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Five Ways to Move Towards Veganism
By Leah Mueller
If you’re reading this article, you’re most likely interested in becoming healthier. This is obviously a positive choice. Perhaps you’re even ready to leap into full-bore veganism, for ethical, environmental, and/or physical benefits.
If so, good for you, you’re a stronger person than I am. I’m still hanging on stubbornly to seafood, though I only consume it a couple of times a month—wild-caught, and never with butter or cream sauces. Who needs that stuff on fresh seafood anyway? If you’re like most people, you’d rather make smaller steps towards cleaner, more ethical consumption. You’re the kind of individual I had in mind while composing this article. Here goes:
1). Give up one type of food at a time, and work from there. Though you may be tempted to sail directly into a vegan, gluten-free, locally sourced, raw food diet, this might be unrealistic. Start by dumping dairy and/or red meat--or, failing that, severely limit the consumption of these foods. This means maintaining a vigilant attempt to monitor what ingredients are in your meal before you eat it. Yes, this includes restaurants. Especially restaurants. Don’t be afraid to be that picky customer who asks whether your food is being marinated in butter, fried in bacon fat, or simmered in cheese sauce. Be polite but firm about your preferences. Many restaurants will prepare food to order, since so many people have dietary restrictions. I started by giving up dairy--then realized, to my horror, that restaurants love to put it in everything. After a while, I discovered that ordering a designated vegan entrée was the best way of ensuring that chefs wouldn’t try to sneak milk products into my food.
2). Read about factory farming and food production. Yeah, I know it’s grisly and upsetting, and you’d rather not, but do it anyway. Commercial dairies, meat farms and slaughterhouses are no better than they were when Upton Sinclair wrote “The Jungle.” Dairy cows are maintained in a state of continuous lactation, so they’ll give milk around the clock. This means taking their calves away shortly after birth. Since cows are mammals, they find this extremely upsetting. Most people know intuitively that meat farms and slaughterhouses aren’t nice places. Still, chances are good they’re much worse than you imagined.
3). Try out some actual vegan restaurants, or establishments with vegan menus. Don’t just go to McDonalds and order the salad, or you’ll be chowing down burgers before you know what hit you. Also, don’t let yourself fall into the trap of thinking you can get by on toast and Bac-O’s. There is a phrase that describes this: Junk Food Vegan. Eat a balanced diet and make it delicious as well. The Happy Cow app is great to put on your phone, as it will tell you which restaurants in your area offer vegan selections. This is especially helpful when you’re traveling to far-away, not-so-vegan-friendly places as Tampa, Florida and Canton, Ohio. I once found great vegan food in Flint, Michigan.
4) You are going to cheat sometimes. Trust me, you will. Don’t despair, it happens to most people. If you eat something on your taboo list, pay close attention to how the food makes you feel. Amazingly, this awareness can often reinforce your commitment to avoid the food in the future. Our body chemistries change when we change our diets. Often, the old favorites don’t taste good or sit well in our digestive tracts after we’ve done without them for a while.
5). Enjoy your food! Plant-based foods are incredible! The cuisine isn’t just lettuce and nuts and seeds any more You can devour coconut-based ice cream, hemp milk, burritos, vegan sushi, almond cream cheese, faux-cheese lasagna, and many other amazing dishes. There has never been a better time to be completely or almost-vegan. Remember--you don’t have to give up dark chocolate. Just be sure to check the ingredients first.