Today marks day four of my Vegan Challenge. I was prompted to eat a vegan diet based on a UN study released last week. The report found evidence that a global diet shift away from animal products is needed to help prevent resource depletion and alleviate world hunger. The report said agriculture accounts for 70 percent of our global freshwater consumption, 38 percent of the total land use, and 14 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, more than half of the world’s crops are used to feed animals, not people. So, I’m going vegan for two weeks to reduce my environmental footprint, and to prove to others that it’s not so hard.
My updates thus far have been more about my motivations for the diet than what I’ve actually been eating, so I’m going to try to share my meal choices with you.
So far, I’ve found some delicious vegan ice cream that I LOVE. It’s called Luna and Larry’s Naked Coconut. I’m also learning the joys of tofu, although I’m still learning its different uses. One challenge is maintaining a balanced diet. It’s easy to find one thing you like and stick with it. A friend of mine from college went vegan my freshman year, and for the first week all she knew how to make was vegan chocolate cake, and so she did. I’m finding similar problems with this coconut ice cream and some vegan gingersnaps.
I’m discovering that there are two ways to execute a vegan diet: You can either eat only those foods that are prepared vegan-ready, or you can learn to make meals for yourself by reworking ingredients, experimenting with recipes and learning about the food you’re preparing. Personally, I like the second option. I think tomorrow I will invest in a good vegan cookbook, something I probably should have done from the start. I’ve been relying on Google.
Most mornings I start with oatmeal and some fruit, like an apple. I add soy milk or (one of my new favorites) almond milk to sweeten. Other days I have some Kashi cereal. Tonight for dinner I sauteed some tofu, onions, red bell peppers and garlic. I’ve also had a number of suggestions from readers, one of which told me to check out the Guide to Cruelty-Free Eating, which I love because it’s like a starter kit for new vegans. And today I discovered Vegan YumYum, a blog with amazing recipes. How great does this look?!
I neglected to tell my extended family about my going vegan for two weeks, and last night we all gathered for a delicious, homemade meal. I had a choice: I could either give up my diet and indulge, or I could refuse all the homemade dishes, pick through the fridge for a salad or something, and watch as everyone else enjoyed the meal.
I sort of compromised. I avoided any and all dishes containing meat, and stuck with vegetarian dishes that seemed least likely to contain animal products. But even if I had asked my grandmother what was in her potato salad, she probably wouldn’t have known if it contained animal products or not, because as I’ve said before, it’s hard to spot them sometimes. So I spared my family the scrutiny and tried my best to eat responsibly without alienating anyone or ousting myself too far from the family dinner dynamic.
I asked my Vegan Mentor from The Vegan Society what she usually does at family meals. “I learned early on that it’s best to be proactive,” she said. “Because ultimately I don’t want to feel like I’m being a burden to someone, and I don’t want to be hungry and miserable feeling. I’ve avoided a lot of awkward social situations by planning ahead.” Note to self: plan head!
This whole experience reminded me that food plays a huge role in our society. When we sit down for a meal, often it is the only time anymore that you get the family together in the same room. And part of the joy of family dinner is sharing the dishes together; it’s a bonding experience. So to step away from the meal and willingly reject the food is like being the one sober person at a cocktail party. You know everyone is enjoying their drinks, and you really want to enjoy one with them, but you know you can’t. And so there is a divide between you and everyone else.
And I wonder if, on a bigger scale, there is a divide between vegans and the rest of society? If so, how can we close this gap?
I would love feedback! Tomorrow, I buy a vegan cookbook to add to my library, and I get to eat the pinto beans I’m soaking overnight.
The Vegan Challenge Series
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