“Going vegan” and veganism is a dietary choice that has received an increased amount of attention in recent years. A large number of food products labeled vegan are now available in grocery stores (including many of our products), and social media and magazines frequently cover stories about celebrities and sports stars embracing a vegan diet to stay in shape and embrace good health. As a result, a lot more people are asking: What is vegan?
What is Vegan? And how do I know if I’m vegan?
The term “vegan” can trace its origin to 1944 when a group of vegetarians decided that in addition to abstaining from meat, that they would also stop consuming any products of animal origin – such as dairy, eggs, and cheese, as well as honey, wool, and leather-goods. In 1979, the Vegan Society became a registered charity and updated the definition of veganism as “a way of living that attempts to exclude all forms of animal exploitation and cruelty, be it for food, clothing or any other purpose.”
One way to answer the question “what is vegan”, is to look at the reasons why people choose it over other diets. Typically, those who adopt a vegan lifestyle do so for one, or more, of the following reasons:
- Ethical Responsibilities: Ethical vegans have a strong, committed belief that all living creatures have a right to a free life. Ethical vegans are opposed to farming practices that place unnecessary physical and psychological stress on animals. Vegans in this group often “vote with their dollar” by intentionally purchasing products and supporting businesses aligned with their beliefs.
- Health Reasons: Some people follow a vegan diet for its weight-loss and health benefits. Plant-based diets have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer. Also, research has shown that vegan diets often result in lower body weight and body mass index (BMI), so many incorporate them as a way to lose weight, stay in shape, and look better.
- Environmental Concerns: People also choose to avoid meat and animal products because of the negative impact large-scale commercial animal agriculture has on the local and global environment. A 2010 report from the United Nations (UN) showed that animal-based products typically require higher levels of environmental resources such as water and land than plant-focused agriculture, and are responsible for increased levels of greenhouse gas emissions due to the levels of waste produced.
What kinds of foods do vegans eat?
Many people think that following a vegan diet means eating lettuce and apples all day long. In fact, that couldn’t be further from reality! Vegan snacks and meals can be as equally filling, delicious and nutritionally sound as their traditional, animal-based counterparts. Many recipes that use meat and dairy now offer vegan “swaps” that make them easy to try at home.
Some examples include:
- Using black beans instead of pork or chicken in burritos, enchiladas or tacos
- Using seitan or tempeh instead of meat or fish required in a recipe
- Using soft tofu instead of scrambled eggs
- Using extra firm tofu instead of chicken or fish in stir-frys, soups, or rice dishes
- Using lentils, grains, or veggie burgers instead of hamburger, turkey, chicken or salmon burgers
- Using nut-based or soy cheeses instead of dairy cheeses on pizzas, pasta, and sandwiches
- Using nut milk instead of dairy milk in smoothies, coffee, and other drinks
- Using salsa, guacamole, hummus, or other plant-based condiments instead of mayonnaise or dairy-based dips and sauces on sandwiches, wraps or snacks
Learn What is Vegan at the Local Supermarket
Grocery stores are now offering an ever-growing selection of pre-made and already prepared vegan products to make eating a vegan diet even more convenient. The next time you’re shopping, be on the look-out for vegan meats and sausages, nut and plant-based “milk”, “cheeses” made from nuts, herbs, and spices. There are even vegan versions of favorite desserts like ice cream, cheesecake, and chocolate.
The bottom line is that embracing a vegan diet is now easier than ever before, partly because learning what is vegan and what isn’t has never been more transparent. Between eating a wide selection of whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, beans, and lentils, vegans also can choose delicious prepared foods that align with their ethical, environmental, and health commitments. When buying prepared foods, be sure to look for the “Certified Vegan” symbol on the package.
Tommy’s Has Several Certified Vegan Products
Here at Tommy’s, we believe vegetables are an important nutritional component to any diet. That’s why we’re committed to making the most delicious and nutritious flash-frozen vegetables you’ll ever try. If eating a vegan, or plant-based diet is a goal for you, pick up a bag or two the next time you’re at the supermarket – we’re certain you’ll find them a tasty and welcome addition to your menu plan!