To all the readers at Nifty Nib, hi! My name is Mahalakshmi and I’m the blogger behind melangeofwords.com. I’ve been a vegan since February 2018, and there are quite a few things I’m learning along the way.
Let me start by telling you that a transition of any kind is not easy, AT ALL. And when you decide to commit to a lifestyle that can be quite radical, it is another ball game altogether. Veganism is a lifestyle that I’m still transitioning into, despite months of my dedication that has gone into it.
One of the primary things that humans love is food. The pleasure we get from the prospect of eating a delicious meal seems to shoot our Endorphin levels up sky high. Just think of all the pizza, burgers, desserts and big Indian Thalis to eat… but wait, how do you make it vegan?
WHAT IS VEGANISM?
We can begin by defining veganism, which Wikipedia says, “is the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products in our food and our lifestyle”. The ethical principle behind veganism is that animals are treated with cruelty and used as commodities at large by society. The most commonly known animal products are meat, dairy, eggs, honey, leather, silk and wool.
“Hold up, you want us to give up even dairy and honey? What is so cruel about silk? All of this sounds so impractical! I bet you’ll be back to your usual habits before you went vegan, because this is hard to sustain.”- what vegans are told a lot.
To find out the truth behind why one should abstain from dairy and other antics of the animal industry, you can check out the documentary ‘Earthlings’. It was one of the factors that propelled me towards embracing veganism.
MY VEGAN STORY
I was a vegetarian for about 23 years of my life, and I have a back story behind my ‘why’ of becoming vegan. It made me realize that another life was suffering for my taste buds to feel satiated and I didn’t want to contribute to that. But even for a vegetarian switching to veganism, it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.
I had three doubts that plagued me before I took the plunge-
- I had to give up the lifeline of my vegetarian past: dairy. This meant that I had to bid goodbye to sweets, filter coffee and other savory dishes with dairy in them. Also, hasta la vista to dairy-based butter and cheese!
- I used to enjoy eating eggs for breakfast everyday, and I wondered if any vegan food would make me feel as satiated as that.
- Holy mother of carb loading, am I going to get fat?!
Here’s the answer to the three doubts:
- Yes, say goodbye to dairy in all forms. But say hello to plant-based substitutes for milk, butter and cheese made from nuts!
- Girl, you’ve got fruit, toast and almond milk chai for all the #breakfastwins.
- Hahahaha, nope. I have lost some body fat instead on a vegan diet.
And don’t even get me started on the ‘where do vegans get their protein’ question.
I’m sure most of the world definitely knows about the magic of lentils and legumes for non-animal protein dose!
Before I ramble on like a fool any further, let me tell you how I made eating vegan easier and sustainable on a longer-term for me.
5 TIPS FOR MAKING VEGAN EATING EASIER
- Carbs are not your enemy.
I would fear carbohydrates from the moment I began dieting in September 2013 to an okay-ish food pattern in January 2018. I was hung up on wanting to be the thinnest version of me, running on the hamster wheel of dissatisfaction. I would eat all the foods I wanted to, but it was more of a binge session. My diet was heavily reliant on dairy and eggs, and the vegetable-fruit ratio was relatively low. Think bars of Dairy Milk chocolate for cheat meals, milk biscuits that promised calcium and healthy hunger satiation, yogurt and eggs that ensured I would be a lean protein-eating machine. But when it came to eating rice, whole wheat breads and potatoes, I would run in the other direction. ‘Ew, won’t that make me fat?’, was what I thought.
Boy, was I so wrong! I come from a carb-lover’s paradise called India, with so many delicious whole grain options to gorge on. White rice, whole wheat atta, bajri flour, ragi flour, semolina and vermicelli are just a few whole grain options I can think of which are great for health. Then come starches like potatoes and sweet potatoes which taste great and power the body up. There are some people with PCOS who are told not to eat much carbohydrates because of their insulin resistance. But I also know a blogger who eats carbs and has beat her PCOS! Unless you’ve been medically advised to eat lower carb count, I don’t see any reason to fear them! Carbohydrates are energy sources for the body to tap into, and they should not be excluded for a long-term, fit body.
A few vegan carbohydrate-rich, fit foods include white & brown rice, rice idli & dosa, pesarattu, adaidosa, wheat chapati/roti, thepla, upma and poha.
- Don’t follow any particular dietary restriction. (HCLF, LCHF, HPLC)
I’ve tried calorie counting, vegetarian keto, high protein- but none of these come close to how vegan eating has transformed me. I have lost some body fat, I have more energy to be active and feel clean energy throughout my body. And it’s not just my physique that is changing, but my mindset too! I have overcome the dieter’s mentality I held onto for so long and don’t use the weight scale anymore. I feel lighter but stronger, without depriving myself of ANY food I crave. I think the guilt-less feeling comes from knowing that my food is as natural as it gets, being made from plants.
|My habitual vegan food|
|VEGETABLES||Onions, tomatoes, zucchini, bell pepper, spinach, potatoes, butternut squash/pumpkin, snake gourd, cabbage, cauliflower, beetroot, okra and ivy gourd|
|FRUITS||Strawberries, apples, grapes, watermelon, pineapple, oranges|
|CARBOHYDRATES||White rice, bread, idli, dosa, adai, semolina, vermicelli, flattened rice, bajri flour, quinoa, brown rice|
|FATS||Avocados, olive oil, coconut, canola oil, almond milk, and dessert|
|PROTEIN||Tofu, chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans, masoor dal (red lentils), toor dal (split pigeon peas), moong dal (split yellow peas) and vegan protein powder|
|FOR BALANCE & SANITY 😊||Raw sugar, maple syrup, vegan yogurt, vegan jam & butter, vegan snacks, homemade baked goodies and dark chocolate|
I don’t count calories anymore and eat to nourish my body. I eat till I am about 80% full and supplement the rest with water. When you initially begin eating vegan, it is easy to get caught up in the world of HCLF (high carb low fat), gluten-freevegan diet or even vegan keto for that matter. Eat what your body craves, but don’t forget to include a bit of everything for every meal!
- Come over, we’ve got vegan goodies!
Seriously, come over and just look at all the vegan junk food you can indulge in! I eat a little bit of junk food everyday; only because I don’t like to deny myself that. I’ve got a list of vegan snacking and indulgences that you can happily eat:
- Vegetable pakora and bajji
- Chickpea sundal
- Chaat like samosa, panipuri, bhelpuri, channa samosa, aloo puri
- Cookies like oreos, Vienna fingers, biscoff and speculoos cookies
- Potato chips like Lay’s Classic, Magic Masala, most Kettle brand chips; sun chips orginal& lentil chips
- Tortilla chips &pico de gallo
- Jangiri and soanpapdi- Indian sweets
- Skittles, Swedish Fish & Sour Patch Kids
- Some varieties of Jell-O instant pudding mix like vanilla, chocolate, etc
- Pillsbury crescent rolls
- Indian store-bought snacks like bhakarwadi, mathri, murukku and bhujia
- Dark chocolates (70% and above) from Theo, Lindt, Equal Exchange and Endangered Species
- Domino’s- thin crust pizza with tomato sauce (not marinara) or bbq sauce base, veggies and sauces like garlic, italian dipping, BBQ and hot buffalo.
- Subway- hearty Italian, Italian, sourdough or wrap with veggies, sweet onion, fat-free Italian, brown and yellow mustard, vinaigrette sauces
- Qdoba Mexican grill- cilantro-lime or brown rice, flour or corn tortilla, meatless tofu protein, veggies, guacamole and most of the salsas.
There are so many more vegan junk food and snacking options out there waiting to be eaten. Go forth and explore, why don’t cha?
- Read the fine print
Ingredients are very, very important to anyone following a vegan lifestyle. There are so many animal-derived ingredients sneaking their way into food you wouldn’t even suspect. It can be exhausting to dissect the ingredients on a food packet, but I can make it just a little easier for you. Here are a few ingredients vegan avoid or cross-check to make sure it is indeed cruelty-free:
- Milk, cream, butter, yogurt, sour cream
- Meat products of all kinds
- Egg whites, eggs and albumin
- Glycerin (can be plant or animal derived) & Isinglass
- Carmine (found in jams, juices and colored jellies)
- Omega-3 or enriched (most likely animal derived unless specified)
- Mono- and di-glycerides (can be plant or animal derived)
- Dairy-derived ingredients like milk powder, non-fat dry milk, lactic acid, casein, sodium caseinate and whey
- E-numbers such as E120 (cochineal), E542 (edible bone phosphate), E631 (sodium inosinate), E901 (beeswax) and E904 (shellac)
- The vegan substitute guide.
Swapping your favorite animal-derived foods with vegan options isn’t hard anymore, considering the plethora of options available. I have put together a list of vegan substitutes or swaps that I know of:
|NON VEGAN ITEMS||VEGAN SUBSTITUTES|
|Milk (cows, buffaloes, goats)||Almond milk, coconut milk, soy milk, cashew milk, hemp milk, oat milk, rice milk|
|Cheese||Processed vegan cheese from Follow Your Heart & Miyoko, Nutritional Yeast, Cashew cheese|
|Meat||Tempeh& mock meat deli, tofurkey|
|Eggs (baking)||Flax meal, chia seeds or applesauce|
|Honey||Maple syrup, agave syrup|
|White sugar||Raw unrefined sugar, artificial sweeteners from Stevia, Splenda, Lakanto, & jaggery|
|Yogurt||Vegan yogurt from Silk, Kite Hill, Forager; homemade peanut yogurt|
|Animal protein- lean meat (salmon, chicken)||Plant protein- tofu, chickpeas, beans, lentils|
|Whey and casein protein powder from Optimum Nutrition, EAS, MusclePharm, Quest, etc||Vegan protein powder from Vega, Orgain, KOS, VeganSmart, Garden of Life|
Spices like turmeric powder, red chilli powder, paprika, chilli flakes, cumin powder, coriander powder, garlic powder and onion powder are vegan. You can also check out a list of vegan South Indian food that you can pamper your taste buds with!
I hope you found this guide to easier vegan eating helpful, since they are tips I am mindful of all the time. If you want to read more about the kooky face who punched these words out, come say hi at melangeofwords.com!
Happy vegan eating, peeps!