Nutrition-packed vegan diets have been shown to prevent or fight obesity, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. And, if you’re worried about protein, don’t! Vegan diets give you plenty. In fact, The American Dietetic Association says veg diets are appropriate for, “individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.”
And, of course, when you eat vegan, you’re not only helping yourself; you’re helping the the planet (animal agriculture being a major contributor to climate change), and the animals. It’s a win/win/win!
Fortunately, we’re living in a kind of golden age of veganism. Every month, we’re seeing amazing new products and restaurant options, whether it’s nonallergenic milk made from pea protein, the “Impossible Burger,” which even trained chefs can’t distinguish from beef, and Miyoko’s Kitchen’s delicious, melty, cashew-based mozzarella.
Below are eight easy, nutritious, and delicious tips for adding more plants to your diet. You can buy many of these products at any supermarket, but you’ll find the best selections at Natural Health Center (West Main), Sawall’s (Oakland), The People’s Food Coop (downtown), and Earth Fare (Westnedge).
1) Follow in the footsteps of 7-Eleven and many other institutions, and ditch the egg-based mayo. Plant-based options such as Hampton Creek’s Just Mayo and Follow Your Heart’s Vegannaise give you all the taste and texture, with fewer of the calories and none of the cholesterol. (Wasn’t that easy?)
2) Replace eggs in cooking and baking with apple sauce, flax seeds, a banana, silken tofu, or a product like Ener-G. (Google for expert techniques, or check out a cookbook.) Oh, and pancakes and waffles work just fine without eggs. (Add some nuts or vegan protein powder for more oomph.) And don’t forget the nondairy milk…which reminds me…
3) Join the nondairy club! Nearly half of all Americans now drink at least some nondairy milk every day. (Source: Mintel, April 2016.) So, the next time you stop by Biggby Coffee or Water Street Coffee Joint—not to mention, Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks—ask for soy, almond, or coconut for your latte. (Smooooth!) At home, have fun trying out the many flavors and varieties of soy, almond, cashew, hemp, coconut, and pea-based milks. (My household uses vanilla-flavored soy for coffee, and cashew for everything else, including baking.)
4) Shop, and dine, ethnic! Chinese, Indian, and Middle Eastern are three great cuisines with LOTS of vegan options. (Also, check the “ethnic foods” aisle of your supermarket.)
5) Try the new generation of plant-based meat replacements, like Gardein, Morningstar, and Beyond Meat. Seriously, they’re amazing! Low calorie, and (in some cases) low sodium and non-soy. On busy days just pop one in a toaster oven, or throw it in a casserole, sauce, or stir-fry, for a nutritious and comfy main course. (You’ll find them in the freezer section of your local supermarket.)
6) Swap out the superfluous. Many breads, snacks, condiments, and other packaged foods contain small amounts of dairy or egg you’d never miss if they were gone. Fortunately, most products’ allergy labeling now makes these unwanted ingredients easy to spot so you can choose another brand. (And many now sport a big, friendly V-for-Vegan label!)
7) Google is your friend. Google “vegan _____,” filling in the name of your favorite food. You will be amazed at what’s out there.
8) Last but definitely not least, check out your friendly, neighborhood vegan group. Everyone, regardless of what they eat, is always welcome at Vegan Kalamazoo events, including potluck dinners, restaurant outings, walks, parties, cooking classes, and other great events. You’ll meet great people and get great recipes and cooking tips. (There are also veg groups in Grand Rapids, Holland/Lakeshore, and Niles.)
About the author: Hillary Rettig is cofounder and organizer of Vegan Kalamazoo, whose motto is, “Yes, there really is a VEGAN Kalamazoo!” She also writes, teaches, and coaches in the area of creative productivity and entrepreneurship. She lives in Kalamazoo’s Stuart Neighborhood with her partner, a Kalamazoo College physics professor, and their rescue dog, Billy, a fifteen-pound pomeranian with a thirty-pound attitude. Contact her any time at firstname.lastname@example.org .