Vegans sometimes get a bad rap amongst the general public - and not without reason. While food organizations and associations around the world have recognized that veganism is one of the healthiest diets when done right, veganism isn’t for everyone.

Vegan recipes are simple enough to make at home, with a diverse range of lentil, chickpea, vegetable, and soy ingredients. However, eating at restaurants and sharing food with others can get a bit more complicated whenever dietary restrictions are involved.

The length of your workweek, your familial responsibilities, and individual dietary needs are all factors that can influence your decision on whether or not you go fully vegan.

However, if you’re worried about how veganism will affect the sports hobbies you enjoy the most, there are plenty of vegan professional athletes that will assuage those fears.

Eating delicious black bean burgers and dairy alternatives can also be great for people suffering from chronic health conditions such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease.

Needless to say, there are as many drawbacks to being a vegan as there are health benefits - like all diets. If you’re curious to know more about how eating beans, tempeh, and lentils can benefit your health in the long term, start by getting familiar with the basics of the vegan diet and its history.

If you’re considering any type of diet, make sure to always consult your doctor for more advice on how your body’s specific needs should be properly met.

vegan burgers
Making a vegan burger is easy (Photo credit: Rustic Vegan via Unplash)

The History of The Vegan Diet

November 1st marks an important day for vegans around the globe: it is World Vegan Day. The holiday also overlaps with one of the most revered months in American culture: host to Thanksgiving dinners across the country, November is often considered the food, pre-game equivalent to winter holiday specials.

Regardless of what holidays you celebrate, you’re bound to be confronted with a particular dilemma when you’re a vegan during the holiday season - what kinds of holiday recipes does the vegan diet allow?

Before diving into the health benefits of diverse vegan recipes including mushroom pasta, potato salad, and cauliflower wings, it’s important to first understand where the vegan diet comes from and why some people choose to follow vegan cooking.

Back before delicious oven-baked butternut squash and fresh burgers made out of chickpeas, the concept of veganism centered mostly around a form of strict vegetarianism.

Is Vegan Cooking Healthy?

This is where things can get controversial - especially for some of the more hard-core vegans out there. The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics researchers published reports back in 2009 that stated that vegetarian and vegan diets are healthy when done right and can even help improve chronic diseases and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Updated in 2016 to include the positive environmental impact veganism can have, this authority - along with dietetic associations around the world - has concluded that vegan food and vegan meals are sustainable for the planet and for humans.

Like any diet, of course, eating your favorites like tahini sauce, hummus, seitan, and curried, meatless sausages in moderation is key. The most important part about veganism, however, is making sure nutrition is at the forefront of any vegan recipe.

Any diet when done wrong can be harmful - the standard American diet is full of ingredients that can be detrimental in the long run. Veganism is no exception - especially when the perception of a “healthy lifestyle” in the American conscious tends to get distorted.

There is a countless number of research and surveys that have been conducted that conclude that Americans are conflicted about what foods they would consider being healthy.

With the amount of inconsistent media coverage surrounding terms like unsaturated fats, GMOs and more - it can be overwhelming to attempt achieving a well-balanced diet even in more mainstream nutrition, let alone when becoming a vegan.

While there’s no question that ingredients like cashews, white bean products, couscous, and edamame are great for your health - they may not be enough to satisfy you or your family’s diet needs if not monitored regularly.

A plant-based diet can be even more tricky when it comes to children. There is no question that going vegan will bring great health benefits to the majority of the population.

However, going meat and dairy-free means you will have to supplement with vitamins and minerals that are either not found in vegan food or are not found in big enough quantities to be guaranteed. These are generally recognized to be:

  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin D
  • Calcium
  • Iron

While cutting out animal products and loading up on fiber-rich food can be extremely healthy for toddlers, fiber can also fill up toddlers quickly and not leave them with enough room to take in a sufficient amount of the most important nutrients they should be taking, such as protein.

The beautiful part about what makes veganism so great can also be exactly why it can be complicated for people to embark on a vegan diet: the reasons for becoming vegan.

Whatever that reason may be, it’s important to understand that there is no single right or a better way of being vegan. Enjoying a vegan meal shouldn’t come with the pressure of being “perfect” - even the best dietitians don't get it right 100% of the time.

vegan salad
With potatoes, vegetables, and spices, you can craft an amazing meal! (Photo credit: Jo Sonn via Unplash)

What Does a Vegan Recipe Look Like?

From vegan chocolate to veggie burgers, being a vegan is increasingly easier thanks to increasing affordability and the use of vegan products. However, what exactly is a vegan diet and where does it originate from?

While you may regularly enjoy or if you've just tried one vegan dinner, like butternut risotto or cashew stir fry, veganism can be much more than a way of eating for some people.

This is why people tend to differentiate between a vegan diet and a vegan lifestyle. People following a vegan diet follow the type of veganism that excludes animal products from their foods.

Every dish excludes ingredients like butter, eggs, milk, poultry, fish and more. Typically, these diets include ingredients like lasagna, vegan cheese, black beans, vegetable soup, red lentil pasta, granola and more.

Those who want to follow a vegan lifestyle strive to cut out animal products in all of the products they consume. This goes beyond making a vegan meal plan - vegan lifestyles watch out for animal products in things like shampoo, clothing, furniture and more.

Where to Buy Vegan Food

While vegan dinner recipes come for all different palates, it can be difficult trying to shop for vegan food depending on where you live and what your tastes are. While eating vegan food isn't necessarily possible for everyone, whether that be for financial or dietary reasons, buying vegan food shouldn't ever be expensive or unhealthy.

It can be hard to lock down the basics of your vegan grocery haul. From lentil soup to vegan macaroni, your priority when shopping for vegan food should be making sure you're getting all the nutrients you need. Some of the ingredients that can help you accomplish this are:

  • Red lentil pasta
  • Miso paste
  • White beans,
  • Cumin
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Portobello mushrooms
  • Brown rice

Keeping it simple is the best way to go. If the nearest grocery store in your area is not vegan-friendly, it's completely okay to make try your best with what you have available to you.

veggie toast
Lunch and breakfast can be simple, affordable and tasty! (Photo credit: Ella Olsson via Unplash)

Recipes for Vegan Meals

For both vegetarians and vegans, finding new recipes to try is as easy as searching online or leafing through a recipe book. From healthy vegan recipes and easy vegan recipes to recipes that are well over 700 calories, you'll have a plethora of options to choose from when looking for vegan meal ideas.

Some of the vegan dishes you can try at home include:

  • vegan scramble
  • soba noodles
  • roasted cauliflower pizza
  • vegan chili

Baking and Cooking Without Animal Products

While not a complete guide to baking and cooking desserts without animal products, here are some recipes you can try at home:

  • Beet brownies
  • Banana "nice-cream"
  • No-bake, cheesecake bites

Where to Find More Vegan Recipes

If you want some more advice on how to go vegan or free recipes for vegan dishes and meal ideas, finding mouth-watering recipes is easy with the help of YouTube and the internet. Even some food channels that aren't exclusively vegan often feature vegan recipes, such as Tasty and Munchies.

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