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Family Nutrition

The Vegan Mystique

Vegetarians are not necessarily vegan, but vegans are always vegetarian. There is a distinct difference in the variety of foods each diet allows. Maybe it’s time you boned up on the difference between the two, and tried it for yourself.

People make choices of what to include and exclude in their diet for a variety of reasons. Some are influenced by morals, some by health, some by texture, some by habit, some by heritage – some simply by what’s available. 

Vegetarians eliminate meat, fish and poultry from their diet, yet generally do include dairy products and eggs. Vegans, on the other hand, exclude all animal products and animal by-products. That means the diet excludes foods made with cheese, milk, whey, butter, gelatin and even honey.

While a vegan diet can be restrictive if you eat out often, it can also be a creative outlet for those who enjoy cooking and experimenting with flavors and textures. A vegan diet is a filling, high-fiber diet with positive health benefits for your heart, liver and blood sugar control. And if you’re concerned about the environment and animal rights, veganism is certainly kind to both.

Try It, You’ll Like It

Start by preparing a few meatless meals each week: Substitute tofu for chicken in a stir-fry, for example, or stuff green peppers with brown rice and quinoa instead of ground beef. Order the vegetarian plate if you’re dining out.

Ultimately, to be a healthy vegan, aim for a daily diet of:
  • 6 servings of grains (whole wheat bread, quinoa, brown rice, farro and calcium-fortified cereals)
  • 5 servings of legumes, nuts and other non-animal proteins (peanut butter, chickpeas, soy milk, tofu, black beans)
  • 4 servings of vegetables, especially green leafy ones filled with calcium and fiber
  • 2 servings of fruits (ideally whole fruits, not jams or juices)
  • 2 servings of healthy fats (nut oils, sesame oil, avocados and coconut)

Health Alert

Not all vegan foods are “healthy” foods. Sure, the diet is free of animal products, but that doesn’t mean it’s free of guilty pleasures like sugar, flour and fats. To get the most benefit from this diet, be well aware of the dangers that lurk within technically vegan foods (like Cracker Jack, Oreos and Kool-Aid) and refocus your choices on whole foods (like popcorn, roasted peanuts, cocoa nibs and freshly squeezed fruit juice).

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