Since I started The Natural Journey For Life I’ve dabbled with vegan, vegetarian, and meat eating cuisines. I’ve come to believe that a whole food plant based diet is the healthiest way to eat. My toddler Caleb is pretty much a vegan. He’s had animal products in the past, but has maintained a vegan diet for about three years and has not seemed to suffer from it one bit.
Vegan vs. Vegetarian
But what is the difference between vegan and vegetarian diets? What does vegan really mean? Let’s start with the true definition of “vegan”. Vegan diets are void of ALL food products derived from animals. In other words: no eggs, no diary, no meat, no fish, no poultry (and in some cases no honey). In contrast, vegetarian diets are void of ALL animal flesh.
In other words: no meat, no fish, no poultry – but can contain eggs, dairy products and honey. Both vegan and vegetarian diets are full of fruits and vegetables, seeds, nuts and at time meat replacements (which can be worse that certain animal products).
FLEXITARIAN – A FLEXI – What?
At the moment I choose to be a flexitarian….which means I have the flexibility to change my eating habits to suit my desires. If I want to eat vegan, vegetarian or meat dishes then I will do so. However, deep down I’m aspiring to be totally vegan. I just can’t seem to fight off those cravings for oxtails or a nice chicken salad sandwich…forget about those smoked beef sausages I love with my pancakes! Oh the temptations of carnal desires and the love of pleasing my palate! But in spite of those temptations I’ve learned to temper my consumption of those treats I love. I can feel the heaviness in my body after eating meat. If I have too much diary it will not only affect my waistline, but also my monthly cycle due to the added hormones. Currently I eat vegan cuisine 85% of the time.
Why is the Vegan diet the best?
In my opinion, due to the abuse our food industry promotes, most animal food products are boosted with hormones and antibiotics that can wreak havoc in our bodies. Now a days plants are also inundated with pesticides and insecticides that are also harmful for us. So what are we to do? I am a fan of organic produce (that still may contain some level of pesticides and insecticides) and of growing as much food as you can in your own back yard, buying from local farmers and co-ops to help circumvent the food industry madness.
In spite of the issues with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and chemicals used to grow plants – fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, seeds and nuts are THE MOST nutrient dense foods on the planet! Let’s take kale for example. Kale has almost every nutrient beneficial to humans in it’s green leaves (amino acids, vitamins, minerals, fiber, etc.). Kale in combination with other plants can definitely provide enough nutrition to live healthy life. This is the basis of a whole food plant based diet. Another benefit of whole foods is that most plants are alkaline and can help promote pH balance in our bodies. Meats, processed foods and sugars are very acidic and if eaten in excess can drive the body to a state of dis-ease (disease). Legumes and seeds are also packed with protein.
WHOLE FOOD VEGAN vs. JUNK FOOD VEGAN
Let’s be clear: just because you may abstain from meat, does not mean you are totally healthy either. A whole food vegan diet is based on consuming food near or in it’s original state. Examples include: fresh beans and rice, colorful salads, falafel made from dried chick peas, nice homemade breads, etc. A junk food vegan diet consist of a lot of processed meat and dairy substitutes, high salt and sugary snacks, and a lot of canned vegetables and beans. Now I love a good Morning Star griller but not every day! The sodium content alone will give you high blood pressure.
My ultimate goal is to be a whole food plant based vegan. My husband has been a vegan (although he doesn’t like labels) for about 5 years. He decided to eat some non-vegan macaroni and cheese for Thanksgiving and it made him sick! His body saw the dairy as an invader that was not welcome! I am not there yet (thus I TORE up the mac and cheese – with no ill effects), but I understand the word BALANCE and the benefit of making good choices. Plant based living is the way to go. Every time I read about the nutritional benefits fruits and vegetables I am more and more convinced that abstaining from meats, processed food, and sugar is the best way to keep my body healthy and strong.
For now I will stick to my flexitarian ways with the hopes of converting fully in the near future.
Peace and love and kale!