A shout out to all those gluten free people out there! The food world, including markets, prepared food and restaurants, have been great at adjusting to the greater demand for gluten free products. Sure, it’s a bit of a fad and not everyone that is gluten free NEEDS to be gluten free, but either way it is their choice and it is great that society is adapting and is able to support both the true allergy and the people seeking to eliminate gluten from their diet. There are a few myths I’d like to debunk right off the bat: No, you will not suddenly gain a flat belly despite what those ads on the internet say. No, you will not lose a ton of weight if all you are doing is substituting your carbs for the gluten free variety. AND no, gluten free does not equate to healthy food (please refer to a previous post).
Veganism, although it too seems to be a new fad, has actually been around since 1944 when a small group of British vegetarians took vegetarianism to its fullest potential in the complete protection and preservation of animals. Back then it was very difficult to be vegan and because the science of nutrition was very young it was quite common to see extreme nutritional deficiencies in this population. What people aren’t necessarily aware of, even a few ‘vegans’ that I’ve known, is that veganism isn’t a diet: it’s a lifestyle. No animal product anywhere in your house or on your body. So no lotions with honey or anything with gelatin, no leather, no wool, the list goes on. There is also a fairly judgemental stereotype that vegans are skinny, bohemian, tree huggers that love animals to the extreme. Sure, some people may fit this list perfectly (stereotypes have to come from somewhere) but the majority of vegans I know are about as straight laced and ‘normal’ as you could imagine. Rumours about eating too much soy giving men extreme levels of estrogen in order to cause female characteristics to surface, or that in order to reap the benefits of a vegan diet you need to avoid fat are just that: rumours.
It’s amazing what almost 70 years of experience will do for a diet choice: now even mainstream grocery stores carry a large variety of vegan suitable alternatives for things like butter, milk, cheese, mayonaise, honey, burgers, hotdogs, turkey…the list goes on. The somewhat frustrating thing for some of us, though, is that you can find gluten free prepared products and you can find vegan alternatives, but finding something that is gluten free-vegan on the grocery store (or even the health foods store) shelf is next to impossible.
Welcome to my world. It’s not a big deal. I just have learned to prep most of my own food and freeze it in individual portions to have the same convenience the prepared foods from the grocery store offer. It’s not a big deal….until I go out to eat. Word to the wise: always phone ahead and talk to someone in the kitchen. If they know in advance, something can be arranged for you. I made the mistake of assuming once that since a restaurant had an extensive gluten free menu that it wouldn’t be too difficult to have them accomodate my needs. A house salad wasn’t even available to me. The chef said he would make me a tomato salad with a balsamic reduction. Sounds delish, no? It was literally a single average sized tomato cut into quarters and drizzled with the reduction. And it cost me $11. Yes, I’m still bitter.
I’ve had a number of people tell me that I’m vegan when they learn of my dietary choices, but that really isn’t true. I don’t choose to avoid animal products in my diet because I’m upset that animals had to die for that to happen. Don’t get me wrong, the way that animals are raised and slaughtered distrubs me to no end. I knew that the little idylic farm that I drew pictures of back in kindergarten is a sham, but I really didn’t know the extent of the inhumanity until I started researching it a little. What I discovered, however, that truly changed my mind was how the people, the farmers, were being treated. It is well known, I feel, that the farm animals live in less than ideal conditions, but how the farmers are trapped by the companies they sell to really rocked me to my core.
Food companies often loan farmers money to help upgrade their farms to keep up with the increased demand by the consumers. The farmers try to work off those loans, but before they even come close the company can insist that the farmers upgrade their machinery, barns, feeding mechanisms, etc. and will loan them more money to do so. If the farmers refuse, they often lose their contract. One very eye opening documentary for both the way the people and the animals are treated in our food industry is Food Inc. It’s on Netflix. I’d definitely recommend it.
I choose to not eat animal products because of the system: the people, the animals, and the environmental concerns associated with livestock farming and the pollution from producing animal products. Yes, I’m just one little fish in a very big pond of omnivores, and I don’t expect anyone else around me to make the shift to plant based foods, but I still choose to lead by example. Even eating ‘vegan’ for one meal a week will make a significant difference. Challenge yourself, maybe. Give it a try. I promise, with all of the wonderful resources available on the internet and at your library or bookstore, it will be way easier and more delicious than you’d think.