So, I was at a dinner party last night with a big group of people. Inevitably in a setting like that, someone will notice that my husband and I are not ordering "off the menu" exactly. Often times, when dining out and trying to stick to the whole foods, plant-based diet, it takes a little creativity to get a meal that works with the diet and is satisfying. In an effort to easily explain what we eat, my husband compared the whole foods, plant-based diet to a vegan diet.
You could say that it is vegetarian or vegan in that we do not eat meat or dairy products or any of their derivatives*. There are different levels, if you will, of vegetarianism though, from those that still eat dairy called lacto-vegetarians, or those that still eat eggs like ovo-vegetarians, to the strictest form of vegetarianism which would be the vegan diet. Vegans do not eat meat or dairy or use any animal-derived products such as honey or wool. A choice to "go vegan" may be based off of a moral conviction stemming from the animal treatment practices in the meat and dairy industries or for health reasons. Now, a whole foods, plant-based diet is essentially vegan but I do not personally abstain from all animal-derived products, such as honey, for the philisophical reasons a vegan would. What we choose to pump into our bodies be it through sight, smell, taste, touch, or sound is a personal choice that each one of us makes every day and, I think you would agree, is therefore worthy of a little consideration.
Now, back to the dinner party... So, as we're all sitting around the table, someone throws out the idea that Oreos are vegan. I was like, "No way... what about the cream filled center?" So, on the rooftop patio of a little bar downtown, we all busted out the iPhones, jumped on the internet, and began searching to prove each other wrong. The results were surprising. The ingredients of a double stuf oreo cookie were in fact vegan but that does NOT give you carte blanche to just gorge yourself with this "vegan friendly" snack. I was indeed shocked to find that Oreos didn't contain any dairy products but not as much because I wanted to be right and win the argument but because I was just thinking like, "What the heck are they made of then?" That's pretty impressive (or scary) that they can make something look like a cookie, smell like a cookie, and taste like a cookie but it doesn't include any of the components of a real cookie. This my friends is the truth I really wanted to share with you: It is still possible to choose unhealthy foods and snacks and live an overall unhealthy lifestyle while maintaing a vegan or vegetarian diet. The goal for me is to truly be as good to my body as possible; feed it real ingredients from nature in a form that my body can use to promote my best overall health and wellness. Do not be fooled into believing that something is good for you simply because it does not contain one of the ingredients we have learned is damaging to our bodies. Rather, focus on the foods that we KNOW our bodies need and easily draw vital, life giving nutrients from like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds. You will be surprised at how great you feel and at how your body will respond in kind, when you start to truly nurture your health.
*While perusing meat and dairy alternatives at the grocery store, I have found that even some packages marked "Vegan" contain casein which is the protein derived from cow's milk. These packages being marked "Vegan" is misleading at best. At worst, it is causing people to unknowingly compromise their position and also consume an animal protein which has been proven to promote cancer cell growth in lab studies. See Ch. 3, "Turning Off Cancer," in T. Colin Campbell, PhD's The China Study for additional information on the effects of casein and the implications for our health.