The Bad, Ugly and Good of Being a Vegan

Farmers Market VegetablesTruth be told. I was – still am – a confused eater.

I was a flexitarian, a pescatarian, then a vegetarian, and then a strict vegan. Last year, though, I changed again back to being a flexitarian. More on that on a later date.

But when I thought of becoming a vegan, I was so confused to as to “what” to eat to “survive”. I even wrote about What Vegans DON’T Eat because sneaky animal products were in foods that I didn’t even realize that were in there!

Becky Striepe But when I was totally lost on “what” to eat, I asked my good friend Becky Striepe (hiding behind a cucumber to the left), author of “40 Days of Green Smoothies” to help me sort it all out.

She informed me of all the health benefits of being a vegan, if done right, so I thought I’d share her insights with you. Be sure to check out her video on how to stock your vegan pantry.

The Bad, Ugly and Good of Being a Vegan

1. Becky, why and when did you start your journey of being a vegan?
I went vegan in 2006, and it was kind of a long journey for me to get there. I’d been vegetarian on and off for about 10 years at that point, and I finally cut out all animal products after learning that I had very high cholesterol despite being in very good shape from riding my bike 10 miles round trip to and from work every day.

My doctor wanted to put me on statins at age 25, which seemed crazy to me. I asked for some time to fix this with dietary changes, and I gave up all animal products. Three months later my cholesterol was normal, and it’s been normal ever since.

2. What are the benefits of being a vegan?
I think there are some misconceptions about the obvious benefits of veganism. A lot of folks expect to go on a vegan diet and lose weight, but you can eat potato chips all day and be vegan. The health benefits come in when you’re eating real, plant-based whole foods, and I think a lot of folks go vegan expecting to lose weight and end up disappointed when that doesn’t happen.

For me the unexpected benefit has been connecting with the amazing vegan community both here in Atlanta and online. I’ve met so many wonderful people at both real life and virtual vegan events. Things like the Virtual Vegan Potluck and the Vegan Month of Food (Vegan MoFo) are such lovefests, and I look forward to them every year!

3. What are some of the difficulties – or inconvenience – of being a vegan.
It can be hard to feed yourself when you’re in meat-and-three country. Atlanta makes being vegan a breeze – there are so many choices! And no matter where you live it’s easy to feed yourself at home. When my family travels to somewhere less urban, though, like St. Simon’s Island, my food options tend to get really boring. I actually wrote a piece recently on how to feed yourself on the road.

The other thing that can be tough is the resentment that you run into. I try so hard not to make folks feel like I am judging their food choices, but I still run into folks who feel the need to get defensive about ordering a steak in front of me or give me a hard time when I ask a server to hold the cheese on something at a restaurant. That kind of thing wears on you over time a little bit, but I also understand where it’s coming from. Food is an emotional topic!

4. You are a mom to a toddler – when you were pregnant, was it hard to eat as a vegan?
Not at all! I always hear stories about a friend’s brother’s cousin’s roommate who got pregnant and just couldn’t stop craving steaks. I never had that problem when I was pregnant. I did need to supplement during my pregnancy, but what woman doesn’t?

As far as the cravings go, my friend Tanya put it really well on a recent episode of her podcast. She pointed out that you don’t need the things that you crave, you just want them. Humans are smart, and we can choose not to give in to cravings. If you’re committed to veganism, you just get past it.

5. Are you raising your baby as a vegan?
I’m not, but it isn’t because I don’t think it’s possible. I know lots of healthy vegan kids! My husband is an omnivore, so we compromised and are raising Darrol vegetarian. The solid food I give him is mostly vegan, and I’m guessing he will eat mostly vegan food as he eats more solids (he’s 9 months now), because I don’t cook eggs and dairy.

6. What should a young mom be aware of if she wants to raise her infant as a vegan?
Just like anyone feeding a child, you just want to balance that nutrition, right? My best advice there is to feed a varied diet with plenty of whole grains, fruits, veggies, and plant-based protein.

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7. What are some of the things people can do if she/he wants to become a vegan?
Invest in some good cookbooks, and do a little homework! I have a friend here in Atlanta that emailed me recently and said, “I want to go vegan, what do I do?” I pointed her to Ginny Messina’s TheVeganrd, where she can find some great nutrition advice for vegans and some good books. Ginny is a registered dietician, and has been a great resource for me.

I also would say don’t give up, especially if the problem is that you’re missing a food from your omnivore life. The friend I mentioned emailed again recently and said, “I’m going to miss ice cream.” No way! There are tons of delicious vegan ice creams out there! We’re even getting pretty darn good at making vegan cheese that will knock your socks off. Daiya products and fermented cashew cheese like Dr. Cow is really changing the game. You can even make your own vegan cheese at home!

8. Can you recommend some resources or recipes to start?
Sure! Of course, I suggest that folks check out Glue and Glitter. I am focused on making vegan eating fun and accessible. I’m a work at home mom, so time is precious around here. My recipes come together fast, they’re family-friendly, and they usually don’t require any special ingredients. I also do a weekly cocktail recipe, because I think there’s this idea that vegans just eat salads and drink distilled water all day.
40-days-of-green-smoothies-square
There are also some cookbooks that I think are worth a read, besides my “40 Days of Green Smoothies” (shameless plug :)), Veganomicon, Artisan Vegan Cheese, and Eating Vegan on $4 a Day are all good resources. Even if you don’t tend to use cookbooks, just reading over the recipes can give you an idea of how to plan meals and what ingredients you want to stock at home.

I also did a video not too long ago looking at some vegan pantry staples. It can seem a little overwhelming to stock that vegan pantry for the first time, and I hope this video helps make it a little easier for folks!

9. I LOVED your video! Now that we know what to buy, give us your favorite vegan recipes we can try.
Oh my goodness, that is so hard! I’ll share a few of my current faves:

• This vegan “Chicken” Noodle Soup is super healthy and delicious. It’s also easy to make, and my husband loves it! I first made it in early December, and he’s requested it more than once since then!
• My friend Leuwam introduced me to this “Vegan Mac and Cheese” recipe , and I can’t recommend it enough. So decadent!
• I am crazy for Stuffed Mushrooms with Tofu Ricotta. This is another one that I just finished developing but is becoming a new family favorite!
• For parties, I like to trot out my Vegan Queso recipe. Even my omni friends love it!
Spinach Artichoke Dip with Garlic Cashew Cream is another party food that is a lot of fun. Instead of fake dairy, it gets its creaminess from pureed raw cashews.
• For a quick lunch I love to make a Vegan Tostada. What I love about tostadas is that you can really use whatever beans and veggies you have handy, so they’re a good pantry dump recipe.
• Man, it’s hard to pick just one smoothie from my book , but the week of ginger definitely has my favorite recipes. Let’s go with this one: 1/2 cup frozen banana, 1/4 cup frozen mango, handful of fresh spinach, 1-2 tablespoons ginger juice (Just ginger pureed in a little water. No need to strain!), 1 cup almond milk, 2 tablespoons chia seeds, and 2 ice cubes.

Thank you so much, Karen! This was fun. Folks are also welcome to contact me with questions. I’m always happy to help new vegans get some support. Just like any big lifestyle change, going vegan can be difficult. Once you get the swing of things though, being vegan feels as natural as any other way of eating.

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Thank you Becky for sharing your thoughts on being a vegan. I will definitely add more vegan recipes to my flexitarian eating style!

You can find Becky on Glue and Glitter, Care2, Eat Drink Better, and Crafting a Green World.

You can download a set of pretty recipe cards when you sign up for Becky’s newsletter. Check it out HERE. Again, without sounding like a broken record, check out her “40 Days of Green Smoothies“. recipe book for only $4.99! You will LOVE it. She outlines the grocery list before the week of smoothies which makes it soooo much easier to go shopping. 40 days of nutritious but yummilicious, easy-peasy-add-an-ingredient-a-day, smoothie recipes! I’m on week 2 and the smoothies are to die-for. Not too sweet and not too bitter like all the other ‘green’ smoothies.

Disclaimer: I received the 40 Days of Green Smoothies for free to review for this post but I am not receiving any money from the sale of the book. I just think it’s a great way to start you on the Healthy 2014 Challenge.

NOTE: The information in this post is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Dr. Karen disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information. Opinions and statements on this website have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. The information is for general consumer understanding and education, and should not be considered or used as a substitute for medical advice and it is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. I am not your doctor and you should consult with a qualified health care professional on any matter relating to their health and well being on one-on-one basis with thorough physical examination. Dr. Karen encourages you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified health care professional. Products Dr. Karen recommends and their properties have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition, consult your physician before using the products. For more info, visit the Disclaimer page.

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Comments

  1. says

    What a great interview — and so many fabulous resources. I’ll have to share with my vegan sister. Just wait until your child is school-age and gets non-vegan food thrown at him all the time. It seems like it just gets more and more challenging to raise vegan kids, or do anything against the grain really. I call her for advice when I don’t know how to deal with my kids being offered conventional crappy foods full of preservatives, food additives, etc.

  2. says

    Eco novice Isn’t she great? She was such an inspiration when I wanted to become a vegetarian. I still eat more veggies than meat but I really admire and respect her knowledge. You are lucky to have your sister as support. Kids will be a challenge when they get a little older.

  3. laalicia says

    Thanks for sharing about your own experience and all the great resources. I think I’m currently an “eatatarian” and always trying to be healthier. I see I have some homework to do! ;) This last year I have cut out wheat and the majority of processed foods…still have a way to go.