Veganism Made Easy

Just as there are many reasons to live a vegan lifestyle, there are many ways to obtain this lifestyle.  Some people may be needing an immediate health-correct, in which case, switching to a whole foods plant-based diet would be indicated.  Others may also want the health benefits, but are not facing an imminent health crisis and can make the transition to a whole foods plant-based diet more gradually.  Based on Veganuary.com, the motivation for many people to become vegan is multifactorial: wanting to stop animal cruelty, lower the environmental impact of their diet choices, and improve their health.   I mention these scenarios as a preface to me proposing stages of veganism.  Hear me out.

For those who have been raised on meat and dairy products, the thought of quitting those foods up may be hard.  It may even seem impossible.  Despite knowing that the evidence and science supports their decision, it can be an internal struggle of self-doubt.  Many are faced with loved ones questioning their decision while being surrounded by ads for enticing meat and dairy products.  They many experience fear of cravings or failure.

This is why I am proposing stages.  Initially, when transitioning to a vegan diet, I recommend utilizing the vast array of products designed to mimic meat and dairy.  The food science has exponentially grown over the past 10 years.  Now you can find vegan burger patties that are juicy and sizzle in the pan (i.e. Beyond Meat and Impossible Burger).  You can find vegan cheeses that slice, dice, and melt, just like the real thing, but without the terrifying hormones and saturated fats.  The use of these items helps quiet the cravings and helps the initial feel of isolation from your omnivore loved ones.  Bring the Beyond Meat patties to a BBQ or offer a dairy-free cheese spread at your next party.  These are nice, easy ways to step into the vegan lifestyle.  The key is to incorporate these meat and dairy substitutes into a well rounded vegan diet, which is comprised of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and beans.

round logo Raising Vegan Tip- Beware of products packaged as dairy-free or lactose-free but are not actually vegan.  How is this possible?  Casein.  Casein is a milk protein that slips into seemingly healthy products but it is in fact milk.  Go Veggie is one brand that comes to mind that offers lactose-free (NOT vegan) and vegan products.  Be sure to ALWAYS read the ingredients.  


Stage 1 Meat Substitutes Dairy Alternatives
Fruits, Vegetables, Whole Grains, and Beans, Supplemented with Processed Foods Gardein, Quorn*, Beyond Meat, Carla Lee’s Nut, Tofurky, Field Roast, Morning Star*, Lightlife Chao Creamery, Silk, Follow Your Heart, Go Veggie*, Just Mayo, Trader Joe’s Vegan Mozarella, Tofutti, Daiya, So Delicious, Miyoko’s
Stage 2
Fruits, Vegetables, Whole Grains, and Beans, Supplemented with LESS Processed Foods Upton’s Naturals, Sweet Earth Natural Foods, Trader Joe’s 3-grain tempeh Some from above, nutritional yeast, nut cheeses
Stage 3
Fruits, Vegetables, Whole Grains, and Beans, Supplemented with FEW to NO Processed Foods Tofu, Seitan, Tempeh, Miso paste, Mushrooms, Jackfruit, Lentils, Beans Nutritional yeast, homemade nut cheese, tofu ricotta, etc

*Not all Brands are strictly vegan

**There are more brands than shown here.


It is amazing to me how the senses, especially taste and smell, change with a diet change.  After just a few months of quitting meat and dairy, vegetables and fruits are more favorable.  Even plain tofu tastes good, which I commonly serve to our Little.  My husband and I were preparing a Beyond Meat burger the other day, and we were astonished by the resemblance of a beef patty.  Flashback to when we first quit meat and we would have been thrilled.  But, now the fake flesh was no longer appetizing.  The smell and the way it sizzled was also a perfect replica of a burger cooking.  Again, this would have been very enticing long ago, but now not so much.  Our bodies crave different foods and feel better when they receive what they were designed to digest.  I proudly support the mimicking fake meats, because they are great transitional foods.  There are certainly plenty of veteran vegans that also enjoy them- so well done Beyond Meat and Impossible Burger!


Hearty Chili

This is our go-to chili recipe.  We’ve modified it over the years and it just keeps getting better!  It is truly easy to cook, especially when using a crock-pot.  Just combine all the ingredients in either a pan on stove, stirring occasionally or in a slow cooker and let it simmer all day.  This spicy recipe is perfect for a cold rainy day, but it may be a bit too zippy for some.  I’d only recommend this chili for the older kids, since the intact beans are a choking hazard.  To include the Littles in this meal, simply offer the beans, lentils, and steamed bell pepper.  Mash the legumes for the younger Littles to prevent choking.  Also, be cautious about the shells that encase the garbanzo beans, as these can cause choking.  This chili freezes well, so it can be made in advance and stored for the perfect day!

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Raising Vegan tip- Check food labels for sodium levels and always try to buy the item with the lowest amount.

Ingredients:

1/2 chopped yellow onion

2 celery stalks chopped

2 chopped green bell peppers

1 1/2 tsp minced garlic (3 cloves)

4 oz can of chopped jalapeños Image result for chile vegetable

1 (4 oz) can of chopped green chiles (drained)

1 (15 oz) can of kidney beans, drained

1 (15 oz) can of black beans, drained

1 (15 oz) can of garbanzo beans, drained

1 (15 oz) can of whole kernel corn, drained

3 (28 oz) cans of crushed tomatoes

2 cups of cooked green lentils ***

1/4 cup chili powder

1 tbsp ground turmeric

1 tsp ground cumin

2 tbsp dried oregano

1 tbsp ground black pepper

2 crumbled bay leaves (no stems)

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker and let simmer for 4 to 6 hours.  If using a pot on stove-top, I recommend allowing it to simmer for ~ 2 hours, stirring occasionally.  Serve immediately.  Tastes great served with vegan sourdough toast.

***Optional lentil substitutes are browned vegan meat crumbles or jackfruit.  Since this is a SPICY chili, if you’d like to turn down the heat my suggestion is to use mild jalapeños or remove them entirely.

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