Friday Tips: You eat vegan food, and you didn’t even know it!

Vegan Goodness:

Today we ate:

  • Breakfast: Blueberry smoothies for the Dad and LP.  Mom downed a bowl of cheerios before IP’s doctor appointment and Dad and LP enjoyed their cereal more leisurely after Mom and IP left.
  • Mom and LP shared an apple for a snack on the way to the last playgroup in the park.
  • Lunch: Quesadillas for Mom and LP (made with beans, avocado and olives).  Dad had leftover split peas dal.  We all munched on chips and salsa through lunch.
  • We all ate lots of crackers for a snack.  LP had almond butter on his and Dad had cream cheese on his.
  • Dinner: Tofu fried rice from Vegan on the Cheap.
  • Mom made some brownies for her and Dad to enjoy after both kids were in bed!

Money Matters:
Today Mom walked to IP’s doctor appointment, and then we all went to a free playgroup in the park.  Since Mom curbed her urge for a grilled cheese (which would have required a trip to store for Daiya) we didn’t spend anything today!

Friday Tips for Living Vegan and Living Cheap – with kids!:

Eat vegan food . . . that you already eat!

Like many people I know, I was vegetarian before I became vegan.  Giving up meat (or what I thought of as “meat” at the time – I still ate fish) seemed pretty easy to me.  When I ate at restaurants I always found plenty of vegetarian entrees, like pasta primavera, fettuccine alfredo, tofu dishes at Chinese food restaurants and veggie pizza.  When I cooked I simply made my favorite dishes that I grew up eating, but without meat: marinara sauce for pasta, cheese enchiladas (instead of chicken) and lots of soups with veggie broth instead of chicken broth.

Yet for some reason I resisted becoming vegan in part because I couldn’t imagine how I would survive eating “vegan” food.  I was especially resistant to living without cheese.  I was so resistant that I couldn’t even see the truth in front of me – I was already eating vegan food all the time!  My pasta with marinara was vegan until I put cheese on it.  My favorite sweet-and-sour tofu dish from the local Chinese food place was vegan just as-is.  In fact, I ate vegan food on a regular basis, every time I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a bean and rice burrito or a veggie burger.  I ate “vegan” snacks all the time that ran the gamut from apples and bananas to Oreos and Fritos (Vegan? yes.  Tasty? yes.  Good for you? no.)

Basically, when I finally made the commitment to cut dairy and eggs out from my vegetarian diet, the first thing I noticed what how much vegan, or almost-vegan, food I ate.   Dropping dairy and eggs became almost as simple as dropping meat had been.

So, if you are interested in trying to eat more vegan (or simply more healthfully) use these tips to discover the vegan food that is already in your life!

Inventory what you already eat: When I decided to cut dairy out of my vegetarian diet, I looked closely at what I ate and realized that I ate a lot of pasta, beans and tons of baked goods.  I realized that I could simply cook more things that were already vegan (like my three-bean chili or spaghetti with vegetarian sausage) and leave off the cheese topping.  I could also have more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or tofurky sandwiches instead of grilled cheese.  It was surprising to me how many things I ate either didn’t have dairy or didn’t need the dairy to taste good.

Substitutions taste the same: To be honest, there are some “vegan” foods I didn’t enjoy at first because I still had a palate that was used to dairy.  This was the case for vegan cheeses (which, to be fair, have come a long way in the past 10 years!).  However, pretty quickly I discovered that non-dairy butter, vegan sour cream and vegan mayonnaise all tasted perfectly normal to me.  It was a simple switch to buy these things to make even more of my favorite meals/snacks, like toast with butter, brown butter sage sauce for ravioli, vegetarian BLTs with tempeh bacon and potato/chili bake topped with sour cream.

Additionally, it became very easy for me to start substituting non-dairy milk and egg substitutes for cow’s milk and eggs in baking, where I literally noticed no taste difference.  And I saved a lot of money on eggs!  Check out this earlier post for easy baking substitutions.

Hold the cheese: One of the easiest was to keep eating the same familiar foods, but transition to veganism, was to simply hold the cheese.  I made and ate a lot of foods that were topped with cheese, but didn’t need it to really hold the dish together.  I still remember the first time I simply said “no” to cheese on my Chipotle burrito, and realized that it still tasted great!  Just dropping the parmesan from my pasta and the mozzarella from my veggie pizza made the transition easier.  For more great tips on “Life After Cheese” check out this podcast episode from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.

Take a look at what you eat.  There is a good chance that you already eat some vegan or almost-vegan food already.  This realization could be your first step to a more healthful and compassionate diet!

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