Living With a Strict Vegan: The Do's and Don'ts
Surviving Life With a Strict Vegan
My 16 year old daughter has been a strict vegan for some time now. She started as a vegetarian in middle school. I think everyone that loves animals goes through that phase at some time in their life. I went vegetarian for a little while, but it was difficult to stick with. I was brought up in a Hispanic household. You didn't eat a meal without meat, chicken or fish. However, my daughter is very discplined, so I learned more about her lifestyle choice. How else was I going to make sure she stayed healthy? She is one of seven-six are still at home. How do I survive mealtime? I learned how to cook in steps. I'll explain what I mean by this later in the article.
The Strict Vegan: The Don'ts
- Let me start by explaining that my daughter is a strict vegan. What do I mean? She doesn't eat any animal byproducts, honey or gelatin.
- She doesn't wear or use leather, suede or wool either. Let me tell you how crazy this is. I love leather coats and boots. I own them in many styles, colors and lengths. It's a little crazy for her, I'm sure. Why? Well, I've adjusted to her eating habits. That's where it ends. I'm not getting rid of my coats and boots.
- One more thing, our kitchen chairs, computer chairs and sectionals are ALL LEATHER. So, she drags a patio chair off the deck every time she wants to sit down. Picture that?!
- I think I don't have to mention this, but just in case.. No drinking or smoking.
- She does not take medications unless she absolutely has to. She won't even take tylenol. If she had to take an antibiotic, she would. That's common sense..
Vegan Diet Essentials: The Do's
- Beverages: Obviously, my daughter doesn't drink cow's milk. I buy her Almond Milk, unsweetened. She also drinks water and organic teas.
- Grains: Everyone in the house now eats whole wheat bread. The waffles I buy for her are made by Van's. She has to have special pancake mix that doesn't have dairy products in the ingredients.
- Boca Chicken Burgers: They are made with tofu.
- Peanut Butter: She had to stop eating it this week. It's been giving her severe stomach pains.
- Vegetables: When I'm buying fresh vegetables, they are organic. It doesn't matter when they are frozen.
- Fruits: Lots of fruits
- Pasta: I always have to read the label because for some reason some brands add dairy products to the pasta.
- Rice: She wants to eat brown rice, but I only buy white rice. No one else eats it and I don't cook it. So that's that.
- Snacks: She eats Goya crackers and vegan cookies. She also created a recipe for a vegan apple crisp. It's delicious.
How I Cook for 1 Vegan and 5 Other Kids That Aren't!
At first I figured it would be easier to just cook vegan for everyone. My older sons don't eat much meat anyway. So, I bought the vegan butter, vegan cheese, tofu, etc. I followed a recipe I found on the internet to make a ziti type dish. I was sick for 36 hours. That was the end of my experimentation with veganism. That's when I started cooking in steps. Here's what I mean. When I begin to cook a dish, I make sure I don't add anything that she can't eat. Here's an example. Let's say I'm making Bazed Ziti. I would boil the pasta, add the sauce, seasonings and then separate her portion. Then I bake her ziti in a separate small pan. Next I add the meat and bake the rest for the other kids. This is how I cook everyday. She also cooks for herself. (They need to be independent. I'm not going to be around forever, you know?)
Does she take vitamins or supplements in her vegan diet?
Of course. However, I have to buy them in a vegan friendly, organic store. Why? When I went to the supermarket and Rite Aid I found a little surprise. Most vitamins and supplements contain gelatin. She's been free of meat for so long that her body would react violently to any type of animal by-product. How do I know? My cousin has been a vegetarian for close to 40 years. He had a couple of cookies at my home and got flu symptoms. He asked me to read the contents. The cookies contained animal fat. That's what happens..
The most difficult part of her vegan lifestyle is visiting family. Like I mentioned before, we come from a Hispanic background. They can't understand why anyone would choose not to eat meat and they often criticize her choice. They try to get her to eat meat. (I'm always afraid someone from her Dad's side will try to slip her some bacon bits or something.) The other challenge was going out to eat. She doesn't eat any fast food (animal cruelty) so that's not much of a problem. If we are out, we stop at Subway. She has a veggie delite sandwich. If we have Chinese, she has tofu with brown rice. At restaurants, she usually orders salads, eggplant dishes free of dairy products (no butter or cheese). Sounds complicated, but you get used to it after awhile.
How or why do I deal with this? I have always taught my children to think for themselves and not conform to the crowd. It's worked for my daughter so far. She is president of over 5 clubs at school. Rebekah Vegan (her blog's title) is Lieutenant Governor of Key Club in NY and is in the running for several leadership scholarships. Her vegan lifestyle shouldn't be that shocking to those that know her. She's a strong willed driven young woman. Veganism is a natural choice for someone like her. She loves animals, the environment and leads a very humble lifestyle. Her goal is to become a research scientist in the EPA to find renewable sources to fuel our planet. See, being a vegan fits right in her big picture...
A Selection of Vegan Friendly Vitamins
A few vegan dishes we like to cook and eat:
- soup made with sofrito, noodles, beans and veggies
- eggplant with pasta and veggies
- rice and beans w/ potatoes and veggies
- spinach, pasta, spanish seasonings
- oatmeal with peanut butter (she likes me, I won't even taste it)
- crackers or organic nachos with salsa (homemade or store bought)
- tacos minus the meat
- avocado spread on crackers, bagels and even bread
- baked potato stuffed with veggies
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