Trying the vegan diet for a healthier lifestyle
The vegan movement has picked up speed as more people pursue a plant-based diet. Not only is veganism considered a healthier lifestyle choice, many vegans are motivated by ethical and environmental concerns.
A well-balanced vegan diet is high in dietary fibre, folic acid and magnesium, as well as vitamins C, E and more. It is believed to boost the immune system’s ability to combat disease and has been known to trim the waistline and reduce inflammation, blood sugar and LDL cholesterol (which I refer to as the Lousy cholesterol; HDL being the Healthy cholesterol).
Following a vegan diet means avoiding animal foods and products, including dairy, eggs and honey. As well, many packaged foods are off-limits because they contain animal products such as whey, casein, lactose, albumen, gelatin, carmine and more.
What vegans do eat are minimally processed foods such as vegetables, leafy greens, fruits, tofu, tempeh, seitan, legumes, whole grains, nuts and nut butters, seeds, plant and nut milks, spirulina, chlorella and sprouted and fermented plant foods. It’s also recommended that vegans take vitamin and mineral supplements.
The best course of action when deciding to go vegan is to consult your doctor or a nutritionist, be sure to get some type of physical activity every day and donate your leather goods to charity. Be careful with wine, beer and spirits, as some are filtered through animal products. A site like barnivore.com can offer animal-free alternatives.
Although I’m not vegan, I do eat vegan at least once a week. I’ve been making this for many years as a way to get my chili fix without meat. Use low-sodium organic beans and tomatoes.
1 tbsp olive oil or coconut oil
1 sweet red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 sweet yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp canned minced chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
1 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1 can red kidney beans, rinsed
1 can black beans, rinsed
1 can tomatoes, diced
1 can tomato sauce
2 tbsp cilantro, minced
1 tsp pumpkin seeds, toasted
In a Dutch oven, sauté peppers, onions and mushrooms in oil until softened. Add garlic, chipotle, chili powder and cumin. Cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add beans, tomatoes and tomato sauce. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Ladle chili into bowls, garnish with cilantro and pumpkin seeds.
Bean, Cucumber and Avocado Sandwich
This open-faced sandwich is also delicious with hummus instead of the beans. Try other toppings such as chopped cherry tomatoes, roasted red peppers, thinly sliced apples, olives, alfalfa sprouts or pine nuts.
1 can garbanzo or white beans, drained
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 slices multigrain bread, toasted
1 small cucumber, peeled, thinly sliced, and patted dry
1 avocado, pitted and thinly sliced
2 tbsp red onion, minced
In a food processor, puree beans with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread bean mixture over toasted bread. Top with cucumber, avocado and red onion. Serve any leftover cucumber slices on the side.
Chia Nectarine Banana Smoothie
Chia seeds are loaded with antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids. It’s important to note that maple and agave syrups are plant-based vegan sweeteners, unlike honey. Honey is off-limits because veganism excludes products that exploit living creatures, including bees who create honey as an energy-source for themselves, not humans.
2 ripe nectarines or peaches, pitted and chopped
1 tbsp chia seeds
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 frozen banana, peeled
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup almond milk
Maple or agave syrup, to taste
In a medium bowl, mix ingredients. Set aside for 10 minutes to soften oats and seeds. Put all ingredients into blender and blend until smooth. Add maple or agave syrup to sweeten.
Makes 4 burgers
If, like me, you love a burger every now and then, your best bet is to make a vegan burger from scratch, rather than buying the packaged, frozen variety. This way, you know exactly what’s in your burger. Here, black beans give texture and the herbs add great flavour. Vegan burgers can be tricky, sometimes too wet, sometimes too dry. Use your judgment by adding more flour or a bit of ketchup if needed. Change up the ingredients list to other healthful items like ground walnuts, sautéed mushrooms, corn, cooked brown rice, sunflower seeds or shredded carrots. And, yes, most mustards and ketchups are vegan — if in doubt, view the condiments list at peta.org.
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 can black beans, drained and patted dry
2 slices whole-grain bread
1 tbsp fresh parsley
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp sweet paprika
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
3 tbsp whole wheat flour
1 tbsp olive oil
Leafy greens and sliced tomato
Whole wheat hamburger buns
Mustard and ketchup
In a small skillet, sauté onion until softened. Add garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Set aside.
In a food processor, blend beans, bread, parsley, thyme, cumin, coriander, paprika, salt, pepper and flour until mixed but chunky. Stir in garlic mixture. On a flour-dusted cutting board, shape the mixture into 4 patties. Place in fridge to chill 30 minutes.
In a large skillet, over medium heat, cook patties in hot oil for 5 minutes. Flip patties over and cook 5 minutes longer. Serve patties with leafy greens and tomato slices on hamburgers buns.
Soba Noodles with Tofu, Cabbage and Carrots
Japanese soba noodles are thin noodles made with buckwheat. You can grate the cabbage and carrots yourself or use a bag of coleslaw mix with shredded carrots.
1 package soba noodles, cooked according to package directions
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tsp maple syrup
1 tsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 package firm or extra firm tofu, cubed
2 cups shredded cabbage
1/4 cup shredded carrots
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp freshly grated gingerroot
2 scallions, thinly sliced
Make rice vinegar dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil and maple syrup. Set aside.
In a large skillet, cook tofu in hot oil over medium heat until golden brown on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Remove from skillet and set aside.
Add cabbage, garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring, until cabbage and carrots are tender, about 3 minutes.
Combine rice vinegar dressing with cooked noodles, tofu and cabbage mixture. Garnish with sesame seeds. Serve with hot sauce.