Wednesday, March 2, 2011

What's a vegan?

I started this blog by talking about vegan and vegetarian foods. I haven't been focusing on vegan, and some people have come to me asking just what being a vegan requires.

Being a vegetarian means that you can eat animal products that don't have meat. There are a bunch of different vegetarian names that can get confusing and nitpicky. Do I care if you eat fish occasionally or crave a hamburger? No. But for the sake of labels, let's see what's going on here.

  • Vegans: Vegans do not eat animal byproducts like gelatin or things cooked in animal products. They don't drink milk or eat eggs either. Basically if it came from or has to do with any type of animal, it's not for a vegan. Not even chocolate y'all. Yep. Not even chocolate.

  • Fruitarians: Seriously guys? Really. Well, okay. I guess some people just love to eat fruit and decided unanimously to name themselves "fruitarians" for the better good of society. I'll just stop asking questions.

  • Lacto-ovo-Vegetarians: Vegetarians who do not eat pork, beef, poultry, fish, or animal flesh of any kind, but do consume eggs and dairy products are called lacto-ovo vegetarians.

  • Lacto Vegetarians: Vegetarians who don't eat meat or eggs but consume milk are called lacto vegetarians.

  • Ovo Vegetarians: Vegetarians who don't eat meat or drink milk but eat eggs.

  • Pescatarian: Some vegetarians eat fish, generally for the nutritional value. Others just like to eat fish.

  • Flexitarians: Are you a flip-flop? Do you like to sometimes not eat meat? But seriously, this title makes no sense to me. As long as you don't eat meat every meal you could probably be called a "flexitarian." I feel like this is more for the recognition than for the cause.

  • So some of these are particularly weird, I understand. Realistically, people can eat whatever they want to eat. Labels like "vegan" and "vegetarian," in my opinion, help people understand what I'm going on about. But if I said "I'm a flexitarian who is also part-time fruitarian and my mom is a pescatarian and my dad is a lacto-ovo vegetarian" I would probably be banned from the planet. It's uncalled for. If you want people to think you're an elitist, by all means try to use that sentence next time you go to TGI Friday's.

    If you're interested in trying out a vegan diet though, head on over to this page from PETA. For the record I'm not a huge fan of PETA and I'm not going to throw a vat of blood on you if you tell me you eat meat--they're a little over the top.

    But what are some foods that aren't vegan? Let's see:
    • Foods with gelatin like marshmallows, Jell-O and gummy bears
    • jelly beans.
    Before I go any further, you're probably wondering what's up with jelly beans. They use shellac.
    I didn't take this, thankfully. Ew.

    Now you're probably asking, "Hey, what's the deal-io with that bug." Shellac, which makes jelly beans look shiny and is also used to make fruits at the grocery store look nice, comes from that bug. Literally from the bug--it sucks that sap from trees and its droppings are used to make shellac. So..yeah. This is awkward.

    Other non-vegan foods include french fries which are often cooked in animal byproduct. Restaurants will sometimes sell "vegetarian" meals that use animal fat, chicken or beef stock (think of soups). It can be hard to find a place on the go that is undoubtedly vegan, which is why many vegans buy their own materials and make their food from scratch. It's very healthy but also a very time consuming, and often expensive process to undertake. Some readers may challenge my view that being a vegan takes work, but hopefully I've made it clear that the diet is strict and requires a TON of knowledge about what you're eating!

    Being a vegan reminds me of a child with his mother over his shoulder, squinting at him and saying, "Watch what you're eating. All of it." It can be a little overwhelming, so if you're interested I wish you the best of luck. It can also be tough due to the grocery stores and restaurants in your area. There's a nice organic store a few minutes away from me, but other people may only have access to stores like Publix where it's harder to find vegan dishes.

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