How many times have you heard these questions:
What is a vegan?
What do you eat?
Why don’t you eat (fill in the blank)?
As a healthy, happy, well-fed vegan gal, I have been asked those questions, more times than
I can remember.
On the most basic level, a vegan is a person who does not use any form of animal products.
There are two major classifications of vegans: ethical vegans and dietary vegans.
Ethical vegans eliminate the use of all animal products, whether it is for food, clothing, shoes,
On the other hand, dietary vegans eliminate animal products from their diet only.
“At the heart of veganism is the core principle
that animals are not ours to be used.
It’s essentially about respecting other animals,
not causing them harm or using them as property.”
The term ‘vegan’ was coined by Donald Watson, co-founder of the British Vegan Society in 1944.
The society used the term to identify them as the ‘non-dairy vegetarians. In 1951, the definition of the term
was extended to mean ‘without animal exploitation’. Thus, the term ‘vegan’ was formed.
Vegan Lifestyle Basics
According to the Guide to Vegan Living, the day-to-day basics of vegan living involve:
#1• Eating food made exclusively from non-animal ingredients.
#2• Wearing clothes which are not made from animals.
#3• Using cosmetics and household products which do not contain animal
ingredients and are not tested on animals.
#4• Not supporting the use of animals for other purposes, for example horse racing .
What Do Vegans Actually Eat?
Most people who are not familiar with the gustatory pleasures of the vegan diet, are surprised
when they learn about the kinds of foods vegans eat.
Both dietary and ethical vegans eat only a plant-based diet.
This diet consists mainly of vegetables, beans, fruits, grains, legumes, soy and nuts.
(Note that the pros and cons of soy consumption are controversial and therefore soy may not be
right for all vegans, however with so many other vegan protein choices available, this does not
really present a problem.)
We’ll explore issues surrounding soy consumption in more detail in future posts.
As with any diet, planning and preparation are key to success.
Well-planned, balanced vegan diets support good health and provide protection against many
diseases, including some of the nation’s biggest threats: heart disease, cancer, and strokes.
Balanced vegan diets provide all the nutrients we need,
minus all the saturated fat, cholesterol,
and contaminants found in animal flesh, eggs, and dairy foods.
Research confirms that vegetarians have stronger
immune systems than meat-eaters making them
less susceptible to common illnesses
such as colds and flu.
Many people think vegans have to give up eating great tasting food, but that notion is wrong.
Vegans eat all kinds of delicious food, as long as it is free of animal products.
In order for food to be strictly vegan, it simply needs to adhere to certain criteria.
It is important to note that there are a lot of ‘hidden non-vegan ingredients’ in foods.
These are particularly crucial to watch out for if you strive to maintain a vegan diet.
But Where Do Vegans Get Protein?
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard this question uttered by family and friends.
Vegans do not eat any animal products, even if it is non-meat such as milk and eggs.
But there are numerous vegan protein sources available.
Most vegan foods contain some protein, however good sources of non-animal protein include
soy-based products (tofu, tempeh, soy milk, etc.), legumes, nuts, seeds, food yeasts,
and freshwater algae.
Three of my most satisfying and nutritious vegan dishes are Curried Lentil Mushroom Soup,
Quinoa, one of my favorite foods, is an excellent protein source.
You’d be surprised how much protein vegan foods contain, for example, kidney beans
are a whopping 58% protein, kale-26%, lettuce-36%, mushrooms-56%, and mustard
greens are 41%, to name a few.
I tend to be a creature of habit, so I have a few healthy vegan dishes that I make
quite often including hearty bean and vegetable soups, my super-salads, a variety of
vegetable dishes, fruits and green smoothies.
For those who crave a meaty taste, there are vegan alternatives to almost every animal food
that you can think of–from soy sausages and “fib ribs” to phony bologna, Tofurky jerky, and
(I’m not really fond of fake meats personally, but the point is that there are a variety of
vegan meat substitutes to choose from.)
• Vegans don’t eat animal products or by-products of animal products.
• They also don’t consume things like milk and eggs.
• True vegans also don’t eat fish.
• Don’t forget that bees are an animal so vegans also can’t eat honey, royal jelly,
and bee pollen supplements.
• There are also plenty of hidden ingredients to look out for that tend to make their way
into food including gelatin, lard, and whey.
Go Vegan in Three Simple Steps
If you are a new vegan, making all of these changes may seem overwhelming.
But, after you’ve been eating and cooking the vegan way for a while, you’ll be an old pro.
There are lots of vegan resources available to guide you on your journey.
For example, with PETA’s How to go Vegan Guide, making the initial transition to
veganism is as easy as one, two, three!
See how easy it can be to go vegan?
Cook Up FREE Vegan Recipes from PETA.org
Don’t know what to cook today? Help is on the way.
From delicious vegan recipes to recommendations for vegan products, vegan cookbooks
and an online shopping guide, PETA is one of many valuable resources for the basic information
you need to adopt a healthy and humane vegan diet!
What do you have a taste for?
Browse PETA’s online vegan recipe resource and cook something good today.
Proper menu planning is always a challenge with new diets. PETA provides sample
vegan menus for two weeks and a vegan baking “cheat sheet”, which I have found
There’s no doubt that a vegetarian diet, particularly a vegan one, can be great for your health.
With the proliferation of health food stores, vegan dinner clubs, vegan restaurants, vegan cookbooks,
cooking classes, websites and blogs, it’s easier than ever to enjoy a satisfying vegan diet and lifestyle.
And after you’ve been eating and cooking the vegan way for a while, you’ll feel like an old pro.
Are you vegan or are you thinking about making the transition to veganism? Share your tips and suggestions with us.
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