Sunday, September 14, 2008

Vegan Diet in a Nutshell

A reader asked this great question in a comment recently:

Q: You know, it occurs to me that I do not know all the ins and outs of what a vegan will eat. Can you tell us?

A: Yes, certainly. There are a few types of vegetarians. When people say vegetarian, often they are talking about someone who does not eat meat. Sometimes you will meet someone who considers themselves to be a vegetarian even though they eat fish or chicken on occasion. Here are some definitions you might find useful:

  1. Lacto-vegetarian: eats plant based foods and dairy
  2. Ovo-vegetarian: eats plant based foods and eggs
  3. Lacto-ovo-vegetarian: eats plant based foods plus both eggs and dairy (most common vegetarian)
  4. Vegan (pronounced "vee-guhn") vegetarian: eats only plant based products, abstains from all animal products including: eggs, dairy, gelatin, and sometimes bee "products" like honey

(Some people cannot eat eggs or dairy because of allergies or sensitivities to these foods. So although some people are lactose intolerant (cannot digest the sugars that are naturally occurring in milk), for example, they can use vegan recipes for dairy based products because vegans do not eat dairy either. Vegan Footprints recipes can still be useful for them for this reason.)

I consider myself to be a vegan. But considering lately what our diet has been like, right now it is lacto-ovo-vegetarian. Since we are not yet moved into our own place, we have diverted for a time because we are sharing a table with and cooking for non-vegetarians. So although we are still not eating meat, we are allowing ourselves some eggs and dairy on occasion. Since the eggs are from my brother's small farm and the dairy is not every day, we allow it on a temporary basis (if you'd like to read more about our philosophy on this, read this previous entry).

So when we move into our own place (we anticipate a few more weeks), we will return to preparing only vegan foods at our house again. Since I will be cooking for non-vegetarians some during the week (in their kitchen), that can be a challenge, but they have told me that they don't mind eating what we do when I make the meals, so that's nice.

In fact, we have been finding that they did not realize what was actually in the foods they have in their cupboards. They would rather not eat lard (animal fat) found in their canned refried beans, for example. Again, it comes down to learning about what is in your foods and reading labels before you buy (or at least before you eat).

There are many foods that can be vegan very easily. Some people call making vegan substitutions "vegan-izing." This is a good description for what I've been doing for years. Eating foods close to the way God intended. The way they occur in nature is best. I call it eating real food.

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