Sunday, November 30, 2014

Vegan junk food junkies - Are you one of them?

Vegan fried tempeh temptation
Oh yes, they are out there. I was a junk food junkie vegetarian for many years. Cookies are vegetarian. Potato chips are vegetarian. Soda pop is vegetarian too. That doesn't make any of them good for you. So, how can someone who professes to be a vegan stoop to washing down their veggie burger with a diet soda? Well, it happens and for the same reason it happens to omnivores. Vegans aren't perfect. They have bad habits, just like everyone else. Plus, many of us are prone to caving, having lived in an omnivorous culture for so long. My main enemy in this respect is cheese, since I grew up in dairy country. For other vegans, it may be something else entirely.

I”m so lucky!

I consider myself lucky (yes, lucky) to have had a close encounter with Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis. It was a wake up call for me. You see, things like sugar, processed foods and dairy products can contribute to inflammation. In turn, that inflammation can cause dormant conditions (such as Lupus and Rheumatoid) to rear their ugly heads. I was a vegetarian, but I was eating way too much junk food and had a massive extended flare. That's what first prompted me to go vegan. Since taking that step, I feel much better. I will always have these conditions, but a healthy diet will keep my symptoms at bay. Sure, I have my moments of being an imperfect vegan. Still, the results of getting off the healthy track encourage me to keep plugging away.

Meat and dairy substitutes:

That brings us to the subject of commercially made vegan substitutes for meat and dairy. I've addressed this in other articles. In my opinion, they're junk food. They're processed food, no matter what you want to call them. Having read the packages of many a commercially made vegan burger, I generally decline them. However, they are much healthier than the meat based alternative. And if you're picky enough and read the labels, there are a few out there with just a few simple ingredients. So, I suppose, if one was really wanting a burger, they would be a viable alternative. I simply don't feel it's wise to eat them on a regular basis. Remember, there are homemade options that are much healthier.

Cravings are not omnivore exclusive.

Cravings will get you every time. There are healthy foods you can make yourself that will satisfy your need for crunchy, salty or sweet foods. There's no need to reach for that bag of chips. Slice some sweet potatoes thinly. Spritz with olive oil and bake. Sprinkle them with powdered lemon zest as a salt substitute. They're absolutely delicious and nutritious besides. Whipped frozen bananas with vanilla make an awesome sub for ice cream. In fact, no matter what kind of junk food you crave, you can make a homemade vegan substitute that's tasty and good for you.

Any lifestyle or diet change takes time and work.

Vegans really have to remember why they've adopted this diet/lifestyle. It's about saving innocent animals. It's about saving the planet. However, it's also about eating a healthy diet. Don't be so quick to reach for something on the shelf, simply because it's vegan. It's devoid of meat, eggs, seafood and dairy. That doesn't always mean it's good for you. It could be filled with sugars and additives and still be considered vegan. Is it organic? Is it chemical free? Does it contain GMO's? Is it nutrient dense? Part of being vegan is being aware of the consequences of what you eat. Try to remember, the other animals aren't the only ones who suffer from your bad food choices.

Vegan junk food junkies are everywhere. Are you one of them? If so, you may want to change your evil ways.

Portions of this article were previously published by this author on a now closed Yahoo property.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

What do vegans eat for Thanksgiving?

Well, for starters, we leave this beautiful being in peace.
For most vegans, there's no turkey, but there's tofurky. The stuffing is baked outside the “bird” although, some tofurky comes stuffed. The gravy is mushroom based. The potatoes are mashed with whole, roasted garlic and fresh chives.

The salads are loaded with all kinds of veggies, not just lettuce, tomato and cucumber. They're dressed with vegan dressing, olive oil and apple cider vinegar or whatever is to the taste of the vegans in question.

The potato and macaroni salads are coated in vegan just mayo and instead of eggs, there's more veggies, spices, etc. etc.

All the vegetable dishes are pretty much the same with those that contain non-vegan items getting a vegan overhaul. 

In other words, most vegans pretty much eat what you eat for Thanksgiving, without the meat, seafood, dairy and eggs and with a whole lot of other delicious, nutritious stuff added.

For instance, vegan stuffing isn't just a boring pile of bready goo. It has substance. It has huge walnuts and fresh cranberries and big chunks of onion, celery and other veggies. It has character! Oh, and you can make stuffing with vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. In fact, you should, even if you're not vegan. It's much better for you.

You can also make pumpkin pie with vegan egg substitute and almond milk. It's freaking delicious. In fact, most people who “dare” to taste it, prefer it. And berry pies are already vegan, as long as you use vegan butter for the crust and stay away from bone char processed sugar.

Whipped cream made with coconut milk is the bomb. It's way, way, way better than that dairy based crap. It's fabulous on fresh fruit salad with a sprinkle of raw coconut.

Are you drooling yet?

Ya, vegan Thanksgiving dinner really is something to be thankful for, because it's not only healthy, it's scrumptious. And it won't leave you filled with regrets because it's all good for you!

That being said....

Being vegan sometimes means adapting traditions to your lifestyle, but it can also mean breaking tradition once in a while and trying new things. So, this year, we'll be doing just exactly that.

We've decided to keep it simple and take it easy on the chef (me). So, were having a gorgeous vegan vegetable lasagna with Daiya brand vegan cheese, a huge salad and pumpkin pie for dessert. Oh, and before dinner, we have guacamole and hummus with both veggie and vegan chips to stave off the cravings.

And of course, there will be pickles and olives. What's Thanksgiving without pickles and olives?

So, what do vegans have for Thanksgiving dinner? Whatever they want!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Defensive vegan no more

Punching bag no more!
I will no longer be responding to cruel remarks, clever puns, vegan bashing, questions that aren't really questions, but criticisms, or people who purposefully say cruel things about vegans, the vegan lifestyle or any other subject, simply to provoke an argument or procure bragging rights or make themselves appear clever or witty in front of their friends. I am switching over to the offensive team.

There is nothing to defend.

And by that I mean, vegans do nothing but live a kinder life. Why should we have to defend that choice? There's nothing wrong with that choice. There's no reason we should give mean, sarcastic, bigoted people the satisfaction of arguing with them in defense of doing the right thing. We're doing the right thing. The facts clearly and unequivocally back us up.

I am positively glowing

I love my choices. I know I am on the right track. My health, my state of mind and my connection with the earth are all strengthening, due to veganism. So, from now on, I'm going to talk about that and spread the undeniable facts that back up my position instead of spending precious energy arguing with negative naysayers whose sole purpose in life is to make other people miserable in order to prove their own self worth. It's just not worth it.

Enough said and enough done.

Connecting with vegan fallibility

Cheese is my weakness. What's yours?
We vegans love to think we have all the answers, don't we? Problem is, we are fallible, just like everyone else in the world. In the past couple weeks, it has come to my attention that I am not a perfect vegan. Nor is anyone. Now, in my case, I slipped up and ate some cheese. I've since gone back to my former, healthier, vegan ways. However, as usual, my experience with failure got me thinking. Is it even possible to be completely vegan?

Slip ups, notwithstanding

How can we be assured as vegans that every single thing we participate in or consume is vegan? Well, in today's world, that's completely impossible. While we may try our best to live a cruelty life, as widespread as the meat and dairy industry's practices, products and influences reach, we can never be completely sure that our lives are 100% cruelty free.

So what do we do?

Well, we do our best. We stay away from meat products, dairy products and seafood. We don't buy leather goods. We make a concerted effort to be less wasteful so as not to become a drain on other resources. We address the major and minor concerns we are aware of. We accept that there may be things we are doing that are inadvertently cruel, due to the fact that we're not aware of every little product or pastime that encourages or promotes cruelty.

And about those slip-ups

We have to accept that going vegan is a journey. In my case, I thought that after two years, I was done with dairy. As it turns out, I'm just a human being. Surprise! Once again, just like everyone else, I am capable of straying from my path, despite my somewhat relentless vegan advocacy. You can liken it to a Christian who has “sinned” or a drug addict who has caved to the temptation of imbibing. The fact that they have erred doesn't mean they are any less Christian or any less committed to kicking the habit. It just means they have made a mistake.

How about you?

If you've been feeling that you're not a vegan because you've made such an error or had to compromise on your diet or lifestyle due to circumstances beyond your control, don't be so rough on yourself. It's OK to not be perfect. Certainly, you may feel badly that you have let down your fellow animals by slipping up. I know I do. Still, it doesn't mean you are a horrible person. It doesn't mean you are a failure or that you are misrepresenting yourself. It just means you have to keep trying until you get it right.

Be proud of the things you do right.

In my case, it's been a very, very, very long time since I even thought about eating meat. I'm very proud of that. I'm 55 and I believe the last time I ate meat, it was a few pieces of pepperoni on a pizza when I was around 20 years old. So, it's been about 35 years since I've directly consumed another living being. That's pretty darn good, right? The point is, rather than concentrating on your weaknesses as a vegan or your slip ups, try to stay focused on the good you ARE doing daily in your vegan journey, no matter how far along you are. And continue do all the good you can! It's contagious!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Connecting with the vegan in you

Vegans believe in protecting the earth from destructive human behaviors.
Maybe you think you have nothing in common with vegans. Maybe you think vegans are crazy. Not so fast. If you're a kind, decent individual, who cares about your health and the health of the planet, you may have more in common with vegans than you think.

Do you believe in eating a healthy diet?

Sure, junk food is appealing on occasion. But we all know that eating it on a regular basis can lead to serious health issues, vegan or not.

Vegans believe a healthy diet can extend and raise the quality of their lives. How about you?

Do you care about the future of the planet?

I hope so. Because when this planet finally throws in the towel, we'll be on it. What does this have to do with vegans? Well, eating a meat and dairy based diet is the single biggest human behavior that is currently impacting the environmental destruction of planet earth.

Vegans believe in protecting the earth from destructive human behaviors. How about you?

Does worldwide starvation concern you?

You know all that land used to grow food for the animals we over-breed and consume? It could grow enough plant food to feed all the humans on the planet and provide sufficient nutrition as well.No one would have to starve or be malnourished.

Vegans believe in eating a diet that considers the lives of others, not just themselves. How about you?

Do increasing water shortages worry you?

Where does all the water go, anyway? Doesn't it just recycle itself? Well, not exactly. You see, once again, those animals we over-breed and consume are drinking it up at such a rapid rate, that it never does have a chance to renew itself.  

Vegans believe that our dwindling water supply should be used in a responsible manner. How about you?

What about clean air and water?

Surely you care about that. You may even be involved in protesting the harmful effects of the oil and gas industry or fracking. Did you know that meat and dairy production is actually more polluting than big oil/vehicle emissions/fracking etc.?

Vegans believe in leaving clean air and water for future generations. How about you?

Do you enjoy watching slaughterhouse videos?

How about videos that realistically portray the meat and and dairy industry in all it's gory, painful, bloody glory? No? Neither do vegans. In fact, they bring us to tears.

Vegans believe in stopping the atrocities revealed in those films. How about you? Surely, you don't want them to continue?

Do you consider yourself an animal lover?

That steak on your plate was once a living, breathing, feeling being. Some of the animals we consume as food are more intelligent than our companion animals. They have lives and families. They care about each other. Some of them even feel love for the caretakers that send them to slaughter.

Vegans believe taking the lives of other animals for food, tangible products or entertainment is self serving and unnecessary in a world of less violent alternatives. How about you?

Where's the connection?

If the only vegan principle you disagree with is the last one, you may be more vegan than you think. Vegans aren't strange or crazy. They aren't evil or pushy. They aren't manipulative or unkind. In fact, vegans are among the kindest, most unselfish, most caring individuals in the world.

Just like you.

Speak your mind. Wait, you're vegan? Forget I said that.

What non-vegans often project toward vegans
And there it is, exactly. Ever notice how everyone on the planet speaks up for speaking out? The louder the better, right? That is, until they find out you're vegan. Then, you better keep your opinions to yourself.

Plus, you better enjoy being ridiculed, taunted with bacon and BBQ and catching people talking crap about you behind your back.

Oh, and whatever you do, don't defend yourself, your fellow vegans or your way of life when you do catch them at it. That just proves how annoying you are.

And you better get good at asking questions designed to insult you, no matter how many times you've heard them or how insulting they are.

And the shunning. Oh the shunning.... You'll get so accustomed to that, that you'll actually suggest they ignore you before they even think of it themselves.

In other words, you might as well not bother, right? You might as well just concede to the fact that when it comes to speaking their minds, vegans just don't have the same rights as “normal” people, right?

Wait, what? I don't think so. But here's what I do think. I think that if the people you associate with don't feel you have the same right to speak your mind as they do, well, maybe it's time to stop associating with them, vegan or not.


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Vegans like me are not trying to change you

We just want to give you cookies and show you some stuff you might not know.
Oh sure we're not, right? What about all those vegan Facebook posts? What about this stupid blog post and all the other ones? What about the fact that I just can't shut up about going vegan? What's that all about if I'm not trying to change you?

Well of course I promote my views and defend them to the core. Don't you? Doesn't anyone who truly cares about anything? How about religious people, political parties and charities? Don't they try to gain your empathy by speaking out?

Then why, in the name of all that's good in the world is it so much worse when vegans do it? I have NO idea!

But, back to my point. Vegans aren't trying to change you. They're just trying to show you some facts that are not commonly known. Now, what you do with those facts is totally up to you. Just as it's up to me to remain atheist when Christians state their opinions. Or, to continue to be liberal minded when faced with opposing politics.

I don't want to change you. I want to open your eyes. I want you to see things that extend beyond what you've been told all your life. Certainly, I'd like you to understand that compassion is the answer to many of the world's current difficulties. But mostly, I want you to think for yourself, weigh the facts and make an informed, fact based decision. I actually want to see you break free from brain-washing, not brainwash you more.

And of course, I am of the opinion that going vegan is the biggest thing anyone can do to save the planet, the humans, the animals and even the starving kids in other countries, just as religious folks feel God is the answer. However, do I expect every one of my friends to miraculously go vegan overnight? No. Not at all.

But what I do expect is to be allowed to express my opinion and share my views just like anyone else, without being told I'm pushy or shoving my opinions down someone's throat or some other such nonsense.

I also expect people to get that when they are engaging in a not so nice session of vegan bashing and I speak up in defense of what I believe in, it's not about pushing my beliefs on them. It's about defending my right and the right of anyone else, vegan or not to freely express their opinions without being discriminated against. And that includes the people I am addressing.

So, you can continue talking crap about vegans if you wish. You don't have to go vegan either. Nobody said you did. Or, you can connect with the fact that by denying me or any other vegan (or anyone else) the right to speak out, protest or otherwise “annoy” you with their opinions, you are also making it easier for the rest of the world to deny you your own right to do the same.

Blind compliance never helped anyone find their voice.

Vegan heartache #1 – The vegan bashers you love and care for

Feel like you're going around in circles with your non-vegan friends?
This one is mainly for my fellow vegans, but the rest of you are welcome to listen in. Ya, even if you're trolling to dig up dirt and gloat. All are welcome to give me page views. That is, after all, how I get paid. Feel free to pass it around too. I love it when haters do that. Ka-ching! LOL I'm just giving you crap. I love all my readers, vegan or not and I appreciate you. I wouldn't be here without your support. Anyway, back to the subject at hand. I have addressed this before, but I feel like talking about it again.

My vegan friends, did you ever feel that you could make a list of everything you've had said to you in response to your choice to be vegan and answer it all (for the 199th time) but what would be the point because nobody really listens anyway? Ya, that's how I feel today. "If you were stranded on a desert island...., but, but, but if we all went vegan, animals would over-run the earth...., Where do you get your (insert nutritional need)? What do you eat? How many licks does it take?" Wait, that's something else entirely.

Anyway, my veg buddies, I am so sick of all these questions. I don't mind answering them for people who really want to know the answer. The thing is, though, most of the time, when people ask vegans questions, they don't even want the answers. What they want is to prove us wrong. Now, we all know that the facts are on “our” side even though we are all in this together and there really are no sides, except the ones we all invent.

So, I'm thinking, wouldn't it be a hoot to print up a document containing all the factual answers to the mean spirited questions and comments with applicable links and sources? So that instead of answering them, we could just pull one out and hand it (or message it) to them. “Here you go. This should answer all your inquiries. Reference # 87 – The dairy industry is the meat industry.” Wait, that's been done many times over? They're still not listening? They didn't even read it?

Of course not. Because some people's main interest is not to learn. It's not to change. It's not to grow. It's to stay tucked away in their personal comfort zone, blissfully unaware of the atrocities of the industries they patronize, lashing out at anyone who so much as suggests that there may be a better way of doing things than the way they have always been done (Like that's working SO well.).

Because, if they knew what we know, assuming they are nice people, which I believe most of them are, they would have to change. 

Or maybe, they just have better things to do than to listen to us ramble on. I do like to ramble on about my favorite subject. Don't we all, vegan or not?

The point is, with certain people, even people you love with your whole heart and soul, there's really no point in addressing their inquiries and insults. What's a vegan to do? Well, you do what everyone does when faced with rudeness, bullying and general mean-spirited comments and questions. You walk away, leave them in the most kind and peaceful way possible and live your life as a shining example of compassion. A sense of humor doesn't hurt either.

It's not a competition or even a race, my friends. It's not about you. It's not about them. It's not about any individual right. Folks, we're all connected, vegan or not. Whatever any of us do impacts every one of us. Vegans need to remember that too. So, get a sense of humor, grow a huge pair (because you WILL need them) and try to be as nice as you possibly can when people insist on being biased and critical. And whatever you do, don't comment on mean spirited Facebook posts like I sometimes do. 

Heaven forbid you might express an opposing opinion to vegan bashing. It's in style, you know.