Social media sites like Instagram and Pinterest are making veganism more popular. And as it becomes more mainstream, “vegan friendly” options are increasingly available. Countries and restaurants that were traditionally “meat based” are trending towards plant based selections free of meat and dairy. This makes me happy! I’ve recently had several friends proudly prepare vegan dishes or want to come over for an “all vegan” meal. I am grateful for their enthusiasm.
But veganism is still new, and I’ve met curious people who want to learn more. This post addresses 10 frequently asked questions intended to help anyone who is thinking about becoming vegan or knows someone who already is.
First, it is important to define what is vegan? Some people think veganism is just a “diet” that excludes meat, fowl, fish, eggs, dairy and honey (why honey? Read here) but it’s more than that. According to the Vegan Society, it’s:
“A way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose”.
In other words, veganism is about practicing compassion through our daily decisions.
- Clothing, shoes and accessories made with leather, bone, fur or other animal products.
- Bath and beauty products tested on animals.
- Medicine derived from animals such as hormones made from horse urine or pill casings made from gelatin or lactose.
- Animal exploitation for entertainment like zoos, aquariums, elephant rides, horse and dog races etc.
Many find this list too restrictive – you mean I can’t wear my favorite boots??? No, but there are cute vegan leather boots available. I encourage people to see it as raising awareness. If you are going to swim with dolphins, consider their perspective. Are they being well cared for or exploited?
If the sheer taste of plant based food isn’t a good enough argument for going vegan then consider these others:
- It’s good for your spirit to practice compassion daily (it’s kinder to animals)
- It’s good for your health to eat more plant based whole foods
- It’s good for our planet since it conserves our resources
Being vegan hasn’t been the easiest path but it’s at the core of who I am. It affects how I eat, travel, and live. However, I’m not a “perfect vegan”. There are times I eat cheese and I have leather dining chairs around my table. Some folks will find this hypocritical while others will be relieved to know it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. To me, veganism is about awareness not perfectionism.
- What is the difference between vegan and vegetarian?
- What do vegans eat?
- How to vegans get protein?
- Are vegans also gluten free?
- I have a vegan coming to dinner, what should I serve them?
- Why would someone want a vegan diet?
- Do you miss eating meat?
- I’m curious to try a vegan diet, what’s the best way to start?
- Is veganism a good way to lose weight?
- What is the best thing about being vegan?
1. What is the difference between a vegan and vegetarian diet?
Imagine diets are on a spectrum:
On the left side are diets that include it all: meat, fowl, fish, eggs and dairy. This is most of the population.
In the middle, are the vegetarians who avoid meat, fowl and fish but eat eggs and dairy like omelets, pizza, lasagna, nachos, butter cookies etc.
On the right side are vegans who avoid meat, fowl, and fish but also avoid eggs, all dairy, and honey. Vegans eat vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, plant oils, grains, beans and legumes but don’t eat any animal products.
To the far right are raw vegans who believe that cooking food (above 118⁰) destroys its vital nutrients. A raw vegan diet includes raw vegetables and fruits, nuts and nut pastes, grain and legume sprouts, seeds, plant oils, sea vegetables, herbs, mushrooms, and fresh juices. Raw foodies juice daily, make incredible salads, raw desserts, nut based milks and cheeses. They use spiralizers, blenders and dehydrators to make a variety of highly nutritious and crave-worthy meals. Here are some inspiring raw vegans:
- Rawmazing – blogger with incredible raw vegan recipes.
- Fully Raw Kristina raw vlogger for many years, great information and inspiration on her utube channel.
- The 79 year old “Sexiest Vegan Ever” – fun video to watch for inspiration.
2. So, what DO vegans eat?
Cutting out what we typically see in the standard American diet leaves people wondering what vegans eat. Adopting a vegan mindset is not limiting at all. In fact, closing the door to animal products opens the door to a rainbow of plant based foods.
My diet always keeps me trying new recipes. My latest cravings are for “cauliflower rice” and the perfect trio of veges – asparagus, broccoli, and zucchini – prepared on a vegan friendly grill.
Pinterest and Instagram have thriving vegan communities and are wonderful resources for vegan recipes and inspiration. I’ve seen mouth-watering recipes like vegan mac and cheese, pizza, sushi, to decadent brownies and sublime chocolate hazelnut cake. With such variety, you won’t miss a thing!
3. How to vegans get protein?
This is one of the most common questions I (and all vegans) are asked. As Americans, we are taught that protein comes from meat. This information was naturally pushed by the meat industry’s agenda. And to this day, many people still believe that protein only comes from meat sources. If this were true, how would elephants, rhinos, horses, and hippos have such strength?
There are many plant based protein options. The best include:
- Seeds – pumpkin, chia, and hemp.
- Tofu and edamame
- Beans and legumes – black beans, lentils and chickpeas are excellent.
- Grains – oats, brown rice, and quinoa
- Leafy greens – spinach, kale, Swiss chard, broccoli sprouts, peas, Brussels sprouts
- Complete amino acid profiles come from combining foods like rice and beans or hummus and pita
For anyone who is skeptical I can say that my most recent blood tests show excellent protein and I’ve lived on plant based protein for over 26 years.
4. Are vegans gluten free?
Many people believe that if you are vegan you are automatically gluten free but this is not true. There is no relationship between veganism and avoiding gluten. People who have a wheat intolerance or Celiac disease avoid gluten because it causes them physical distress (digestive problems, bloating, sluggishness etc.) but these sufferers are not necessarily vegan.
Vegans are pretty easy to feed when you remind yourself how much they LOVE vegetables and don’t require anything fancy or complicated. And, vegans LOVE hummus which can be served as an appetizer or dolloped on salad for a heartier meal.
Here are a few simple ideas:
- Appetizer: Hummus and pita and/or crudités (carrots, red pepper and cucumber). Option 2: chips and guacamole or this 5 minute smoky salsa**some prepackaged guacamole use dairy fillers, so avoid these.
- Main Course: Romaine or red leaf lettuce salad with sliced avocado and a simple vinaigrette **bottled dressings may contain buttermilk or cheese so check the ingredients or make your own easy vinaigrette (whisk together olive oil, vinegar, mustard, a dash of maple syrup and tamari or salt).
Option 2: Quinoa only takes 15 minutes to prepare and can be used in a salad like this kale, pea and quinoa salad with tamari almonds. Or serve quinoa with these simple roasted Brussels sprouts.
- Dessert: keep it simple. Berries or cut fruit with a few raw cashews. Or if you are inspired to get fancy, these easy black bean brownies or my favorite trail mix cookies.
6. Why would someone want to be vegan?
People initiate a vegan diet for a different reasons but the 2 main ones are:
- Their unyielding compassion for animals. We love our pets and often have a soft spot for animals. When people hear how horribly animals are treated in factory farms they can’t help but feel a motherly compassion for these beings and naturally want to protect them.
- Their health (often prescribed by their doctor). Plant based diets are healthier since they tend to be rich in fiber, vitamins and nutrients. Major diseases like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes can be treated and sometimes reversed with a vegan or raw vegan diet. For more on this, see two of my favorite plant based devotees.
- Dr. Dean Ornish has written informative books on how changing your diet reverses heart disease.
- Kris Carr fought her cancer with juice and plants. She’s wonderful to watch if you are interested in food as medicine.
- More Earth friendly. Plant based diets protect our resources and planet. According to National Geographic, “Unless humans act now, seafood may disappear by 2048, concludes the lead author of a new study that paints a grim picture for ocean and human health”.
7. Do you miss eating meat?
No. I never miss meat and haven’t missed it in over 26 years.
8. I’m curious to try a vegan diet, what’s the best way to start?
I love when people are curious about the vegan diet and suggest they start gradually.
- Add one vegan meal a day to your diet
- Eat all vegan one day a week
- One week a month. Etc.
Adding more plant based meals will change you — so take notice. Do you feel lite and uplifted or weighed down and sluggish? It’s important to be aware of how food affects you.
For anyone who wants to jump right in, go for it! Make a commitment and try it for a month. See how you feel and remember: following a plant based should be fun, not a life sentence.
9. Is veganism a good way to lose weight?
Just like any diet, there is healthy vegan food and vegan junk food. Therefore, losing weight depends on what you eat and how much. Overall, you tend to eat more plants which is better for your health and weight management AND you are likely to cook more which can keep your weight down. But if you have an addiction to cashews (like me, for example) then you will have to practice discipline.
10. What is the best thing about being vegan?
For me the best thing is feeling healthy and reaping the benefits of having good eating habits as I get older. My body is very efficient and strong. It is rare for me to fall ill and I’ve only taken medication in the most dire of circumstances which is extremely rare. My body feels “clutter free”. Free of the “extra stuff” it doesn’t need and desirous of healthy essentials it craves.
I hope this list answers some basic questions but I’d love to address any I’ve overlooked. And “no” my cat isn’t vegan 🙂