But, as more niche vegan food outposts pop up and no-meat-and-dairy entrees start to line supermarket chain shelves, those who aren’t of the no-animal-byproduct-of-any-sort mindset are also starting to eat vegan, by default. Because, well, it’s there and looks pretty darn appetizing and then upon further inspection (as in devouring), it is also downright delicious. If you fall into that second camp, perhaps you'd like to know a bit more about what you're eating? Lauren Slayton, M.S., R.D., a registered dietician and director at FoodTrainers.net is giving all of you vegan newbies a primer on the lingo you need to ravage that ‘lasagna’ or ‘chicken pot pie’ with confidence.
Instead of meat, you’re probably eating:
Some "meatless" products use processed soy. You can spot mangled soy when you see soy protein isolate (or concentrate) or TVP (textured vegetable protein) on labels. So, be on the lookout. But also, another soy concern is that most options are GM. To avoid GMO soy, choose organic soy foods.
Better choices are organic whole soy tofu or edamame, and the very best of the best is organic, fermented soy, like miso or tempeh.
This mushroom-esque fungus has an uncanny meat-like texture to it. (A good thing if you’re a steak lover, not so great if meat is not your thing.) So, it’s basically the perfect sub for say meatballs or cutlets. “It sounds sort of weird but its appeal is that it can really be a good chicken or beef stand in as takes on the taste of the real thing very well,” says Slayton, who suggests one of her favorites: vegan Quorn burgers, which have no milk or egg products laced into them.
Basically any ‘dairy’ vegan product (cheese, ice-cream, milk, etc.) is going to be made by some sort of variation of cashew, almond or brazil nuts. “When it comes to alternative milks, unsweetened almond milk is great because it’s often very low calorie,” says Slayton, whose personal go-to is NYC-based Omilk.
Coconut, Rice or Hemp
“The fats in coconut milk are actually good saturated fats, which may be helpful with weight loss. Plus, if you go for this option, you don’t have hormones and antibiotics to contend with as you may have with conventional (non-organic) dairy milk,” says Slayton, who adds that she’s been recommending that clients shy away from rice-based versions for now as the debate over how much arsenic is found in the grain is ongoing. The less well-known (and possibly harder to find) alternative is hemp milk. “It’s loaded with omega-3s (the good fats found in salmon and walnuts) and magnesium, too,” she says.
Don’t got hemp-milk? Try Slayton’s DIY recipe in smoothies, coffee, cereal, or anything else your heart desires:
— Place 1 cup nuts (almonds, cashews, really any you heart) in a bowl and cover with water to soak for 24 hours.
— Drain water and pour nuts into a blender (Slayton suggests the Vitamix blender for maximum smoothness).
— Add 8 cups water; blend.
— Strain mixture, reserving liquid (optional: add cinnamon, cardamom, Stevia or leave plain).
— Store chilled in fridge.