Thursday, July 29, 2010

So.. wait... what DO you eat??

I get this question all the time when people find out I'm vegetarian, even more often when I'm attempting to be vegan. In case you aren't sure what the difference is, I will take a moment to try and explain. It isn't cut and clear what qualifies as vegetarian versus vegan; ask one person and you may get a different answer than you would from another. For me, being vegetarian means eating no meat (and yes, that includes seafood). So dairy products, eggs, and honey are fair game. When I'm vegan, all animal products are off limits. No meat, eggs, dairy products (cheese, milk, yogurt, sour cream, ice cream, etc.), honey, or gelatin. Also, whey and casein are both animal proteins so I stay away from them. To me, beingvegan is not just a diet, it is a lifestyle. I refuse to buy items made from an animal product (ivory, pearl, leather, silk, fur, feathers...). Unfortunately, there are so many different animal products and byproducts that it's really difficult for me to make sure I do not buy something made with one. This is when I remind myself that I just need to do the best I can and it will make a difference. I tend to float somewhere between vegan and vegetarian.

Okay, so what DO I eat? Lots of really good stuff! A good vegan diet will be well balanced and varied to ensure you get the nutrients you need.

Protein will come from:
- legumes (soy, black, kidney, pinto, lentils...)
- soy products (tofu, tempeh, milk, yogurt, cheese)
- seitan
- nuts and nut butters
- whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, barley, buckwheat, oats...)
- veggies (greens have the most typically)

Iron will come from:
- soy products (beans, tofu, tempeh)
- legumes (lentils, lima beans)
- quinoa
- greens (swiss chard, spinach)
- enriched vegan breads, cereals, pastas
*Plant derived iron is not as easily absorbed as animal derived iron. Vitamin C helps us absorb the iron found in a plant based diet. A few sources of vitamin C include tomatoes, papaya, bell peppers, broccoli, cabbage, strawberries, and citrus fruits.

Calcium will come from:
- greens (bok choy, collards, spinach)
- whole grains
- beans
- broccoli

Fiber will come from:
- whole grains
- legumes
- nuts and seeds
- fruits
- veggies

B12 will come from:
- fortified foods or supplements
* Vitamin B12 is essential for our health. Unfortun
ately, animal products are the only food proven to naturally have it. Because of this, some vegan foods have been fortified with it and B complex vitamins can be easily found. I take a supplement every day.

I am not picky when it comes to food. I have been known to cook a big pot of brown rice and black beans and eat it at least once a day for a few days. I will add some steamed vegetable on the side. I snack on raw nuts throughout the day and throw an apple in there at some point. Because I work nights, I don't tend to eat breakfast foods in the morning or lunch/dinner foods later in the day. I eat whatever sounds good no matter the time of day. I try to eat "the colors of the rainbow." The different colors of fruits and veggies have different nutrients... so eat them all! I always have a vegan snack bar with me too (currently, it's Treo).

I may not have the most exciting diet but it was just as boring when I ate meat. It is definitely possible to have amazingly delicious vegan foods!


  1. So true! Vegan foods can be just as delicious. I went to a vegan restaurant out in Cali called 108 degrees and I had a burrito and the tortilla and insides were all made out of veggies. It was great.

  2. You look like you're very bright and well-informed and you definitely are entering into veganism with an open and intelligent mind. I look forward to learning more about you through your blog!

    Thanks for your kind words on my blog today. They really made my day! =) I'm going to add you to my blog roll, and I really do look forward to your future posts. :D