- The human body adapts
- You may or may not lose weight
- We live in a violent society
- More people than you think want to be vegetarian or vegan
- Meat is an addiction
- Diet affects behavior and mood
- We are bombarded with meat images daily
- Cooking is therapy
- Friendships will change
- Veganism doesn’t mean social activism
When I became a vegan ten years ago I felt I was living on the dietary frontier. The veg-friendly options in restaurants and pre-prepared meals in supermarkets were limited and there weren't any useful cookbooks available that I knew of. I developed my meals from scratch and honed them so that they became my indispensable comfort food. Since the change, I've learned a few things about diet, life, and people. Below are 10 reflections from my culinary journey which I'll blog about over the next couple of weeks!
With so much attention given to vegan and vegetarian diets lately, there has been an encouraging trend of people changing what they eat in favor of plant-based meals. However, recent surveys indicate that only 5% of Americans identify themselves as vegetarian and less that 2% as vegan. While this still represents a lot of people, there is room for growth. The question is what will motive more people to try a plant-based lifestyle?
One method used by psychologists to understand a person's readiness to perform a given behavior and then actually respond is called the theory of planned behavior. It is a relevant behavioral predictive model proposed in 1985 and used extensively. One can apply the model to study individual dietary behaviors in regards to veganism to determine which factors may motivate people to change.
The model has three elements. First is the individual's belief about the consequences of the behavior. In the case of eating vegan food, will it actually make the individual healthier or feel happier or make him or her feel worse? Second, is the perception others have about the behavior (peer or societal attitudes). Do friends, family, and other social contacts have a positive or negative attitude about veganism or about the individual becoming vegan? In other words, how will the individual be judged? The third element assesses the individual's personal belief about whether or not they can actually perform the behavior and if there'll be aids or barriers in doing so. Is becoming vegan for a given individual even possible?
In the model, each element is weighted depending on individual circumstances and conditions. For example, if you are stuck on a desert island with no edible plant life, but with an abundance of small animals which you can capture, the weight on the third element will be an infinitely high negative value meaning that vegan eating behavior will not occur even if it is believed that being a vegan will make that individual feel better.
From my own experience, I believed strongly that being a vegan would make me feel much better and had evidence to support it. Eating meat didn't make me feel good at all, but when I ate a plant-based meals, my attitude and happiness improved immensely and my body felt better as well. So there was no question in my mind that it was a good diet.
Could I control my eating habits and stick to a vegan diet? That was a more difficult question to answer. At first, I didn't think it was possible. I had become too dependent on meat, not just for protein, but for flavor and convenience as well. Convenience was probably that highest factor. Meat is just what I ate - it was easy to get, good as an instant or well-cooked meal, and cheap. How could I replace that?
It came down to slowly making the transition and avoiding meat products that were the worst for me, such as beef, fish, and pork. When I had just one to go - chicken - the hard work began. I ate veggie alternatives as much as possible when dining out and began cooking veggie food at home. I didn't even know how to cook that well, so I figured that before giving up chicken, I'd become a good veggie chef first making the transition easier. When I finally had a set of dishes which I could enjoy and which satisfied my hunger, even when time was short, I made the leap and had my last chicken meal. So the control aspect was by far the biggest challenge and probably a common one for most people who want to make the transition.
The peer pressure element was not a major one but it did have an impact in a negative way. Peer pressure within my community and social world was against a vegan diet. There was no encouragement to become a vegan, and the chance was that I would isolate or pariah myself. It wasn't stated, but it just wasn't really an option given the eating patterns of my family and friends. In fact, I didn't even know any vegetarians or vegans until I started practicing it myself. My inspiration came from notable people who had written about it, mostly Gandhi and his autobiography. That book boosted my confidence and conviction that the change was good.
A recent study published by John A. Updegraff which appeared in Appetite, an online journal, examined men's and women's attitudes towards vegetables in the context of the theory of planned behavior and found that men's attitudes towards vegetables were not as positive as women's regarding the food's ability to improve health, happiness, and eating pleasure. Men were also less confident than women in their ability to eat vegetables in place of other foods and control their diet.
Based on this research and from my own experience, I feel that the best way to encourage a plant-based diet is for people to eat in an environment where they are exposed to well-prepared vegetable meals as the main course so they can try them and experience the benefits first hand in an un-pressured atmosphere. Making this happen regularly is a difficult challenge, but it starts with cooking food that you enjoy first, and then sharing it with as many people as possible!
A recent report by the Stockholm International Water Institute concludes that we may face critical water shortages by 2050 due to rapid population growth and climate change among other factors. Since water is essential for all food production, the risk of not being able to feed the projected 9 billion people on earth by that year goes way up. One way to improve that chances for food security by mid-century, the report stipulates, is through diet by consuming a maximum of 3,000 calories per day and reducing calories from animal proteins to 5% from 20%.
Because it is a more efficient use of available water to produce plant-based proteins than meat-based ones for human consumption, it's logical to conclude that if more people ate less meat and more vegan meals, the chances of food security down the road will be higher (excluding any technology advances).
While it's hard to feel a sense of urgency about global conditions many decades into the future, going meatless a couple days of the week or even for a few meals a week will do more than just be healthy, it will also have a direct impact on planet's ability to support future generations. That's a powerful outcome simply by changing what we eat!
Chen Shu-Jiu, a vegetable seller in a market place in eastern Taiwan, was awarded the venerable Ramon Magsaysay Award in the Philippines, given to people who help address issues of human development in Asia. Over the years she has donated almost all of her personal savings to charities engaged in early childhood care and children's education. The amount has been nearly $7 million Taiwan dollars equivalent to $234,000 US dollars according to this article.
Chen has been celebrated internationally for her altruism, but humbly asserts that she is just a vegetable vendor at the market. She is good news for the people she has helped and for the communities she has improved with her compassion and consistency. The award is truly earned and her dedication is a model for all to follow!
Not too long ago, Subway announced that it would open an all-vegetarian outlet in India as covered in my blog post on 8/22. Now McDonald's has announced that it will open all-vegetarian restaurants across India, but hasn't specified when or how many restaurants. According to the Associated Press, revenue has been flat so they are look for ways to boost sales in specific markets catering to the local tastes.
With dietary habits changing influenced by health concerns and growing demand for vegetarian fast food, it's a good strategy for the company and will benefit consumers and animals. I hope they will open up an all-vegetarian outlet in North America as well. All it took was one company to lead the way for others to follow. This is an exciting trend to watch!
Are you considering a vegan diet but don’t know where to start?
Then Vegan for a Week is the right cookbook for you! Vegan for a Week is a mini cookbook with 15 sensational lunch or dinner recipes that are delicious and simple to make so you can enjoy going vegan for a week (or longer!). You can prepare most of these healthy meals in 40 minutes or less.
Travel the world with these recipes from Tuscan Tomato Tofu Stew and Provence Countryside Salad to Pangkor Curry Noodle Soup and Southwest Red Quinoa Salad. The easy-to-follow recipes will fill your week with wonderful tasty meals. Colorful photos of each meal are provided.
The recipes include soothing soups, refreshing salads, and delicious stews which you can easily prepare from one weekly trip to your local grocery store. The goal is to make practical and easy vegan comfort food using wonderful seasonings and fresh vegetables with the following benefits:
-Common every day ingredients from a grocery store
-Simple, uncomplicated preparation steps
-Ready to serve in 40 minutes or less for most meals
-Ingredients you can use in multiple recipes for economic use of what’s in your kitchen
-Enough variety to get you through the week
Each recipe is a foundation into which as many vegetables can be added as desired depending on your taste and creativity. You can eventually create your own vegan comfort food using my recipes as a starting point.
In addition, my book discusses how to stock and prepare a vegan kitchen, offers meal pairings, and provides recipe nutrition information along with articles about the vegan lifestyle, healthy eating tips, and a vegan travel experience.
With Vegan for a Week you’ll delight your palate and eat healthier!
For Your Information:
-Vegan meals contain no meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs or dairy products or any derivatives of these ingredients. They are cholesterol free.
-Allergy Information: Some recipes use soybean based ingredients such as tofu and soy sauce. Some of the recipes can still be enjoyed by omitting the soy ingredients.
"How am I going to live without pizza?"
This may be one of the first thoughts of someone considering a vegan diet. Fortunately, many cities now have restaurants that feature vegan pizzas on the menu or have the ability to craft a vegan pizza upon request. With the rise of gourmet pizza restaurants, so have the number of vegan options expanded. This has happened, in part, with the improvement of vegan cheese which has qualities when melted similar to dairy cheeses.
Pizza can be enjoyed without cheese as well as some restaurants offer a thin crust with marinara sauce and veggies making it even more healthy. There are all-vegan pizza restaurants in some cities that have numerous delicious options and which are reinventing the traditional concept. Whole Foods usually offers vegan pizza at it's pizza counter as well. It's nice to see that vegans have great options now for this common comfort food!
Articles Featuring Vegan Pizza Restaurants:
Vegan Pizza in Los Angeles
Vegan Pizza in Jacksonville, Florida
Peace O'Pie - Boston
Top Vegan Pizzas - USA
Vegan Pizza in NYC
Make your own simple delicious vegan pizza using a pre-made crust - check out my easy recipes and do-it-yourself video for Naples Vegan Pizza!
Subway sandwich shops have 37,000 outlets worldwide including 280 in India. All of its outlets in India don't serve beef and have several vegetarian options. However, in the city of Jalandhar, it will launch an all-vegetarian restaurant on September 4, its first in the world and maybe the first global fast food chain to have an all-vegetarian offering!
This is great news. Just recently, Subway announced that it would test market three new vegetarian meals in its US stores, but it is going much further in India. The reason for the new store is that it is near an all vegetarian private university. The owners of the school were able to convince Subway to dedicate the store to vegetarian fare.
Perhaps this will become a trend, especially if sales go well. If the new menu is intriguing to customers, it may be demanded at other stores across India and maybe eventually we'll see similar offerings in the US. This is a wonderful opportunity for other fast food chains to try a vegetarian menu and benefit customers, animals, and the environment!
A key theme of theme of this blog is find ways to reduce salt in our daily diets. One of the best ways to do this is to cook fresh food at home and eat less packaged and processed meals. Another way to do this is to eat out less or ask the server for no extra salt when ordering in a restaurant. For those who eat at Boston Market, a big brand in the fast casual dining category, it appears to have become easier to have a low sodium meal.
The restaurant chain, which is based in Golden, Colorado, will reduce sodium in three dishes by 20% in the next several months and also remove salt shakers from the tables according to this article. In addition, all other dishes could have 15% less sodium in a few years.
While Boston Market is not a vegan restaurant, it is helping to lower the exposure of its customers to sodium which can benefit their health. The CDC indicates that 2,300 mg of sodium per day is the maximum recommended amount to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. The chain is helping its customers stay under this limit and hopefully set an example for the industry.
The ability to adapt is the hallmark of survival. This is how all beings endure when changes in living conditions occur, whether they are imposed artificially or happen naturally. Now is one of those times.
Three conditions are gradually changing which may have a dramatic impact on the way we live. First, the planet’s growing population is accelerating putting strains on financially burdened governments to support health care for its citizens. Second, the planet is experiencing a natural warming trend exaggerated by pollution which affects crop development and food sources. Third, over-harvesting earth’s natural resources is reducing chances for sustainable long-term living conditions as we know them now.
What does this mean for our survival? It means it gets harder.
When large portions of an increasing population are not able to pay for health care and do not receive adequate health care benefits from the government, the effective cost of ill health increases. These costs get transferred to the tax payer. By relying on the health care system as a safety net instead of living a healthy lifestyle, personal costs go up and risks of inadequate treatment rise.
When food sources become scarce, the cost of food increases as we may see with meat and dairy products due to the droughts in the Midwest. A large portion of crop output goes to feed the animals which supply meat and dairy. If those products are the main component of one’s diet, the weekly food budget risks expanding without similar increases in personal income.
Lastly, when the environment as we know it becomes less sustainable, the cost of living increases dramatically as more monetary resources are needed to live comfortably up to the point where the cost of well-being becomes infinite as fewer and fewer place are habitable. Natural resources required to support animal agriculture is one of the bigger demands on the planet.
Although these are heavy concepts and not much fun to think about, the solution is fairly simple. If more people transition to a plant-based diet and make vegetables the main course, then personal long term health improves, personal expenditures on food decreases, and the likelihood of a sustainable environment increases.
As a result we see the possibility of a new American dining style with vegetables replacing meat for protein. Some of the world’s top chefs have indicated that vegetables meals will be the big trend in fine dining and restaurants are gearing up for the demand by creating inventive dishes. The downstream affect could be vegan eating habits in more households across the U.S. for at least some meals during the week.
Currently only 5% of Americans are vegetarians and 2% vegan. But, as the desire to live a healthy and comfortable life becomes harder as changing conditions make it more difficult to do so, one effective way to adapt is for more people to enjoy vegan meals each week resulting in a greater chance for everyone to survive in health, peace, and happiness.
Make Simple Vegan Meals