By: Heather, Founder, Veganish Mama
There are so many unknowns when it comes to raising your child, especially when you’re raising them in a drastically different way than how you were raised. I was brought up in a family that had meat, cheese, butter and milk as a part of almost every meal. My father worked in the meat industry and I eventually became a full-time cheese tester. No really, it’s a job, they paid me to do it. I was sent to cheese tasting school, I toured all of our dairy plants, worked on a team of scientists and tasted cheese and about 30 pizzas every day for almost 3 years. On maternity leave however, I did some research, coupled that with what I had already learned at work, and turned to a plant based diet. I never went back (to work, or to cheese). When someone makes a drastic shift like that, seemingly overnight, people have questions, even I had questions and assumptions about what it all means. I’ve compiled a list of mytop 5 misconceptions of what it means to be vegan. Some of them I’ve held myself, and some of them I’ve encountered along the way.
Vegans only eat salad.
I mean, we still do eat salad, but it’s not the plain piece of iceberg lettuce and a few tomatoes that I feel like most people picture. I would say that after going plant based, we eat a much wider variety of foods than ever before. Some members of our family have commented that our toddler has tried more different foods in his little life (he’s not yet 2), than they have in theirs. Our meals usually include many more vegetables than before but usually what we’re eating is a far cry from a plain old salad. When catching up with an old friend recently, who works for a large fast food chain, we were discussing the lack of convenient vegan options at most fast food restaurants. He responded by saying “Don’t worry, we’re working on some more salad options, I think some of them are vegan”. I was almost shocked that this is what they think we want. I’m like, no, give me some vegan cream cheese for my bagel, give me a vegan sandwich option that isn’t PB&J, give me a veggie burger that I don’t have to ask for the mayo to be taken off… PLEASE don’t give me another fast food salad option. There are more vegan options than ever on fast food menus, and French fries have been saving hungry vegans since… forever, but we don’t just eat salad, so it’s great when that’s not our only option.
All vegan food is healthy.
This sort of comes from #1 on the list… but all vegan food is not healthy food. In fact, a lot of junk food is actually inherently vegan; I’m talking Oreo’s, a lot of potato chips, French fries etc. However, there is also a huge rise in junk food that’s meant to be vegan. You can get a vegan poutine, a vegan big mac and vegan deep fried “calamari” made from mushrooms. Though these options might have less cholesterol than their non-vegan counterparts, they’re certainly not ‘healthy’. Nor would I say is vegan butter, my favourite vegan cinnamon buns, or the vegan donut I had for breakfast yesterday but hey, it’s nice to have the option. I actually have had family members comment to me that they didn’t realize that all vegan food wasn’t healthy. After spending the weekend with me and watching me eat two cinnamon buns for breakfast’ they said “I thought all vegans were healthy”. Okay so, for starters, I’m offended. I was on vacation, don’t judge me. But also, I’m glad that I’m able to share that with people who thought that eating plant based would be unattainable for them because they wouldn’t want to give up these little indulgences. (Yes, I understand that 2 cinnamon buns was maybe not a small indulgence… just let me LIVE).
Vegans must feel deprived.
I had a friend ask me the other day, whether or not I miss cheese, like a really good old cheddar or aged gouda. This, in fact, is a very valid question because cheese, before going vegan, was pretty much my life. I explained that no, I never miss it and that I don’t think I would be able to enjoy it anymore after everything I’ve learned, both working at that company, and about the dairy industry in general in my research before going vegan. There are also way more vegan cheese options than ever before, so I’m still able to have cream cheese on a bagel, or sprinkle some vegan parm on my pasta, or even make a grilled cheese sandwich. On that note, there are also vegan sausages, hot dogs and burgers, some of which closely resemble a beef or pork sausage, in an almost scary way. One meal that we make almost too often is a vegan buffalo chicken Caesar, that we make by coating crispy vegan chicken fingers in buffalo sauce, and I swear if you didn’t know, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. We still have burgers and pasta with Bolognese and mac & cheese, so no, I wouldn’t say that I feel deprived at all. I feel like I eat more variety now, and try more new recipes than I ever did as an omnivore. Please, just don’t ask a vegan if they miss bacon…the bacon jokes are really getting old.
Grocery shopping and cooking at home is more difficult.
This one might actually have a bit of truth to it, I do spend more time cooking a home than I ever did before but that’s really by choice. Vegan or not, I think we should all be spending more time when we can, to make our own food. I spend more time making recipes because I’m now choosing to make more things from scratch, but with all of the vegan options that have been hitting the shelves at grocery stores, it’s still easy to make dinner in a pinch. I even have a box of vegan mac & cheese in the cupboard for a day when we’re out running around and I don’t have time to make something before my son gets too hungry… or if I’m just plain old too tired to cook that night. As far as a shopping list and vegan meal planning goes, once you have a few recipes under your belt that you’re confident with, it becomes much easier, and you learn to use those ingredients that you might not be as familiar with in other dishes as well. Like nutritional yeast, for example, which can be made into a cheese sauce, blended into a salad dressing, or sprinkled on top of pasta. It’s an ingredient that I wasn’t familiar with before going vegan but is now a pantry staple. It’s also packed with vitamins. It might also surprise you what other items you buy on a regular basis, such as bread products, cereals or sauces that are vegan already. It does take a bit of adjustment, but over time we’ve learned a new way of shopping, of mostly buying whole foods to make meals from scratch, but also loving having quick and easy options when we need them. One of my favourite things to do now, is to vegan-ize some of our old favourite recipes and I think you can make just about anything to taste as good, or better than the old recipe that you might remember.
All vegans are condescending or judgemental.
This one I think, can be true in some cases. There might be some people who are very in-your-face about the fact that they’re vegan, and might be sort of pushy in trying to convince you of why you should be too. In their defence, I think that this comes from a good place; they’re trying to do their part to help the environment, or are worried about your health or the animals. Essentially, they’ve found a way of living that works for them and makes them happy and they think it would work for you too. I do think that this sometimes makes a bad name for the rest of us but I understand where they’re coming from, to a point. I would say that after being plant based for a couple of years, especially coming from a background in dairy and growing up with a father in the meat industry, I’m of the opinion that if I can do it, anyone can. Do I think that everyone should go vegan overnight? In an ideal world, that would be great but very unrealistic. My aim in starting my blog and sharing our story, was just to provide a space on how we’re doing it, how I’m raising my child differently than how I was raised, and what we’re eating so that other mums, or anyone really, could learn from our journey. I try very hard not to be pushy or judgemental, although sometimes it’s difficult when someone asks you a question, about the dairy industry for example and then don’t like my honest answer. My hope is that even if we inspire people to try one new plant-based recipe, eat one plant-based meal a week, or even introduce a more wide variety of foods in their diet, including some new plant based options, that the planet and the animals and maybe even our bodies will be thankful. Ultimately, my aspiration in going vegan and sharing it with everyone online, is not to make anyone feel badly about their choices, I just want to leave the world a better place for my kid, and if everyone even made a small effort in the way of eating more plants, we could make that happen. You can check us out at www.veganishmama.com, or @veganishmama on Instagram.