I have so many people ask me about substitutes for meat and dairy. As I've gone through this process my opinion on them has changed. I like to think I've grown as a vegan (and as a human) during this voyage.
So when I started my transition to veganism I used a lot of the cheese and meat substitutes. I tried shredded cheeses, tofu sour cream, seitan, TVP, Fakin' Bacon, etc. etc. But the longer I eat vegan, the less I use those products. I think those products are all good products and I enjoyed using them in that time of transition. I think they helped tremendously in the switch for my family.
Our family still uses Boca Burgers (and Chik'n) and we still have the occasional vegan brat or hot dog (keep them in the freezer to take to friends' homes if needed). But we eat them far less than we did a year ago. I have switched out the need for meat with the need for flavor. Comfort food has taken on a whole different meaning to us. My family WANTS leek soup or a loaf of fresh baked vegan wheat bread. They crave fresh fruit. My kids sit down to watch a movie and they snack on fresh blueberries and almonds instead of chips. Watching the football game, my hubby grabs a fresh plate of pitas and veggies and olives and mixes up a smoothie to wash it all down.
Gone (hopefully forever) are the days of potato chips with ranch dip and chicken wings with bleu cheese. Gone are the summer sausages and the nachos with cheese sauce. We don't crave these things anymore, so we feel no need to substitute some sort of impostor to replace them. We crave healthful, real, whole foods. I start chopping up a big plate of veggies and all of a sudden the family is gathered around munching on them faster than I can chop.
A child asked me the other day, "What do you mean, VEGAN? What do you eat?" I needed to explain it in a kid-friendly way, and I wanted to do it in a way that explains how I feel and believe without him feeling like I was criticizing his (or his family's) choices.
For me, being vegan means not eating any animals or products that come from animals. I try not to eat anything with a mommy. I'm a mom and it would make me sad if someone ate my baby! (He laughed.) I also try not to eat things that come out of an animal. Who do think was the first guy to see something fall out of a chicken's butt and think to himself, "Gee, I wonder what that tastes like?" (He laughed again.) I just don't believe anymore that animals should be used as a food source for humans.
Instead, I try to eat things that I would find growing on a farm or in nature. Or I try to make a jump to the farm from the ingredients in a product. I eat fresh fruits and veggies because they look just like they would on the farm. I drink juice because that's fruit that's been squeezed (one jump). I eat whole-grains because they look mostly like they would from the farm, just cut and dried and maybe ground up (two or three jumps to the farm). Look at the ingredients in your food. Read the label. Can you easily make the jump to the farm? If so, then that's what I try to eat.
This definition of MY VEGAN has changed since I started this voyage. I have done more and more research during this past year and I have talked with more and more folks that are veg-curious. The reasons are numerous. As I've listened to so many of you, I've learned more and more about the wide variety of benefits experienced as a vegan.
If you are one of my regular readers who has not tried the vegan challenge or tried to switch, I would encourage you to think and pray and take a good look in the mirror. There is obviously some reason why you keep coming back and reading more. There is something deep inside of you that is thinking this is the right choice. Are you frightened? Do you have a negative voice (inside or out) that is maybe keeping you from doing more research or talking to someone more? Do you have someone criticizing this lifestyle in a way that makes you feel like you just aren't comfortable making that first step? Ask yourself, "What do I have to live for? WHO do I have to live for?" Your loved ones deserve to have you around and to have you healthy and participating fully in life. You deserve a better, happier, more energetic life. You deserve to feel good, to sleep good, to love good, to look good. And if you take the time to think and pray and you want to make the first step, please know that there is someone here who supports you and who is willing to help in anyway I can.
I am so proud of my friends who have made a true effort to try this transition. I encourage you stick with it and you will continue every day to grow and change and feel the benefits deep inside your body, your mind, and your soul. Whatever your reasons for trying, just keep trying.
In conclusion I'd like you to raise your kale smoothies high in the air. A toast! A toast to this last year's voyage and a toast to many more years of many more happy and healthy choices. CHEERS!