With serious health conditions and chronic diseases plaguing the world, and the rising concern about the well being and sustainability of the planet, veganism is becoming a more popular choice for a more conscious healthy lifestyle. In fact, it has become a bit of a trend at the moment. Many celebrities, like Ellen De Generes, Alicia Silverstone and even Bill Clinton are huge vegan advocates, using their notoriety to spread the word about the joys of being a vegan.
I am a proud vegetarian who eats predominantly vegan and raw food. I would actually consider myself an alkalarian now, eating very little animal products at all, and maintaining alkaline blood most of the time. This page is by no means intended to be an exhaustive exploration of veganism, nor do I claim to be an expert on the subject of veganism. There are some wonderful websites and resources that can inform you with more clarity and detail - I list them on my favourites page.
I just wanted to share some of my experience with veganism in the hopes it will help some of you. But you can certainly find some delicious vegan recipes here.
What Is a Vegan?
A vegan can be defined in two different ways: a dietary vegan and an ethical vegan.
A dietary vegan omits animal or any animal derived products from their diet. They do not eat any meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy products or any other animal products or by-products where an animal is involved.
An ethical vegan is a dietary vegan that also eliminates the use of all lifestyle products that are derived from, tested on or involve animals, whether it be clothes, shoes, wool, leather, furniture or skin care products.
Maintaining a Balanced Vegan Diet
Maintaining a healthy and balanced vegan diet is not as difficult as it might seem at first.
If you think about it, a lot of the healthy foods that we are encouraged to eat by health organizations and medical professionals (fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains) are already inherently vegan. By excluding animal products and animal by-products, we are not denying ourselves nutrients. Merely omitting certain sources of those nutrients. For example, calcium, which we are brought up to believe is best sourced from cow's milk and other dairy products, is found in plentiful amounts in green vegetables, nuts and other vegan foods. Protein, which we are encouraged to find with animal proteins can be found in nuts, tofu, tempeh, legumes and vegetables.
Furthermore, a responsible vegan plant-based diet of whole foods and fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains can be high in fibre, low in cholesterol and rich in live nutrients, and healthy fats and oils. Like any eating regime, you should monitor what you eat to ensure you are consuming a variety of foods with rich nutritional profiles. A lot of people are concerned about protein consumption when embarking on a vegetarian or vegan diet. "Where do I get my protein if I can't have a steak? There are several delicious protein rich vegan foods such as: temph, tofu, seitan, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, brown rice and vegetables like broccoli, spinach and potatoes.The majority of people actually consume far too much protein. But I am not a doctor, so I will shut my mouth about that. Read Victoria Boutenko's book Green For Life to learn more about the abundance of protein found in green leafy vegetables.
"What about iron and calcium?" I hear you say. Yet again, this issue is easily managed by eating the right plant-based foods. Calcium and iron can be found together in so many fabulous vegan-friendly foods, including spinach, kale, collard greens, broccoli and soy products. Other calcium-friendly vegan foods are carrots, sesame seeds, and raw almonds. Iron can also be found in tofu, lentils, chickpeas and leafy greens. Another great tip is to remember that Vitamin C increases your body’s ability to absorb iron, so eating an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables like oranges, strawberries and greens will keep your body healthy and happy on a vegan diet.
A diverse diet of raw and freshly cooked vegetables and grains, green smoothies, raw nuts and seeds and lots of water is a great start when following a vegan diet. Experiment with ingredients and unfamiliar foods. Educate yourself by reading some books, and try following some easy vegan recipes from the internet or any of the amazing cookbooks at the book store. I list some of my favourite vegan websites and resources on my favourites page.
We are so fortunate to have so many vegan resources available now. Use them and enjoy them to find the right happy balance for your vegan lifestyle.
Preparing vegan dishes can be easy with a little bit of knowledge. As mentioned earlier, so many foods that we already eat are naturally vegan. Just steer clear of any meats or meat-derived products, like dairy and eggs and you will be fine.
If you enjoy cooking there is no reason why you can’t enjoy vegan cooking too. If you’re new to vegan cooking, stick to the basics at first, like vegetables, fruit, legumes or grains. There are plenty of simple vegan recipes that will make the transition easy. Quick and easy dishes like stir-fries, pasta dishes or soups are a great place to start. Always read the labels of food to double check the content. There are so many fantastic vegan substitutes in our stores that replacing animal products has become a lot simpler. Look out for tofu, temph and seitan to make life in the kitchen easier. Check out my vegan substitute page to find out more.
If you are new to veganism or not a vegan and cooking for someone who is, always remember to separate any meat or animal products while cooking to avoid cross-contamination. Use different cooking utensils, pots, pans and most importantly chopping boards. Your vegan dinner guests will appreciate the effort and respect.
Eating Out as a Vegan
The number of vegan restaurants and café’s springing up all over the place is very encouraging to the vegan population. The choices of course vary according to where you may live, but in general if you live in or close to a large city you will manage to find something. Keep in mind that many regular, everyday restaurants may also have a few vegan options. Try your favourite Italian, Indian, Mexican or Thai restaurant, you could be pleasantly surprised. Vegetarian restaurants are the closest you will get to a vegan restaurant, as many dishes in a vegetarian restaurant tend to be vegan without trying, and if they for example have a creamy pasta dish, simply ask for it without the cream and butter. Most restaurants are happy to alter or cater for a patrons needs.
As with any diet, allergy or food restriction it’s always best to ask questions when dining out or getting take out. Otherwise try and stick to your favourite vegan eatery. I have a handful of amazing vegan restaurants that I like to call home when I am in either the U.S or Australia but for a more extensive global search for vegetarian and vegan restaurants head to the happy cow website or veg guide.
Children and Veganism
When introducing a vegan diet to a child, try not to be overwhelmed or put off but what seems like a large undertaking of a nutritional up-hill battle. A vegan diet for a child is just as easy as one for an adult, and if executed right can be much better for them. The experts obviously agree, because The American Dietetic Association was once quoted as saying that, "Well-planned vegan … diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence."
The key word in this quote is “well-planned”. A well planned vegan diet and lifestyle for child is all about knowledge and education. A vegan diet is very achievable and easy to manage and in fact has proven to be much healthier than the average American diet for a child.
Educated parents or guardians is what makes the difference to a child switching to, or born into a vegan lifestyle. Ensuring that a child receives the best nutrients at every stage is essential. Just like a child who is not growing up vegan, different nutritional needs need to be met at different ages. Knowing the vegan alternatives to give your child is important. A good variety and balance of natural vegan foods will make sure that children will grow up healthy and happy.
The main nutrients that are so very critical in a child’s development are Protein, Calcium, Iron, Vitamin D and Vitamin B12. But luckily enough all of these goodies are naturally found in so many different vegetables, fruits, grains and other vegan foods so vegan kids will not miss out.
I have provided some of my own vegan substitutes on this page however for more specific vegan foods for children, the Internet can provide a wealth of information. When in doubt or unsure, be sure to see a doctor, dietitian or nutritionist to make the process or transition an easy one.
What is unnerving about the average child growing up in the Western World today, but particularly in America, is that they traditionally grow up on fast food, pizza, hot dogs and chicken nuggets. It’s no wonder that food related illnesses in children, like obesity and diabetes, has been on a dramatic increase every year since the 1970’s. Whether you are vegan or not, any diet for a growing child is surely better than that one.
Travelling As a Vegan
Traveling and heading on vacation as a vegan can be well-catered for as long as some research is done before hand. There are plenty of companies and websites that provide all the information needed to make a vacation a relaxing one.
In order to get to a destination, flying may be involved, so the first step when booking your flight online or with a travel agent is to ensure that that your chosen airline caters for vegans. Most large commercial airlines do, however it never hurts to ask before you hand over your credit card details. Dietary requirements when flying always need to be arranged in advance. Most airlines cater for the masses so only a few vegetarian, vegan or allergy free meals will be loaded on board pre-flight as requested when booking.
When booking on line the vegan code to look for is VGML.
Be aware that mistakes don't alway, but can occur between booking, catering and serving, so taking a few vegan snacks on board will help any hunger pangs on a long haul flight.
The Internet can provide a great amount of information on vegetarian or vegan hotels, Bed and Breakfasts or retreats, some of which can be found at the Vegetarian USA website. However just searching a few sites like Happy Cow or Veg Guide could make life so much easier. Plan ahead and make note of what eateries are at your destination that cater for a vegan diet.
I love to support fellow bloggers and there a plethora of great vegetarian and vegan travel blogs out there.
When choosing a vacation destination there are some countries that tend to cater for a vegan lifestyle better than others. Countries like America, Canada, the U.K and Australia all have a great variety of vegan restaurants and stores. But there are also some entire countries and cultures that lead a predominant vegetarian and vegan lifestyle and diet already. India, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia are among a handful of many Asian countries and that don’t have to try hard to cater for a vegan because it’s already ingrained in their culture or religion.
So like anything in the vegan lifestyle it’s best to be informed and prepared. Arriving at a holiday destination without the right tools can make travelling a chore no matter who you are or what lifestyle you lead. So make the most of your vacation and think ahead, a vegan vacation well earned indeed!
Vegan Grocery Shopping And Food Labelling
Shopping for vegan food is like never before. Large grocery chains, health food stores and your local organic market all cater to a vegan lifestyle. The variety of food available is growing year by year and it’s exciting to see how easy it can be to maintain a vegan diet.
Large grocery chains tend to put aside an entire aisle dedicated to healthy, vegetarian, vegan or allergy free foods. Major health food stores generously cater towards a vegan diet while some other smaller food stores can be purely vegan.
I have listed below a number of great vegan substitutes to look out for when shopping for food. Meat, dairy products, eggs and any other animal products are easily replaced with many different vegan products. PETA has an extensive grocery shopping list that makes vegan shopping so much easier. It doesn’t take much research or know how before becoming a pro vegan food shopper becomes second nature.
So many tasty natural foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds are naturally vegan of course and are very easy to find in any grocery store. When it comes to shopping for other vegan foods and cooking ingredients it can also prove simple however diligence in checking food labels and ingredient lists are important to ensure your vegan diet is not compromised.
When checking food labels check for a certified vegan label. The label may say vegan but it’s sad to say that not all companies comply with the correct food standards, especially in America where the standards are not regulated and consistent. Vegan.org have a great list of certified vegan companies for you to keep on your vegan foodie radar.
Research and educate as much as possible before venturing out on a vegan shopping expedition. There are many hidden ingredients that can catch an unsuspecting vegan off guard.
Thanks to the Vegan Society here are some common nasties to look out for on food labels
- Fish Oil
- Caesin/Whey: Both are made from milk.
- Honey, Beeswax (E910), Propolis and Royal Jelly: All come from Bees
- Carmine/Cochineal (E120): Made from crushed beetles. This is a red dye used to colour food.
- Rennet: Used in the production of cheese, it originates from the stomach of mammals.
- Paneer: A common cheese in India, it is made by curdling heated milk.
- Kefir: Fermented milk derived from cow, goat or sheep’s milk.
- Koumiss: Fermented alcoholic dairy drink from Central Asia. Taken from a female horse.
- Lard: Pig fat used as a cooking fat, spread or shorteneing.
- Gelatine : Used in candy, sweets and some desserts Gelatine is made from animal bones and connective tissue.
- Ghee : Used in mainly Indian dishes Ghee is clarified butter.
- Lactose: Used most often as an additive in foods, Lactose is derived from milk.
- isinglass: A protein substance from the swim bladders of fish which is used in the clarification of wine.
- Suet: Raw beef or Mutton fat, used to make tallow. Used in the cooking of puddings, pastries and pies.
- L-Cysteine (E920): Made from animal hair or feathers this is an additive that can sometimes be vegan but not always, best to be wary.
- Shellac (E904): Used occasionally when glazing candies, sweets and fruit this agent is made from insect secretions.
- Vitamin D3 or “Vitamin D”: Vitamin D3 is not suitable for a vegan diet however Vitamin D2 is.
Here is a quick list of everyday food products to look out for
- Breakfast Cereals and Bars – Could contain honey or milk derived products.
- Margarines and Spreads – Most contain milk products
- Fresh Pasta and Noodles – Could contain egg (Keep an eye out for rice noodles)
- Candy, Sweets, and Jelly – Double check for gelatine and milk derived products.
- Curry pastes and Worcestershire sauce – May contain fish.
- Stock Powders – Look out for milk derived products
- Alcoholic – Wines, beers and ciders are sometimes filtered using animal products.
Other Vegan Shopping
Shopping as a Vegan traditionally extends beyond the realm of food. Living an ethical vegan lifestyle also means avoiding any everyday products that are made with animal products or that are tested on animals.
There are some great vegan alternatives when shopping for anything, from clothes to furniture. For more resources for all things vegan check out my page for my favourite vegan links.
Here are some often hidden ingredients to look out for when shopping for clothes, shoes and other everyday products
- Lanolin: Used in cosmetics and skin ointments, it is wax substance extracted from the wool of sheep and other wool bearing animals.
- Leather: Animal skin and rawhide used to make many different products like, shoes, clothes, furniture, wallets, handbags and gloves.
- Tallow: An animal fat, used to make soap, candles and shoe polish.
- Silk: Produced by some insects but most predominately by the moth caterpillar, and used in textiles.
- Musk: An aromatic substance excreted from the glands of the musk deer
- Civet: Cat-like animal that produces a musk like fragrance from its glands.
- Ambergris: Used for creating perfume it is a substance made from a sperm whales digestive system.
- Sepia: a brownish pigment derived from the ink sac of a cuttlefish and used in some artworks, magazines and photography.
Vegan Substitution Suggestions
There are so many fantastic Vegan substitutes and vegan products that make becoming or maintaining a vegan diet rather cheap and easy.
You no longer have to go to a small organic health food store on the other side of town to get the food and ingredients that you need. Vegan foods are now more then ever, found in the aisles of large grocery chains making them so wonderfully accessible to a growing vegan population. And contrary to popular belief, vegan foods are not excessively pricey and can be purchased on a budget if need be.
As mentioned on my go vegetarian page, I am not a big fan of faux meat products, like Vegan ground beef or Fakin Bacon, but I do see how they can fill a void in a vegan diet.There are many meat substitutes to replace Beef, Chicken, Turkey, Seafood and Pork that be used in many different dishes like stir-fries, pasta’s burgers and casseroles. These meat-like products are often made from tofu, temph, seitan, rice, quorn or legumes.
There are many Vegan Dairy Products up for grabs in supermarkets which means that a vegan does not have to miss out, alternatively there are fantastic easy vegan recipes that can be made at home.
Vegan dairy alternatives to look out for are
- Yoghurt: Soy yoghurt or coconut yoghurt.
- Creams: Soy cream, coconut cream, vegan sour cream, or make your can make your own nut cream at home.
- Mayonnaise: Vegan Mayonnaise, soy mayonnaise, soy cheese, daiya cheese, rice cheese or nut cheese.
- Milk: Soy Milk, Rice Milks, Nut Milks. Try making some healthy home made milks of your own.
- Cheese: Soy Cheese, Daiya Cheese (tapioca based), rice cheese or nut cheese.
For an extended list of egg, milk, soy or vegan substitutes check out more tips and information on each individual how to page.