Monday, August 20, 2012

You Have Become A Vegan? What?!

It started with recycling. Then composting. Carpooling. Using reusable cups, dinnerware, shopping bags, lunch totes, anything that meant not having plastic in our home or having them thrown away. Then came organic foods. No paper towels or napkins in the house. Cloth diapers. Cruelty-free and chemical-free hygiene and beauty products. Recycled toilet paper and cloth wipes for baby's bum. Non-toxic cleaning products. It was only inevitable that we would someday make the leap towards eating less meat. But just how much was a complete shock to us. We didn't realize how ready and able our family was to stop eating meat all together. Or maybe we knew all along that when you go green, you don't go back. When you start to make sustainable choices in your life, you don't stop. Choosing eco-friendly alternatives in any one area of your life eventually spills over to EVERY aspect of your life. It doesn't happen right away...ours has been almost 8 years in the making, the length of our marriage really...and everyday is a constant learning experience and continuous curiosity as to what we can do next to better ourselves, our home, our workplace, our life. And choosing to become vegan is just another choice we made, one that not everyone comprehends or supports. Understandable. Most people don't even know what the means. 

According to Wikipedia:
Veganism is the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products. Ethical vegans reject the commodity status of sentient animals and the use of animal products for any purpose, while dietary vegans (or strict vegetarians) eliminate them from their diet only. Another form, environmental veganism, rejects the use of animal products on the premise that the industrial practice is environmentally damaging and unsustainable. 
The term "vegan" was coined in England in 1944 by Donald Watson, co-founder of the British Vegan Society, to mean "non-dairy vegetarian"; the society also opposed the consumption of eggs. In 1951, the society extended the definition of "veganism" to mean "the doctrine that man should live without exploiting animals," and in 1960 H. Jay Dinshah started the American Vegan Society, linking veganism to the Jain concept of ahimsa, the avoidance of violence against living things.
If you ask our children, what does it mean to be vegan, my 5-year-old daughter will tell you, "We are like the herbivores. We don't eat meat, cow's milk, cheese, or eggs." These days, she and our 4-year-old son compare everyone to dinosaurs. You're either a herbivore, carnivore, or omnivore. Can't get any simpler than that, right?

So I'm sure you're wondering a lot of things about this decision we have made, so I'm going to try to answer some questions that I myself might ask someone who just told me that they have chosen to become vegan:

  • Did you choose to become vegan for health reasons?  Yes and No. We didn't choose to change our diet, because my husband or myself or any of our children received disturbing news from our doctor that made us think that maybe it would be best that we stopped eating meat. BUT, my husband and I did feel that our health would benefit from going this route. We truly believe that our health and well-being would only be improved by eating organic plant-based meals.
  • Did you stop eating meat right away? No. We first started as pescatarians and eating only fish as our meat. That lasted about 2 weeks. Then we decided all together to cut out meat from our diet. We went back and forth with the idea of either being vegetarian or vegan. We would go grocery shopping one day and not buy any dairy products, but then get home and realized we couldn't live without eggs for breakfast or tons of cheese on our pizza. But we kept researching recipes and reading blogs and kept telling ourselves, "We can do this. If they can, so can we." One day, about 3 months ago, we went to the store and came out with only vegan foods. We never turned back.
  • Is it cheaper to not eat meat? Every situation is different. In our case, NO it's not cheaper. Since we have gone vegan, we now spend about $100-$200 more on groceries every 2 weeks or so. But at the same time, there aren't a lot of vegan fast-food choices, so we don't eat out a lot. Not that we did all that much back when we were eating meat, but now, we hardly eat out at all. Just a note though - almost all of our foods (grains, cereal, coffee, breads, etc.) are organic, so that makes a big difference in our grocery bill. Some vegetarians or vegans choose to only buy organic versions of the Dirty Dozen, but I have chosen to do the whole lot. Also, when I say groceries, this also includes toiletries, cleaning products, beauty and personal products, and bath products for the kids, all of which are all-natural, chemical-free, organic, and/or recycled/recyclable. Again, this makes a big difference when you're comparison shopping.
  • Are your children vegans as well? Yes, about 98% of the time. When we are at home, everyone is prepared the same meals. But, when we do eat out and there aren't as many vegan choices to choose from for our kids, the meals that we do order for them are made with organic ingredients and do not have meat.
  • Was it easy for the kids to adjust? Most of the time, the kids are pretty content with what I prepare for our meals. On occasions, they do complain and express their unhappiness, but they are after all, children. And even before we became vegans, they had already started becoming picky eaters. The only difference now is that they are becoming picky with just veggies.
  • What about your 1-year-old son? Is he vegan? Yes, he is. He is now eating "big people" food, and  he eats just about everything we eat but in smaller pieces and portions. He (and our other two children) drink almond milk, which has 50% more calcium than cow's milk, but at the same time, I am still nursing him. He had his 1-year check-up last month and was certified healthy and growing. Can't ask for anything more for our children.
  • What about all the other nutrients that you need? I thought you'd ask. So I have this colorful graph to answer that question.

I hope I have answered some of the questions you may have had when you first read the title of this post and that the infographic has given you a better idea of what is "not" lacking in our diet. Just like anything new in life, my husband and I are continually learning about veganism. We are educating ourselves everyday so that we are getting the most out of this lifestyle change. If you have any questions, feel free to send me an email, and I'll try to answer it the best I can.


Jessica @ fruitpants said...

This is such great information! Its nice to see everything together and broken down like this!!

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