18 April 2012

Vegan lifestyle not as 'fraught with challenges' as New York Times article suggests

A recent article appearing on New York Times website presents the plant-based lifestyle as one ''fraught with physical, social and economic challenges," as if there are road blocks at every turn. In my lifestyle, I only identify with one of these challenges, but even that is more akin to swatting away a fly than reaching a dead end.

I am a broke college student in every stereotypical sense of the phrase, so let me debunk the economic myth right away. I personally spend between $25-50 on groceries each week, but since when is seven dollars a day for food expensive?

In fact, when other students find out I eat vegan, most respond by saying they also eat mostly vegetarian because they don’t want to pay for and prepare meat. They only eat it in restaurants.

Produce, beans and grains are the cheapest food items and available everywhere. Only processed foods run your bill up. And let’s remember the point of eating plant based is to build a diet around whole foods, not processed substitutes. If your shopping basket is filled with only fake meats, cheeses and frozen dinners, you’re doing it wrong. All in moderation, my friend.

The physical challenge of giving up meat and dairy is a case-by-case basis. My body stopped craving cheese the minute I stopped eating it, and I know plenty of omnivores who already prefer nondairy milk, like almond milk, because of its higher calcium levels and creamy taste.

Really, moving away from meat and dairy requires just one thing: an open mind that looks at the variety of new foods, rather than those given up. There is a sad but solid disconnect between pleasure, convenience and sustenance. All three can easily be met on a vegan diet, and I’ve never once felt unsatisfied.

"Vegan ingredients and cooking techniques” are also cited as an overwhelming challenge, but last time I checked, roasting vegetables, making stir-fry and cooking grains was beginner level. Homemade veggie burgers are as easy as their ground beef counterparts. If you can pan fry chicken, you can pan fry tempeh. If you can make scrambled eggs, you can make tofu scramble.

The one sentiment this article hit home on is that “It’s not very accepted in our society not to eat meat.” Most people respond to me with a short "I could never do that!" or "Good for you!" and we move on. But there will always be people who take "Hi, I’m vegan," to mean, "Please roll your eyes and attack my lifestyle."

So the real "vegan challenge" we face isn’t an empty wallet or a grumbling stomach as the majority of this article suggests, but rather the grumbling society we live in that prioritizes what goes on your body more than what goes in it.

Madeline Heising | Blog
Boston, MA Madeline is studying Communications and Public Advocacy at Northeastern University. Going vegan on a whim in 2011 changed her entire lifestyle for the better. Her course of study, health and career intentions now revolve around plant-based living. All it took was one question ‘Why would you care more about what goes on your body than what goes in it?’ When she’s not in classes she works at Teavana and keeps up her own recipe blog. The only thing that makes her happier than talking about food is traveling, but it’s a pretty close tie.

Photo credit:cc:flickr.com/photos/veggiefrog