That being said, I am also a student of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, and a firm believer in its core principle of bioindividuality, the concept that no one diet is right for every person. Some of my friends and family are also vegan, but most aren't, and I love, respect and value them all equally, without judging their dietary needs and choices. While I feel like I thrive on plant foods only, others may require some animal products in their diet for their optimal health. For that reason, I don't advocate that everybody become vegan. Also, my transition to veganism was pretty smooth since I had been varying degrees of vegetarian for many years. For some people, eliminating animal products from their diet would completely knock out 75% or more of their usual meals, and that quick degree of change is stressful, and therefore unhealthy, for the body.
But what I've been noticing lately, and what I think is super awesome, is that being vegan-curious is becoming more and more common. I get a lot of people asking me questions about what I eat - if I have enough energy, if vegan food can actually taste good and (sigh) how I get enough protein. It's not surprising that the vegan diet is gaining more attention. There is such a wealth of research and food documentaries out there (Food Inc, Forks Over Knives, Cowspiracy, Vegucated, to name a few) that expose not only horrific and unsanitary factory farming practices, but also bring to light the extremely adverse impact that the meat and dairy industries have on our rapidly deteriorating environment. And with the amount of backlash that the ALS ice-bucket challenge received for being an "irresponsible waste of water," people definitely care about how our actions affect the environment. So, I'm sure the staggering statistic that producing one hamburger requires 660 gallons of water (equivalent to 2 months worth of showers) has got more than a few people questioning the implications of their daily (or even weekly) quarter pounder with cheese.
Ok, but it's not all doom and gloom! Even if you don't think that veganism is right for you and your body, just reducing the amount of meat you consume can have a huge impact! The Environmental Working Group sites that by eliminating one hamburger from your weekly diet, you eliminate the same amount of carbon emissions as you would by not driving your car a total of 320 miles. If you don't have a car? Boom, you're making up for someone else's 320 miles. Karma will hit you back for it.
There's more good news, too!!! Vegan food is SUPER TASTY, and can be to even the most dedicated meat-eaters. After much ado, that brings me to the crux of this post: my five favorite recipes for the vegan-curious carnivore. Experiment, have fun and take note of how you feel after you eat these foods. You may just want to make Meatless Monday more than a once-a-week tradition.
1. Pumpkin Seed Pesto
I love this savory starter for so many reasons. It is super easy (instructions - process all ingredients in a food processor or blender and eat), crazy versatile (as a dip, pasta sauce, as a sandwich or wrap spread, or thinned out for a salad or rice bowl dressing), and insanely delicious. It is perfect for any carnivore who "CANNOT live without cheese". This is because of the addition of miso paste, a fermented soy product (most brands are non-gmo) that is rich in gut-healthy probiotics and adds the special "umami" flavor that many say is missing from vegan dishes. Miso can also be used to add this rich flavor to soups (just add in at the end of cooking with seasoning) or in salad dressings or marinades. The pumpkin seeds have tons of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, protein and fiber; and the fresh basil adds a good deal of blood-clotting vitamin K. I promise, you won't miss the parmesan.
This is from my all-time favorite blog Oh She Glows. If you want to seriously drool over recipes you won't believe are vegan, check out her site - I guarantee you will bookmark the crap out of it. This is another great main dish for the cheese-addicts. It is creamy, satisfying, cheesy, and comforting. The butternut squash adds a good dose of vitamin A, plus a complex and lightly sweet flavor. If you have leftover sauce, refrigerate and use over black beans and tortilla chips with avocado for nachos that will not leave you feeling like your insides are trying to be outsides instead. If you've ever had nachos at a sporting event, you know exactly what I mean.
The "meaty" star of these wraps is the tempeh, again seasoned with umami-boosting miso. If you crave the hearty texture of meat, tempeh, another fermented soy product, is my favorite way to satisfy that craving. If the kale salad in this is not your jam, add this tempeh to any sandwich, wrap or salad, or just eat the pieces by themselves like you would chicken nuggets or mozzarella sticks - except these are way more delicious and actually have nutritional value!
*** For those of you concerned about soy, eating fermented soy like tempeh, makes it easy to digest, as long as you get an organic, non-gmo brand (Trader Joe sells it for $1.99). Also, check out this article for a little more info about the soy debate! There are also brands like NYC-local Barry's Tempeh that make soy-free tempeh varieties!
Moving on to my favorite part of any meal - dessert! If you are like me and seriously crave creamy, rich desserts (frozen yogurt was my last non-vegan "meal"), you will want to put this cashew cream on EVERYTHING! It is so easy to make, packs a great deal of protein in, and is a perfect addition to your morning oatmeal, as a spread on a whole grain bagel, or with berries as a dessert! If you are more of a sour cream fan, you're covered, too! Cashews make pretty radical vegan sour cream too!
I could not resist throwing in another one of my all-time favorite desserts from Oh She Glows. For the baker who doesn't know what life would be like without eggs or butter, this will make you a believer. I mean, just look at the title. It's everything it promises to be, and it's actually pretty simple! Pure, vegan decadence. You're welcome.
I hope you have been at least tantalized by some of these recipes and inspired to maybe give up the meat (and dairy) for a meal. If you are looking to incorporate more plant-based food into your diet and would like some support, I would love to meet with you to chat about how I could be a guide for you along that journey. I will also be co-leading plant-based cooking and fitness retreats with LA-based chef, health coach and avid blogger Lauren Lobley of Delectable You, starting later this year. Here you will learn to cook delicious, healthy vegan meals and energize your body with fun fitness challenges every day! If you are interested in any of the above or you have any questions for me, shoot me an email or leave a comment below!
With all the love and light in my heart, explore your vegan-curiosity!