As a chef in the Boston area, I get asked a lot about my diet. Even just as a person in the Boston area, living a different lifestyle, I get asked a lot of questions. People still don't really seem to know what a vegan eats because they stop listening after "no meat or cheese," and stay focused on what's missing in this diet instead of all the things gained.
It's true, a vegan does not eat any animal products, but abiding by a vegan diet doesn't make it a healthy one. Tons of packaged and processed foods are actually vegan if you look closely, though they might not advertise it on the front of the package. Many companies are adding products to their label just to satisfy a growing demand. Oreos and french fries are vegan, and so are beer and potato chips. See what I mean?
That's not to say some companies aren't out there doing right by us, the hungry but confused people of America. Tons of conscious brands are being established every year and it's important that we show them some love by voting with our hard earned dollars. Does anyone make ads for fruits + vegetables? How about nuts and legumes?
Mother Nature does not have a marketing department or ad budget, nor is she concerned about her competition and annual sales. She simply works with the sun and maintains the perfect conditions in which nourishing and delicious food can grow from beautiful and very smart plants and trees. Each one has evolved to grow and thrive under certain conditions and can provide us with the nutrients we need to maintain radiant human health based on where we live. I don't know about you, but that's a business I want to buy into!
What a plant-based diet is focused on is the consumption of mostly plants. Pretty obvious, right? Eating all colors of the rainbow and absorbing the resulting wide array of nutrients in colorful fruits + veggies is the foundation of this lifestyle. We're eating vibrant and living foods and feeling so vibrant and alive as a result! Can you blame us for choosing the plant-based options time after time? It just feels so good to feel good in your body. But it does take time - and that's where so many of us stumble and relapse back into the Standard American Diet (SAD).
This doesn't mean we don't also have challenges sticking to this lifestyle, especially in a food world filled with landmines. It's even more of a temptation now that fast-food franchises and processed food companies have learned that terms like "vegan" and "cruelty-free" can earn them more market share. They are focused on the bottom line and market share, not the health of their consumers. There are now loads of almond milk ice cream varieties, meat alternatives, and freezer meals boasting the vegan claim - but take a look at the label and you'll likely be shocked.
Plant-based means eating food that is food, and if it does have a label it's short and contains ingredients an eight year old can pronounce. It means preparing meals in our home kitchens with ingredients that are simple and whole, and really connecting with this process as a form of self-care and self-love. Infusing our cooking with love and gratitude is a big part of this idea too, but I'll share more on that later :)
For now, just add in more plants to your diet. That's all. Try that for a day, a week, a month - how ever long you think you could realistically sustain that. Enlist people who support this change to try it with you! There is so much power in accountability and teamwork.