This post was contributed by our Health and Fitness Travel Expert, Michael Henri.
Why are there so many vegan food options nowadays? Are more people really becoming vegan?
Is it Veganism a fad diet or is there more to it?
I was not always a vegan. Up until 2 years ago, I was the type of person who ate two eggs and a small piece of steak for breakfast every morning. Every meal was centered around a meat option. It was standard routine for meals.
I have always been considered a ‘healthy’ person. I studied how the body works through a Bachelor’s in Human Kinetics, and how to maintain an able body through a Master’s of Physiotherapy. I am a former varsity athlete and always knew how to stay fit. I ate a well-balanced diet and I avoided sweets. And started taking supplements, I found that the highest quality and better value on supplements. The initial interest in making a change in my diet came from attempting to reduce my red meat consumption and resulted in one vegetarian meal per week. Once I started to find some dishes I enjoyed eating, it became twice per week.
It was not long after that I began feeling more energized, less bloated after meals and no longer felt tired in the afternoons. As a result, I continued to look for more meal options, glad that I had visited sinfulvegan.com and got ideas for vegan menus. Finding more dishes I enjoyed, the meals grew to three times per week. Until eventually I was eating more vegetarian meals than I was meat meals.
Not only was I feeling better physically, but I noticed I was spending less money on my grocery bills per week. Once I stopped buying meat, I was saving approximately $120 USD each month.
My interest continued to blossom and I wanted to learn more about vegans. I watched one documentary, Food Matters, which provided enough insight and sparked additional curiosity.
I continued to find more documentaries about food on Netflix including Hungry for Change, Forks over Knives, Food Choices, Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret, Live and let Live, GMO OMG, Vegucated and What the Health.
I finally decided that I wanted to try to go full vegan and have been for the past 8 months.
What Is Veganism?
Vegan food consists of everything under the sun that is edible and does not come from an animal, thus leaving out meat and dairy products from your diet.
Vegetarian food consists of everything under the sun excluding meat and fish. The difference is, a vegetarian will eat dairy products, like milk, cheese, and yogurt.
Vegan Food Movement
The availability of vegan food options is on the rise. Vegan meals are now becoming more widely available in restaurants, grocery stores, and even at street vendors.
More options are being driven by demand. As people become more informed, they understand that the choices they make at the dinner table affect the planet and their bodies.
How Vegan Food Choices Affect Our Planet
The human race has progressed considerably since the end of WWII. The era of growth and technology has permitted us to develop significantly as a society. The main loss: our planet.
It is no surprise that global warming is becoming of greater concern than ever before. One of the main contributors to these natural detriments is the carbon dioxide (CO2) emission from agriculture.
Livestock, heavy machinery, and animal by-products (waste) are the culprits and heavy contributors to CO2 emissions.
According to Environment and Climate Canada, in 1999 there were 60.1 megatonnes of CO2 produced by agriculture. 16 years later, there was a massive increase to a whopping 72.8 megatonnes, which is a 21% increase. We are slowly killing the planet with the foods that we are eating.
By choosing more vegan foods, we can help lessen the agricultural demands and help to alleviate the CO2 emissions.
Vegan Diet Benefits
Eating a vegan diet has tremendous benefits for your health. Unfortunately, it still is not understood by all. Let me try to provide more clarity.
The sheer concentration of vitamins and minerals in vegan food is undoubtedly higher than in meat and dairy products alone. When it comes to what our bodies need, vegan food provides 99.9% of the essential vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and fiber… without hesitation.
Vitamin and mineral deficiency is not a commonly misunderstood problem.
The United States Department of Agriculture states that:
- 9 out of 10 Americans are deficient in potassium;
- 8 out of 10 are deficient in vitamin E;
- 7 out of 10 are deficient in calcium;
- 50% of Americans are deficient in vitamin A, vitamin C, and magnesium;
- And the list goes on.
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies are overlooked because the side effects can manifest years later, showing no immediate signs or symptoms.
It is nearly impossible to be vitamin deficient in a vegan diet. Vegan foods provide your body with the fuel it needs with minimal supplementation. The only lacking vitamin in a vegan diet is vitamin B12, which many vegans take a supplement for.
Here is more information about vitamin B12 supplementation and the research behind the recommendations.
If you’re thinking that there is not enough protein in vegan food, you can watch this video: Do Vegetarians get enough protein?
In it, Dr. Michael Greger explains that the average recommended intake of protein is 42 grams. An average vegan diet provides around 70 grams each day (70% more than needed). It is a common misconception that we ‘need’ more protein in our daily diets.
Keep in mind that not ALL vegan food is good for you. Remember this includes items that contain meat or dairy products. Some packaged foods are considered ‘vegan food’ yet they offer very little nutritional value.
The best of vegan food ingredients include, but is not limited to, fruits, vegetables, nuts & seeds, grains, beans, legumes, and oils, all of which are highly nutritious and full of fiber.
What You Can Do To Help
It’s no easy task to remove meat and dairy options from our diet and make the shift to consuming vegan food only. It takes time for your habits, routines, mental strength, taste buds, and willpower to catch up to the idea. It’s nearly impossible to make the switch overnight (kudos to those who have!).
If you’re interested in contributing to a more sustainable lifestyle that could make a difference for you and the planet, I propose a CHALLENGE!
Start small! Try one vegan meal per week to reduce – even slightly – the effects of the agricultural demands on our planet.
If you’re not sure what to cook, check out Oh She Glows! This is an award-winning vegan recipe site built by Angela Liddon, featuring over 500 recipes for free! It is a great way to start a change for yourself and for our lovely Mother Earth.
How to Eat Vegan Food While Traveling
Maintaining a vegan diet on the road has not been as complicated as I would have guessed. Even though there are plenty of vegan food options to choose from, finding these while traveling can sometimes be challenging when you are constantly moving from place to place. Here are some simple tips to set yourself up for success:
Make it a priority
If it’s important to you, put it at the top (or near the top) of your priority list. By making it a priority, you will be able to create the habit to seek out vegan options when the time comes to eat.
Seek out local markets
Local markets are often loaded with all the good stuff: fresh fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts. This involves getting creative with cooking on the road. If you have access to a kitchen then it’s even easier. My partner and I love to stay in Airbnb and hostels for that very reason.
Use Apps/Search Engines
HappyCow is a great search engine (and app) to locate amazing vegan food wherever you travel! While the app costs a few bucks, the website is free to use. The paid version provides more options along with other helpful features. They are a non-profit organization that was created to assist travelers and people everywhere to find plant-based/vegan options. They have a large community and it grows on a daily basis.
Vegetarious is another free app option that has a growing community of contributors to vegan and vegetarian options around the globe.
Planning your meal out in advance helps prevent the spontaneous desire to ‘give in’ to whatever is available. It’s no secret that when you’re ‘hangry’ you just want to eat; it doesn’t matter what it is. Pack snacks consisting of nuts and fruit when heading out for the day. If you’re traveling on a long flight, bus or train and you know you’ll need a meal at some point, fill a HydroFlask Thermos stuffed with some healthy vegan food.