leather or suede. A vegan, on the other hand, does not consume any animal products, including dairy or eggs. They also will not wear animal products such as leather, suede, fur, or wool. Vegans also do not patronize any entertainment venues such as circuses that use animals or zoos, as vegans do not support the exploitation of animals in any way, shape, or form.
“What’s wrong with eating dairy or eggs?” you might ask. “They don’t kill those animals for those products, so what’s the harm?” I, too, had the same question, and the answer, I’m afraid, isn’t pretty.
Animals raised for food – any type of food – live torturous lives and all are killed in the end. The “Old MacDonald’s Farm” we may have been taught about as children is as much of a myth as the Unicorn. While some old-fashioned farms may still exist, they are few and far between and they also cause animals to suffer and die. The bulk of our food comes from Factory Farms – farms that have literally turned into factories, mass-killing animals by the millions. The only “farm-like” quality that still exists is that the product they are producing involves living, breathing, feeling, beings.
Cows raised for dairy, or “dairy cows”, live in filthy cramped conditions, where they are deprived of everything that is natural to them. They do not get to feel sunshine on their skin or grass under their feet. They do not get to socialize as they naturally would. Dairy cows are continually forcibly impregnated so that their bodies will continuously produce milk. Once they give birth, their babies are ripped from their care and thrown in dark crates to be killed to produce veal. This is a traumatic experience for both the mother and baby. The mother is then immediately re-impregnated, to go through the horror all over again. Thus, if you support diary, you are also supporting veal. The veal industry exists because of the dairy industry. Dairy cows are all killed once they stop producing milk, and are sold to become low-grade meat.
Chickens raised to produce eggs don’t have it much better. They, too, are crammed into filthy spaces in cages so small they cannot spread their wings, stacked one on top of another. Male chicks are not needed for this industry, so male chicks are literally “thrown away”, either by being stuffed in plastic bags or sent through something that resembles a wood chipper, while still alive. Like dairy cows, all egg laying hens are killed for low-grade meat once their bodies can no longer produce eggs. If you buy eggs, you support this industry and its horrors, as well.
So, while you may ask yourself, “what’s the harm”, the truth is, the harm is unimaginable and endless, no matter what the animal product is. Animals raised to become “food” live in a constant state of torture and pain, no matter what product they are producing. Unfortunately, the only language most corporations understand is that of the almighty dollar. As long as people continue to buy their product, there is no incentive to change. You can use your power as a consumer to boycott this cruelty.
Humans Are Herbivores
Humans are Herbivores
Human beings are natural herbivores. There is nothing about our anatomy that says we were designed to eat flesh. The most obvious illustration of this is our outer physical attributes. We do not have teeth like a real carnivore, such as a tiger, or a shark, or a wolf. A true carnivore’s teeth are designed for tearing flesh off bone and crushing bones. Our teeth are not even remotely capable of that. We have teeth, including flat molars, designed to grind grains and plants; teeth like cows or horses. Carnivores do not have any flat molars. Further, our puny weak nails could never fatally wound another creature.
Another striking example of our herbivorous nature is the length of our intestinal tract. An herbivore’s intestinal tract is up to 12 times the length of its body length! The average intestinal tract length for a human is twenty-five feet. On the contrary, a carnivore’s intestinal tract is about five feet.
There is a very specific reason for this, that being that meat is rancid. A natural carnivore’s short intestinal tract allows the meat to expel from the body rather quickly. Plants, on the other hand, do not turn rancid so quickly, so they can stay in an intestinal tract for much longer without causing any damage, but instead give the body ample time to extract nutrition from the plant product. (This explains the extreme number of colon cancer cases there are in countries that consume a lot of meat products.) More along these lines, carnivores do not have digestive enzymes in their saliva; that is because their food spends little time in their mouth and goes directly to the stomach. Herbivores, on the other hand, chew their plant based foods for much longer with their flat grinding molars, and the digestive process begins first in the mouth.
A carnivore’s stomach secretes powerful digestive enzymes designed to digest the raw meat and flesh they swallow nearly whole. Herbivores, on the other hand, do not have these enzymes, and are incapable of consuming this flesh, at least without thoroughly cooking it and changing its composition at high temperatures. Bacteria such as E. Coli and salmonella, as well as parasites and other pathogens do not survive in the stomach of a carnivore, but they will live happily ever after in the stomach of an herbivore, which is lacking the same enzymes.
A carnivore’s jaw only moves up and down, designed for grabbing and tearing flesh, then swallowing. An herbivore’s jaw moves up and down and side to side, designed for chewing and grinding food products in the mouth, before swallowing.
These are but a few of the multitude of examples evidencing that humans are herbivores. Omnivores, animals designed to eat both plant and animal products, possess more of the qualities of carnivores than they do herbivores. Bear, possums, raccoons, and dogs are examples of omnivores. They are all equipped with far more of the carnivorous attributes, such as teeth, claws, hunting abilities, and enzymes. Humans do not possess the attributes of carnivores at all.
For more information, watch this:
Or visit the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine website.
Vegan Restaurants and Eating Out
Authentic and specific vegan restaurants are popping up everywhere around the world, and so are specific apps to find them. Also, a simple google search will almost positively yield results. Simply search your city with the words “vegan restaurants”, such as “vegan restaurants phoenix” or “vegan restaurants NYC”, or “vegan restaurants Tulsa”, and off you can go!!
You can download apps such as “Happy Cow” on your smartphone, too, to find great vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants near you and you can also just go directly to the Happy Cow website to search at https://www.happycow.net/
Yelp, the popular restaurant review and recommendation website, has an option to search “vegan” restaurants by city and neighborhood, giving you lists of top-rated vegan restaurants in your are – www.yelp.com
If an authentic vegan restaurant is not an option, there are plenty of menu choices you can make at a non-vegan restaurant. See our page How to Order Out in a NonVegan Restaurant for more information.
Vegan Shopping and Cooking at Home
You CAN cook vegan at home!
l get these questions all the time: How do I cook vegan? How do I do this? I have children – they want their cheese and ice cream. What can I do? These and similar questions abound.
Luckily, the answers are easy! We are in the age of EASY VEGANISM, meaning there are so many tasty easy vegan options out there, that switching to a vegan lifestyle is a snap! Granted, perhaps ten or twenty years ago, things weren’t as easy, but all that has changed now. Stores such as Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Fairway abound with vegan choices and options. Even the more mainstream stores such as Waldbaums, Stop and Shop, and Key Food are carrying vegan options.
So let’s start with the basics. Most people always have milk and butter in the house. There are tons of non-dairy “milk” and “butters” to choose from now. With respect to milk, there is soy milk, almond milk, hemp milk, coconut milk, and rice milk. The same can be said for yogurts. There are also now cream cheese substitutes made from tofu or soy, as well as ricotta cheese and sour cream substitutes. There are also numerous vegan mayonnaise brands such as Veganaise, Just Mayo, Fabanaise, and Nasoya. There are also a multitude of vegan ice cream companies selling delicious treats. Not only are these yummy and delicious, but they are far better for you nutritionally, as they do not contain the health-damaging, artery-clogging fat, and cholesterol of dairy products.
Cheese is generally a hard food for people to give up. Well, at least it used to be. Vegan cheese products have truly come a long way. Brands like Miyoko’s Creamery, Treeline, Follow Your Heart, Daiya, and Chao makes extraordinary vegan cheeses that can totally hold a candle to their dairy counterparts. Miyoko’s cheeses are cashew based and are produced and aged the same way artisanal dairy cheese is made.
Plant-based meats have also improved leaps and bounds in the last decade. You can substitute ground beef crumbles, Italian sausage, chicken filets, bacon, fish filets, crab cakes, you name it. There are many quality, tasty vegan option for which you can use as substitutes. There are even vegan turkey substitutes for Thanksgiving! And you can get plant-based deli meats as well, such as sliced turkey from Tofurkey.
Top plant-based meat brands: Gardein, Beyond Meat, Field Roast, Tofurkey, Lightlife, and Yves Veggie Cuisine.
With respect to cooking at home, you can “veganize” any recipe by simply substituting a vegan version of any non-vegan item. Here is a recipe I’m going to use as an example —
Chicken Fettuccini Alfredo, taken from AllRecipes.com.
- 6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves – cut into cubes — Here, instead of meat chicken, substitute “Beyond Meat Chicken Strips”, or “Gardein Chic’n Cutlets”.
- 6 tablespoons butter, divided –Here, you can substitute Smart Balance, Earth Balance, or any margarine.
- 4 cloves garlic, minced, divided
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 1 pound fettuccini pasta
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 (8 ounces) package sliced mushrooms
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 3/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 3 cups milk — Here, use any plant-based milk product. I have found that for a recipe such as this, soy works best.
- 1 cup half-and-half — Here, try Silk Soy Original Coffee Creamer; it’s rich, creamy, and dreamy, and works as a great substitute for half-and-half.
- 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese — For parmesan cheese, you nutritional yeast flakes. You won’t believe cheesy they taste, and they are loaded with nutrients.
- 8 ounces shredded Colby-Monterey Jack cheese — There are awesome cheese substitutes available today. For this, try Daiya shreds or wedges.
- 3 Roma (plum) tomatoes, diced
- 1/2 cup sour cream — For sour cream, try Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream.
These are the items I am never without in my vegan household:
-Smart Balance or some other vegan butter
-Toffuti cream cheese, or Fairway brand tofu cream cheese with scallions (yum)
-Soy, almond, or rice milk
-Soy coffee creamer (Silk Vanilla is my personal fave)
-Bread made without eggs or honey (you’ll have many choices – just read the labels)
-Bagels (not egg bagels, of course)
Nutritional Yeast Flakes — I have to say a word about nutritional yeast flakes. I am NEVER without these things. I usually have two or three jars in my pantry at a time, so I never run out. What are nutritional yeast flakes? According to Wikipedia, nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast, often a strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which is sold commercially as a food product. It is sold in the form of flakes or as a yellow powder and can be found in the bulk aisle of most natural food stores. Nutritional yeast flakes have a very cheesy and nutty flavor — they are delicious! I sprinkle them on everything! I also make my own vegan cheeses with them. More on that under “Healthy Meals.”
-Mock meats: Beyond Meat, which is a faux chicken product that you could serve this to guests, and they would think you made chicken; Tofurky products, such as Italian sausage for pasta and luncheon “meats” for sandwiches; Lightlife Smart Bacon (ALWAYS have this in the house, and only 20 calories a slice) or Gimme Lean Smart Grounds (a ground “beef” product I use in tacos or pasta sauces).
-Vegan cheeses such as Tree Line, Daiya, and Follow Your Heart. I also make a lot of my own cheeses using cookbooks such as The Non-Dairy Formulary by Skye Michael Conroy, The Uncheese Cookbook by Joanne Stepaniak, and Artisan Vegan Cheese by Miyoko Schinner.
Becoming A Vegan
So you’re thinking about becoming a vegan, but you have no idea how to get started. No worries!! Getting started is easier than you think. In fact, many meals most people already eat are already vegan or can be easily veganized. Pasta and noodle dishes, burritos and other Mexican recipes, salads, Asian veggie and tofu stir-fry’s, pizza, sandwiches and wraps– all are simple to make vegan and often already are.
First thing, replace your animal-based products in your fridge with the plant based equivalents. Instead of dairy milk, buy soy, almond, coconut, cashew, help, or rice milk. (Experiment with different brands, because they do NOT all taste the same.) You can also substitute sour cream, cream cheese, mayonnaise, and cheese products with vegan versions. Tofutti, Follow Your Heart, Miyoko’s Creamery, TreeLine, Veganaise, and Just Mayo make some terrific substitutes. Butter can be easily replaced with margarine or Earth Balance vegan spreads, found in most supermarkets. Stock up on beans, legumes, hummus, tofu, and meat substitutes, but check the ingredients on the meat substitutes – you want to avoid products made with eggs or dairy! And speaking of eggs, the Vegg is a wonderful vegan egg product that tastes exactly like the real thing! You can dip toast in it and never know the difference! There is also a newer product called the Vegan Egg that is made to taste just like eggs and can be scrambled or made into omelets. Amazingly it is made of seaweed, yet tastes and looks just like eggs.
There are many resources to help you get started. Start with the Vegetarian Starter Kit, published by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. You can read it and download it for free here:
You can either go vegan all at once like I did or, if you find it easier to ease into it, try that. For instance, if you can have a glass of almond milk and not miss the dairy version, but must have half and half in your coffee, take those individual steps. Although Silk Creamers are a fantastic vegan creamer for your coffee (one thing about almond milk – it does not work well as a coffee creamer).
Or perhaps make a deal with yourself to be vegan two out of three meals a day, or five out of seven days a week. Every step you take will benefit your health and the environment around you, and save the lives of animals, so every step matters!!
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