When it comes to special diets, veganism inspires many questions: What is it? What can and can't you eat? Why choose a vegan diet?
A vegan diet is one that excludes animal products (meat, seafood, eggs, dairy, and sometimes honey). Many vegans choose toiletries and cosmetic products that do not contain animal products and were not tested on animals, and also avoid clothing produced from animals.
Veganism may seem like an easy transition or a radical change, depending on your current diet. But by approaching it as an opportunity to explore new foods and enrich your current recipe repertoire, rather than a restrictive diet, veganism can be a healthy and gratifying lifestyle choice.
Many people are surprised to discover that there are plenty of vegan foods they enjoy and eat regularly (think breakfast cereals, crackers, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pasta, guacamole, bean chili, lentil soup, fruits, veggies...the list goes on and on). If you're ready to dig deeper into a vegan diet, here are a few tips:
- Take some time to browse the aisles of your food co-op for vegan alternatives to your standard purchases, like mayonnaise and dressings, cereals and chocolate chips. Read labels, which by law must clearly indicate if an item contains milk products. Also look for vegan entrees, snacks, breads, and desserts at the deli and bakery counters.
- Check out the ethnic aisles at your co-op. (Ethnic cuisines are often a good choice for their reliance on plant foods.) Good options include Indian curries and dal, Middle Eastern hummus and tabouli, African flat bread and lentils, and Thai vegetable curries.
- For inspiration, solid advice and dependable recipes, check the bookshelves of your food co-op for publications about vegan health and cooking. And be sure to check out our many vegan recipes.
- Variety is key. Instead of subsisting on a limited list of vegan staples, choose from a range of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes when you shop at the co-op. Take care to incorporate soyfoods and other meat substitutes into your diet for extra protein, and up your intake of calcium, iron, and vitamins B and D by making your menus diverse.
- Don’t be afraid to experiment. You may be surprised at how well your favorite cookie recipe works with an egg substitute, or how many varieties of veggie burgers you can make (or buy).
Have you ever tried eating vegan? What’s the hardest part? The best part?