To me, “going vegan” is not about being trendy or better-than-thou, showing anyone up, or guilting anyone into doing what I have come to believe is the right thing. It’s just what my wife and I have done in our household after our younger daughter introduced us to it two years ago. I’m thrilled to see this new nutritional path increasingly going mainstream, including stories in major media venues.
I also laugh or cringe at some media “findings” about plant-based nutrition.
One editor wrote about quick-eats-and-treats for Super Bowl parties. To me his one token vegan entry was unappetizing in print and after trying it, his taste buds agreed. So, to him, that was it. Case closed. Settled science. Forget anything vegan for your next party! You and your guests should keep chowing down on hamburgers and wings and hot dogs, and pizzas drowning in meat. Jam as much animal product down your throats as possible.
Not that I am bitter.
Another writer dug deep to find out that one of the popular new plant-based burgers had, she said, “similar levels of sodium to a regular beef hamburger.”
This feels a lot like related examples of hypocrisy. Of people who otherwise worship at the altar of “choice” shooting down new choices:
Big Tobacco muscling everyone into attacking e-cigarette makers…as it rolls its own e-cigs.
Big Tobacco’s big money has learned media types blathering on about the health impacts of e-cigarettes (vaping). [Cue Dave Barry describing “a highly trained TV journalist making a frowny face” to let us know we should worry.]|a| I don’t deny the danger! A number of deaths have been attributed to people buying vaping products — “on the street,” not through licensed vendors — and any needless death is a tragedy. But let’s insert a little perspective here: the tobacco industry has been poisoning children and adults since 1602. Cigarettes are on track to kill 10 million humans per year by 2020.|b| But by God, we must protect the public from vaping! And here’s the kicker: as the tobacco companies continue to stoke the media fire to kill the small independents in the market, they are quietly launching their own vaping products. See the “pmi” in the link? Stands for the world’s largest tobacco company, Philip Morris International.|c|
Music critics attacking Christian rockers.
In the mid-1990s, Christian rockers started being signed by major mainstream music labels. Virgin Records signed dc Talk and the Newsboys; Jars of Clay were doing Letterman and soft drink commercials; dc Talk’s Jesus Freak single elbowed its way onto #4 on Billboard between Kiss and Marilyn Manson. Music critics born and bred on sex-drugs-rock-and-roll, satanic lyrics, and wasted singers falling off stages suddenly got all scholarly about things like song structures. They penned headlines such as one in Rolling Stone that I paraphrase from memory: “Christian rockers are hitting the charts and the stage; but how’s the music, and what’s the message?”
Media aside, I marvel at some of my fellow humans who stop wolfing down steroid-laden meats and Mountain Dew just long enough to shoot down any positive vegan story with scattered concerns and cheap shots, such as:
Q: “If you vegans don’t want to eat meat, why would you want something that tastes like meat?”
A: Um…why would Tesla and others make electric cars that drive like gas-powered cars (or better)?
No one ever said they didn’t like the TASTE of meats and dairy products. We’re eating differently for three main reasons:  We are no longer willing to contribute to the demand for meat and dairy that causes “humans” to torture and kill animals for food.  We want no part of the human health issues around eating red and processed meat, which is associated with heart disease, diabetes and cancer.  We will no longer contribute to the demand for meat that accelerates climate change and drains natural resources to raise livestock for food. #1 is self-explanatory, and documented at the end of this post; #s 2 and 3 are documented in a myriad of places, including here and here.|d|
Point: “These plant-based foods are too processed.”
Counterpoint: As laid out here, and paraphrased in this post, Beyond Meat and the Impossible Burger have better nutritional profiles than beef burgers: fewer calories, more protein, and less fat.
Compared to a four-ounce beef burger with 20% fat content, a Beyond Burger has 20 fewer calories, three fewer grams of fat, and one MORE gram of protein. An Impossible Burger has 50 fewer calories, eight fewer grams of fat, and the same amount of protein. Both plant-based burgers have zero cholesterol, compared to 80 milligrams in a beef burger. And both have more fiber, another essential to good health. Combine that with the large body of research linking meat consumption to disease, and you have a pretty convincing case that the world’s health would be better off if we replaced traditional meat with these products.|e|
Statement: “You can’t get protein unless you eat meat.”
Fact Check: WRONG.
We get plenty of protein every day at every meal in things like soy milk, oatmeal, nuts, chia seeds, tofu, beans, chickpeas, nutritional yeast, whole-grain breads, green peas, quinoa, wild rice, and high-protein fruits and vegetables.|f| One thing we don’t get is vitamin B12, and we take that as a supplement.
Often Heard Locally: “I’d like to try vegan, but my husband’s a meat-and-potatoes man and he works hard and he needs his meat.”
Speaking Truth to Carnivores: a growing number of the world’s top athletes in the most demanding physical sports are vegan, so…whatever your job may be, I’ll bet it can work for you.
Who are they? NFL players including DeAndre Hopkins, Malcolm Jenkins, Matthew Stafford, and Marcus Mariota. NBA players including Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving, Wilson Chandler, Al Jefferson, Garrett Temple, Enes Kanter, JaVale McGee, and Jahlil Okafor. Pro soccer players in the British Premier and other leagues including Jermain Defoe, Chris Smalling, Fabian Delph, and Jack Wilshere. World-class athletes across the most demanding physical sports such as tennis icon Venus Williams, boxer David Haye, UFC mixed martial arts fighters Nate Diaz and Abel “Killa” Trujillo, bodybuilder Barny du Plessis, snowboarder Hannah Teter, skater Meagan Duhamel, Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton, ultramarathoner Scott Jurek, and more. NFL living legends Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers are not fully vegan, but their diets are reportedly 80% plant-based. |g|h|i|j|
Choice: Good. Commercial Intimidation: Bad
To be clear: I am all about freedom of choice. All sentiment and evidence to the contrary, you may keep right on eating meat and dairy, and if you are a parent, raising your children to do the same, and you have the right to do so. If that is the case: go for it. And own it. I just have no patience for those who raise false “concerns” to justify the status quo, and who are always itching to shoot down something new.
I also expose intimidation that is designed to protect vested interests instead of letting the world, and the economy, evolve. The Missouri Cattlemen’s Association fired a shot across the bow of the plant-based nutrition industry by cowing Missouri lawmakers [rim shot] into passing a law that prohibits companies from referring to products sold in the state as “meat” — unless those products require torturing and killing defenseless animals, in which case it’s ok to call them meat.|k| This is intimidation, plain and simple — and politicians, bought and paid for — as the meat industry watches plant-based foods starting to supplant [it is a great day for rim shots] animal products in the public palate. It also inspires several headlines I wish I’d written:
MISSOURI LEGISLATORS BUFFALOED BY CATTLEMEN
MISSOURI KOWTOWS TO CATTLE LOBBY
CATTLE LOBBY HAS A BEEF WITH CONSUMERS GOING VEGAN
I’ve got no horse (or horsemeat, for that matter) in this race. I have no dog — restaurants in certain areas of major US cities, you know what I’m talking about — in this fight. What I’m big on, though, are things like honesty and a balanced perspective. So, while some plant-based burgers may indeed contain “levels of sodium comparable to regular hamburgers,” I’ll tell you what they contain a lot less of: DEAD ANIMALS.
Beyond Faulty Logic to Beyond…Burgers! And More
Onward to a juicy [rim shot] discussion about the amazing array of vegan burgers and other plant-based nutrition that’s breaking out all over.|l|
We love Beyond Burgers. I am not, like Bill Gates or Leo DiCaprio and a number of other celebrities, a big-name investor in Beyond Meat, but I grabbed shares of $BYND the day of its IPO, it’s made us some nice money, and we’re still invested because we believe it has enormous, maybe Google- and Amazon-style potential ($GOOG, $GOOGL, and $AMZN). Here’s my proposed stock symbol for the next major plant-based nutrition company that goes public: $MEAT. I can’t find any company using it — ok, software company Atlassian’s stock symbol is $TEAM, but now we’re just rearranging scrabble letters — and $MEAT would send the unmistakable message that plant-based meat has arrived.|m|
It’s Not a Crusade. These Burgers ROCK
These burgers feature something that would surprise those who haven’t tried them: THEY TASTE GREAT. We are loving Beyond Burgers out at TGI Fridays, and having had every burger Fridays makes, to me these are the best and tastiest on the menu.
Del Taco is serving up “The Future of Tacos and Burritos” made with Beyond Meat.
Dunkin’ Donuts has partnered with Beyond Meat to introduce the Beyond Sausage Breakfast Sandwich.
If we lived near a Carls Jr. we would order the Beyond Famous Star (without cheese), but sadly, the area we live in is designated by CKE Restaurant Holdings, parent company of Carls Jr. and Hardees, as a Hardees-only zone, with no plant-based burgers on the menu.
So Does the Pizza…and (There is a God) Cheesesteak
Azzip Pizza serves up really good “zero dairy zero cholesterol zero animal products 100% flavor” pies.
When I learned mega-musician and writer Questlove was teaming up with the cool kids at Impossible to serve up a vegan cheesesteak,|n| I tweeted it up — and when Questlove himself RT’d my tweet, it went what in my world is viral. Get this: they launched the new cheesesteak in PHILADELPHIA!|o| The center of the cheesesteak universe. Questlove was born and raised there, and as you can read at the link above, is something of a cheesesteak connoisseur. This is also not a one-shot deal for him: Questlove is an early investor in Impossible Foods. If and when Impossible Foods goes public (did I mention proposed stock symbol: $MEAT) my wife and I will, in our own small-investor way, join him. First I want to do lunch with him!
Vegan Global Goodness
On my first real business trip to London last November — before that, my only visit had been a stopover at Heathrow — I had a Beyond Burger at Honest Burgers.
While visiting our older daughter recently we went to Universal Studios Hollywood. A dream of a day and to top it off, the fast-food eateries in the park itself had Impossible Burgers on the menu…
while we had Beyond Burgers at the Karl Strauss restaurant in the adjacent Universal Citywalk.
From around the world and across the nation to just up the road, they serve Impossible Burgers at the coolest local brew & burger pub here in our quiet little corner of Indiana, Charlie’s.
Which leads to my next point:
If we can eat vegan here in the carnivorous heart of middle America, so can you.
Restaurants Specializing Solely in Plant-based Fare
Years before we committed to vegan nutrition full-time, a dear friend introduced us to our first taste of vegan meals in a restaurant setting at Veggie Grill in Orange County, CA. There aren’t a ton of locations yet, but anytime we’re back in California we try to meet up with her at that same restaurant.
Happily, the Veggie Grill joins a growing number of restaurants across the US and in other parts of the world who specialize solely in plant-based foods, from New York to London and (no pun intended) beyond.|p|
Plant-Based at Home Base: A Quornucopia of Vegan Delights
Suffice to say I’ve long since learned there’s a lot more to vegan eating than black bean burgers (which aren’t bad, either, btw) and tofu. We do eat a lot of straight vegetables and grains. When it comes to the dining arts in our household, my wife does virtually all the cooking and baking and my main role is to voraciously consume her mouthwateringly delicious delights. My contributions to one of her fabulous meals are simple. Pre-meal: set the table. Put together drinks for us like Moscow Mules (often Mexican mules for me), Long Island Iced Teas, Georgia Peaches, whiskey sours, or Kendricks gin & tonics. Post-meal: wash dishes.|q|r|
My wife is our Master Chef and, until she went up to Heaven earlier this year, our little beagle girl Ginny was our Sous Chef, always nearby to assist if a food item would drop. She soon learned that the pickings were slim next to Mommy, and wisely started posting up ‘in the paint’ next to Daddy, who drops food as regularly as Taylor Swift drops love-gone-wrong hits.
Anyway, my point is, my wife weaves culinary magic in many ways, including with the dizzying roster of recipes found in the Forks Over Knives cookbook.
Actually, you can find a number of different Forks Over Knives books on Amazon; there are also a magazine and other products including, yes, a movie. The cookbook pictured above offers more than “300 Recipes for Plant-based Eating All Through the Year,” and my wife hasn’t made a single one that wasn’t either amazing or at least really tasty. (She’s always been a world-class chef and baker, but these recipes are great, too.)
Two of our favorites:
CHILI – best I’ve ever eaten. My wife lovingly prepares it with onions, mushrooms, garlic, three kinds of beans (black, pinto, and kidney), diced tomatoes, plant-based ground beef (usually Beyond or Lightlife). She also bakes gorgeous corn bread and we eat vegan sour cream, and Daiya cheddar shreds.
TACOS – best ever. My wife whips these up with tofu, chili powder, ancho chili, cumin, plant-based ground beef (usually Beyond or Lightlife), peppers (red, yellow, or orange), and frozen corn. We enjoy them with all the usual taco fixins’: vegan shredded cheddar and sour cream (more on those in a moment), lettuce, tomatoes, salsa, black olives, and shredded cabbage.
I guess knowing how most of us love burgers and such, in addition to a spectacular spectrum of recipes such as those found in Forks Over Knives, the food industry keeps going above and Beyond, doing the Impossible [rim…ok, enough rim shots for one piece] to create amazing vegan versions of familiar foods.
With deal after deal by restaurants partnering with Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, restaurants specializing in vegan foods, and new cook-it-yourself offerings and recipes popping up daily, it is futile to try to list all the plant-based offerings. My only hope in this section is to capture a representative snapshot, beyond the brands and products already mentioned above, of all that is out there.
I’m Italian but hated Italian sausage all my life. Field Roast Italian sausage is the best I’ve ever tasted and I’d eat it damn near every day if I could. Field Roast and other brands of plant-based hot dogs are about 95% of the way to frankfurter nirvana. We eat ’em all the time just the way we ate regular hot dogs (and does anyone, including the manufacturers, really know what’s in those?), with sauerkraut and mustard. Those of us (me) who are unafraid of the Hot Dog Gods raining down fire on their heads also add ketchup.
Daiya products, available at most grocery stores now, include cheddar and mozzarella slices and shredded cheese, so you can grab a zesty slice or enjoy on pasta and salads. I defy you to have just a taste of its Cheesy Mac macaroni & cheese without finishing the whole thing.
Galaxy Nutritional Foods offers GO VEGGIE products “to deliver all the cheesy goodness you know and love, without the downside. GO VEGGIE is The Healthier Way to Love Cheese.” We are working these into our rotation — into our ‘cheese wheel,’ if you will — and they taste great.
Gardein meatballs are amazing alone in sauce or with the whole wheat and vegetable pastas we eat. Gardein also makes killer chicken nuggets that, to quote the time-honored phrase, really do “taste just like chicken;” and Pizza Pockets, which are like Hot Pockets but without the spectre of death hanging over your head (thank you, Jim Gaffigan).|s|
My wife has been buying us plant-based ground beef from Lightlife. One night recently I grabbed the Lightlife Ground, which smelled just like ground beef, formed up perfect thick patties, grilled ’em up…and we devoured them. Lightlife offers a wide range of vegan foods including burgers, sausage, and more, and if the rest are as savory as the ground beef, they are going to be every bit as popular as the luscious lineups from Beyond and Impossible.
Quorn offers amazing vegan recipes and products including chicken strips and nuggets, and we are enjoying it in a lot of great meals.
We buy Dave’s Killer Bread bagels and other healthy breads, which are sweetened mostly with apple juice instead of refined sugar…
and put Earth Balance butter (stick and soft whip) or Daiya cream cheese on them.
We snack on veggie chips by Sensible Portions or the store brand equivalents at Fresh Thyme and other grocers. (Fresh Thyme is also our most reliable local source of Beyond Meat products, although Meijer, Kroger, and others are slowly starting to catch on.)
Other frequent favorites include:
Baked potatoes loaded with vegan butter, sour cream, and shredded cheddar.
French toast sometimes coated with a rich concoction that includes real eggs, so yes, in that way not vegan, then lovingly slathered with vegan butter and real syrup (the expensive syrup, so let’s just say our dishes aren’t swimming in it).
Soy milk and almond milk, and soy or almond-based coffee creamers, which we get in plain or vanilla flavors and sometimes chocolate.
Daiya blue cheese, ranch, and Caesar salad dressings.
These things all taste amazing. I love to eat and couldn’t do this if they didn’t. I feel light-years better, and maybe I’ll live longer. Ok, so on that point maybe my wife will reconsider us doing this vegan thing.
Plant-Based Foods We Haven’t Tried Yet, but Will
Abbot’s Butcher makes chorizo and other soy-free, nut-free, and non-GMO vegan products.
Good Catch Foods offers plant-based tuna and recipes, and if it tastes anywhere near as mouthwatering as it looks, we can’t wait to reel some in!
Nuggs tells consumers, “Don’t Be Chicken,” and wants you to try its plant-based chicken nuggets NOW: it will ship them directly to your door with FedEx 2Day shipping at no extra cost.
Outstanding Foods offers “Tasty as Hell Plant-Based Chips That Taste Just Like Bacon” — its PigOut Chips — and, on its home page, video Tastemonials.
We Have No Desire to Make Our Own Butter, but Some Do
While Earth Balance butter is 78% vegetable oils, some friends aren’t in favor of them and prefer to make their own butters. One provided three make-your-own-butter recipes, and while at time of publication we haven’t made or tried them, I pass them along because they sound both tasty and healthy: one called Hallelujah butter, another called Ingrid’s Alsunchai butter, and a third, Hallelujah Herb butter.|t|
Knowledgeable sources of credible and useful information about vegan foods, recipes, and the impact of plant-based nutrition on the planet are popping up everywhere. One of the best I’ve found thus far is One Billion Vegans, a group named for its goal of helping to create and empower a billion of us on this planet by 2022.
Kudos, also, to The Today Show for this piece that presents a shortlist of great plant-based foods.|u| The post you are reading may cover more ground in terms of brands and products, but the Today Show piece will reach millions of readers who may be motivated to try these and other products.
The Next Frontier: Cultured (Lab-Grown) Meat?
An alternative to both traditional and plant-based meat is cultured, or lab-grown, meat. Scientists in the lab take the stem cells from animals and place them in a bioreactor, encouraging the growth of more cells that can be used to create a new cut of meat. Cultured meat could hit the market as soon as 2021.|v|
As discussed here, however, the processes and requirements of growing meat in the lab could make it impractical or impossible to create a sustainable meat supply.|w| Nevertheless, innovation and evolution could someday make lab-grown meat a market-worthy reality. Any process that can feed humans’ seemingly insatiable demand for meat without torturing and killing animals, provided it is safe and healthy for human consumption, has my support.
Am I Perfectly Vegan? No
Sadly, for most of my life I’ve eaten a so-called “normal diet” featuring lots of meat and dairy, and some days eating vegan can be challenging, especially when traveling. I fall into “vegan at home, vegetarian on the road” because cheese still finds its way into so much restaurant cuisine. (And, let’s get real, because the culinary temptations of the road are often stronger than my resolve.) When in New York City on business I have been known to grab those mega-slices of NY-style pizza made with real cheese, or to go deep (dish) when in Chicago. No pepperoni or sausage like the old days; I like it loaded with buttery-delicious mushrooms or full veggie. One time I even had pizza with pasta on it in NYC, so right there that covers two of your major food groups. Cheetos, which, believe it or not, are actually made with cheddar cheese, have long been my Kryptonite. (CRUNCHY! Never the Puffs.) I have also been known to enjoy soft ice cream a couple of times a year.
I’m working on all of these weaknesses.
Not trying to be a model citizen and don’t have all the answers. Just having the eating time of my life. You’re welcome to join me.
|a| Dave Barry, dave.barry.com
[b| Cancer Council, A brief history of smoking
|c| Philip Morris International, Our Smoke-Free Products | Statista, Leading tobacco companies worldwide in 2018, based on net sales (in billion U.S. dollars)
|d| Business Insider, We are killing the environment one hamburger at a time | Earth Sky, Why the Amazon is burning: 4 reasons
|e| The New Republic, The Promise and Problem of Fake Meat | Fatsecret, 4oz ground beef (80% lean/20% fat)
|f| Healthline, The 17 Best Protein Sources for Vegans and Vegetarians
|g| Business Insider, These 19 elite athletes are vegan — here’s what made them switch their diet, available here
|h| Sportscasting, Vegan Athletes You Can Watch in the NFL (and Why They Changed Diets), available here
|i| PETA, The NBA is Going Vegan, One Player at a Time, available here
|j| Los Angeles Times, In the NBA, fake-meat diets are changing the game, available here
|k| The New York Times, What, Exactly, Is Meat? Plant-Based Food Producers Sue Missouri Over Labeling
|l| If you guessed that this album by the Sex Pistols inspired the title of this post…you are correct.
|m| Nasdaq, stock quotes and market summaries
|n| Food & Wine, Questlove Launches Vegetarian Cheesesteak with Impossible Foods
|o| Philadelphia, Questlove Is Bringing a Vegetarian Cheesesteak to Citizens Bank Park
|p| Google Maps
|q| Quornucopia is a reference to the brand Quorn, not to the band Korn…but since my favorite drummer ever, Ray Luzier, splits time between Korn and a band I like, KXM, we’re talking tasty nutrition AND music here.
|r| Speaking of music, it is way more fun washing a pile of dishes while rocking out on wireless earphones to Foo Fighters, Tremonti & Myles, Metallica, Slash & Myles, and Shinedown; anything with Steve Vai (preferred: the David Lee Roth period); or anything with George Lynch, dUg Pinnick, and Ray Luzier (preferred: KXM).
|s| Jim Gaffigan, Hot Pocket
|u| Today, What is plant-based meat? Here are our top 10 product picks
|v| Inverse, Lab Meat Takeover in 2021? That’s the Latest Prediction
|w| The New Food Economy, The hype and the hope surrounding lab-grown meat
|x| The Vegan Calculator, ANIMAL SLAUGHTER KILL COUNTER
The piece above may be a lighthearted look at the issues and possibilities, but another picture remains heavy on my heart and provides equally strong motivation for a plant-based nutrition lifestyle. As does this video, this one, and countless others. Then visit the ANIMAL SLAUGHTER KILL COUNTER and learn, most of you for the first time, that we “humans” torture and kill 150 billion innocent, defenseless animals every YEAR for food.|x| Decades ago I had launched my own limited protest against eating meat by refusing to ever eat lamb or veal again “because those are baby animals.” When I finally stopped and honestly considered the horrifying holocaust we are putting both baby and adult animals through on this planet — and how long I had mindlessly been a part of it — the sorrow and anger welled up inside me and changed me forever. Whether or not you pray, I pray this will happen for you, too.