January is the time many of us reflect on the previous year and think about what we can do better in the new one. Should we exercise more, reduce screen time, or go on a diet? What about going vegan? Meaning no meat, fish, dairy or honey. Or pescatarian, a diet that includes fish, eggs and dairy? Or simply vegetarian, meaning no meat or fish?
Life as an Omnivore
I don’t eat much meat; I learned living in Europe on a shoestring budget to appreciate the delicious, fresh, and ever-changing bounty of fruits and vegetables. I had already enjoyed nuts and seeds and whole grains and tofu having had a nutrition major as a roommate in college. Currently my diet is Mediterranean-inspired and plant-based. Still, because I occasionally eat meat or fish, often eat eggs, have milk with my coffee and of course eat cheese, I am considered an omnivore.
The Skinny on Veganism
After reading through a new book by young British author Kate Shuler, How to Go Vegan, I decided to join Veganuary, a UK-based charity which encourages folks to try vegan for the month of January or throughout the year. Shuler’s book is a straightforward, non-preachy and very practical guide to this process. She doesn’t mince words. There is a somewhat gruesome section on what happens to farmed animals and fish, including those used in the dairy and egg industry which I was shocked to read about, but she gives you plenty of warning, and encourages you to take a break if needed, which I did.
The Lowdown on Finding Vegan-appropriate Foods
To begin with, I refrained from meat for three days. I still ate cheese, drank milk, and ate an egg or two. Then I purchased some ground turkey, a go to for high protein low fat meal. As I was eating it, something felt different. I guess I had pangs of guilt. Suddenly I didn’t like the taste of it. I had, like so many others, fallen off the wagon.
I bought tofu, my old stand-by, but it was so mushy inside as I had forgotten how to get the texture to become chewy. As I sipped my cappuccino, I read about all the plant-based milks and recalled a recent unsweetened almond milk latte which was really delicious. I already eat a lot of beans, with edamame/chickpea hummus pretty much a staple, along with snacks of sunflower, almond, walnut and sunflower seeds. I add flaxseed to my oats. And I do love most vegetables. But what about Spaghetti Bolognese? Osso Bucco? Fried Chicken? Honey? Pasta in squid ink? Pizza? And chocolate? What?
Okay, now there was trouble in paradise. I have tried vegan “cheese” and vegan “sausage” and vegan “burgers” before and didn’t care for them. But, that was years ago. Apparently these things have improved. Shuler suggests using lentils instead of ground beef, and looking to tempeh and seitan for a toothsome protein. She covers the angles of budget. family dinners, eating out and traveling as well as providing two week-long meal plans, and, of course, lots of simple recipes. I love how she keeps things so down to earth and approachable.
I may never become fully vegan, but I have a new appreciation for them and everything they are doing for the animals and for the planet. Excuse me but I have to go peruse their list of Vegan wines now.