Gluten Free : Vegan :: Netflix : Mars

Like that title? I’ve been searching for opportunities to use those agonizing SAT analogies circa 2004 in the real world. Eleven years later and I’ve finally done it!

Just wanted to quickly clear something up for anyone who has been¬†too scared to ask me, because as I mentioned before, I haven’t always been so open¬†to your perfectly reasonable questions.

Gluten Free comes from a completely different planet than Vegan. While some people have adopted both labels, the two have absolutely no relationship to one another.

In the last couple of years, I’ve had a lot of conversations that go something like this:

Friend: “Oh, but vegans¬†can’t have pasta right?”

Me: “As long as it doesn’t have egg in it!”

Friend: “You must miss bread so much!”

Me: “Nope. I’m 75% water, 25% bread.”

Friend: “But doesn’t bread have…?”

Me: “Vegan means I don’t eat animal products.”

Friend: “What about wheat?”

Me: …

The popularity of going gluten free and going vegan have skyrocketed in the last couple of years. People often¬†mix up the two terms because they equate both gluten free and vegan as being “restrictive fad diets.” New celebrities are going gluten free raw vegan every day! Lots of spiralized zucchini noodles and green juice in People Magazine are probably contributing to this confusion, so I know that it’s not unfounded when people ask me. I’m not offended, I’m happy to share the difference between the two!

Gluten free means that you avoid gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and the ever-popular triticale (a hybrid of wheat/rye.) People with Celiac disease have an inability to process these¬†proteins, causing serious damage to their small intestine. This leads to¬†pain, weight gain, and if left untreated, the potential development of a variety of other autoimmune disorders.¬†Those who are not diagnosed with Celiac but still experience negative symptoms from eating gluten are labeled as having a “gluten sensitivity.” Gluten has no negative impact on people without Celiac or gluten sensitivity. If you’ve never thought about the impact of gluten on your diet before, chances are YOU’RE FINE TO KEEP EATING BREAD. Obviously listen to you doctor and not to me, but many needlessly self-diagnosed gluten-phobes are out there. No judgment. Just sayin’. I guess people make up stuff sometimes to feel included in the latest, hippest autoimmune¬†disorders?¬†Don’t ask me¬†why.

Being vegan means that you are solely plant-based in your diet and clothing & home product purchases.

Here’s the definitive list of things that vegans do not eat:

Butter, Casein (protein from animal milk), Cochneal/Carmine (red food dye made from bugs!) Confectioner’s glaze (made from other bugs!), Cream from animal milk, Eggs from an animal, Goat’s milk, Cow’s milk, Cheese made from Goat’s milk, Cheese made from Cow’s milk, Cow/Beef, Pig/Pork, Chickens, Turkeys, Wild Game Birds, Lambs, Sheep, Goats, Fish, Shellfish, Shrimp, Lobsters. Gelatin (made from Hooves/Bones.)¬†Honey. White Processed Sugar (processed with bone char.) Lard. And any/all animal body parts and secretions that I forgot to list. Anything from an animal or made by and animal is not vegan.

Here’s the list of everything that vegans CAN eat!¬†

Fruits: Apples, Apricots, Avocados, Bananas, Bilberries, Blackberries, Blackcurrants, Blood Oranges, Blueberries, Boysenberries, Cantaloupes, Cucumbers, Currants, Cherrys, Cherimoyas, Clemtines Cloudberries, Coconuts, Cranberries, Damsons, Dates, Dragonfruit, Durians, Elderberries, Feijoa, Figs, Goji berries, Gooseberries, Grapes, Grapefruits, Guavas, Honeydews, Huckleberries, Jabuticabas, Jackfruits, Jambuls, Jujubes, Juniper berries, Kiwi fruits, Kumquats, Lemons, Limes, Loquat, Lychees, Mandarines, Mangoes, Mangosteen, Marion berries, Miracle fruits, Mulberries, Nectarines, Olives, Oranges, Papayas, Passionfruits, Peaches, Pears, Persimmons, Physalis, Plums, Prunes, Pineapples, Pumpkins, Pomegranates, Pomelos, Quinces, Raisins, Rambutan, Rasperries, Redcurrants, Salal berries, Satsumas, Star fruits, Strawberries, Tamarillo, Tamarinds, Tangerines, Tomatoes, Ugli fruits, Watermelon

Vegetables: Acorn squash, Artichokes, Arugula, Asparagus, Banana squash, Beets, Bell Peppers, Bok Choy, Broccoflower, Brussels sprouts, Butternut squash, Cabbages, Calabrese, Carrots, Cassava, Cauliflower, Celeriac, Celery, Chard, Chili Pepper, Chives, Collard greens, Corn, Daikon radish, Delicata, Eggplant, Endive, Fiddlehead ferns, Frisee, Garlic, Gem squash, Ginger, Green onion, Habanero, Horseradish, Hubbard squash, Jalapeno, Jicama, Kale, Kohlrabi, Leek, Lettuce, Mustard greens, Nettles, Okra, Onions, Parsley, Parsnip, Potatoes, Radicchio, Radishes, Rhubarb, Rutabaga, Salsify, Shallots, Skirret, Spaghetti squash, Spinach, Sunchokes, Sweet potatoes, Taro, Tati soi, Topinambur, Turnip, Water chestnut, Watercress, Yams, Yautia Zucchini

Legumes: Alfalfa sprouts, Adzuki beans, Bean Sprouts, Black beans, Black-eyed peas, Borlotti beans, Broad beans, Chickpeas, Green beans, Kidney beans, Lentils, Lima beans, Mung beans, Navy beans, Pinto beans, Runner beans, Split peas, Soy beans, Peas, Snap Peas

Commercially Available (i.e. Not Wild) Fungi: Blewitts,¬†Chanterelles, Cooked False morels, Gypsy mushrooms, Hedgehog mushrooms, Horn of Plenty, Lion’s mane mushrooms, Maitake, Matsutake, Morels, Oyster mushrooms, Porcini, Saffron milk cap, Tube chanterelles, Truffles

Grains: Barley, Bulgur wheat, Corn meal, Durum wheat, Fonio, Kamut, Millet, Oats, Popcorn, Quinoa, Rice, Rye Semolina wheat, Sorghum, Spelt, Teff, Tritcale, Wheat, Wild Rice

Nuts & Seeds: Acorns, Almonds, Beech nuts, Brazil nuts, Candlenuts, Cashews, Chestnuts, Chilean hazelnuts, Cycads Filbert, Ginkgo, Gnetum, Hazelnuts, Hickory, Indian beechnuts, Juniper, Kola nuts, Macadamias, Malabar almonds, Malabar chestnuts, Mamoncillo, Mongongo, Monkey-puzzle, Ogbono, Pecans, Pepitas, Pine nuts, Paradise nuts, Pilis, Pistachios, Podocarps, Walnuts

Most importantly: cane sugar, cocoa/pure dark chocolate, tea, & COFFEE

Herbs & Spices: let’s just let Wikipedia take it from here.

AND THESE ARE JUST THE WHOLE VERSIONS OF THESE FOODS.¬†Shout-out to Tofu/Tempeh/Seitan. I acknowledge you but you’re technically soy & wheat so I felt that it’d be redundant to list you. That’d be like saying both Oats and Oatmeal. I digress…

You get my point, right?¬†Eating vegan is not restrictive. You may have to start eating foods you’ve never tried before, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a restrictive way of eating. I encourage anyone¬†considering going vegan to add in NEW foods they’ve never tried while avoiding animal products. This will help you see that there is so much more out there for you as a vegan than you think!

Ok. Let’s recap:

Veganism = An abundance of plant-foods with no animal parts or secretions.

Gluten free = No proteins from wheat/barley/rye/triticale

Let me know if you have any thoughts or questions. I’m here to help!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gluten Free : Vegan :: Netflix : Mars

Ok, I Admit It: I’ve Underestimated You

 

Ok. What I’m about to say¬†isn’t so easy to admit in a public forum, but I’ve got to come clean.

A little backstory: My best friend called me a few weeks ago to tell me that she’s going vegan! I was surprised and thrilled and couldn’t stop smiling from ear to ear. But deep down, I was kind of horrified: I’d never even considered truly talking to her about veganism. Maybe we’d¬†had a few conversations about it over the years, but she asked me point-blank: “Why didn’t you tell me all this was happening?” As she uncovered more of the truth about the stomach-churning ways that farm animals are treated, she couldn’t believe that I’d been so mild mannered about it.

Then I realized: I’ve been underestimating you. All of you. For the last ten years, I’ve been in my own quiet corner over here, being vegan, hoping you’ll notice, but doubting that anyone that I met¬†would actually make the change because of me. I was resigned and cynical that the world around me could ever possibly care about the lives of animals more than they cared about their tastebuds. When I think back on it, I wonder: why did I even go vegan if that’s what I really thought? To pat myself on the back? To feel righteous? In my defense, saving 3,650 animals in ten years¬†is definitely rewarding. But knowing that I could have saved more is something that was really sticking in my craw. Why had I been so silent for so long?

And then I came across the below image depicting a theory called “The Spiral of Silence.”
spiral of silence

Read more about the Spiral of Silence theory by Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann here.

Awwww…look at me being a sad little dot called “Person with Minority Viewpoint” sliding down the slinky spiral into an abyss of silence.¬†I realized that¬†my entire attitude while communicating about veganism lived in that tiny space called “Perceived Discrepancy.” The most important thing I realized is that the discrepancy is¬†perceived.

No wonder I felt so isolated when talking about¬†veganism! I had created a distance between myself and others. When I think back on conversations where acquaintances asked me about being vegan, I remember feeling impatient with the typical conversation. They’d say “Oh, I really don’t eat that much meat” or “Where do you get your protein?” or “But what’s wrong with eggs?”and I’d sigh. It felt exhausting to respond and explain to the same questions and conversations over and over again. I realize now that¬†I¬†was the one turning it into the same conversation. While the questions are almost always the same, the¬†people asking them are different. The answers apply to them differently. I’d ignored the possibility that I could¬†help someone learn or think about their choices in a new way.

This one realization has led me to completely re-examine how I perceive what’s possible for myself and the people around me. It’s very ordinary to slip into being “reasonable” or “rational” or using “common-sense” when talking with people about a polarizing subject. In reality, these are terms that we use to keep ourselves safe from our fears of failure, rejection, and what we perceive to be utter calamity: WHAT IF THEY DON’T LIKE ME?!?!? But what if we challenged ourselves to push past that point of comfortability? To challenge ourselves to have those “same old conversations” with people in a new way every time they pop up? I’ve been practicing this recently and I am blown away by the results. People listen and care when you do. I’m not advocating for preaching or arguing, but truly connecting with other people on a meaningful level. The object is not to win an argument or even to persuade them to agree, but to share with them who you are and what you care about, and see if they need your help!

Over the years,¬†a few close friends of mine have gone¬†vegan without any persuasion on my part. ¬†One of my friends mentioned that seeing me living my normal vegan life helped her to go vegan- knowing that it was possible to be vegan, happy, well-fed, and not a socially-awkward¬†weirdo (except on businessy¬†voicemails…because that is 100% my kryptonite.) It’s made me feel incredibly inspired each time someone shares with me that they’ve decided to go vegan. I’m hoping that now that I can actually talk about it, I’ll see more and more of my friends and family making the change.

So that’s it. Being honest with you has made me feel better! What do you dread talking about?¬†Where in your life do you feel like an outsider? Are you holding on to a¬†perceived discrepancy¬†that may or may not exist? I’d love to know what’s going on with you. I know you’re reading this. Don’t be afraid to speak up!

Ok, I Admit It: I’ve Underestimated You

Is Being Vegan Healthy?

Not inherently.

The truth is, that eating vegan is not synonymous with eating healthy. Many people think that if you’re vegan that means that you claim to eat “better” than other people. I’ve had someone assume that I don’t use the microwave because I’m vegan. Or that I don’t eat gluten. Or that I do juice cleanses and drink smoothies every day. But the truth is, that being vegan is a framework for choosing what to eat, but it has very little to do with¬†how¬†to eat.

Full disclosure: My go-to¬†empty-fridge meal is called hummus pasta. It’s¬†just cooked pasta covered in a heaping spoonful of hummus. I’m not proud of it and it’s definitely not winning any blue ribbons for “Most Nutritious Dinner,” but it’s delicious and in a pinch, gets the job done.¬†Many people have¬†that one vegan friend who just eats french fries and pasta all the time. ¬†Fatty fried foods can be vegan. Sour Patch Kids are vegan.¬†Red Bull is vegan.

Eating vegan is simply the avoidance of animal protein in any form. Intrinsically, eating vegan has nothing to do with health.

On the other hand, eating a plant-based diet can have an enormous positive impact on your health. A thoughtful vegan diet consisting of adequate nutrients, vitamins, and minerals is not particularly challenging to adopt. Prior to going vegan, I wasn’t eating very healthfully. I ate junk food late at night and never thought about the quantity (or lack thereof)¬†of the vegetables I was occasionally eating. I’ve always enjoyed fruits and vegetables, but I hadn’t spent much time intentionally consuming them. When I went vegan, I decided to avoid animal protein¬†and¬†improve the quality of my diet simultaneously.

While there are so many fantastic resources on the internet for finding nutritional information, I think it’s easy to get a bit lost in the shuffle when you’re first going vegan. You can read on one website that you have to take a B12 supplement, while another website tells you that your vegan diet is whole and perfect and better than any other diet. But who can you really trust to give you great nutrition advice?

The answer, in my opinion, is your intuition. Or rather, experts whose advice and credentials you trust and your intuition. Not bloggers on the internet.

If you are considering a vegan diet, I suggest you read up on everything you can in published sources regarding nutrition. Shortly after I went vegan, I took a college course in nutrition. My professor, Dr. Lisa Young, is an expert on portion control and adequate nutrition through whole, minimally processed foods. During her class, I gained valuable insight into the body’s relationship with the nutrients that we provide for it. From my¬†experience in that class, I’m confident that the way that I eat is healthy and beneficial. I know that I’m healthy because I eat a well-balanced diet and my blood tests confirm that, despite the occasional dinner of hummus pasta.

 

Is Being Vegan Healthy?

Vegan Perfection? Or Vegan Exception?

I have been known, from time to time, to be a raging perfectionist. My dear friend and former roommate often used to catch me scrubbing the crusty nooks and crannies inside our refrigerator with a toothbrush and baking soda at 11 o’clock at night.

Needless to say, when there is a detail to obsess over or a project to make more complicated by adding lots of very specific restrictions, I’m your girl.

When I first went vegan, I wanted to really do it. Go Vegan and never look back. But a few months into my veganism, I felt like I was really missing out on a necessary and sacred New York Ritual: brunch.

Sure, I could make vegan french toast at home sitting in front of the TV in my dorm room watching Tyra on basic cable, But that is a lonely existence. Friends would suggest going to the diner on Sunday mornings, but with the sole vegan item on the menu being a defrosted fruit cup of mostly translucent honeydew, I would always sadly decline.

But then I had an epiphany!

Why can’t I be vegan with a brunch exception? All I’m asking for here is a freakin’ belgian waffle.

So I became a vegan¬†except for brunch on the weekends and the occasional bag of peanut butter M&M’s.

Did that make me an imperfect vegan?

Yes.

But did it mean that I could finally stop alienating myself simply because I was vegan?

Yes.

Did it stop the growing resentment of veganism brewing inside of me?

YES.

I  think the most important thing to remember when you are first working towards becoming a vegan is to BE NICE TO YOURSELF.

Beating yourself up because all you want is a belgian waffle and some friends is not going to reinforce your vegan beliefs.

Over time, I stopped making brunch exceptions and started inventing my own concoctions at diners like “I’ll have the home fries with the side of steamed spinach and I’ll mash it all up together and add hot sauce.”¬†The non-vegan belgian waffle has lost its appeal…but only because it wasn’t off-limits any more.

Often when I tell someone I’m vegan, they smile and say earnestly, “Oh, I could be a vegan…but I could NEVER give up cheese.” To which I always say, “Great! Then be a vegan who eats cheese.”

They usually give me a strange look and I explain:

Give up the animal products that you don’t care about and keep eating cheese. Why eat something so disastrously harmful to the planet and your health when you don’t really care either way if you eat it or not? If you can do without it…do without it. Don’t just continue eating the same way because you can’t figure out the right label for the way you want to eat.

My favorite quote from vegan chef and educator Colleen Patrick Goudreau is “Don’t do¬†nothing because you can’t do¬†everything.

People get so caught up in the idea that you have to be ALL or NOTHING.

As if the options were VEGAN or “Oh, I’m not picky (actually I could care less if I never eat another egg again) but sure, I’ll have an omelette because that’s what you’re making anyway.”

It think it’s time for people to stop worrying about the label of veganism and start eating using their consciousness and intuition.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last ten years thinking about the word VEGAN. Labeling myself that way has a lot of benefits. It’s a quick shorthand for being understood when I refuse a non-vegan brownie that someone is¬†offering.

But I’m realizing that there are major drawbacks to identifying oneself with a label and then letting it do all the work for you. Sitting back, thinking, I’m a vegan…isn’t that enough?

The short answer is no.

Every time you eat a meal, you have a choice. Falling back on the label you’ve created for yourself (VEGAN VEGAN VEGAN) will only lead you to resenting veganism. So many people have said to me that they think being a vegan sounds hard, but I’ve honestly never felt that way, even in college while wanting a belgian waffle. I love being vegan for all the good it does my body…and animals…and the planet. No one says “Oh, you drive an electric car, that must be so difficult for you having grown up riding in an SUV.” People change their habits every day. If you can learn to turn off the lights when you leave a room or turn off the running water while you brush your teeth, certainly you can learn to eat in a new way. What’s the difference? Change you habits and forgive yourself the slip-ups, knowing you’re on your way to making a significant lifelong change.

 

 

 

Vegan Perfection? Or Vegan Exception?

Why I Went Vegan 10 Years Ago

I became vegan¬†10 years ago after my freshman year of college. With no intention of becoming a lifelong vegan, I set out on a little experiment to try to make myself start¬†feeling better. I’d spent the year eating burgers at three in the morning and celebrating¬†40 oz.¬†Fridays every Friday…

I know.

Classy.

For the first time in my life I felt lethargic and slow. My stomach was always churning…not to mention steadily growing. The top of my jeans were rarely buttoned…

I know.

Classy.

So there I was looking for a way to detox and feel better. A healthy classmate suggested going vegan and I thought why not? I like a challenge! I was vegetarian for three weeks in 5th grade! How hard could it be to be vegan for the summer?

So I decided to do it.

I didn’t have a lot of money or fancy kitchen equipment but I did have the internet. And books! I went to the Strand in NYC¬†and bought Becoming Vegan by Brenda Davis & Melissa Versanto…and completely devoured it.

These vegan people could be on to something.
I spent my summer looking up vegan recipes on the internet and testing them out in my tiny dorm room kitchen.

My first week of veganism went a little something like this:

Vegan Deli Slices? OK. Wow, that’s gross.

I guess I should try whatever this tempeh stuff is? Do I eat it just out of the package? Gross.

Soy milk? OK…it’s really that not bad.

Fresh Organic Carrot Juice¬†that cost me $12 at Whole Foods? Yum! But help me…I’m poor.
Nutritional Yeast? What?! YEAST???? Ew…but maybe if I just sprinkle a little…yum? OK. Fine. Yum. Yes. Yum! I…think I like this Nutritional Yeast stuff. But I still have this giant container¬†of it. What should I make? Some random Vegan Cheez sauce recipe that I¬†unsuccessfully tried to spread¬†between two slices of bread as a “Grilled Cheez”? Hauntingly¬†gross. Ok, putting away the nutritional yeast and not using that sucker again for another year. (True Story)
Salad. Okay, I got this.¬†I¬†love salad.¬†I’ll¬†put some Ranch dressing on it! No ranch dressing, you say?! BUT WHHYYY?!?!!! That’s the only dressing I like!! My fantasy as child was that dandelions were filled with ranch dressing when you snap the stems in half! I live for Ranch dressing…
Other dressings? Veganaise? Please. That is not a solution.
Goddess dressing. Ugh, I’ll never feel¬†like a goddess with this rancid garlic breath.
Olive oil and balsamic. Yawn. OK. Meh.
Lemon juice and olive oil. Simple & surprisingly delicious.

Zucchini brownies! HOLY HEAVEN THESE ARE DELICIOUS!

Pita sandwiches stuffed with flavored tofu and veggies and sweet mustard. WOW!

Tofu scramble with Gimme Lean Veggie Sausage?? HELL YEAH.
Piping hot Falafel from down the street??!!!? BRING IT ON MAMMOUNS!

Okay this really isn’t so bad…I think I can do it and maybe button the top button of my jeans on a regular basis by the end of the summer!

 

Annnd flash forward to today¬†10 years later. Full on committed vegan with a penchant for tempeh, tofu, nutritional yeast, flax meal, chia seeds, berry smoothies, raw kale salads, soba noodles, almond milk, miso dressing, and yes: VEGANAISE! I can eat that stuff right out of the jar with a spoon. But. I don’t. Haven’t I mean. I have never done that. Except when I make¬†crispy breadcrumb-topped mac n’cashew cheese. Then I eat big spoonfuls of it with each bite. But now¬†I can button my jeans! So there.

During a¬†bridal shower game a few years ago, my heart melted into a puddle on the floor¬†when my fiance (now husband) said that¬†“Vegan French Toast” was his favorite thing that I’ve ever cooked for him. He generally hates french toast but loves it when I make it (using cinnamon raisin bread and coconut oil!)

I never gave up eating vegan because I never stopped finding exciting and delicious new foods to try. I’ve found so much joy in¬†reading about food, trying new recipes, eating all of it and sharing it with friends. I love to cook for people who unsure¬†of vegan food. They don’t realize that they eat vegan food every day…just usually alongside other foods that aren’t vegan.

I also never gave up eating vegan because I learned the true¬†spirit of Veganism: consciousness. I’ve awakened my mind and my body to what I’m¬†eating. I always know what is in the food that I eat (unless it’s at a restaurant because then who KNOWS what’s in that). Now there are no more ranch-dressing style surprises. I read the labels when I shop. I google ingredients that I don’t recognize. Generally, I try not to eat foods with a lot of mysterious chemicals but there isn’t always a choice. If your mom is making you a Thanksgiving gravy and texts you a photo of the ingredients in Knoll’s Veggie Bouillon cubes…you gotta ask: What the heck is TBHQ? And then you google it and are horrified.
Consciousness means not being afraid to ask WHAT THE HELL IS THAT REALLY? I’m no longer content to be complacent about what happens to our planet and the beings that inhabit it. I feel a responsibility to make a difference. And when doing so has become so easy, why not? Our world is becoming more connected, more available, more abundant.
And then there’s the biggest reason of all: compassion. For my body. For the animals. For the planet. I know that for me, there is no other way of being that can do more good, effect more change, create more happiness in the world than by leading my own happy, healthy vegan life. I don’t need to preach or proselytize. I can lead by example. And I have. I have vegan friends now. Not many…but enough to know that the world is changing and people are waking up to the powerful damage that our system of food processing creates.
I have the luxury of choosing to eat vegan. Many people in the world do not have a choice of what is available for them to eat. But I do and if you are reading this at a computer…most likely so do you.¬†If we¬†live in one of¬†the most food abundant countries on the planet and can afford to shop at a grocery store that carries 7 different brands of garlic salt, it¬†is our privilege to choose what¬†we eat. I choose to eat vegan because I love how it makes me feel and how it affects the world that I live in.
Every year, billions of animals suffer because we are too afraid to learn the truth. We are too afraid to make a choice.¬†What kind of world does that create? One where we blindly fend for ourselves and let the rest of the world fall by the wayside. That’s not what I want for us. I know we can do better.
So what made you go vegan? I’d love to hear your experience.¬†And if you’re curious but not yet vegan, what prevents you from taking the plunge?
Why I Went Vegan 10 Years Ago

Going Normal.

Welcome to THE NORMAL VEGAN– a vegan blog for NORMAL people! I say¬†normal people with a twinkle in my eye…but since this is the internet, you weren’t able to tell.

By normal I mean, you can be a vegan that eats at restaurants and goes to birthday parties and shops at any old grocery store.

Normal vegans can go to a dinner party and not alienate the entire room.

Normal vegans can comfortably be the token vegan friend and lead effortlessly by example.

Normal vegans speak sensitively and passionately about their beliefs, allowing other to learn bit by bit how they can contribute to creating a more compassionate world.

If you want to go vegan but keep your sanity- this is the blog for you!

Check back soon to read all about my experience of going vegan ten years ago…

Going Normal.