November is National Vegan Month, and it’s a great time to ease some vegan snacks and recipes into your family’s repertoire.
While going vegan can feel intimidating, it really doesn’t have to. It also doesn’t have to be all or nothing!
What are the benefits of a vegan lifestyle?
Incorporating some vegan meals, snacks and alternative ingredients can help you, your bank account, your health, animals and the environment.
- Many vegan foods like nuts, seeds, vegetables and coconut oil are very high in healthy nutrients.
- Cooking without meat and dairy (especially if you regularly purchase organic or pastured versions) can save you considerable amounts of money, even if you only do it part time.
- Vegan diets keep you from unwillingly supporting cruel practices like factory farming.
- Vegan meals can open up new culinary tastes. Many international dishes are vegan and many recipes will call for delicious ingredients like toasted sesame oil or maple syrup that the Standard American Diet (SAD) don’t usually incorporate.
- Eating a vegan diet can help you lose weight and combat chronic health problems.
The key to making a vegan lifestyle work is to keep it simple and choose real foods. For instance, if you want to cook potatoes as a side dish then avoid dishes like baked potatoes where you typically would want butter and sour cream and instead choose something like baked potato wedges tossed in seasonings and olive oil.
What are some simple vegan snacks?
- pistachios and other nuts
- sliced apples, bananas, grapes and other fruits
- dried fruits like papaya, prunes and raisins
- sunflower seeds
- fruit leather
- pita bread spread with hummus
- celery spread with peanut butter
- rice cakes
- tortilla chips with salsa
- plain potato chips (and some flavors)
- corn chips
- freeze dried fruits (which are crunchy like cereal) like Just Fruits bananas or strawberries
- organic steamed edamame (soybeans) lightly sprinkled with sea salt
- frozen fruit juice popsicles
What are some simple vegan meals?
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with fruit
- Vegetable stir fries over rice (for a lovely sweet flavor with a touch of heat, add some spring roll sauce from the Asian section of the supermarket)
- Spaghetti with marinara sauce
- Bean and rice burritos
- Make-your-own soft tacos, with fillings like black bean salsa (mix black beans, salsa and corn), refried beans, lettuce, tomato, avocado wedges, hot sauce, chopped onions and black olives
- Homemade soups like black bean soup or vegetable soup, or creamy soups made with almond milk and/or pureed potatoes and cauliflower
- Bean chili with crackers
- Pasta tossed with cooked veggies, olive oil, kosher salt, chopped sun-dried tomatoes and some chopped fresh herbs
- Grilled portobello mushroom burgers with baked potato wedges (you may want to remove the gills before cooking and reserve those for stock, then top the sandwich with toppings like ketchup, mustard, BBQ sauce, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, etc.)
Also look for international dishes, which are less likely to use meat and dairy products. Good choices are Chinese, Japanese, African, Mexican and even Italian dishes (especially more traditional peasant dishes).
You can browse vegan recipes on sites like allrecipes.com and Pinterest for all sorts of ideas and inspiration. Here’s my vegan Pinterest board.
Vegan cookbooks and blogs are also incredibly helpful and motivating.
Remember, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing in order to make a great change. Try one meal a week or one snack a day that’s vegan and work your way from there.