Vegan does not mean healthy- let’s be both
I became vegan for the animals, which is something I have always been proud of. But vegan does not mean healthy. And although I was eating healthy most of my life, there was a period of emotional hardship, which led to anxiety, which led to a horrible set of eating habits. I was diagnosed with pre-diabetes, and shortly thereafter, I realized the importance of following a healthy, plant-based diet. Since then, I have reversed my pre-diabetes and insulin resistance, I have the energy I need and want, I feel vibrant and joyful, and you know what? Every night when I go to bed, I cannot wait for the morning to arrive.
It is not an easy task to start a healthy set of habits, let alone maintain them. Vegan had been tough enough. I mean, meat seems to be the default food wherever you go. It is still so embedded in my culture that when you go to a restaurant and tell the wait staff that you don’t eat meat, they still recommend fish or chicken! When you tell them what vegan means, they either feel sorry for you, think you are just weird, and/or feel sorry for your husband. I have lost count of the many times (many, many times) I received a combination of the following:
“omg, I’m so sorry! But may I ask why?!”,
“Oh, come on, not you too!”,
“I hope you cook meat for your husband, at least!” (the answer is no, just FYI, as he stopped meat after having watched documentaries and done much reading).
Some people think that vegans are selfish, for not being more accommodating; extreme, for making people uncomfortable; arrogant for making people feel guilty, and so on. What do I think? I think that all these are gross generalizations. Unless the entire family is plant-based, it is extremely (extremely!) rare to have family dinners at a vegan restaurant. Vegans usually end up with some risotto, and spinach, if we are lucky enough.
But I understand why folks are upset with us. Food is intimate. One of the most intimate things. When you attack someone’s dietary choice, they feel like you are attacking their culture, their family traditions, their memories, their realities, their world. And it is not always easy to change one’s habits. I understand. But I believe that it is the right thing to do, and it is much healthier, too.
So my aim here is to show how easy, how fast, how convenient, and how delicious a plant-based life can be. **This is NOT a sponsored post. i.e. I am not receiving money from any of the brands listed below.** Thought I should get any possiblle doubt or suspicion out of the way before even listing anything.
I am going to be updating this list I am providing below. This is by no means a comprehensive list. But if you have questions, concerns, worries about quitting meat and dairy, please do get in touch. Even though I am not an expert I have years of experience as a vegan! And, honestly, if I had a chance to get anything I wanted in this world, I would have wanted humans to stop eating animals. So I’d be more than happy to be of help if I can.
Recipes and Meal delivery services
First of all, follow my recipes here on the blog and on Instagram for easy, quick, vegan and gluten-free recipes. I post recipes regularly, and some of those might give you ideas to try.
Second, full disclosure: I am not using any of these meal-delivery services I list below. And I am not getting paid by any of these companies/brands in any way.
I prefer to cook my own meals and, ideally, pick my own ingredients. (Although I do use Goodeggs time to time, as it is more convenient to get organic, local produce delivered to your door.)These meal delivery services, too, are convenient, and if you do have the budget, you might want to consider them. Their plans make healthy meals (home-made or prepared) easier than they might otherwise be! You will also see that most of these are quite affordable (I mean, where I work, a miserable lettuce salad with just a bunch of raw broccoli and a spoon full of guac costs $7. I’d rather give that to a nutritious and filling meal delivered to my door).
Living on a plant-based diet does not have to be expensive, and you do not have to choose between cost and convenience. Whole foods plant-based produce section is generally affordable at any store, as long as you stay away from the processed but delicious and/or nicely packaged products (smile). I buy nuts in bulk (but of course!), and I like to follow sales (and who doesn’t). Plant-based diet may actually even save you money in the long run, and I am not even referring to the likelihood of spending much less on medication! Since we are all in the same boat of capitalist consumption, at least to some extent, there are guides out there to help us shop cruelty-free while also providing tips to save money on our favorite products.
Going back to our list, Forks Over Knives was a documentary, but it became so popular and well respected/known that they now have their own meal plans, cooking workshops, recipes, and so on.
Purple Carrot provides plant-based recipes and fresh ingredients delivered throughout 34 states (last I checked!). They ship on Mondays so the deliveries are weekly.
Urban Remedy delivers fresh meals, juices, snacks. Not all meal plans are plant-based, unfortunately, but it might be worth a look. I do remember their really good customer service.
Daily Harvest looks great, especially if you are a smoothie lover, and acai bowls, and superfoods…(you get the idea) but do not have the time to prep. Their website is on point, good design and images. They deliver to 32 states across the U.S.
22 Days nutrition is among those meal delivery services that are not only vegan-friendly, but completely and only and deliciously vegan (doing a happy dance here). What is more, they are GMO-, gluten-, soy-, and dairy-free. From their website: “22 Days Nutrition guided Beyonce and Jay-Z on a 22 Days Vegan Challenge.” I mean, how cool is that?
Wow, things have changed so much since my time. (Yes, I said it!). There are many services I had no idea about, such as Veestro . This one looks especially affordable, and no commitment- I would actually give this a try if I didn’t like to cook this much. But it seems like a great option for those with time constraints.
I love the name Mamasezz and the tagline “All the good stuff. None of the BS (you know-Bad Stuff)”. They have bundles, like “get me started”, “Soups, Sauces, Sides”. This might be an option for people like me, who make the dinner, but might not necessarily have that extra half an hour for the soup or two sides.
There are tons of websites out there(besides the one of yours truly!) providing great recipes. Check out Minimalist Baker for easy recipes with 10 or fewer ingredients; Oh She Glows for gorgeous images and exciting meals; Hell Yeah It’s Vegan for delicious plant-based versions of popular comfort foods.
Nutrition (and other) info on plant-based living
- Becoming Vegan has a great and easy-to-understand info on vitamins, health, what to eat how much etc. All scientific, and written and edited by people of medicine.
How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease by Michael Greger with Gene Stone. Michael Greger is amazing. He’s funny, approachable, with an easy-to-understand language. He has this website full of informative videos, links, articles (there are transcripts of the videos shared here), and all of these are available for free here. You’d be amazed by the amount of information they have here. I have learned a lot from their site about cancer, especially breast cancer (and the dangerous problem of overdiagnosis) and diabetes.
- Next time someone tells you “but plants feel pain too” just repeat a few pearl-like statements from this Vice interview with Daniel Chamovitz, the dean of Life Sciences at Tel Aviv University.
- If your main concern is the climate change, or the environment in general, you might want to have a look at this short article by Ezra Klein, published in 2009 in the Washington Post. “Gut Check: Here’s the Meat of the Problem”. He comes to this conclusion: “Going vegetarian might not be as effective as going vegan, but it’s better than eating meat, and eating meat less is better than eating meat more. It would be a whole lot better for the planet if everyone eliminated one meat meal a week than if a small core of die-hards developed perfectly virtuous diets… if we’re going to take global warming seriously, if we’re going to make crude oil more expensive and tank-size cars less practical, there’s no reason to ignore the impact of what we put on our plates”.
- Challenge 22 is not only a resource (recipes, tips, videos, motivation) it is a community of activists, dietitians, and mentors, ready to help anyone willing to try going vegan for 22 days.
- All books, articles, videos you can find by Dr. Neal Barnard, such as this, this, this and, especially if you would like to lose weight, this. I am currently waiting for my order of his two cookbooks, The Get Healthy, Go Vegan Cookbook, and Dr. Neal Barnard’s Cookbook for Reversing Diabetes: 150 Recipes Scientifically Proven to Reverse Diabetes Without Drugs.
- I was going to list all the names and titles, and articles, and videos…But best if you just dive into the pool of information you will be swimming in the moment you type his name. Dr. Barnard is also the president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
- “The China Study” is well-known among the community and has (rightfully) contributed to the celebrity status of its author, Dr. Campbell. The book is eye-opening and an important message to anyone living or concerned with cancer, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and the effects of aging.
- Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism. This book, authored by Melanie Joy, was voted one of the top ten books of 2010 by VegNews Magazine. It offers a look at one of the major duplicities, if you will, of our time.
- The 30-Day Vegan Challenge (New Edition): Over 100 Delicious, Nutritious Plant-Based Recipes and Meal Ideas for Eating Healthfully and Compassionately — The Ultimate Guide, by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. You want to give this vegan thing a try, but you have no idea where and how to start? You might benefit from this book.
The Dr. Greger, mentioned above, has this extremely helpful app you can use to track your food intake. “The daily dozen” app, available to download for free, is not tracking your caloric intake. Rather, it has a list of groups of food which Dr. Greger suggests we take on a daily basis. It simply makes it easier to maintain health through diet.
Locating Restaurants and vegan-friendly places to be
- Happy Cow App helps you find vegan options worldwide.They also have a website, if you prefer to search on your laptop/computer.
- Traveling? Do you want vegan hotels? This website has a delicious selection.
Diet and workout programmes
- If you are into fitness, would like to lose weight or gain muscle, get stronger, might try a fitness program OR might like to have a diet program with some vegan recipes, I strongly recommend Conscious Muscle. Whatever you purchase from them, some of the amounts goes to their animal sanctuary. They have two alternative menus: one with meat substitutes, especially if the client is new to the plant-based diet, and the other with legumes etc. in order to increase the protein intake. These people follow the flexible diet, that is, they measure the macronutrient intake, and suggest an amount for each basic macronutrient (protein, carbs, and fat) based on the client’s aim (losing/maintaining weight, gaining muscle etc). They also have supplements and a *great* customer service. Good people rule.
- Another place you can find plant-based meal plans to gain all the plant-power is Rich Roll’s site. Rich Roll is a former entertainment attorney turned full-time wellness & plant-based nutrition advocate. Plants changed his life- from having struggled with drugs and rehabs and physical pains to having Ultraman Championships. Plural. You can see his blog, resources, podcasts, get inspired by his story as well as his guests’ experiences. His interviews are not only inspiring but also informative. Have a look at this one with the Dr. Barnard I mentioned above. And the meal planner is designed after you take a “personalization survey” and once you have the recipes set based on your individual results, you might get the ingredients delivered to your door, depending on your area. For more information on meal plans, go on here.
- Continuing with fitness/strength inspirations. The “300-pound-vegan”, the NFL player David Carter. He’s wonderful, especially as an inspiration to young people/athletes.
- The resources seem endless. There’s Chris Willitt’s site also. They have a how-to guide, supplements guide, as well as a meal plan which you can purchase.
- Another place to look at is Vegan Proteins. This site is especially valuable if you want a stronger, fitter body. They have a blog, a podcast, tons of info on muscle-building (and shaping) while vegan. You can shop at their online store, and benefit from their online fitness coaching.
- Who doesn’t love free? Kim Constable, “the sculpted vegan” is simply amazing. This woman is a walking inspiration. And the website has many, many free resources- from calorie calculators to home workout videos, free meal and workout plans, and so much more.
- Kara Doyle of Kicking With Kara seems to be one of the most passionate people about moving and workouts. She is a professional yoga teacher and a trainer with more than 10 years of experience. If you are curious about, or are aleady in love with Zumba, Kara’s zumba classes happen to be legendary. She won awards as a Zumba Instructor in NYC and has been featured on vanityfair.com. One of my favourite sections of her website is where she shares her class playlists– from spinning to yoga!
- One green planet has this informative article on female vegan athletes’ meal plans, diet suggestions and so on. Have a look at the entire site. So much to learn! It’s a whole world out there- isn’t it just wonderful?
Forks over Knives. So many people say that this documentary has changed their lives- David Carter (see above) is one of them!
Food, Inc. This is one of the less ‘disturbing’ ones. I personally know people (young, underprivileged people with no previous knowledge about or intention to go plant-based ) who became vegan after watching this documentary. Earthlings. This unforgettable and award-winning documentary is presented in five chapters (pets, food, clothing, entertainment and scientific research). It is narrated by Joaquin Phoenix and features music by Moby. Really, really disturbing, meaning, it shows the ugly truth to your face. But if you want motivation, and need more convincing, I don’t know what else would be more powerful. No wonder it has been nicknamed “the vegan maker”. Indeed, my then meat-eater husband has not eaten an animal since we watched this together. Apparently, it even contributed to Ellen Degeneres’s choice to go vegan.
What The Health. Another one that is easier to watch. Focusing almost only on the health aspect of the meat and dairy industry. It is not a scientific/academic article, obviously. So you might find it a little biased, a little pushy, if you will. But there is truth to all of their suggestions, and I highly recommend you look at interviews with scientists after the release of the film, about the documentary’s popularity. (Obviously, I’m all for the popularity of it!).
Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. Inspiring for those who are thinking of going plant-based for health-related reasons.
Cowspiracy. Popular, crowd-sourced, informative, and mostly about the effects of the meat and the dairy industries on environment and sustainability.
Food Matters. Well researched and expansive information. One of the easier-to-watch ones.
Vegucated. More amateurish, if you will, only in the sense that they collect three regular meat-eater New Yorkers, and try to see what happens when they go on a vegan diet. Mind you, these people had no background info/tendency for this lifestyle, so it was not always easy, especially when they realize the ugly (and that disturbing) truth.
Vegan: everyday stories. Vegans, some well known, some not, talking about their experience. Might be helpful especially for younger people.
Live and Let Live. I think (I might be mistaken) this one is less known nowadays than the ones above, except for the animal-rights activists. But it is a helpful summary of the history of “veganism” and the various reasons why people may choose to go vegan.
Compassion in fashion
Will’s Vegan Shoes and Accessories.
Save the Duck sells animal-free coats. Down-like without down feathers. The company was awarded the Vegan Fashion Award by PETA Deutschland. I would also give them one of the cutest brand names award.
Compassionate Closet. I would definitely give them the warmest name for a brand award.
Tokyo Bags is where you can find handcrafted, vegan bags produced with sustainable materials. Their products are simply beautiful- minimal and attractive. Oh,they have free shipping also! (I hate paying for shipping. Don’t you?)
Matt and Nat. I am in love. My backpack receives tons of compliments, and it has been saving my life these last couple of years.
Vegan and non-toxic Beauty and Cosmetics
100% Pure Love them. Tried their face washes and moisturizers, and I liked them a lot. Have not tried the make-up yet but I am intrigued.
Credo Beauty. The Detox Market. Follain. Art of Pure. It’s incredibly relieving to know that *most* of whatever you see on these platforms will be clean. I say most, because I can only talk based on what I have seen, and I looked at the ingredients of tens and tens of products, but I am only human, dear reader. So do have a look at the ingredient list anyway. Besides, the product might not be vegan (for instance, it might involve honey, beeswax), but either way, these sites make it much more convenient to search for what you look for.
Beauty Without Cruelty Much more affordable prices. (I have to say with a much less attractive website. We, the plant-based community, might want to pay more attention to the power of aesthetics and user-friendliness? Maybe?
Chantecaille. Not all, but some (most?) of their products are vegan, non-toxic and natural. Natural does not mean that it will be good for you but I have used some of their face oils and moisturizers and I love them all. Their products are free of phthalates, sulphates, detergents, mineral oil, petrolatum, palm oil, synthetic colors, synthetic fragrances, and parabens. They do not do tests on animals. Since the demand for vegan and non-toxic products are increasing, I hope that we will get rid of this cruel and unnecessary business of animal testing.
BKIND. Oh. My. God. I love, no I want, no I need everything that these people have. I want to work for them, be with them, keep stalking them on Instagram.
Ranavat Botanics True story: I am riding the 2 train in Brooklyn, New York. The woman sitting next to me turns and says: “Excuse my language, but you smell delicious!”. Surprised but still witty, I said:”Excuse? This is the best compliment ever!”. It took me a while to realize that it was Ranavat’s Mighty Majesty hair oil. I use this oil on my hair everyday; but also on my body, when I have a date with my husband! A few drops on your shoulders and your neck and you will smell “delicious”.
Winky Lux. Especially if you are younger than, say 30, or if you have young people around you, and you want to get them a present, I would strongly recommend this brand. I mean, please check out their website. Their products are free from cruelty, parabens, sulfates, gluten, and phthalates. I have two of their “flower” lip balms. One for me (hey, I’m still young!) and one for my bff’s niece who, like Aunty Ivy, loves cosmetics!
Schmidt’s Naturals. I used to love them. They have this charcoal and magnesium deodorant that I, for some reason, LOVE so much. It might take a while to get used to it, but it is worth it. However, they have been bought by Unilever recently. And, unfortunately, Unilever is not known for their ethical and cruelty-free research. So, no more Schmidt’s for me.
FruitenVeg is an accessories label based in NYC, specializing in whimsical, non-leather and faux-fur luxury handbags. I have not used their bags yet, but they look quite fun.
Raising Vegan Families and Maintaining Non-Toxic Households
Pregnancy and breastfeeding. Vegan society can be a start. They also provide info on kids’ meal plans.
Vegan Pregnancy Survival Guide by Sayward Rebhal
The Whole 9 Months: A Week-By-Week Pregnancy Nutrition Guide With Recipes for a Healthy Start, by Jennifer Lang, MD. This is not a vegan-focused book, but it does have worthy information, as well as lots of plant-based recipes. Many non-plant-based recipes can be “veganized”, by, for instance, using plant-based milk instead of skim milk and so on.
Franjoskitchen is known for their gluten, dairy, egg and refined flour free snacks and biscuits for pregnant and lactating mums. But they also have Kinder Biscuits for your babes. Sigh. You should visit the website if only for the adorable pictures.
For kiddo-friendly snacks (and the snack-loving parents) I also highly recommend Sprout Organic Foods. Get the kiddos like veggies!
The Everything Vegan Pregnancy Book by Reed Mangels
Dr. Bronner’s, Pure-Castile Liquid Soap-baby unscented.
Online shopping- from books to vitamins and cosmetics
Snacks, darlings, snacks
I’m HUGE fan of snacks. I love them, eat them regularly, cannot do without them. So this is one of my favourite parts in the list. Here we go.
Dr Kracker is delicious. Not all of their products are vegan, but the vegan ones are delicious. I used to do a happy dance when they went on sale at Whole Foods. Unfortunately, I don’t buy these crackers as often anymore, because David, my beloved, has gluten-intolerance, and we’re a team (wink). Dr. Kracker, please make gluten-free alternatives!
Vegancuts is great- they have snack boxes, make-up boxes, beauty boxes. I discovered such good yummies thanks to them. I recently started a 3-month subscription, and have been immensely happy with it. They do have options without such commitment too- I had ordered their snack box a couple of times before subscribing. Happy dance each time.
Wasa is everyone’s favourite in many European countries. I loved loaves of bread and other pastries in Germany, but these crackers were also a staple in my Berlin flat. Again, gluten.
Smoothie lovers, pay attention! The Natural Citizen has these “smoothie boosters” which provide a healthy dose of whole food, plant-based nutrition to any smoothie. Their products are all certified organic, gluten-free and vegan. You know, many protein powders, energy powders and so on are processed, or they have tons of ingredients. This does not always mean unhealthy, and I am using various products with complex ingredients myself. But if you are trying to go as simple and whole as possible, you might want to give The Natural Citizen a shot.
Go raw products are pricey. But delicious and I love them. All of them. But pricey. But I love them.
Oh, my God. Have you tried Somersaults yet? You should. Our favourites are the Dutch cocoa and sea salt. They are the baked goodies with lots of sunflower seeds. And we LOVE sunflower seeds.
Nadamoo is added to this list as a special request of my husband. I love chocolate, he loves ice cream, and Nadamoo is where we meet. To quote him verbatim: “I can’t believe it’s not dairy”.
Vegetarian Traveler gives various options for salad toppers- toasted bean and seed blends! I only tried the pepita and soy-pea blend which was delicious and gave that tasty crunchiness to salads and soups.
I recently discovered these air-popped sorghum snacks. I mean, look at these tiny little things.
They are delicious, but also the cutest snack. Our favourite so far is the sea salt. It is a healthy alternative in the world of highly processed snacks.
Another recent favourite is Kala beautiful beans. There is so much talk against legumes such as lentils and beans. The overload of information becomes tiring, overwhelming, confusing because everyone has an opinion about anything. When in doubt, I highly recommend going back to the How Not To Die which I mentioned above. Or, have a look at this short video. Those who are suggesting that we should eschew legumes and whole grains also seem to be advocating that we will become healthier by consuming large amounts of meats, seafood, and eggs (I exclude paleo-vegans here, but you can guess that I do not agree with them either). They might lose weight in the short run, but what is happening to our health in the long run? Please keep in mind that “thin” does not mean healthy. “Skinny” does not mean strong.
Anyway, based on all that I have read through the years, it is my understanding that, as long as you do not eat them raw, beans and other legumes are not only okay but also incredibly nutritious. Besides, who can eat them raw (ever tried eating that rock-solid kidney bean as is?)? What is more, they are commonly found in many non-Western diets- I don’t think I have spent a day without chickpeas or lentils since I was a child. Finally, they are great for snacking. There are now chickpea snacks available, and fava beans and lentil chips, and I would love to add your favourites to the list here. Just send us a note!
Animal Rights, Activism and Theory
There are TONS of books and articles. I want to mention one (below) only because that happens to be one of my favourites and I believe it is not as famous as most others (again, I might be wrong).
Let me start with the Anonymous for the Voiceless, though. I had not known about them until recently. They do quite an unapologetic street activism. They use regular footage of what non-human animals experience every day and bring the reality to the open if you will.
The Humane Society has resources you can benefit from.
American Anti-vivisection Society works to stop the use of animals in science.
In Animals Like Us Michael Rowlands uses principles of justice to claim and prove that it is unjust to harm animals. From “Do animals have minds?” to using animals for experiments, Rowlands proposes responses to main questions in debates about veganism.
Okay, this is my list- so far. Again, please do come back for more, as I will be updating this list regularly. And please let me know if you have suggestions (especially good vegan snack suggestions are appreciated!).
With much love…