Founder of WNY Vegans talks about her diet, misconceptions about veganism

Good article by Melinda Shaw on her experiences as a vegan:

The word “vegan” carries an inordinate amount of caustic weight despite its simple theory and definition. The term sparks trigger quick, flippant responses and reactions based on – from what I have found through casual conversations – a misappropriations, distaste and individual perplexity.

Statements like, “Why would you do that?” “Isn’t is hard to not eat meat?” and “You’re missing out on so many good foods!” spring up regularly, creating inadvertent and glaring testimonies that being “vegan” really means being “different.”

And ultimately misunderstood.

After reading about “Veganuary,” my seminal curiosities led me to dig in a bit deeper in what it is to be truly “vegan.”

I understand the core concepts: no meat, no animal byproducts, and conscious and ethical living practices, but never did I realize that living as a vegetarian, how far off I am from living a vegan lifestyle, thanks in great part to the products I use that contain animal components – as opposed to the foods that I eat.

So “Veganuary,” the promotion of “veganism” last month, afforded me the opportunity to reach out to Melinda Shaw, the founder of WNY Vegans, who spoke about what it is to be vegan.

“A vegan is someone who chooses not to consume any animal products, including meat, fish, dairy, eggs and byproducts made from animals, including honey and gelatin. People generally choose to become vegan for either humane, environmental or health reasons, or a combination of those reasons. Most ethical vegans also generally abstain from using health and beauty products and cleaning products that contain animal ingredients or were tested on animals,” Shaw said.

Also, ethical vegans will desist from wearing fabrics derived from animals, including wool, leather, fur and silk. They also will refrain from attending events and activities where animals are being used for entertainment purposes, such as rodeos, zoos, marinas and circuses.

As a vegan for 23 years, Shaw began living in this manner for “ethical reasons.” Her primary concern was “for the animals.” With more than two decades experience, Shaw attests to the “health and environmental benefits of being vegan.”

“I know that the choices I make every day have a positive impact on the world and do the least harm possible to the animals, my health and the environment. The physical benefits of a vegan lifestyle are tremendous,” Shaw said.

“Today, more people are dying from lifestyle-related disease than infectious diseases! These lifestyle-related diseases are mostly due to high consumption of processed, animal-based foods and lack of physical exercise. We know that most of these diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and even cancer, are linked to the over-consumption of animal products and can be reversed through a whole-foods, plant-based diet.”

Thanks largely to innate commonsense and research, omnivorous and vegan diets are, nearly to entirely devoid of animal byproducts, thus traditionally lower in total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol in comparison to non-vegetarian forms of nourishment. Numerous studies also support claims that vegetarians and/or vegans appear to have a lower risk for coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity and various forms of cancer.

With all the health benefits associated with non-meat based diets, misconceptions about herbivorous diets are incredibly and shockingly pervasive in our society, especially one that has access to answers in as little time as it take for someone to think and type in a question on Google.

“The biggest misconception about being vegan is that it’s too hard and the foods are too restrictive,” Shaw said. “Many people who try or become vegan are pleasantly surprised to learn about the huge variety of foods that are vegan and actually enjoy cooking and eating more as a vegan as they experiment with new foods and flavor combinations.

“The other misconception is that vegan food is expensive, which is just the opposite. Beans and rice are very inexpensive. When you remove the costly meat, dairy and eggs from your diet, which is generally about 40 percent of an average grocery bill, that frees up a lot of room in your budget. You get more for your money on a vegan diet.”

As for vegan foods, the variety available is extensive. Per the recommendations from Shaw (and some of her favorites), there are “vegan” meat products like Gardein and Beyond Meat, which she uses when cooking for those who are non-vegan, and nutritional yeast, an accent spice of sorts; high in vitamin B12, it gives food a pleasant, nutty flavor.

“The biggest apprehension from people about being vegan is concern over what they will eat,” Shaw said. “I will often go grocery shopping with people to show them some of my favorite products. Most people are shocked to see all of their familiar food items in vegan form, such as butter, cheese, sour cream, cream cheese, ice cream, shredded cheese and meat-replacements. It’s a big relief when they realize that they can still eat very similar to what they are used to eating, just in a more humane and healthy way.”

Should you want to experiment with being vegan for a day or just a meal, there are numerous local restaurants that offer vegan dishes. They include Saigon Bangkok, Falafel Bar, and Pizza Plant, to name a fast few.

Also, as the old, clichéd, but ever true adage goes, “knowledge is power.” The more information you have on veganism, the better informed you will be about the relatively misconstrued subject matter. Check out these documentaries: Vegucated; Earthlings; Forks Over Knives; and Food Inc. Or try one of these books: “Diet for a New America,” by John Robbins; or “The China Study,” by T. Colin Campbell.

Now you can go seek out, find out and try out what works for you. Like anything in life, options are good, and this is just another one for your consideration.

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“Going vegan changed my life”

The following article was published by the Daily Express on Feb 23rd 2015.  Thought it was worth sharing as is always interesting to hear other people’s stories, how they came to veganism, what they struggle with, what their advice is etc…

Healthy living guru Angela Liddon explains how giving up animal products helped her overcome an eating disorder

"I switched to whole foods and lost 20 pounds."

Veganism is a big trend for 2015. Beyoncé announced recently that she is launching a vegan food delivery service and she is just one of many celebrities who have decided to cut animal products out of their diet completely.

For healthy living guru Angela Liddon however, going vegan wasn’t just a celebrity fad. Instead she says that after years of suffering from an eating disorder, it gave her life back to her.

Angela’s problems started when she was just 11.

“When I hit puberty, I started to get curves and gained a bit of weight. I felt I wasn’t thin enough like the girls in fashion magazines so I started to diet,” she explains.

Starving herself for days on end, then binge eating, Angela, now 32, fixated on how much fat she was eating and the amount of exercise she could do.

“Even though I was very thin my body image was worse than ever. I thought that by losing the weight I would accept myself more but found I only became more critical of how I looked. It was a vicious circle,” she says.

It wasn’t until Angela was in her mid-20s that she decided enough was enough. “I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. I lacked energy in my day-to-day life and I desperately wanted to change,” she says.

“My eating disorder also negatively impacted on my relationships as it made me insecure, moody and withdrawn. I knew something needed to give if I was going to have healthy relationships in my life and most of all learn how to accept myself.”

After hearing about how healthy a vegan diet can be she decided to try it out for herself. Soon, she was hooked.

“Eating a balanced plant-based diet gave me so much energy straight away,” she says. “I felt happier, balanced and like I could accomplish so much more. It was a revelation.”

Inspired by her new lease of life Angela, who lives in Ontario, Canada, decided to start a blog to share her struggles with food and how going vegan had turned her life around.

After its launch in 2008 she was inundated with messages from readers. “I was amazed and humbled by all the people who wrote saying that my blog changed their life,” she says.

During the past six years she has created more than 600 vegan recipes and built up six million regular readers. Now, as she launches her first cookbook, Angela says she hopes her journey eating her way back to health will continue to inspire others to go vegan too.

The Oh She Glows Cookbook by Angela Liddon, published March 4, (Penguin, £16.25) is available from amazon.co.uk

FIVE GOLDEN FOOD RULES

1 MAKE TIME

Set aside time each weekend to prepare food for the week ahead. Roast a couple of pans of seasonal vegetables, soak and cook chickpeas and prep kale and homemade dressing for salads. This will make throwing together weeknight meals much easier.

2 DON’T WORRY ABOUT OTHERS

If you want to make changes, do so for you and you alone. Don’t let outside opinions put you off. You never know, if you feel good, look healthy and your skin’s glowing others may want to do it too.

3 SWEAT EVERY DAY

You’ll feel your best if you get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. It can be as simple as walking outdoors but make sure whatever it is you enjoy doing it. Mix it up to keep it interesting. Try indoor cycling classes, brisk hill walking on the treadmill, weights and hiking.

4 EAT BREAKFAST

Skipping breakfast is never a good idea as you’ll end up starving by lunch and over-eating. If you want something light have a green protein smoothie or a bowl of vegan overnight oats.

5 MAKE ROOM FOR TREATS

Depriving yourself will only make you want something more. Therefore include room for desserts and treats in your diet, in moderation of course.

Try a raw chocolate pudding made with blended banana, avocado, cocoa powder, vanilla, and sea salt topped with roasted hazelnuts and whipped coconut cream. It’s easy to make and, while sweet, it’s full of goodness.

SMART SWAPS TO BOOST YOUR DIET

Ditch: COW’S MILK

Try: Almond milk. Choose the unsweetened kind and use it where you would normally use cow’s milk.

Ditch: DAIRY CREAM

Try: Full-fat coconut cream. You can whip it just like you would regular dairy cream. It’s great in desserts, puddings, soup and more.

Ditch: BUTTER

Try: Virgin coconut oil. You can use coconut oil in just about everything from raw desserts to baked goods to stir-fries.

Heart-healthy, it has antifungal and antibacterial properties. However if you’re not a fan of the flavour you can use refined coconut oil.

Ditch: MINCE

Try: Lentil-walnut taco “meat”. A mixture of toasted walnuts, lentils, chilli powder, garlic, olive oil, cumin and salt.

Ditch: DAIRY SOUR CREAM

Try: Cashew sour cream. Blend soaked cashews, water lemon juice, cider vinegar and seasoning until smooth.

Go wild for the Wild Food Cafe

I finally made it to the Wild Food Café in Covent Garden today.  I’ve been meaning to go for months and months and it was well worth the wait.

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It’s tucked away above Neal’s Yard.  It’s cosy (seats about 40 people) but bright and airy.  It’s a really lovely space with the kitchen in full view bang in the middle and you can either sit at the bar that runs all around the kitchen and watch them cooking or at one of the 4 big tables overlooking Neal’s Yard.  Today it was absolutely freezing outside but the sun was pouring in through the large bay windows and it felt like a little haven of friendly, cosy, welcoming, warmth on an Arctic London day.

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It describes itself as a ‘raw-centric food restaurant’ and uses ‘wild, fresh, colourful gourmet ingredients & plant-based (vegan and vegetarian) cuisine’.  The vast majority of the menu is vegan and a lot of it raw.  For anyone who is nervous of the phrase ‘raw vegan’ and presumes they will be faced with a plateful of rabbit food sprinkled with bird feed then fear not – it is astonishing what these guys create and you really don’t even notice that it’s raw.

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I started with their ‘Incredible Green’ super smoothie –  apple, celery, lemon, banana, kale, fresh coconut, fresh aloe vera, fresh irish moss.  It’s £6 which is pretty expensive but it’s almost a meal in itself.  A hearty comforting glass of goodness.

raw burger

Then I ordered THE WILD BURGER – scrumtious shiitake, raw olive & dulse burger with in-house cultured Wild Sauce, tomatillo salsa verde, caramelised onions, baba ganoush & crispy gem lettuce in a wholemeal sprouted organic wheatbread(V)(N)(R) £12.  Completely delicious and filling, although not the biggest plate of food for £12.

 

 

Wild Raw Pizza  Ed had the WILD PIZZA SPECIAL – raw, dairy-free young coconut cheeze, wild sea purslane & basil pesto, raw cultured tomato & goji berry marinara, Turkish olives, artichoke hearts, avocado(V)(N)(R) £12.5  This was the star of the show and honestly one of the most delicious meals I have ever had in my life.  It made me want to rush out and buy a dehydrator immediately!  

The desserts looked amazing but we ran out of time sadly – but now I have an excuse to go back as soon as I possibly can…

Raw Chocolate and Berry Tartfig-orange-tart

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Oh and the waiting staff are really knowledgeable and helpful… and exceedingly attractive which is always always a bonus!

Wild Food Café has a real community feeling about it.  They offer cooking courses, full moon feasts, meditation sessions, gourmet meals with guest chefs etc… Go check it out!

Wild Food Cafe