01 March 2011

More than tofu and salad; Vegans enjoy a highly varied diet

What do vegans eat? Why, rabbit food of course! Didn't you know that us vegans are born with less developed taste buds than our carnivore counterparts so we are deliriously happy subsisting off of just wilted looking side salads with olive oil?

Give me a break! Not this vegan here!

People tend to assume that once meat and dairy are removed from the equation, we are left with next to nothing to feast on. Personally, I enjoy a more varied diet now that I'm vegan, because I've had to...gasp...actually think about what I eat and open myself up to new options. It has encouraged me to explore so many more vegetables, spices, grains, greens, etc., that I either wasn't aware of or wasn't utilizing before.

However, I also need my chocolate, my pizza, my mac 'n cheeze, and more in order to be a happy and satisfied camper. And surprisingly, I didn't have to say goodbye to any of these when I transitioned to a plant based diet. It's easy to "veganize" all your favorite foods with some simple substitutions, quickly transforming them into delicious and cruelty free versions. As a matter of fact, I wrote an article earlier this year about a vegan couple's successful (and delicious) attempt to give the very meat and dairy heavy Betty Crocker cookbook from the 1950's, a vegan makeover a la the film Julie & Julia.

It may blow a few carnivore minds, but vegans love to eat things way beyond the spectrum of just salads and tofu. And because our taste buds aren't being desensitized by meat and dairy, (it's been reported that our vegan pallets are more sensitive) we certainly appreciate a wide variety of flavorful and tasty foods. With just a little bit of research, experimentation, and a trip to your local health food store, you can quickly open yourself up to the myriad of veggie substitutions available. Before I was vegan, I was an avid Mexican food lover, and never thought I would have made "Tempeh Taco Tuesdays" an institution in my household....mostly because I had never heard of this lesser known plant based protein. And cashew cheese?! Who knew?! Now, my mouth starts watering every Monday at the impending deliciousness that is about to come in just a mere 24 hours. It may take some trial and error to figure out what personally works for you and what doesn't, but I guarantee you'll enjoy the process.

A lot of non-vegans will make the argument that the vegan version isn't the same, and they're right! However, what makes it different is not what it's lacking in taste, it's what it's lacking in cruelty to countless animals, aiding in the destruction of our environment (the meat industry causes more greenhouse gas emissions than all the cars, trucks, planes and ships in the world), and it's role in the deterioration of our health. I urge all my fellow vegans to help encourage their meat eating friends that by simply "veganizing it" they can have all of their favorite foods, and none of the cruelty!

Now don't get me wrong, just because something is vegan doesn't necessarily mean it's healthy, and a salad or two has never been known to cause any harm, but there's a plethora of other delicious options ready and waiting for us. Your diet is only as limited as your imagination!

What vegans eat:

Hayley Marie Norman | @xoHayleyMarie
Hayley Marie, a vegan, is a Los Angeles based actress that has appeared in numerous films including Hancock and Fired Up, as well as several tv shows such as Crash and an recent stint on CSI:NY. She is also known as being the girl with the wild crazy afro, aka #25, on Deal or No Deal. For more information about Hayley Marie check out her blog.

Photo credit: cc: flickr.com/photos/audreyjm529, Katelyn Vajgrt