Eat Delectable Food, Improve Your Health, and Save the Planet
“What do vegans eat anyway?”
Before I became vegan, I viewed veganism as a lifestyle of restriction. I could not imagine what a vegan would eat, or how they would have enough to eat. It was challenging enough for me to navigate daily food choices with my fairly standard American diet. Choosing what to eat was confusing and burdensome. I rarely cooked, and when I did, I had a limited and repetitive repertoire.
I became vegetarian after learning about factory farming and the treatment of animals. I realized I would never want a dog or cat to be placed in those conditions, or go through that suffering. Why was it okay for a pig, cow, or chicken? When I made the choice to give up meat, and ultimately all animal products, I determined that I was going to learn how to thrive with this new lifestyle.
I learned to cook, one recipe at a time. Starting with a roasted red pepper and spinach lasagna, I tried a new recipe each week, until I built up a foundation of menu items. I tried new spices, condiments, and a palette of delicious ingredients. I learned creative ways to make food taste delectable. I learned to intuitively adjust recipes for the best flavor, taste, and texture. Cooking became an expression of creativity and artistry, something I looked forward to each week.
In contrast to my previous perceptions, becoming vegan turned out to be an experience of abundance and fulfillment.
I felt lighter and more energetic with my plant-powered cuisine. I discovered that whole plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds are high in health-promoting nutrients and fiber, low in saturated fat, and have no cholesterol or animal stress hormones.
Along with the health benefits, I experienced an emotional and spiritual lightness with my choice to eat compassionately and sustainably.
I learned that for each day I followed a vegan diet, I could save 1500 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 square feet of forest, and reduce my carbon footprint by 50%. Not to mention saving the lives of animals, both farm animals and wildlife. It felt great to realize that my dietary choices led to more abundance for all. (For more information on the environmental impact of diet, check out Eat for the Planet: Saving the World One Bite at a Time by Nil Zacharias and Gene Stone).
My experience is shared by many vegans, who express that they feel lighter, freer, and have more food choices than they ever thought possible. As we free our mindset from familiar dietary routines, new realms of possibility open up.
Ready to enjoy vegan abundance? Here are some suggestions:
- Optimize your health and energy by including a variety of whole, unprocessed plant foods, including veggies, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. The more variety, the more positive impact on gut health and overall well-being.
- Try out new recipes, starting with one recipe a week. You can find a multitude of recipes on-line as well as in a number of amazing vegan cookbooks. Check out my resource page for cookbook, website, and recipe suggestions.
- Veganize your favorite meals. Anything you enjoy can be made vegan, whether you prefer to cook with whole foods, or want to try out the vegan substitutes at the supermarket.
- Try soups, stir-fries, casseroles, curry dishes, salads and power bowls, quesadillas, enchiladas, pizza, cashew-based cheese sauces, and yummy vegan baked goods. Consider foods from a variety of cuisines. The options are endless!
- Visit your local farmers market, or try planting your own vegetables.
- Share your favorite vegan dishes at social gatherings. (Just be sure to bring enough!)
- You can have your (vegan) cake and eat it too. Whether you want to enjoy a few squares of fair trade dark chocolate, or wish to make delicious cookies, brownies, or cake for a special occasion, there are great plant-based options, free of dairy and eggs. (For the most decadent—yet easy to make—vegan chocolate cake, try this recipe from Moosewood Restaurant).
- When you want to enjoy eating out or take-out, there are increasing vegan options available. If you are not sure if a restaurant has vegan options, call ahead. Happy Cow is a great resource for finding veg-friendly restaurants when you are travelling.
- Bring full awareness to the tastes, flavors, and blessings of abundant, delicious food through mindfulness and gratitude practices. (A great book to support mindful, plant-powered living is The Mindful Vegan by Lani Muelrath).
With the world problems we face, including the COVID-19 pandemic, the epidemic of chronic medical conditions, division and injustice, and environmental crises, it is easy to become discouraged and think there isn’t anything we can do. However, when we embrace a vegan lifestyle, we can positively impact our health and emotional thriving, and the well-being of animals and the planet.
As vegans, we bring a message of compassion and care for all beings, to a world sorely needing this. And we enjoy the abundance of nourishing, delicious plant foods, along with the peace that comes with eating healthfully, compassionately, and sustainably.
Angela Crawford, Ph.D. is a psychologist and transformational coach. She is passionate about empowering people to create lives that nurture body, mind, and spirit. Dr. Crawford is certified as a Master Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator, and has a Plant-Based Nutrition certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies at e-Cornell. She is currently doing research for a book on the psychological and emotional benefits of a vegan lifestyle.