You’re doing it already… You just don’t know it. Or maybe you do but don’t quite appreciate how often you are making a beneficial food choice for yourself. Here are 4 sneaky ways veganism is actually a part of your eating routine.
While some see the choice of being vegan as a dietary fad, or even a craze, veganism is practiced widely around the world and in almost all cultures.
While some make the choice of veganism out of conscience, some do it for health reasons, religious reasons, cultural influences, or economic conditions, there is almost no one who doesn’t partake of a vegan diet in one way or another.
Among those who enjoy an omnivorous diet, rich in meats and animal products, there are people who have a knee-jerk reaction to the idea of a purely plant-based dinner plate. There are intuitive and instinctive objections that a diet devoid of meat is less healthy, less hearty, less enjoyable, and just plain unnatural.
We aren’t rabbits, after all. We are the descendants of hunter-gatherers. We tamed fire principally for the purpose of roasting meat from animals to make it easier and safer to consume. The fossil record is rich with the artifacts of spear tips and arrowheads, used to bring down big game, and flint and obsidian knives used to skin and breakdown our catches. Rafts and boats were developed to chase fish as well as expand our trade. King’s feasts are recorded to be meat-rich extravaganzas to celebrate victories and marriages. Native Americans survived on dried pemmican through hard winters when not a green leaf of any kind could be found.
The arguments against a return to a diet solely based on plants are numerous, but many have long ago been dismissed by scientific research.
- There just can’t be the same nutrition in a bowl of leafy greens as there is in a side of grilled steak (there are several examples where plants outstrip beef in protein content).
- The human body needs nutrients it can only find in meat (this is argument has been well-disproved because all the nutrients from animal consumption can be easily made up for in a vegan diet – with the debatable exception of vitamin B-12, available as a vegan supplement)
- Humans evolved to eat meat. It is in our DNA (The path of human evolution is far from complete. There is evidence that consuming meat led to larger brains, faster growth, cooperative behaviors, and smaller guts. But there is a lot of proof that even when humans were hunter-gatherers, their diets still consisted primarily of nuts, seeds, fruits, grasses and vegetables. Meat was an addition, not the main course.)
- Food without meat is just salad (this ignores the huge range of foods that are eaten around the world that don’t rely on lettuce).
That last one brings me to the point of this article. As a chef I work everyday to find ways to bring out the color, aroma, and flavor of all foods. I cook with meat, vegetables, fruits and fungi.
I don’t have an aversion to meat except that I believe it occupies way too much of our culinary diet. There is also a cultural bias that a meal without meat is somehow lacking or unfulfilling.
I eat meat aplenty. I eat pescatarian. I eat a vegetarian diet often. And I eat a vegan diet more often that I consciously intend to.
And you probably do, too.
Vegan foods are not just tubs of iceberg lettuce with some unseasoned tomatoes thrown in. A great deal of food products are made with only plant-based ingredients. You don’t have to be a vegan to enjoy these foods, either. Chances are, you are already eating them.
4 Ways You Are Already A Vegan (And Didn’t Even Know It)
Pastas: Before you add ground beef to marinara, you’ve got a vegan alternative. Most pasta, both traditional recipes and boxed, are vegan. They contain semolina flour, salt, and water. The gluten binding holds the flour together once the water is added. Some pastas are made with eggs, but around the world preparing pasta from flour is the norm.
And there’s no debate that pasta is both hearty and filling. And there are more varieties of pasta commonly available than ever before. Whole wheat, gluten-free, and pasta flavored with other vegan ingredients like cracked black pepper, spinach, or sun dried tomato are easy to prepare and delicious to consume, even with the ground beef or grilled chicken left off. Worried you’ll miss the meat? Try adding grilled eggplant, or Martha Stewart’s Lentil, Rice and Portabella Meatballs for a savory change that’s good for you and satisfying too.
Nothing beats easy home-made pasta. Check out this quick recipe from Veganosity and think about how you would compliment this staple starch with garlic-basil tomato sauce and a pan full of roasted vegetables!
Eating Out: Think your local takeaway only has greasy burgers and fried chicken? Think again. Many fast food restaurants have “unintentionally vegan” food.
- A lot of breakfast food is vegan, including hashbrowns, grits (when made with just water and salt, and minus the butter on top), oatmeal (minus any honey add on), and a range of fruit and/or vegetable smoothies. Chick-fil-A’s waffle fries go great with eggs and bacon, and if you order them, your eating a vegan dish (even when you dip them in ketchup).
- At lunch time, your favorite restaurants and drive thrus have vegan options on the menu regularly. Almost any vegetable soup that isn’t cream or cheese based is going to be vegan, so when you get a bowl of black bean soup minus the sour cream, your eating vegan.
- Those tortilla chips and salsa you munch on before ordering a sizzling fajita entree? Vegan (in fact, you can just order a vegetable fajita and voila!: vegan). Chipotle Mexican Grill Sofritas can all be ordered as a vegan dish, substituting meat for sofrita.
- The sides dishes offered to you along with your steak or shrimp or chicken count as vegan, in their natural state. Most restaurants keep the cooking of vegetables simple by sauteing in olive oil and using spices rather than salt to flavor. Vegetable side dishes range from broccoli and beans to sweet potatoes and french fries: giving you many ways to eat vegan without thinking about it. A baked potato dressed with salsa – hold the cheese, sour cream, bacon, and butter – is both better for your waistline… and vegan.
Snacks: They’re sweet, they’re sugary, they’re plant-based. A great deal of our most famous snacks are surprisingly meat-free. Surprisingly only because we never even really stopped to think about it. While veganism is often associated with healthy eating, let’s be clear: You can eat vegan and eat bad. You can eat meat and eat bad. But not every vegan choice has to be bad, you’ve just been eating vegan without being aware of it, most likely.
- Most chips (except the “cheese flavored” ones) are nothing but potatoes or corn, the vegetable oil they’re fried in, and the seasoning and additives they’re spiced with. Pretzels are vegan, and so are graham crackers.. Which kinda makes s’mores vegan, under the right circumstances. Check out Fresh Off The Grid’s take on building a vegan s’more.
- Most candy that isn’t milk chocolate (dark chocolate is vegan) like Smarties, Oreos, and Swedish Fish are vegan.
- Ritz crackers are vegan, and so is peanut butter if you’re looking to make a protein-rich snack to hold you over until you get some quinoa (or ribs).
- Movie theater popcorn you get by the bucket? Vegan. Cooked in coconut oil from a special variety of corn, it is a centuries-old vegan snack. Even the butter used for butter is not butter; just flavored oil (there is some debate on whether the salt used to season the popcorn might contain dairy. If you’re concerned, just ask). Oh, and that 32 ounce container with 24 ounces of ice and 12 ounces of Coca Cola? Vegan.
Adult Beverages: Yep, when you toss back a cool beer or sip on a barrel aged whiskey or blend up a margarita, you’re going vegan. Alcohol is exclusively derived from plant sugars and unless your beer includes some animal-based additives such as egg stabilizers, you and your wheat grass-juicing buddy have some common ground to meet on.
While beers do go great with grilled meats and spicy wings, they are also a tasty compliment to chips and dips (vegan) and mustard smeared over soft-dough pretzels (vegan). And no one would think of inserting a spiced chicken satay into a perfectly dry martini. Load up the fruits in a daiquiri or the vegetables in a Bloody Mary, and you’ll get a lot of kick for your vegan content. Check out my version of The Dogwood, a great spring sipping cocktail – guaranteed to be vegan!
If your are a wine lover, then its a question of process over ingredients. Wine in and of itself is fermented grapes, but the “finning” process used to clarify the crushed, musty juice often contains animal by-products such as gelatin, casein, and egg whites. Regardless, if you’ve been tipping a chardonnay, even over a platter of prosciutto and smoked salmon, you’ve gone a little bit vegan.
So don’t panic the next time you are presented with a salad full of leafy greens and colorful vegetables. Eating vegan is much easier than your reflexive meat-eating instinct says it is. You’ve already been doing it, after all.