[Image: Yam pudding dessert, served in orange halves.]
Two weeks from now, many people will resolve to begin a diet for the new year. Some will choose a plant-based diet, which they might refer to as vegan. While I’ve stressed continually that veganism is an ethical stance against violence, not a diet, the fact is that many see it as solely the latter. Sadly, very few people at this point in history agree with the concept that animals are people, not property, a paradigm shift which I believe is the best way to ensure widespread adoption of veganism.
Regardless, some people who adopt a plant-based diet for health or weight loss reasons do go on to become ethical vegans. Additionally, eating a plant-based diet (for those who have the access to do so) is a necessary component of avoiding violence to animals. So I feel that anyone adopting a plant-based diet should be encouraged and supported, regardless of their motives.
Maintaining a plant-based diet is a greater challenge than starting one, but this is true of any significant lifestyle change. The Food Empowerment Project has a vegan retention project that includes sending out a monthly newsletter to keep new vegans on track. They’re not currently accepting new subscribers, but I have some insights of my own to share.
I believe one of the greatest obstacles to retention is ignorance:
- Nutrition ignorance – Fueled by industry lobbyists who convince consumers that they need to eat animal products for good health.
- Cooking ignorance – Fueled by fast-food companies and a capitalist economy that encourages everyone to eat on the go, so they can work more and buy more stuff.
- Economic ignorance – Fueled by foodie companies that convince people they need to spend a lot of money on specialty products to maintain a plant-based lifestyle.
If we can address these concerns, we can move people beyond seeing a plant-based diet as a temporary, faddish, or elitist undertaking, and move toward making it a mainstream option. Repeatedly explaining to people that vegan and “gluten-free” are not equivalent or interchangeable concepts may make me want to bash my head into the wall, but it’s even more important for me to dispel the misconceptions and outright lies that hold people back from taking animal bodies and secretions off of their menus.
While I have no health credentials and cannot give advice for anyone’s specific nutritional needs, I can recommend some web sites that offer the kind of plant-based meals I prefer myself: Starch-centered, low-fat, oil-free. Many of these recipes are low-cost and contain relatively easy-to-find ingredients as well:
- Happy Herbivore
- Straight Up Food (also sugar- and salt-free)
- Jeff Novick (Facebook album)
Here’s to a new year filled with life.