Those who choose to prepare their own vegan meals may find it overwhelming at first.
However, there are resources available to assist with the transition from a traditional meat-based, Western diet to a vegan diet.
Clearly labeled food items: As vegan diets grow in popularity, food manufacturers are using labels such as “plant-based’’ or stamping items with a green “V.”
Online recipes: Free recipes can be found on Forks Over Knives, Nora Cooks and It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken.
Mastering kitchen navigation and preparing meals from scratch will likely lead to greater confidence and self-reliance.
And, the value of knowing precisely what is in your food cannot be overstated.
Hannah Wherry intends to make the transition to a vegan lifestyle for her New Year’s resolution. As an environmentalist, she has often wondered if having meat and animal products in her lifestyle was right.
“Being vegan is something that has intrigued me,” the 30-year-old Park Hill resident said, “but I have never committed to it.”
Wherry recognizes it will be a challenge, but is ready to commit.
“The complacency to continue behaviors that harm the environment is not something I want to contribute to,” Wherry said. “I am prepared to make a change and I know I can do it.”
Matthew Glover and Jane Land, both of the United Kingdom, started Veganuary — pronounced Vee-gan-uary — in 2014. It is a campaign to encourage others to try a vegan diet, committing only to the month of January to start.
In 2021, they reported that more than 500,000 people worldwide made the New Year’s pledge to avoid all animal products, including meat, fish, dairy and honey.
Benefits of going vegan
There are many benefits to going vegan, which include improved overall health and wellness, financial savings and a lower carbon footprint.
A clinical study published in 2019 found diets high in fruits and vegetables rather than animal products were “associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in a general population.”
Additionally, Mayo Clinic published an article that same year that involved more than 70,000 volunteers whose diets were tracked over time. Among the findings were those who abstained from meat products had fewer cases of cancer and “those who (didn’t) eat any animal products including fish, dairy or eggs appeared to have the lowest rates of cancer of any diet.”
Another commonly-reported health benefit of a plant based-diet is clearer skin. According to a peer-reviewed article on Healthline, “sometimes the hormones in milk can also interact with our own hormones, confusing our body’s endocrine system and signaling (skin) breakouts.”
As for being more environmentally friendly, BBC News published a carbon calculator to help people compare food items and gain a better understanding of their carbon footprint. According to this calculator, eating tofu three-to-five times a week contributes 33 kg of greenhouse emissions, which is roughly the equivalent of driving 85 miles. In comparison, the consumption of beef three-to-five times a week contributes 1,611 kg of greenhouse emissions, which is roughly the equivalent of driving 4,112 miles.
An Oxford publication states that beef manufacturing uses 36 times more land than vegetables, like peas for example. These land requirements are known to contribute to deforestation, which affects biodiversity and limits the ability of ecosystems to trap CO2.
Water conservation is also to be considered — the water footprint of beef is greater than that of vegetable production. The Water Footprint Network compared the water footprint of crops and animal products, and found that the production of bovine beef requires 47 times the amount of water than what is required for vegetable production.
Alex Duron of Denver’s Five Points neighborhood adopted an almost exclusively plant-based diet in 2016, after a friend shared a video exposing what he describes as “the cruel methods” by which animals are slaughtered.
Duron said he physically feels lighter as his stomach is “no longer bogged down by dense meat.” And, he says, “kitchen cleanup is a breeze. I have peace of mind after sanitizing my countertops because I know the chance of food poisoning is much less likely.”
The financial savings of buying only fresh produce, grains and legumes has been a surprising bonus for Duron, he said. Preparing meals at home, he added, particularly plant-based ones, is almost always less expensive than dining out or preparing meat-based meals.
For example, 14 ounces of Simple Truth organic tofu costs about $1.80 at King Soopers, while one pound, or 16 ounces, of Simple Truth organic, free range chicken breast is about $9.75. Additionally, since the bulk of a vegan diet consists of produce, consumers can take advantage of affordable grocery store alternatives such as national companies like Misfits Market and Imperfect Foods, which saves food items from landfill at a discounted price, and Denver’s affordable weekly rotational produce box from 5280 Produce.
Ethics and the concern for animal welfare is also why Brooke Maxfield, the general manager at Watercourse Foods, which is an all-vegan restaurant in Capitol Hill, adopted a vegan diet.
Maxfield, 26, has been vegan for 10 years. She decided to go vegan after learning about the treatment of animals in the factory farming industry. She describes the animals’ living conditions as “really horrific.”
While Maxfield originally went vegan for ethical reasons, she also attributes financial savings and over-all physical well-being to her vegan diet.
“Given all of the positive aspects of going plant-based,” Maxfield said, “I don’t really think there is any reason not to be vegan.”
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