Monday, January 4, 2016
Here we are at the beginning of a new year. If you are not already a vegan, why not start the year with a one-month vegan challenge: eat only vegan food for a month!
Frequently when I suggest this to non-vegans, the answer is "No thank you." And then they follow up their polite rejection of the suggestion with all sorts of reasons why they can't, including "I love cheese too much to give it up, even for a month."
For people who were raised with a meat-centric diet, and I count myself as one of them - meat played a central role in almost every meal of my life - this can be a hard challenge to accept. But it's not as hard as a confirmed meat eater might think: there are many prepared foods that taste almost like their non-vegan counterparts. There are vegan sliced meats, vegan chicken fingers, vegan fish cakes, meat loaves, vegan soups, vegan ice cream and cakes, and there are even vegan cheeses. It's not all tofu! Much vegan food is gluten free or can be made gluten-friendly. Vegan foods made from scratch are tasty and satisfying and are not difficult to prepare, and are no more time-consuming to make than non-vegan meals.
Most non-vegans are already used to eating all sorts of vegan food, starting with that old stand-by, the peanut butter sandwich. Other foods that are vegan are baked beans (if they don't have pork or bacon in them), salads with balsamic vinaigrette, fruit cups, other kinds of beans, pasta in plain tomato sauce - the list is almost endless.
There is no need to feel deprived -- the Canadian Dieticians Association says that a well-planned vegan diet is a very healthy diet for any person at any stage of life. (http://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Vegetarian-Diets/Eating-Guidelines-for-Vegans.aspx)
But more than that, there are certain benefits of a vegan diet that go way beyond the food that vegans eat. Most people consider themselves to be very kind. They say they love animals and would never intentionally harm animals. Nonetheless they spend their hard-earned money on meat, eggs and dairy products which can only be obtained through the brutalization, terrorization, and ultimate killing of animals. When these people purchase meat or other animal products, they have paid someone to do to animals which they could never do themselves - harm and kill animals. This means that a person who considers herself kind and compassionate, but eats meat and other animal-derived foods is not as kind and compassionate as she thinks she is. This is a truth that many people don't want to hear. There is no way to easily kill an animal. They don't want to die.
So this January, why not try to be true to your values, and try to eat a vegan diet for the month? It is my guess at you will feel better, both in body and soul, if you do.
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