Veganism

It’s Beautiful AND It’s Difficult

I have been identifying as a vegan for almost five years now. When I say identifying I qualify that by saying I do not eat vegan on my birthday and if I am at a location where eating vegan is not possible, I will still eat. As someone that studies eating disorders and maladaptive eating and weight control behaviors, the last thing I want to do is condone restrictive eating patterns just to keep dietary rules.

It is particularly important for me that people know that dietary restriction is not the point of veganism and that we need to listen to our bodies when they say we are hungry, regardless of what is available to us.

Putting that pedestal aside, I first became vegan for the environment, for the true belief that we have become a population crippled by our need to eat meat and animal products at every meal. We do not have enough space on the planet to sustain the number of animal products we are currently consuming, not to mention the environmental and animal cruelty effects of trying to do so. Living vegan has also been found to have several important positive health outcomes (Mann, 2014), including:

  • Increased fruit and vegetable intake
  • Decrease in cholesterol
  • A decrease in lipids (fat) intake
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Decreased weight
  • Reduced risk of obesity
  • Reduced risk of diabetes
  • Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Reduced risk of cancer

However, if veganism is not done right, it can be very dangerous. Despite the ease that you see on social media, beginning vegans should regularly see their doctors to check for the following complications:

  • Calcium deficiency
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Iron deficiency
  • B-12 deficiency
  • Extreme weight loss

The Lie

Those complications can be very serious if left untreated. It can be frustrating knowing these complications exist and seeing very few people that feel comfortable freely talking about how hard it is to be vegan. Every time I look on Instagram, or any other social media, I see people simply happy to be vegan – smiling, cooking, celebrating. Don’t get me wrong, it is not that I am not happy as a vegan, but for me, veganism was a choice I made that has not been all sunshine and greatness. It is really hard, especially if you are used to eating meat or an animal product with every meal, to just change overnight and sustain that. It is hard to deal with comments from family and friends and from perceptions you know others hold of you, just by identifying as a plant-based person (Markowski & Roxburgh, 2019).

In my opinion, not talking about the trials doesn’t make people want to be vegan more, but makes people believe veganism is unachievable for them. It makes people believe it’s this exclusive and perfect group, with such high moral standing that only others that are the same deserve to even try to be a part of it. At least that’s how I feel at times, as a vegan, looking at other vegans.

As great as my body feels, as good as my sleep is, and as amazing as the health benefits have been, as well as the low environmental footprint, I still struggle a lot. This is not to deter people from being vegan, but to tell people that struggle IS a part of this journey and THAT’S OKAY! You can still struggle, and even fail, and get back on the vegan wagon!

The Research

Research has found that cheese (see Dr. Neal Barnard’s The Cheese Trap) has highly addictive qualities. Therefore, if you are an avid cheese consumer then you may have particular trouble kicking that part of the diet – AND THAT’S OKAY. Even moderate cheese consumers will likely have trouble.

Also, racial and ethnic minority populations (Pickett & McCoy, 2018) or those familiar with southern cuisines, have more access and familiarity with diets high in fat, sugar, and carbohydrates. There is evidence that stress increases our desire to consume foods high in fat, sugar, and carbs (Zellner et al., 2006). This means that in times of high stress we are more likely to crave foods that are not within our vegan diets – AND THAT’S OKAY. It is normal!

For example, eating soul food is more than just the food for Black populations. It is about community and relationships (Airhihenbuwa et al., 1996), and in times of high stress eating soul food with those that love you is a cultural way of coping. This means, for Black populations and other groups with similar coping styles, it may be hard to keep a vegan diet when stress arises. That does not mean that it is impossible! That does not mean there is no hope! It does mean that the trouble you may be having is not because you are weak or cannot do it, but due to systematic and scientific phenomena that outline why some times may be harder than others.

Being vegan IS great! Being vegan and Black is also great! Being vegan, Black, and in graduate school halfway across the country from my family is really really difficult. There are times when I fail, but there are more times when I am successful, and I rely on those positive experiences more than the negative ones to keep me going. I remind myself that those perfect people on social media are likely having trouble too. I remind myself of the science, and I remind myself that no matter what I am, vegan or not, my family and friends love me for exactly who I am – and that is what matters!

References

Airhihenbuwa, C. O., Kumanyika, S., Agurs, T. D., Lowe, A., Saunders, D., & Morssink, C. B. (1996). Cultural aspects of African American eating patterns. Ethnicity & Health, 1(3), 245–260. https://doi.org/10.1080/13557858.1996.9961793

Mann, S. (2014). More Than Just A Diet: An Inquiry Into Veganism. Anthropology Senior Theses. Retrieved from https://repository.upenn.edu/anthro_seniortheses/156

Markowski, K. L., & Roxburgh, S. (2019). “If I became a vegan, my family and friends would hate me:” Anticipating vegan stigma as a barrier to plant-based diets. Appetite, 135, 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2018.12.040

Pickett, S., & McCoy, T. P. (2018). Effect of Psychosocial Factors on Eating Behaviors and BMI Among African American Women. Clinical Nursing Research, 27(8), 917–935. https://doi.org/10.1177/1054773817713420

Zellner, D. A., Loaiza, S., Gonzalez, Z., Pita, J., Morales, J., Pecora, D., & Wolf, A. (2006). Food selection changes under stress. Physiology & Behavior, 87(4), 789–793. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2006.01.014

Vegan Noodle Soup

So sometimes it’s close to grocery day and you have some random items left in your fridge, not enough to make a meal, but enough to make you feel guilty if you let it go to waste. I personally hate waste. I also hate going to the grocery store so I will eat myself out of house and home before I let anything hit that plastic garbage bag (even if it’s gross) 😉

Anyway, this recipe is a newbie, discovered out of necessity, as most of my meals are, but delicious nonetheless. If you make enough of it you can eat off of it for days. It may make your breath stink, with all that garlic, but a small price to pay compared to $25 for delivery each night, or spending hours you don’t have slaving in the kitchen, wouldn’t you say? I hope you enjoy this dish as much as I did, and most of all, I hope you enjoy how easy it is to make!

INGREDIENTSfullsizeoutput_912

 

  • Whole-wheat spaghetti noodles
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • Chopped onion
  • Minced garlic
  • Ripped kale
  • Baby carrots
  • Extra-firm tofu
  • Vegetable broth
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Ground Pepper
  • Brown rice

PREPARATION

Prepare the Tofu:

  1. Drain extra firm tofu using paper towels or a kitchen towel.
    1. Usually, I say “for a minimum of 3 hours,” but because this is a soup dish it is of less importance that the tofu is dry.
    2. Drain and dry the tofu first thing, then cube and add tofu to dish when you hit that step below.

Prepare the Broth:

  1. Half a carton of vegetable broth (or as much as you like, to taste).
  2. Quarter water, in proportion to the amount of vegetable broth.
  3. Bring to a boil, with EVOO, salt, and pepper, to taste.

Prepare the Vegetables:

  1. Put in the brown rice.
    1. If this is stove cooked brown rice it will likely need a while before it gets soft and is ready to eat, however, if it’s microwavable then save this step until last and then add it in at the end…stir…and Bon Appetit!
  2. Put whole baby carrots in a bowl.
    1. Half them, if desired, by simply snapping them in half.
  3. Take three stalks of kale and remove the leaves from the stalks.
    1. Rip the kale leaves into smaller pieces of your desired size with your hands, or cut with a knife if you so choose.
    2. Place the smaller pieces into the bowl with the carrots.
    3. Place the remaining leaves in a Tupperware container for a salad, later recipe, side dish, etc.
  4. Place minced garlic and chopped onions into the bowl.
    1. Remember that both garlic and onions have a pungent taste and smell, so a little goes a long way, but again, add to taste.
  5. Put vegetables into the boiling water and reduce heat to medium-low.
  6. Put a dash of Spice Islands Oregano in the mixture.
  7. Put extra-firm tofu pieces into the mixture.
  8. Let cook for 15-20 minutes or until the vegetables have begun to soften.

Prepare the Pasta:

  1. Add spaghetti noodles to mixed vegetables and broth mixture.
  2. Stir frequently and check for noodle tenderness after 10 minutes.
  3. Lower heat and allow soup to sit until you are ready to eat!

Vegan Mushroom Stroganoff

Whether you’re a graduate student, full-time parent, full-time professional, or anywhere along this spectrum, time always seems to be limited. Twenty-four hours is never enough, and making full three to five-course meals every night, well that’s just impossible.

Be You. is here to help, for first-time vegans and veterans looking for easy recipes! Be You. recipes only take about 30 minutes, or less, and are made in large amounts, to last for the rest of the week. Recipes do not have amounts so they can be altered to taste and desired size of the dish. I hope you enjoy!

INGREDIENTS

fullsizeoutput_90c

  • Whole-wheat fusilli
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • Chopped onion
  • Minced garlic
  • Sliced mushroom
  • All-purpose flour
  • Dry white wine
  • Vegetable broth
  • Dijon mustard
  • Salt
  • Ground Pepper
  • Broccoli

PREPARATION

Prepare the Pasta:

  1. Boil water with EVOO, salt, and pepper, to taste.
  2. Add pasta and reduce heat to medium-low.
  3. Stir frequently and check for noodle tenderness after 10 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and keep in draining bowl until the vegetables are ready.

***Noodles will continue to cook in the sauce, so remove noodles and drain just before peak tenderness.

Prepare the Vegetables:

  1. Put a small amount of EVOO in a large skillet, heat at medium-high.
  2. Put onions, garlic, and mushrooms in a bowl.
  3. Season with salt, pepper, and Mrs. Dash (Table Blend).
  4. Put vegetable mixture in the pan and add a small amount of water to help soften.
  5. Cook and stir until onions and broccoli are soft, and mushrooms have released their liquid.
  6. Add noodles to mixed vegetables.

Prepare the Sauce:

  1. Put flour, wine, broth, salt, pepper, and mustard in a bowl, to taste.
  2. Stir until mixture is thick.
  3. Add water until the mixture is the desired consistency.
  4. Reduce heat to medium-low.
  5. Add sauce to vegetable and noodle mixture.
  6. Stir until noodles are tender and the entire mixture is covered with sauce.
  7. Remove from heat.
This recipe is an adaptation of the Vegan Mushroom Stroganoff recipe found on EatWell.com, by Sylvia Fountaine

Teriyaki Tofu

I’m not sure how many of you are new to Be You. or who is an old favorite, so I’ll preface this recipe with some detail 🙂 I just started graduate school again, working towards my Ph.D. and I have never been so busy in my entire life! This obviously leaves no time to stir around in the kitchen and make gourmet meals, so I’ve had to get creative. This recipe is my own version of teriyaki tofu, wild rice, and vegetable stir-fry. It only takes about 30 minutes, with some slight morning prep. I hope you enjoy!

INGREDIENTSIMG_0144

  • Extra firm tofu
  • Teriyaki Sauce
  • Olive Oil
  • Onion Powder
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Sweet Basil
  • Near East – Long Grain & Wild Rice (Original)
  • Cascadian Farm Organic – Chinese Style Stir-fry Blend
  • Mrs. Dash – Table Blend

PREPARATION

Prepare the Tofu:

  1. Drain extra firm tofu using paper towels or a kitchen towel for a minimum of 3 hours. Usually, I will do this before I go to work in the morning: drain package and cover with towels, then placing it back into the refrigerator.
  2. Turn oven to Bake at 350 degrees
  3. Cut dried tofu into cubes or rectangles of your own desired size
  4. Put into a mixing bowl.
  5. Cover tofu with teriyaki sauce – to taste
  6. Add olive oil, salt, pepper, sweet basil, and onion powder to the mixture. Again, this will vary depending on your desired taste.
    1. The previous two steps, for longer pieces of tofu, can be put into a separate bowl and brushed onto each individual piece to make sure the cubes stay intact.
  7. Once finished use hands or seasoning brush to season the mixture and make sure it saturates all of the tofu. Let sit while you prepare the side dishes.
  8. Place each individual piece onto a baking sheet, first adding a non-stick spray or olive oil.
  9. Bake until a golden brown (25-30 minutes) or to desired taste.

To Make The Rice:

  1. Using a medium-sized pan fill about halfway with water and let boil.
  2. Add 1 tbsp of olive oil.
  3. Once the water has come to a boil stir in the rice mixture and the seasoning powder.
  4. Decrease temperature to low
  5. Cover and let sit for 27 minutes.

To Make Vegetable Stir-fry:

  1. Using a medium-sized pan fill about halfway with water and let boil.
  2. Add a dash of olive oil.
  3. Add Salt, Pepper, and Mrs. Dash (Table Blend) – to liking
  4. Once the water has come to a boil stir in the vegetables
  5. Decrease temperature to low
  6. Cover and let sit for 27 minutes – Stir Frequently
    1. The directions on the package do not say this! If you would like to go along with what the package says that is more than fine! I tend to do it this way so that everything is ready at about the same time and everything is still hot!

Tofu Ricotta-Stuffed Pasta Shells

Recipe Brought to You by One Green Planet and Rana Yassine

Recipe modified to my taste – as seen in picture

Usually I will make one or two large meal on Sunday nights to last me throughout the entire week. It’s my way of cutting down the cost of being vegan, while also respecting my wallet and not eating out too often! This dish lasted me one full week, and I did not make nor use all of the shells and mixture that I had cooked. This would be a great meal for a vegan family to eat off of, or for my vegan followers who, much like  myself, are trying to stretch meals throughout the week! So of my non-vegan friends and family tasted the dish and found it to be both filling and delicious – Enjoy!

INGREDIENTSIMG_9078

  • Jumbo pasta shells
  • 1 14-ounce package of firm tofu
  • 1/2 cup parsley
  • 2 medium portobello mushroom caps
  • 1 large onion, cut finely
  • 1 bag of Follow Your Heart vegan mozzarella
  • 1 jar of organic marinara pasta sauce
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

PREPARATION

To Make The Shells:

  1. Cook shells according to package until slightly underdone. Drain and rinse with cool water to prevent sticking
  2. In a pan, cook the onion, portobello mushrooms, and parsley until golden. Once done season with salt and pepper and let sit until cool
  3. Preheat oven to 355°F

To Make The Ricotta:

  1. Put vegan mozzarella (to your liking), onion, portobello mushrooms, and parsley into a large bowl with tofu and use hands to mix together
  2. Mix contents until it consists of small crumbles and all contents are distributed evenly
  3. Put olive oil on the bottom of the rectangular pan, to make sure pasta does not stick to the bottom
  4. Use small spoon or fork (depending on your preference) to fill shells, and place side by side in the pan until the bottom of the pan is completely covered
  5. Sprinkle any leftover “cheese” over the top of the pasta
  6. Pour sauce in the dish to just cover the pasta
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the dish is to your liking

Gluttony and Greed

 

wpid-fed-up-trailer-header.jpg
Images From Fed Up and Cowspiracy Documentaries

Recently I’ve been watching a lot of “cause” documentaries on Netflix. I stumbled upon two documentaries that have really changed my outlook on American and worldly big business: Cowspiracy and Fed Up . Based on just these two documentaries alone I have been provided with copious information about the environment and the world around me that I would have otherwise never known. Big business and big food corporations have done a fantastic job of keeping these shocking statistics out of the media. For example, 13% of children today are MORBIDLY obese, not just obese, but morbidly obese. In the next 25 years it is estimated that 1 in every 3 people will have Diabetes. Animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the US [more than all modes of transportation combined (cars, trains, planes, etc.) – 13%] and 51% of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. The gluttony and greed of the human race is destroying the lives of the next generation and the world as we know it. Please, I beg everyone, start paying attention!!!