Often when I mention to someone that at home we eat vegan fare most of the time there is a look of confusion on the other person’s face. The terms vegan and vegetarian often get mixed up as well.
Also when you start to sort through the different terms that people use to explain the way that they eat, it often ends up in a confused, jumbled mess.
Let’s take a look at some of the terms that describe different dietary philosophies and why people might consider eating that way.
This is just a basic list, but should be enough information to whet your appetite.
Omnivore – This is a term used for the majority of people and the way that they eat. An omnivore eats pretty anything that is a food item. While many omnivores choose to limit their diet in some ways, nothing in particular is off the menu. Veggies, meats, poultry, dairy, eggs,… are all potential things to munch on.
Most people grow up eating this way and it’s comfortable. Going out to eat at a restaurant an omnivore doesn’t need to necessarily worry about the ingredients that are in each of the dishes.
Gluten Free – I slipped this in as people eating gluten free diets are becoming more commonplace. Gluten is a protein present in wheat and a few different grains that in some cases cause a reaction similar to an allergy. There are varying degrees of sensitivity to gluten and people that are affected by gluten are advised to avoid it at all cost.
One of the issues with avoiding gluten is that many processed foods contain wheat protein. The wheat protein is used for a thickening agent as well as used for fillers and binders in diverse products like sausages, hamburgers, soups, noodles, puddings,… The list is a large one and all gluten sensitive people must continually be vigilant.
Also because wheat flour is so fine it can easily contaminate other foods and even an entire kitchen with gluten.
Vegetarian – There are many different people that consider themselves vegetarians. I’ll name a few of the different categories but there are others.
People that eat dairy and eggs as well as veggies are called Lacto-Ova-vegetarians.
People that eat mostly vegetables but also include fish, seafood and sometimes shellfish are considered pescatarians.
The benefits of being a vegetarian is that generally vegetarians eat more vegetables and fruit which brings more dietary fiber and nutrients that the body needs.
And while many restaurants are starting to offer vegetarian dishes on their menus, often the offerings are limited or even non-existent. Many people make fun of vegetarians like Anthony Bordain, who actively scorn vegetarians.
And finally Vegans - I put vegans in two different categories, political and dietary.
Both type of vegans avoid eating food that has animal products in it. This includes, dairy, meat, eggs, gelatin, sometimes honey, fish, poultry, seafood, and the list goes on and on. The general rule is that if the food came from a living breathing entity then vegans avoid it.
The reason I split up the vegans into political and dietary lies with the reason why they choose the vegan lifestyle and how they live it.
Political vegans avoid all animal products period!! This includes leather, feathers, ivory, as well as all the food items already listed. Usually a political vegan lives this way because they don’t agree with how animals are treated and are trying to live in harmony with the rest of the world including animals.
Dietary vegans may utilize animal products like leather, ivory, etc… but do not eat food products that contain ingredients produced from animals. They may have started eating this way because of the possible health benefits of eating vegan.
“The China Study” is a book that is a convincing look at the health benefits of eating a vegan diet. I have read this book and subscribe to it’s thesis that a vegan or vegetarian diet can help us to live healthier lives.
On the flip side of eating vegan is that it is very difficult to find vegan food in our culture. Going to restaurants and ordering a vegan meal is almost impossible unless the restaurant caters to alternative diets. Most people misinterpret vegan to mean vegetarian and often include eggs, cheese, fish, or even chicken in “Vegan” dishes.
I lived as a vegan for over a year and I had people lie to me as to what was in their dishes to get me to eat the food. Living as a vegan can be difficult as you’re viewed as a social pariah. So unless you have a group of friends or a local community that are vegan this can be a difficult lifestyle to adapt.
When I conceive of a recipe often it will be vegan. My philosophy is that I want everyone to be able to eat what I prepare. Omnivores can eat anything vegan and when eating baked goods they will never know that it is any different from one filled with dairy and eggs. While I no longer exclusively eat vegan I know firsthand the difficulties that my vegan brothers and sisters face when looking for something delicious to eat and I accommodate them.
So my call to action is to learn a few vegan dishes even if you’re not vegan. Stretch your boundaries, learn something new, and surprise a vegan in your life.
Have a great day.