I try hard not to be “one of those” anti-carnivours on a militant mission to convert the masses. While I DO want to be informative about how beneficial a plant based diet is for life-changing health and a healthy environment, I don’t want to be one of the people who rain down a tofu blitzkrieg of plant proselytizing on anyone who has bacon and eggs for breakfast. All of us are exposed to advertising myths from the “Food Pyramid” to how Lucky Charms is part of a “balanced breakfast”, and so changing our beliefs about diet is an individual process that may have many steps and evolutions. Each of us has our own path. I’ve stashed my old teenage radical t-shirt in the closet (Meat is Murder) and embraced the same technique I counsel in relationships; building consensus is a pathway best travelled with compassion and patience.
Yesterday, a friend of mine wrote to say that Alicia Silverstone had been on Oprah to promote her book, “The Kind Diet” saying Alicia realises that not everyone can jump into veganism with both feet so she has tips for “flirts” (those who are testing the waters by eliminating a few meat and animal products from their diet) “vegans” (who do not eat any animal products) and “superheroes” (vegans who embrace organic/macrobiotic diet philosophies). My friend is in the “flirt” category while my family has jumped in going cold-turkey (or Tofurky) on meat, dairy and eggs. Do I have any tips for flirts? I sure do!
1) Eliminate Animal products from foods that you don’t associate with animal products. While you might not think of an omelette without eggs, or dumplings without chicken, you might not think of salad dressing as containing hidden eggs or certain potato chips hidden containing chicken fat. What about your bread? Cereal? Candy? Veggies? Snacks? How about making your salads vegan or vegetarian? Processed food is not only not as good for you as whole foods are, but it contains a lot of hidden and unnecessary animal ingredients. Read the labels.
2) Don’t think in terms of Giving Things Up. When you make changes to your diet, think in terms of gifts you will RECEIVE. Such as better digestion, clearer skin, a flatter stomach, a healthier immune system. You will gather NEW foods to eat and more dining options in the long run. People ask me, if you don’t eat meat, what DO you eat? EVERYTHING ELSE! And that’s a
whole lot considering there are hundreds of thousands more plant based food items than meat ones. I can honestly say I don’t miss any of my old favourites. I eat pizza, tacos, burgers, breakfast, snacks, and desserts. I have a different diet but it’s not as if I pour Tahini dressing on the lawn and graze.
3) Find some of your Favourite foods to veggie-ize! Burritos taste surprisingly GREAT with veggie fillings and guacamole, veggie sandwiches can be divine, your favourite ethnic foods can be wonderful in vegan format. Many of your favourite things can taste as good if not BETTER in their vegan recipes. Meat and dairy substitutes exist for those who miss their chicken nuggets and ice cream and can be REALLY delicious and surprisingly close in taste and texture to the real deal. For those who like them (some people honestly don’t like meat) Mock-meats have improved a thousand fold since the old days of “tempeh bacon” and sunflower “burgers”. There are things out there who please even my life-long meat-at-every-meal father! Soy milk in teas, cereal and coffee can be almost indistinguishable from the regular version and in ice-“cream”, and they have even managed to make a few delicious soy cheeses since the early days, about which the less said the better. Not only are there veggie substitutes for everything, just think about all the foods that don’t contain meat or dairy but are wonderful anyway! Minestrone soup, salad, peanut butter and jelly, applesauce. There are hundreds of vegan foods that you already eat and many more to be discovered. Chinese stir-fry, Italian pasta dishes, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and European dishes all are delicious without animal foods. No matter what you eat, expanding your palate is a healthful idea.