"What do you eat?"
This is probably the most common question vegans are asked and one of the most difficult to answer. It's not that what we eat is strange or limited; in fact, the question is difficult to answer for the opposite reason - there are so many wonderful foods to describe! The truth is, unless you're an unusual omnivore, your friendly neighborhood vegan may well eat a wider variety of foods than you do.
People tend to think of going vegan as eliminating foods from your diet, but most things 'eliminated' are really only swapped with animal-free versions. Often, they're available in more than one version. For example, while you might drink cow's milk or goat's milk, a vegan has the choice of soy, almond, rice, hemp, oat, or sunflower milk. And there are so many easy alternatives today: ice cream, yogurt, burgers, steak, nuggets, cheese, sausages, pizza.... all these things are available in delicious vegan versions. The saying is true, "Anything you can eat, I can eat vegan!"
But more than that, as people transition to a vegan diet, they tend to be exposed to new foods and new cuisines. From agave to kohlrabi, from kale to quinoa, vegans are more likely to sample everything the plant kingdom has to offer. That's at least partly because vegan cooking embraces world cuisine. Pick up any vegan cookbook and you are likely to find recipes from Ethiopia, Greece, Morocco, India, or any number of distant lands, right alongside vegan versions of familiar favorites.
Here's an example of a typical week in my diet to really help you get a sense of the way vegans (or at least, this vegan) eats:
Note that all foods are vegan versions, so 'milk' means almond milk, 'yogurt' means cultured coconut milk, and so on.
Breakfast: toast with butter, juice, banana
Snack: pumpkin seeds
Lunch: Chinese take-out - fried rice, spring roll, mixed vegetables, garlic bok choy
Dinner: salad, spaghetti marinara with mushrooms, garlic bread
Snack: frozen fruit pop
Breakfast: cereal with milk topped with fruit and nuts
Lunch: Greek - hummus, tabbouleh, and spinach wrap, carrot sticks
Snack: sandwich cookies
Dinner: penne pesto with kale, tomatoes, and olives, natural soda
Breakfast: scone and hot tea
Lunch: big salad and a slice of cheese pizza
Snack: fair-trade chocolate bar
Dinner: apple sage sausage, mashed potatoes and gravy, baked beans, steamed squash
Breakfast: oatmeal with agave, dried fruit, and walnuts, chocolate milk
Snack: dried apples, trail mix
Lunch: Cuban takeout - black beans and rice with vegetables, chips and salsa, plantains
Dinner: veggie burger, southern-style greens, barbecue beans, and french fries
Breakfast: toast eaten in the car while running late to work
Snack: pina colada yogurt
Lunch: steam-in-bag veggie blend, instant brown rice
Snack: vegetable chips
Dinner: Indian lentil dahl and veggie korma
Snack: cappuccino swirl ice cream
Brunch: ripe tomato sandwiches with mayo, green smoothie
Snack: kale chips, fruit salad
Dinner: salad, chili, cornbread
Snack: applesauce cake
Breakfast: pancakes, home fries with peppers and onions, orange juice
Lunch: couscous with mushrooms and Swiss chard, artichoke bruschetta sub
Snack: Cajun roasted chickpeas
Dinner: vegetable lasagna, garlic bread, broccoli
Snack: peanut butter fudge
Do you find that much of this sounds familiar, maybe with a few interesting variations from your diet? Veganism certainly is a transition from the way most people eat, but perhaps it's not as big a difference as you might have thought. There's a world of options available, both familiar and new.
So when someone asks me, "What do you eat?", I will typically ask them what they eat.
"Everything!" they say, or "Anything I want!"
To that I can wholeheartedly reply, "Me too!"