Sunday, January 15, 2012

For all the meat-loving skeptics: Answering a common question/misconception.

Here is my first blog post about some common questions, comments, or misconceptions I get all the time when people find out that I eat a Vegan diet.

The most common response I hear when I say I'm vegan (or even if I just say I don't eat meat) is "Well what in the world DO you eat??".  My initial reaction is "A hell of a lot more of a variety than you do, you uneducated bastard!", but I refrain (usually, ha).  My second reaction is to want to list the tons of things that I do eat, and how you plan a meal eating a plant based diet.  Then, I will explain how anyone, even meat lovers/vegetable haters, can adopt this diet, or even adopt SOME plant based meals in their weekly menu.

First, here is a list of things I can (and do) eat.  I am positive I have not listed everything here.  This list is either things I eat on a regular basis or common foods that most people eat and know:

Grains/carbs:  Rice (white, brown, and wild), pasta, quinoa, bulgar, couscous, oats, barley, wheatberry, spelt, amarynth, udon noodles, rice noodles, corn meal, wheat/white/almond/etc. flour, oat bran, flax, orzo, polenta

Beans/legumes:  Black beans, white (great northern) beans, pinto beans (chili beans), black eyed peas, lima beans, kidney beans, butter beans, garbanzo beans, chickpeas, split peas, lentils (red, green, black), fava, cranberry, millet, navy, soy beans, popcorn

Nuts (fats):  peanuts, sunflower seeds, almonds, pistachios, pine nuts, brazil nuts, cashews, chestnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts, pumpkin seeds (pepitas), soy nuts

Vegetables:  Tomato, cucumber, broccoli, cauliflower, carrot, peas, corn, spinach, lettuce (red leaf, green leaf, bibb, romaine), kale, collard greens, mustard greens, dandelion greens, endive, cabbage, beets, artichoke, eggplant, fennel, peppers (green, red, yellow), onion, radish, pumpkin, sweet potato, yam, red potato, baked potato, zucchini, yellow squash, spaghetti squash, butternut squash, acorn squash, tomatillo, avocado, water chestnuts, celery, bean sprouts, mushrooms (button, shitaki, oyster, portobello, crimini), yucca, plantains, leeks, olives

Fruits:  Apple, banana, strawberry, blueberry, blackberry, raspberry, mango, papaya, pear, pomegranate, watermelon, kiwi, starfruit, cantaloupe, orange, grapefruit, pineapple, cherry, grape, persimmon, peach, passionfruit, rhubarb, cranberry, coconut, currants, prunes, figs, apricot, dates

Herbs:  Basil, cilantro, italian parsley, dill, mint, oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage, lavender, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, nutmeg, tarragon, tumeric, anise, arrowroot, bay leaf, cardamon, caraway, celery seed, chiles, chipotle. chives, coriander, cloves, marjoram, mace, mustard seed, juniper berries, paprika, salt, black pepper, white pepper, red pepper, poppy seed, saffron, vanilla

This is probably about 1/3 of the vegetables, fruits, etc. that are actually available out there.  These are just the ones that I could come up with that are readily available or that I have had since I've stopped eating meat.  Now, how do you take all of this and come up with a meal?  Usually I try to take at least 1 item from each category I have listed and put it together for a meal.  As you can see you have an endless number of options if you mix and match.

There are also numerous products to substitute your favorite meat or dairy product out there.  Afraid you can't live without hamburgers?  There are over a dozen different brands out there of veggie burgers available at most grocery stores.  Even restaurants such as Chili's or Red Robin offer a meatless option of your favorite burger.  Love a cold glass of milk?  There is soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk, rice milk, hazelnut milk, the list goes on.  They offer it in vanilla, chocolate, etc. flavors, or just plain for if you are substituting it in a recipe for regular milk.  They even have dairy free egg nog and ice cream varieties.  Can't live without that hot dog or polish sausage, or love spaghetti with meat balls?  There are multiple varieties of each out there.  AND, since those are processed meat products, many of the meatless varieties are more flavorful than the meat version!  If you look at the ingredients you will find that the meat version has more fillers and less meat than you actually think it does anyway.  Not to mention you can actually pronounce the ingredients of the meatless varieties!

One of the comments I hear most often is "But I just don't like vegetables".  Growing up as a super picky eater I can understand where someone would think that.  However, most people have tried a handful of the most common vegetables in 1 or 2 ways, then gave up and came to this conclusion.  There are over a dozen ways to cook each vegetable out there, not to mention combining them together or with other things.  That's thousands of flavors, textures, etc.  That's like trying a hamburger and coming to the conclusion that you don't like any meat.  Don't like mushy vegetables?  Use fresh or frozen instead of canned and just barely cook them until they are slightly firm.  Don't like the flavor?  Add them to your favorite pasta sauce diced up small so it absorbs the flavors of the sauce.

One last thing:  Think you could NEVER eat a meal without meat, or eat anything that's "vegan"?  Here are some foods you may be surprised that are actually vegan, or don't think about being vegan:
Potato chips, Oreos, Teddy Grahams, parmesan cheese and many Italian restaurants, most bacon bits at restaurants and that most people buy, Nutter Butters, PB&J sandwich, tomato soup, many pasta brands, crackers, french fries, wine and beer, chips and salsa, many breads and buns, twizzlers, non-dairy creamers, Frito's, Little Caesar's Crazy Bread (without the parmesan cheese), soft pretzels, Cracker Jacks, ginger snaps, dark chocolate bars (most brands), onion rings, unfrosted Pop Tarts, tortillas and taco shells, bubble gum, onion rings, steak sauce, most non-creamy salad dressings, taco seasoning, Hershey's syrup, marinara/pizza sauce, Bisquick, cooking sprays, Jello-O instant pudding mix, Blue Bonnet Light Margarine.

There are of course others out there, like specific cereals, mixes, drinks, etc. that are as well.  But see how easy it is to find items that are meat and dairy free?

Ever had oatmeal for breakfast?  Tomato soup with a PB sandwich for lunch?  Spaghetti and marinara sauce for dinner?  You just had a vegan day!  :-)

I challenge everyone to try one new meatless food or vegetable a week.  Add one healthier food a week and you'll be on your way to eating a healthier diet in just a few months!  You will be surprised at what foods you never knew you would like!  I know I have been.  I am still adding new foods and recipes every week.  It has made eating and planning meals exciting again.  And every meal I eat I know I am doing something healthy for myself as well as animals.  And that feeling can't be surpassed!

"Life is about what you do, not what you don't do.  It's about going without so someone can have.  And most of all it's about giving until it hurts, because in the end you know it will hurt more to know you could have but didn't."
I saw this quote at the end of a video from a NYC animal shelter showing "before and after" pics of when cats came to the shelter sick and scared, and after they were adopted and healthy and happy.  That quote is why I do what I do.  Why I have tried to be an animal advocate for most of my teenage and adult life.  And...why I stopped eating meat.  I speak for animals, because they do not have their own voice to speak for themselves.

1 comment:

  1. My school has opened me to trying more new dishes than I could have thought of. This past week I tried an amazing Vegan "Churizo" Rolled Taco Salad. Sooooo good.