My Favourite Everyday(ish) Cheeky Sweet Snacks

I don’t know about you, but I need a little something sweet to keep me happy on a daily basis.

I’m not talking about ice-cream or chocolate cake or those things we induldge in at weekends or on holidays; I mean the times when you’re walking home, right past a shop that you know sells something that would be good to munch on while you’re walking; or when, during the week when you’ve just eaten your main dinner dish and hadn’t planned to have dessert, but just fancy a mouthful of something sweet to balance the savoury.

I’m thinking of foods that quench that desire for something sweet and lush, but don’t do too much (if any) damage health-wise, so we feel satisfied and like we’ve just had a sugary treat, but there’s no icky down side. The snacks I’m writing about are so good, I swear you’ll feel like you’ve cheated the system.

Here are my favourite cheeky bites. Some of them are products you can buy in and keep in the fridge; others are universal snacks that are easy to whip up at any time.  I am not getting paid by any of the companies mentioned (I wish!) – I actually really should be, as I am sure I’m giving them enough money from my pocket for them all to retire early!

(The products I mention are UK centric, but US friends – I know you have a wealth of similar products in your lovely Whole Foods and Trader Joes. The bars are based on dates, raisins, almonds and cashews, and for the coconut yoghurt, try and find one that is naturally sweetened and with minimal ingredients).

 

Nakd Bars

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These wee mofo’s are good, and come in a huge range of different flavours. They are made out of dates, cashews and raisins, with added natural flavours. I just discovered the rhubarb and custard, and bakewell tart flavour – both of them very evocative of those classic British desserts. I also love the cocoa orange flavour – perfect for when you don’t want to buy actual chocolate, ‘cuz you’re saving yourself for the weekend, but just really, really need a quick fix of that chocolate’y’ taste. These bars are fast becoming my new obsession. They are small, but trust me, they pack a punch.

 

Dates

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Weirdly, considering the length of time I’ve eaten plant-based, only recently did I try some organic medjool dates. I’d only before ever tried sub-quality dates from the market, or the ones that come in a long box with a plastic fork that people buy at Christmas. I didn’t hate them, but wasn’t that fussed about them either. It really is worth spending extra for some quality organic Medjool dates. They really are nature’s candy. Two or three of these after a meal and you feel like you’ve had a lush, rich dessert. Bonus – they are ridiculously nutritious too!

 

Beond Bars

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The one I particularly recommend as it’s, um, the only one I’ve tried, is the acai and raspberry flavour. It tastes like a lovely sweet mixture of raspberry and almond. I just bought one to photograph for this post, and since I last had one, the bars have gotten noticeably smaller. I think a new company has bought them. I still want to include them in this post because they are a delicious cheeky treat, but given the price (99p) and the fact that they’ve shrunk, I’ll probably just buy them once in a while now.

 

Coyo

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I’ve mentioned Coyo before, but if you haven’t tried these yet, you really need to. These yoghurts made from coconut milk are just such a treat. They have several flavours, I mostly get the vanilla. They are so thick and creamy, you’d NEVER know it contained absolutely zilch dairy. OMG as I’m writing this, I just had the idea to dip a Nakd bar into Coyo, now I can’t wait to try this!

 

Popcorn

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Don’t forget good old popcorn. Cheap, quick to make and easy to flavour, it serves as both a cheeky snack or an after dinner sweet bite. You can buy it pre-made of course, but there’s nothing like fresh popcorn, just add a sprinkle of salt, and drizzle with agave or maple syrup for a delicious sweet n’ salty flavour.

 

Rice Cracker PB&J

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When I want a lush sweet/salty taste, but don’t want to overdo it in terms of volume to be consumed, I just grab a rice cracker and fix a peanut butter and jam slice. You could use wholemeal bread or toast instead of a rice cracker of course, but we’re talking ‘cheeky’ snacks, and a rice cracker is the appropriate ‘cheeky’ size. Didn’t you know.

 

As A Vegan Should You Eat Products That Are Manufactured In Facilities That Also Process Dairy/Egg?

I do.

As a matter of fact I ate one just now.

A Barbara’s Bakery fig roll.

Delicious, thanks for asking.

As a new vegan, or someone attempting to be more plant-based, you’re probably getting used to reading ingredients on product packaging. It can be hard enough to decipher whether some of the weirder sounding ingredients are animal, vegetable or mineral (though rest assured, this gets easier very quickly). But what do you do when you find a product that to all intents and purposes contains no animal products, but is emblazoned with the ubiquitous ‘Manufactured in a facility that also processes dairy/egg’ (or some version thereof). Actually ‘emblazoned’ is misleading – it’s usually in VERY small print somewhere completely missable (I wonder why?)

I don’t know about you, but my intentions are always just to do the best I can. I avoid animal products wherever and whenever I can; in food, clothing, footwear and personal products. But the truth is, they are used in so many areas of production (tires, glue, film roll etc.), it’s virtually impossible to avoid them altogether.

In this mostly non-vegan world, you CANNOT be a perfect vegan, nor should you attempt to be – you’ll get dispirited very quickly. I always refer to the words of vegan author Kathy Freston, who says ‘it’s about progress, not perfection.’

In any case – you probably make (or are moving towards making) most of your meals yourself with fresh ingredients, right? So it’s likely that it’s only the odd product you buy that would have this label.

In my case, I think it’s only the chocolate I buy on a regular basis that has this warning on it. Now, there IS chocolate out there made in facilities that don’t process animal products, but it’s about three times the price. The day I can afford it – I’ll buy it. But right now, my preferred chocolate is not made with animal products and it tastes great, so it’s fine.

It IS you who is in control of whether or not YOU eat animals and their products.

You are NOT responsible for the choices factory and processing plant owners make about how to optimise and get maximum revenue from their facilities.

Do what you can with the resources you have. If you can afford the vegan products that have dedicated facilities – great! If not; if the product has nothing from an animal in the ingredient list? Have at it!

We’re already making a massive difference by not contributing to global warming, animal cruelty and world hunger with our food choices, so don’t sweat something like this.

If you are allergic to dairy and/or egg? Me too! I usually do fine, however, eating products processed in facilities that also handle dairy and eggs. Occasionally I might feel a slight sensitivity, but rarely. If you are allergic and trying a new product with this labelling, just try a small piece first, wait fifteen minutes and see how you feel before deciding whether to consume the rest.

Super vegan (oh, and actor!) Alicia Silverstone writes about her love for Sunspire Grain-Sweetened Chocolate Chips. These are the healthiest vegan chocolate chips on the market as they don’t contain refined sugars – and they are made on equipment that also processes dairy. If this is OK with her, then I’m good too.

Basic rule? Do what you can!

 

But…It’s Expensive To Be Vegan, Isn’t It?

Vegetables from Flickr via Wylio
© 2011 Daniel Cukier, Flickr | CC-BY-ND | via Wylio

An excuse I often read for not being vegan is that it’s too expensive.

The first and, to me, obvious response to this is, as with lots of these excuses, is that it’s EXACTLY THE SAME as with a meat and dairy based diet – it’s as expensive as you make it. If you buy all your meat and dairy from the ‘value’ sections in supermarkets – it’s cheap. If you buy it from Fortnum & Masons – it’s expensive.

There are a LOT of excuses people use for not being 100% plant-based. Though none of them are valid (unless you are a lion or tiger, or you really DO live on some barren desert island where no plants grow!), I understand where lots of them come from and can feel compassion for people who, for example, truly believe they need milk for strong bones. We are fed so much erroneous information by so many seemingly authoritative parties; it can be difficult to find the truth.

As far as veganism being expensive goes? This belief I find harder to understand. You only have to be a frequent supermarket shopper (and quite frankly, who isn’t?) to see that this is not the case. In fact, it can be exactly the opposite.

 

Fresh Produce

You were gonna buy some of this anyway right? Even if you eat animal products, you eat some veg and fruit, so you are already aware of the prices of these. And if your budget is not the fattest, you really don’t have to buy organic. Read my post on organics to learn how to navigate the organic sections cost-effectively.

Even Asda and Lidls (UK), and Walmart (US) sell fresh produce at very competitive prices, and markets often charge rock bottom dollar, so there is no reason not to stock up on these whatever the budget.

Don’t forget, you can always buy frozen fruit and veg in bulk and stock up your freezer. Nutrient wise frozen can be even healthier than fresh produce, as it’s frozen immediately after being harvested, so the vitamins and minerals are better preserved.

 

Dried Goods

Wholegrain rice, pasta, lentils and beans are available in all supermarkets, and own brands are insanely cheap. If you are not ready to go wholegrain – white rices and pastas are even cheaper. Quinoa can be pricey, but I’m currently buying a supermarket own brand, which is absolutely fine.

Most Whole Foods in the US sell dried goods in bulk bins that you can purchase by weight. There are some health food shops in the UK that also offer this. It works out to be incredibly cost-effective, as you can buy it as you need it, if cash flow is an issue.

 

Cow’s Milk Alternatives

These are perhaps slightly more expensive than dairy milk. This is because dairy farms are often subsidised by the government. Soy or almond milk producers are not. But you may find that as you lose the taste for that creamy, mucous’y’ texture in or on everything, you don’t end up using as much plant milk as you did dairy milk. I find water is great on my muesli, as it ends up looking and tasting like oat milk anyway, so you may just need plant milk for cooking or baking. Again, supermarkets will do an own brand organic soy milk.

 

Sweets (Cakes, Cookies etc.)

Make your own! Or just buy pre-prepared ones occasionally as a special treat.

 

Treats (Chocolate etc.)

I’m gonna focus on chocolate, because, well, you know. There is plenty of cheap, amazing vegan chocolate. M&S do a creamy dark chocolate bar for around 65p. Starbucks dark chocolate is my preferred yummy treat, at the hefty price of £1 per bar!!

 

Meat Alternatives

These may be dear, but you don’t need these, Why are you even reading this section?

If you are transitioning and are craving the ‘meaty’ texture, then buy meat alternatives sparingly, a couple of times a week, say. Or grill a portobello mushroom and have a portobello burger!

 

Nuts And Seeds

These can be expensive, but again, supermarket own brands can save the day. You can totally get your omegas without breaking the bank.

 

The last time I looked, meat was VERY expensive. Assuming you don’t want to eat horsemeat, or the scrapings off the abattoir floor, you will be paying lots more for animal meat products than plant food. These are the typical prices for beef from Tesco (I picked Tesco because it’s an average medium to low budget supermarket). And these are the prices for chicken. I think we can all agree that these are the two most commonly consumed meat products.

How can anyone say that comparatively plant food is more expensive?

You can get 500g of organic brown rice for around £1.60. For a couple, say, you’d use this three or four times, and it has a long expiry date on it, so you can use it whenever. Stir fry some veg (if the veg is frozen this can also last a long time), with ginger and garlic, add some soy sauce, and your highly nutritious meal cost peanuts! Oooh – you can add peanuts too!

Trust me – while I absolutely feel abundant, my resources are currently limited (did you see how I tried to make my point with a positive spin there? Haha).  What I’m saying is, if being vegan wasn’t an economical way to eat, I definitely couldn’t sustain it.

The truth is, unless you are buying coconut milk ice cream and kale chips every day, you will more likely than not SAVE money as a vegan.

 

My Go-To Meals, Part 1 – Sumac Baked Potato Salad

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This recipe is originally from a Nigella Lawson cookbook, ‘Forever Summer’ I think, and it’s remarkably healthy, considering her penchant for adding huge dollops of butter and cream to, er, every damn thing.

She calls it ‘Baked Potato Salad,’ but it doesn’t really feel like a salad to me. Maybe because I never have the patience to let it fully cool before devouring it. You can eat it cold, or if impatient like me, warm.

How easy is it to throw jacket potatoes in the oven? And the rest takes about 10 minutes tops.

It’s great for kids because it’s tasty, but not too refined or acquired a taste for them to pull a face.

It’s also a great casual supper to share with friends, lots of whom might not have heard of sumac before (I certainly hadn’t till I discovered this recipe!) so you have a great ice breaker/talking point right there to start the evening off.

In case you haven’t come across it before, sumac (pronounced IMG_4047soo-mack) is a red berry that is ground into a powder, and used in Middle Eastern cooking. It tastes lemony, but it’s not as tart as lemon; it’s slightly sweeter and has a fuller, rounder flavour. You know what? You just gotta taste it. It goes darn well with baked potatoes, that’s for sure.

What you need:

  • 2 baked potatoes
  • 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1 teaspoon of sumac (or enough to lightly sprinkle the surface of your dish)
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin (or enough to lightly sprinkle the surface of your dish)
  • 2 spring onions, sliced
  • sea salt
  • chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Add an extra potato per person, but don’t worry if this isn’t exact – you’ll probably want to serve it with something else anyway, so there’ll be plenty.

What you do:

When the baked potatoes are cool enough to work with, roughly mush and chop them up, and spread them out in your serving dish. Please don’t be neat. This is a very rustic kind of a meal – no airs and graces here. Nigella actually says to scoop out the potato flesh and not to mind if a little bit of skin comes with it. However, I just chop it all up, skins and all – are you kidding me? The skins are an amazing source of iron, calcium, fibre, B vitamins and potassium – and they’re yummy and add great texture!

When you’ve done this, drizzle your olive oil all over potatoes.

Then the same with the lemon juice.

Salt evenly all over, to taste.

Sprinkle sumac and cumin evenly all over.

Sprinkle chopped spring onions (and parsley, if using) all over.

Leave a few minutes for the flavours to sink in.

Consume with gusto.

 

Q. What can you eat sumac baked potatoes with?

A. Anything.

Some suggestions:

-veggie sausages

-steamed kale

-Ful Madammas (I’ll have to post my recipe for this soon)

-corn on the cob

-steamed asparagus

-a Mediterranean (or really, any) salad

 

Don’t Call Yourself Vegan Unless You’re Doing It 100% For The Animals (Why I Think This Is Silly!)

Some vegans get very heated about those who go vegan primarily or initially for health or environmental reasons.

It’s true that the vegan diet and lifestyle (i.e. not using any animal products for clothes, footwear, accessories, sofas etc., or for our leisure, i.e. circuses and zoos) came about from the realisation that animals are sentient beings, just like us, and therefore deserve the same free, unhindered (at least by humans), safe lives that we do. Being vegan is about not being a part of cruelty and the unnecessary killing of animals, and some vegans think (not, at first glance, unreasonably) these are the only reasons one should call oneself vegan or refer to one’s diet as ‘vegan.’

They suggest that if your motivations are for health or the environment, you should call yourself ‘plant-based,’ and not vegan – the inference being that you care more about yourself than you do about animals.

I disagree with this.

Certainly, I GET this stance, and why some would feel strongly about this. I know that the original idea of a vegan diet evolved around animal rights – and OF COURSE, not eating/using animals IS the defining feature of the vegan lifestyle. It is nothing but admirable when someone decides to go vegan purely out of empathy for animals.

Several big vegan bloggers rarely blog about health or environmental issues, and have quite a large focus on delicious vegan junk food (I LOVE these blogs btw). Their reasons for being vegan are purely ethical, and I have nothing but admiration and respect for these guys.

But, if going vegan was exceptionally bad for our health and the environment – would anyone still be vegan? Really? I’m not sure I would. Does that make me a big ol’ monster?

Cards on the table. If you’ve read my ‘About’ page, you’ll know I went vegan as a late teen, predominantly for health/vanity reasons (so I wasn’t St Francis of Assisi as a teen; if you were – great! We need more people like you in the world, but I was pretty self-absorbed). After a while however, I evolved (thank goodness!). I also stopped wearing animal products, and buying them for non-food reasons. Now, the knowledge that my way of eating harms no-one, benefits my health, and treads the lightest on the planet, thrills me equally on all three counts.

I fully believe that those who embrace a vegan diet, even if initially it’s more for personal health or environmental reasons; are very likely to discover more and more information on all the other reasons, the more they progress and learn.

The viewpoint that they shouldn’t call themselves ‘vegan,’ for me feels like narrow thinking. It’s a little simplistic and reductive. I also don’t believe Donald Watson (inventor of the word vegan) would sue me for feeling this, and here’s why:

There are two main points that this viewpoint fails to take into account.

1. Humans are animals too.

2. The utter interconnectedness of ALL life.

 

Humans are animals too

It’s not complicated. We are animals. There are three categories of, er, stuff, in the world –   animal, vegetable, mineral. The last time I looked it wasn’t – human, animal, vegetable, mineral.

If you MUST distinguish, then it’s human animals and non-human animals.

If you say you’re ‘going vegan for the animals’ you are inferring that you’re NOT an animal. You’re separating yourself from non-human animals.

If we look after ourselves, then we ARE looking after all other animals. If we are healthy and well, we can better be present for the needs of ALL OTHER human and non-human animals. If we are sick, fatigued, depressed and aching due to poor diet and habits – we are no good to anyone. If we are vibrant, happy and radiating joy and light, we are a positive influence on every being we come across.

It is NOT shallow or superficial to prioritise your health.

If OUR wellness needs are met we become happier, and can be more empathetic to the suffering of others, and more ready to serve and help them.

 

The interconnectedness of all things

Is it just a happy coincidence that going vegan (providing it’s a well-balanced, varied diet of course) is one of the best things we can do for our physical, mental and spiritual health, AND for non-human animals AND the health of the planet? Isn’t it good that the health and environmental benefits may give us added motivation to go and stay vegan?

I believe these three things are completely interconnected. If I am healthy and happy, I am able to spread light and be present for everyone I come into contact with. And if I’m improving the environment – who benefits? ONLY EVERYONE! That’s every non-human and human animal that lives now and will live in the future.

An environmental concern caused by livestock farming is habitat loss. When jungles, forests, and other wild landscapes are razed to the ground to make way for grazing or growing feed crops, so wild animals lose their habitats, and thus, often, their lives as a consequence.

Again – going vegan benefits ALL animals, not just the ones bred for food.

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Previous famous vegetarians and vegans seem to have known that the ethical and general ‘wellness of the world’ elements go hand in hand. For example, clever old Albert Einstein said:

‘I have always eaten animal flesh with a somewhat guilty conscience.’

This suggests he is very much concerned with the morality of eating meat.

Yet he also says:

‘It is my view that the vegetarian manner of living by its purely physical effect on the human temperament would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind.’

And:

‘Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.’

He does not separate the benefits that a vegetarian/vegan diet bestows – they are all linked.

Romantic English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote a piece in the nineteenth century promoting an animal-free diet called ‘A Vindication Of Natural Diet‘ (worth a read if you have a spare half an hour).

In it, he says

‘the ardent devotee of truth and virtue…it will be a contemplation full of horror and disappointment to his mind, that beings capable of the gentlest and most admirable sympathies, should take delight in the death-pangs and last convulsions of dying animals.’

From this we know he is horrified by animal cruelty.

He goes on:

‘The most valuable lives are daily destroyed by diseases, that it is dangerous to palliate and impossible to cure by medicine. How much longer will man continue to pimp for the gluttony of death, his most insidious, implacable, and eternal foe? The proselyte to a simple and natural diet, who desires health, must from the moment of his conversion attend to these rules— Never take any substance into the stomach that once had life. Drink no liquid but water restored to its original purity by distillation.’

He got it.

It’s true that there are a few ex-vegans out there (who are, unfortunately, very vocal on the internet) who went vegan for weight/health issues, couldn’t make it work, and then made a big noise about how their body needed animal products again (which is highly unlikely).

But don’t let these people spoil it for the rest of us. And know that it’s okay that a person’s motivations for being vegan are informed by several issues.

Eating healthily for ourselves and sustainably for the environment IS great for animals too.

 

All Vegans Are Preachy, Holier Than Thou, And Think They’re Superior.

dark angel from Flickr via Wylio
© 2007 Alosh Bennett, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

I wasn’t sure whether this post should be part of the ‘Dumb Comments Vegans Get‘ series, but seeing as how the above accusations are all in the same vein (associating vegans with religious zealotry), and all spewed forth with the same intention (to make vegans sound as off-putting as possible so no-one will be expected to have to become one), I thought I’d tackle them in a post on their own.

In any online comments thread on ethical  veganism or plant-based diets, there will always be some ‘super genius’ that will claim that vegans act ‘holier than thou.’

I’m not even sure that the people who keep parroting this know what it means. It feels like they’ve heard someone ELSE say it, and thought ‘yeah!’ without really thinking about it, and can’t wait to regurgitate it at the next opportunity.

You can also replace ‘holier than thou’ with ‘superior,’ and add to this the WELL-worn old trope ‘vegans are preachy.’

These are such lazy, hacky, put-downs. The same people that use these will also often resort to ‘…well, Hitler was a vegetarian.’ (He most categorically wasn’t – but we’ll look at that in another post!).

Obviously nobody wants to be thought of as preachy or holier than thou, and certainly not as being like Hitler.

These words and associations are so loaded, that for omnis who are scared that a vegan might remove them from their state of comfortable stasis by making them think; they are a quick and easy way for them to end a discourse by de-legitimising the concept of veganism by making it sound as repellent as possible to their audience. If the audience is just you (a vegan) then these words serve to silence you, because by nature of the fact that you are telling a truth, you will be self-conscious that you ARE embodying them, even though you’re likely not.

If the omni orator were brave enough to be truthful – they’d say something like this… ‘Shut up. If you speak any more I’ll have to think. I don’t want to think because then I’ll have to change my lifestyle – which I don’t want to/am scared to do. I don’t want to be different, I want to coast along and be part of the status quo. Therefore I’m going to project these words onto you which will a) make everybody else not want to be like you either, thereby giving me the comfort of the crowd, and b) shut you up because you won’t want to be associated with them.’

It is soooo boring to read this particular type of comment, again and again and again. Some omnis are truly unimaginative and predictable. Please note that I said SOME. I’m perfectly aware that not all are. But it is apparent that SOME omnis think all vegans are the same. Are all meat-eaters the same in anything other than their food choices? Of course not. Well, breaking news: neither are vegans.

It would be fine if it was JUST boring. We’d move on. But it’s also pretty harmful and damaging. Who wants to be thought of as preachy? Holier than thou? Superior?

Is there any truth to these accusations?

  • Vegans think they are/act like they are ‘holier than thou’

Do vegans act (or think) they are holier than anyone else?

Maybe some do, I don’t know. I can’t speak for all vegans. If a vegan goes around acting this way, then chances are it’s because they’re an asshat, not because they’re vegan.

What I DO know is this:

The ONE thing AND ONE THING ONLY that vegans are (more than non-vegans), is informed. That is all.

Vegans have applied critical thinking to their diet and lifestyle, not just blindly accepted societal norms. They have educated themselves on the most sustainable way (for all concerned) to nourish themselves.

Does this make them holier?

Of course not. Don’t be silly. Vegans are multi-dimensional and each is informed by a million different influences, just like everybody else. A vegan can be as disconnected from God/Source/The Universe (pick what suits!) as anyone else.

Does it mean they have a higher ethical stance?

If they are vegan for ethical reasons, and not just doing it to lose weight (though I have no problem with this – it still has the same result of fewer animals being killed), then yes. You can’t really get away from this one.  In the same way that a person who doesn’t rape and murder human animals has a higher ethical stance than one who does; those who have widened their circle of empathy and compassion to non-human animals and have therefore chosen to NOT have them raped and murdered for their pleasure, have a higher ethical position than those that do.

This does NOT, however, translate to acting ‘holier than thou.’ If someone needs to label vegans as ‘holier than thou’ to make themselves feel better because they are not one, they may want to ask themselves why they feel so insecure in their current lifestyle choices.

  • Vegans think they are superior

Anyone who says this has completely missed the point, and has not grasped the concept of veganism. People who stop eating animals and their products for ethical reasons do so exactly because they know they are NOT superior to any sentient being.

By nature of killing and eating animals, you have to believe you are superior to those being eaten, so this silly comment may need to be redirected elsewhere.

  • Vegans are preachy

Yes, a vegan that really does go around advocating in inappropriate ways and situations could be a royal pain in the arse, but anyone speaking out on any subject who has the wrong intentions and attitude could be.

The reason the ‘p’ word gets hurled at vegans in particular, whether online or in person, is because people realise vegans are sharing a universal, undeniable truth – that going plant-based is best for animals, the planet and us. Truths are so often hidden from us, that we have learnt to be suspicious of them. And when they are exposed, it’s natural for someone to feel nervous and a little defensive at the moment they realise their life isn’t aligned with them. But, remember, vegans too had that moment of realisation. Not many people have been vegan since birth. There is no need to attack.

Assuming the vegan in question is talking (or writing) in an appropriate situation, and being compassionate and understanding to their listener(s), then to attack by using the word ‘preachy’ can only mean that, again (similar to those that use ‘holier than thou’), someone is very insecure with their lifestyle choices.

As a vegan, I feel I am often ‘preached’ to about the new deity that appears to be bacon. And If I turned on the TV, then commercial after commercial would ‘preach’ to me about the wonders of burger outlets, fried chicken joints, and sausages. But because non-human animal eating is currently the dominant paradigm, spouting the ‘p’ word would not carry the same weight as it does when used against vegans.

Whoever you are, vegan or not, not everyone will agree with your lifestyle choices. But it’s helpful to know what informs comments like these, so we don’t get held back by them. We can just deflect them and move on.

How To Respond To The Dumb Questions And Comments Vegans Get, Part 2

Probably the dumb comments and questions I’m most eager to ‘kick to the curb’ (do we still say that?) are the ones that present a very skewed perception of a vegan lifestyle.

It’s easy to see how these assumptions come about. If the basis of someones diet is meat and dairy;  they may believe that if the meat and dairy is removed there wouldn’t be much left. Thus they feel that a vegan diet is a deprivation diet, or that they would go hungry if they were to be vegan.

You’d be surprised how many people are just not aware of the many kinds of veg and fruit in existence; or have any idea of the wealth of legumes, pulses, beans, grains, nuts and seeds.

And I truly do empathise with anyone who has not ever had the opportunity to be exposed to delicious, hearty, nutritious plant-based dishes, and I would relish the chance to show them some of the infinite possibilities.

BUT…

…What’s annoying is when people with such limited knowledge make wrong assumptions that a vegan diet is lacking in fun and enjoyment, and vocalise this loudly in front of an equally misinformed crowd (that THEY of course feel safe in). They may also ask you related questions with a clear intent to mock.

It’s possible you’ll feel that they are so invested in being what they perceive to be ‘right,’ you’d be talking to a brick wall if you bothered to answer, and that you’d rather conserve your energy for more open-minded free thinkers.

However, if you do gauge it to be worth a bash, here are a few ideas:

 

Dumb Question: Isn’t veganism really restrictive and limiting?

Answer: [My answer to this one is a little cocky, you may want to ‘nice it up’ a little. Or maybe not :)]

Uh-uh. How many kinds of animals do you eat regularly? Five, tops? Maybe cows, pigs, chicken, lamb and fish? To me, that is limited and dull. Do you even know how many different sorts of plants I eat? From how many world food cultures I eat from? I probably eat more types of beans alone than you do animals. A vegan diet is only limited if you have limited knowledge and imagination – exactly like an omnivore diet in fact!

There are vegan versions of all the basics – non-dairy milks, yoghurts and cheeses; and non-meat burgers, sausages, sandwich slices, even fishcakes! Most dishes that are ‘old favourites’ can be ‘veganised.’

There are plenty of meat eaters whose diets are bland and limited. [I personally know of several people who panic if there is anything other than chicken and potatoes on their plate – use examples from your own experience!].

Most vegans have had to get creative and learn how to find food from all different ethnicities. As a result, we often enjoy a wider range of food than most omnis.

 

Dumb Comment: Vegans are always hungry.

A: If you eat a whole food, plant-based diet – the complete opposite is true. Brown rice, quinoa and in fact most whole grains expand slightly in the stomach, making you feel pleasantly satiated for longer. If each meal contains a whole grain – you will rarely feel hungry – unless you leave it too long between meals, which would also happen if you were omni. Can you really say that you would be hungry after a hearty lentil or bean or sweet potato stew? Are you hungry after a big bowl of porridge? A bean chilli? A stir fry with noodles? A huge slice of chocolate cake? A pizza? You can pretty much eat the same things as you did before, just veganised – so what’s the difference, hunger wise?

Again, a poorly thought out meat-based diet can leave someone hungry. And again, for someone who believes an animal-based diet is the way to go, you are holding a vegan diet up to higher standards than you hold your own diet.

 

DC: Vegans don’t enjoy food.

A: You’ve never been to a Middle Eastern/Indian/Ethiopian/Korean/Mexican/Vietnamese restaurant and enjoyed any of the many, many dishes that are vegan by default? Vegans enjoy food as much as omnis, maybe more, because they can indulge knowing it is free of cholesterol, most saturated fat, hormones, antibiotics and bacteria. The truth is that a person that enjoys food as an omni, will enjoy food as a vegan.

And if you are omni – you don’t JUST eat meat and dairy do you? Don’t you also eat vegetable based, soups, dips, stews, salads sometimes? You don’t have any gorgeous fruit smoothies, or lush strawberries and melons in the summer? Don’t you enjoy any of these or are you always just gagging for the meat and the cheese?

 

DC: Vegans are depriving themselves and don’t live a full life.

A: How are you defining ‘a full life?’ Lots of people are vegan for ethical reasons. They wish to eat and live in alignment with their values. They would consider they live a truer, more connected, authentic and fully conscious life than an animal eater.

And just because you choose not to partake in certain practises, it doesn’t mean you are not living a full life. Just because it’s possible to eat something, doesn’t mean we have to do it. I’m assuming you haven’t tried eating monkey’s brains (as some do in China) or duck eggs with half developed fetuses in them (as LOTS do in Vietnam, Cambodia. Laos, the Philippines, and elsewhere). Do you need to try THESE things to get a fully rounded life experience? Lots of vegans eat a wide range of foods from around the world – many foods that omnis just don’t know about (see points 1 and 3). Are YOU living any less of a full life if YOU don’t eat THOSE foods?

 

DC: I just wouldn’t be satisfied if I couldn’t eat meat.

A: This is mostly psychological. We are socialised to believe that a full meal consists of some meat, a starch (potato or rice perhaps), and possibly a vegetable, with the meat being the main event, and the veg being a side.

This is a construct. Constructs aren’t true (the clue is in the name). Just because you see a plate of (plant-based) food that may not resemble the plate of food you’ve been used to, doesn’t mean it’s any less satisfying.

In any case, the ‘satisfaction’ you may get from eating meat comes largely from the flavours and the fat content.

Animal flesh on its own is relatively tasteless until it’s flavoured with salt and herbs or spices. We can use the exact same herbs, spices and salt on our pulses, legumes, and beans, that we can on meat – and achieve the same flavours. As for fats, we can use vegetable oils to cook plant-based food, the same way that we do meat. Yes, there probably WILL be less fat involved, and this feeds your perception that meat-free meals are less satisfying. But it’s saturated fat that you are eating less of. This is a good thing. You soon get used to it, and enjoy it.

 

Never Be Afraid To Be Different

Passion Flower from Flickr via Wylio
© 2012 Ernest McGray, Jr., Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

A big stumbling block to many people considering a vegan lifestyle is the fear that they will be perceived as ‘awkward,’ or ‘different.’

I guess I’m lucky. I’ve never given two sweet ones what anyone thought of me in relation to my life choices. There was a brief period in my early teens when I wanted to be like everyone else, to fit in, to wear the same clothes, to belong to a perceived ‘something,’ but it quickly passed, thank goodness.

If your motivation to go vegan is ethical, then just think back to the first abolitionists who spoke out against slavery, or the first people who fought for women’s rights. These folks would certainly have been considered ‘different’, being disruptive to the status quo as they were. Slaves had been kept for hundreds of years in the south, and women hadn’t voted since elections began. This prejudice was completely normalised. From where we are now, we can see clearly that these two discriminatory practices were wrong and hateful. Yet where would we be if abolitionists and suffragists had been afraid to be different?

Someone has to be the first to speak out. In the case of veganism – don’t even worry, you are nowhere near the first. The earliest vegan I’m aware of is Pythagoras; and Einstein, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Tolstoy followed later, among many, many other eminent names, so it’s not at all as risky as being the first abolitionist or suffragist. Most people you will encounter are used to hearing about vegetarianism at the very least, so by eliminating animal products from your diet, you will not be doing something that no-one has ever heard of.

Nothing bad happens to you if you stick your neck out and dare to be different. You don’t get struck by lightning; you don’t get excommunicated from life! Quite the opposite in fact, life becomes richer and fuller, and you begin to feel more authentically ‘you.’

What’s the absolute worst that can happen? Maybe a few people talk about you behind your back calling you ‘awkward,’ ‘weird,’  a ‘lettuce muncher’ and you will probably be thought of by some as ‘preachy’ and ‘militant’ (you’ll find, sadly, that even if you never speak about being vegan, it’s enough for some people to know that you’re vegan, to perceive you this way). You may not get invited for dinner as often as non-veg friends do. But guess what? This is all on them. This is nothing to do with you, and real friends WILL make an effort to cook for you, you’ll see!

People will not drop you as a friend because you eat differently to them. My partner is vegan, and I have one close friend that is. About half the rest of my close friends are at least sympathetic to veganism and are happy to eat at vegan restaurants with me. The other half I’m sure think I’m a lunatic, but it is honestly never an issue. They may or may not mock behind my back, but if, when we’re together, it’s all good and they treat me as they treat everyone else – who cares? What I don’t know won’t kill me.

And we are all different in so many other ways. You don’t have the same tastes in music or clothes as all your friends do you? Even if I wasn’t vegan, my friends and I still wouldn’t eat the same kinds of food – some have pretty conservative tastes while I eat food from a ton of different ethnicities. And none of my close friends share the same taste in music as me, so even if I weren’t plant-based they would probably still perceive me as different. There isn’t much I can do about that, but you should know – it really isn’t a big deal. When I think about most of my friends, what we share above all is our senses of humour – and that is more bonding than anything.

I do get that it’s sometimes scary to be different, but once you try it and live it, you’ll see that your life (and social life) really doesn’t change all that much. And the more you experience all the benefits of a vegan diet; the fact that you may be a little different to most people will matter less and less to you. Once you begin to feel good and radiate health, joy and purpose, there’s a good chance they’ll want some of what makes you different for themselves!

I Want To Go Vegan, But What’s In It For Me?

As you know, the word ‘vegan’ ultimately defines a lifestyle not complicit in the violence, cruelty and killing of non-human animals.

For lots of people, this is ample reason to be vegan. To know that no-one is suffering for you is benefit enough.

If you DID want any more reasons to go vegan, I GET IT – honestly.

After all, everyone else eats animal products, it’s so normalised in this culture. Every other commercial outlet on the High/Main Street is a kebab shop, a fast food joint, a fried chicken place.

Celebrities are posing with milk moustaches and doing yoghurt commercials.

Every lummox on the planet seems to be prattling on about their love for baaayycuuhhn (when did the whole bacon reinvention start? It was old man’s food when I was growing up). Now, apparently, if you don’t guzzle bacon, you are not living life to the fullest.

Every other ad is for burgers, butter, ice cream. Where are the ads for broccoli? For walnuts? For beetroot?

On top of this, lots of energy and money is being spent trying to make meat cool.  More and more ‘gourmet’ burger (WTF?) places are opening every day. I even see this in my own neighbourhood. A ‘restaurant’ called ‘Chicken Shop,’ owned by a well-known private members club group, has just launched near my house. It has chickens on a spit, and the menu is chicken, chicken or chicken, with either chips or corn. Lots of painfully ‘cool’ types are flocking there. For chicken. And corn.

Seriously, no-one could blame you for thinking that vegan is too ‘different,’ too ‘against the grain.’

I truly get that this is not (yet) a vegan world and that you need as much motivation as possible to help you go vegan. What are the benefits? What will help you tolerate all the above shizzoula?

Well, I’ll tell you of some of them, but there are many others that you will discover for yourself too.

Health

By avoiding animal products (and eating whole foods, of course), you have reduced your risk for heart disease and lots of cancers significantly, in fact some doctors in the field would say you are at almost zero risk of heart disease, eating this way.

You have also side- stepped diabetes, (or will be able to improve it, if you have it already), and are at lower risk for Alzheimer’s. There are a whole host of conditions that can be prevented or improved with a whole foods vegan diet, including asthma, and multiple sclerosis.

Skin/Appearance

A whole-foods plant-based diet will have you glowing, radiant, and oozing sparkle. Your skin and body will be the best they’ve ever been – and if you’re exercising, sleeping and relaxing enough too – well, baby, you’ve never looked so good.

Is this a superficial incentive? Perhaps. But don’t forget; the more you look after yourself and ensure that you feel great and confident and happy, the better you can help and look after other people; the more present you will be when you spend time with them, and the more joyful your interactions will be.

The ripple out effect of YOU feeling good is immense. When you feel lethargic, depressed, achy, insecure, or worse, then you cannot be much help, or bring much joy to anyone.

Other Silly, Limiting Constructs Become Clear – And Evaporate

Another benefit is that when you realise how ridiculous the ‘certain animals are food but others are pets,’ paradigm is (and all the rest we have around how we perceive animals as ‘other’), you begin to see lots of other things clearly, and all other ridiculous paradigms crumble.

Just as you’ve realised what humans do so they can justify eating certain beings; you recognise all the other silly human constructs that abound.

You see all the boxes, compartments and pigeon holes that lots of people need in order to feel secure, or a part of something – and you don’t need them any more. This is one of the most liberating things I found, and probably my absolute favourite extra benefit!

Environment

Do you have children? Grandchildren? Just know some good kids?

After you’ve gone do you want them to live on a clean planet, full of natural wonders, with fresh air and clean water?  Well, being vegan is the best thing you can do for the planet. The livestock industry is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than all forms of transport combined, and is the prime cause of air and water pollution, deforestation, drought, and wildlife habitat destruction.

You CANNOT proclaim to be an environmentalist and eat meat. That would be silly. Like being a pacifist and a gun manufacturer. Or like being a nun and a porn star (!?).

World Hunger

Feeding grain to animals, to then feed the animals to humans is hardly energy or resource efficient.

Can we really justify this with so many people starving? When we know that if we all ate plant-based there would be enough food to go around, and then some? Knowing that you are not contributing to world hunger, while it may not directly benefit you, has to make you feel lighter, I’ll bet.

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You will discover lots of other incredible benefits for yourself, lots of them interlinked. As Dr T. Colin Campbell says in his life-saving book, The China Study:  “Good nutrition creates health in all areas of our existence. All parts are interconnected.”

Trust me; the personal benefits of being vegan vastly outweigh being the odd one out who doesn’t eat baaaayyycuuuhnn, or not fitting in at ‘Gourmet Burger.’

Going Vegan Step-By-Step? Here’s What To Change First…

Some of us are lucky enough to be able to make changes to our lifestyles overnight, for others of us, it’s easier to make them incrementally. If you are transitioning to a vegan diet in this way, then, depending on your reasons, it may be better to eliminate foods in a particular order.

There are three main reasons for making the decision to go vegan or plant-based (or move in that direction):

1) For health (I’m including losing weight in this)

2) For ethical reasons

3) For the environment

For some of us it’s completely about ethics – living a life free of cruelty to others, for some it’s to improve a health issue, and for others it’s all three reasons. With me, it was initially health, but now it’s most definitely all three. Before you yell at me with accusations of encouraging people to go vegan for any other reason than the animals, I know for a fact that a significant number of people go plant-based for health or the environment, then in time come to realise that the other reasons are just as important and are all, in fact, interconnected. It’s true that some don’t, and go back to eating animals because they haven’t evolved to that understanding, but a considerable number do. As I said, I was one of those.

Here’s what you may want to give up first according to each reason:

Health: Start with dairy. You will notice the biggest change in your health by eliminating dairy. The reason why oftentimes people initially feel good on the immensely unscientific ‘paleo’ diet is NOT because they are eating grass-fed, poetry read, tucked-in-bed beef, it’s because this diet eliminates dairy, and someone on a standard diet who eliminates dairy and processed foods WILL start to feel better quickly! If you need to eliminate dairy step by step, my advice is to start with cheese. Once you’ve cracked the cheese addiction, everything else will seem much easier. You should notice improvements in conditions like asthma, migraines, sinus congestion, allergies, heartburn, IBS and eczema quite quickly.

As for losing weight, dairy (especially cheese) is full of saturated fat , and even semi-skimmed and low-fat dairy does not aid weight loss. It may be lower in fat, but it still contains saturated fat and cholesterol, so I’d still give up dairy first even if your reason is weight loss.

Ethics: Assuming you are not a foie gras munching, lobster gobbling, veal snarfing type, then as for which animal product is produced in the cruellest manner, I have found arguments declaring each of the following the most cruel – eggs from battery hens, dairy, chicken and cows. In my view the argument is somewhat academic, but I lean towards Wellness Activist and author Kathy Freston‘s view on this:

Although many people tend to stop eating red meat before they give up chicken, turkey, or fish, from a humane standpoint, this is backwards. Birds are arguably the most abused animals on the planet, and birds and fish yield less flesh than cows or pigs, so farmers and fishers kill more of them to satisfy America’s meat habit. If you choose to give up meat in stages, stop eating chickens and turkeys first, then fish, and then pigs and cows.

Environment: You might be surprised at this one. According to the Environmental Working Group, lamb is the best animal product to give up first if you are concerned about carbon emissions. Why? They produce as much methane as cows, but it adds up to more emissions per pound as there is less edible meat on them in relation to live weight. Of course beef is a close second.

On top of the methane output, these two animals are the most resource intensive to farm, using more water, fertiliser, pesticides and fuel than any other livestock. They also generate more manure (which ends up polluting the air and rivers) pound for pound than any other livestock.

Cheese, pork, and farmed salmon would be next, as they are amongst the items that generate the most greenhouse gases in production.

Note: If you currently feel there is one animal product you just cannot live without (burgers? cheese?) then give up all the others except for that one thing. Don’t do nothing because you can’t do everything. The chances are very likely that after you’ve eliminated everything else, after a while, because your system is feeling so good with so few animal products, you’ll want to lose this one too as you’ll have less of a taste for it. If not? No matter, do what you can – it all counts!