A few weeks ago, I wrote a column about the trendy Paleo diet, followed by a food column with some paleo recipes and tips.
I heard from readers who were also curious about the also trendy vegan diet.
Some of you may remember a few years ago when I went vegan, pulling my meat-loving and quite resistant husband along with me for the trial. We lasted six months and both of us lost weight. I have never seen Paul so happy when I announced we could go back to eating meat and eggs again.
So just what is the vegan diet? Simply put, vegans don’t eat any meat, eggs or dairy, instead relying on a plant-based diet. Many vegans adopt the diet for health reasons.
There have been numerous studies suggesting vegans have up to a 75 percent lower risk of developing high blood pressure and a 42 percent lower risk of dying young. Those are some impressive statistics. In addition, a vegan diet may be more effective when it comes to reducing blood sugar, LDL and total cholesterol numbers.
There are no calorie restrictions on the vegan diet. Some studies suggest people may stay on the diet longer than calorie restrictive diets — thus losing more weight.
So, now that you know what you can’t eat on a vegan diet, are you wondering what you can enjoy?
Here is a quick rundown of approved foods:
• Legumes, including beans, lentils and peas
• Nuts and nut butters
• Seeds such as hemp, chia and flaxseeds
• Calcium fortified plant milks and plant-based yogurts
• Algae, such as spirulina and chlorella
• Nutritional yeast
• Whole grains and cereals (spelt and quinoa are particularly high in protein)
• Sprouted and fermented plant foods, such as Ezekiel bread, sauerkraut, fermented pickles, kimchi and kombucha
• Fruits and vegetables
If you do decide to try the vegan diet, you might want to check with your doctor about adding certain supplements, such as B12, D, zinc, iron, iodine and calcium.
One thing you should look out for are the numerous vegan products that are highly processed. Many of these products, while vegan, are not healthy and contain a lot of unhealthy additives. By now, all of you know I want my readers to be “label sleuths” and not to rely on the package slogans.
When we did the vegan diet, I found when I tried to make a dish taste like something that normally contains a lot of non-vegan ingredients, it almost never worked.
In other words, if you try to create fettuccini Alfredo with vegan ingredients, you are probably going to be disappointed. It is a much better idea to make a good marinara sauce and serve it over spaghetti squash or spiralized zucchini noodles.
That being said, there are a lot of your favorite foods that can be tweaked a bit and are still good without non-vegan ingredients. You can make tacos and serve them with alot of lettuce, tomatoes and salsa. You won’t even miss the cheese and sour cream. You can make any number of soups — these are great to freeze in individual portions for a quick lunch or dinner.
Of course, salads are always good. I try to include a small side salad with dinner no matter what else is on the menu. It’s just an easy way to make sure you are getting enough greens every day. For salad dressings, make a quick vinaigrette with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, some Dijon and minced shallots.
If you do decide to try the vegan diet, make sure you keep some vegan friendly snacks on hand. An apple and a handful of nuts goes a long way to hold you over until your next meal. If giving up non-vegan foods is too daunting, try replacing a few meals a week with a vegan meal.
Of course, the vegan online community is big and can also offer support and recipes. I found a lot of good vegan cookbooks. I love Chloe Coscarelli’s books, especially “Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen.” Also, “Betty Goes Vegan,” by Annie and Dan Shannon is a good one. You can find these and others at our local libraries. You can also reference vegetarian cookbooks and modify the recipes to make them vegan.
Let me know if you decide to try the vegan diet. Stay tuned for Friday’s food column where I will share some vegan recipes and more tips.
South Forsyth resident Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at email@example.com.