Wanna hear a joke about becoming a vegan? I promise it won’t be cheesy. (ba-dum-tsh)
Okay, bad jokes aside. Let’s dive into the details of the vegan lifestyle.
You probably already know the kinds of foods vegans don’t eat. Foods like red meat, poultry, fish, milk, eggs, and dairy products are the ones they avoid. You knew that already.
But veganism is not just a diet. It’s a lifestyle.
Vegans don’t just avoid animal foods, they avoid all animal products. That means no leather, no wool, no honey, no wax candles, and no products made from animal testing.
But if you ask a vegan what makes them different from other plant-based eaters, they don’t always talk about what they oppose. Instead, they talk about what they support.
Vegans whole-heartedly support the protection of animals. They want to save the environment. They care about their health. They know their choices make a difference in the world. And they want that world to be a better place for themselves and for you too. They’re action-takers and world-shakers. They are, quite frankly, amazing.
Marissa Ferris Rodriguez, of Austin, TX, has been a vegan for nearly a decade. She says, “The best part of being vegan is knowing that every day I’m making conscious choices to put animals, my health, and the environment first.”
Come on, how amazing is that?
Okay, so you know what foods vegans don’t eat. But what do their meals actually look like? And how do you make a meal without meat, eggs, and cheese?
Realistically, all people eat vegan foods.
Do you like salsa and chips? Peanut butter? French fries? Fruit? Bread? Yeah, you probably do. And the list could go on and on with the foods you already like that are vegan-friendly.
When planning meals, vegans put plants first. That means they center their meals around fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. They don’t eat meat, but that doesn’t mean they go around hungry.
There are lots of plant-based proteins that will give your body exactly what it needs to live and thrive. Foods like black beans, lentils, chickpeas, and quinoa are packed with healthy proteins and lots of other essentials for proper nutrition. And unlike red meat, they aren’t full of saturated fats.
While vegans typically eat healthy, whole foods, that doesn’t mean they aren’t up for tasty treats from time to time.
There are some surprisingly vegan snack foods like Oreos, Twizzlers, Sour Patch Kids, and Lay’s potato chips.
If you’re new to veganism, always check the ingredients and packaging. Because some seemingly plant-based foods actually contain animal products.
- White sugar is filtered with bone char.
- Tortillas are sometimes made with animal lard.
- Red food coloring often contains carmine, which is made of crushed up insects. (Um…gross.)
- Gummy bears are made with gelatin, which is made by boiling animals’ bones, cartilage, and other body parts. (Ignorance was bliss, wasn’t it?)
If you’re on the fence about becoming a vegan, check out these pretty stellar perks. Vegan, vegetarian, and other plant-based diets can help with:
- Weight loss or weight management
- Lowering your blood pressure
- Decreasing your chance of developing heart disease
- Lowering your risk of getting certain types of cancer
- Controlling yourblood sugar levels
- Decreasing your risk of chronic illnesses, like Type 2 diabetes.
If you’re looking for some mealtime inspiration, check out these delicious recipes and plant-based products.
- Vegan Taco Stuffed Peppers
- Loma Linda Lemon Pepper Canapes
- Eggless Vegan Peanut Butter Cookies;
- Pepperoneat Pizza Bagels
- Tuno’s Thai Sweet Chili
- Vegan Doughnuts
My grandpa was confused when he saw my husband eating a chocolate chip cookie at Thanksgiving. He laughed and said, “I thought you were a vegetarian! That’s not a vegetable!”
That’s true, Grandpa. Cookies are not vegetables.
But it turns out, cookies are acceptable snacks for some types of vegetarians.Did you know there were different types of vegetarian diets? Check out the differences:
Lacto-vegetarians eliminate meat, fish, poultry and eggs, but they do allow dairy products. Lacto-vegetarians wouldn’t have eaten that cookie at Thanksgiving because it was made with eggs.
Ovo-vegetarianseliminate meat, fish, poultry, milk and other dairy products, but they do allow eggs. Ovo-vegetarians wouldn’t have eaten the cookie at Thanksgiving because the chocolate chips were made with milk chocolate.
Lacto-ovo-vegetarians eliminate meat, poultry, fish and seafood, but they do eat eggs and consume dairy products. Good news, Grandpa! Chocolate chip cookies are free-game for lacto-ovo-vegetarians. (Instead of explaining what a lacto-ovo-vegetarian was, my husband just said he’s a cookie-eating vegetarian.)
Flexitarians (or semi-vegetarians) eat mostly plants, but animal products are not completely off the table. As the name suggests, they have more flexibility in their diet. They can eat eggs, meat, dairy, and other animal products in moderation. Semi-vegetarians are not held to strict rules regarding their food, but they believe in the benefits of plant-based diets. And you better believe flexitarians have the freedom to eat those cookies at Thanksgiving.
Regardless of the type of vegetarian you are and whether you consume dairy and eggs or not, your goal is to eat as many healthy, whole foods as possible. That means you load up on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
If you’re looking for easy, meat-free dishes, check out these yummy recipes and ready-to-go meals:
- Loma Linda’s Greek Bowl
- Loma Linda’s Ultimate Chili
- Crunch Wrap with Loma Linda Taco Filling
- Fruit and Nut Energy Bars
- Kaffree Roma Mocha Salted Caramel Latte
“Pesc” comes from the Latin root for “fish”. So, pescatarians are plant-based eaters that eat fish and seafood, like crabs, lobster, clams, mussels, and shrimp.
Because pescatarians eat meat (fish), they’re not considered vegetarians. However, the rest of their diet is similar to other plant-based eaters because they avoid red meat and poultry. Like some types of vegetarians, they may also eat eggs, milk, and dairy products. What sets them apart from a vegetarian diet is their consumption of fish.
One huge perk of this diet is that fish is high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for brain health and heart health. Vegetarians and vegans sometimes take a supplement of Omega-3s to ensure they’re getting enough. But pescatarians don’t have to worry about that.
If you’re considering becoming a pescatarian, try to buy wild-caught instead of farm-raised fish. Wild-caught fish is found in its natural habitat—oceans, rivers, lakes, etc. Farm-raised fish are grown in tanks.
You probably won’t be able to see or taste a difference, but nutritionally, the two are very different. Farm-raised fish often have higher levels of contaminants and saturated fats. In some cases, wild-caught fish can be more expensive, but they’re worth the price.
If you’re craving the taste of fish, but want to stick to a vegetarian or vegan diet, check out these foods from Tuno, a plant-based alternative to fish:
There are perks to all types of plant-based diets. So if you’re still on the fence about whether a vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, or other plant-based diet is best for you, pick one and try it out. Or try Meatless Monday and eat totally plant-based for one day each week. Little choices you make today will add up over time.
Regardless of which meat-free meal plan you choose, remember that a varied diet is important, so you can get all of the essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients for your health and well-being.
Before you make major changes to your diet, be sure to get professional, medical advice about your specific needs.