Robin Robertson is the author of cookbooks including Party Vegan: Fabulous, Fun Food For Every Occasion, Vegan on the Cheap, and 1,000 Vegan Recipes. You can read her work at www.GlobalVeganKitchen.com. She recently spoke to us about veganism and what it has to do with your grandchildren.
Grandparents.com: What is veganism?
Robin Robertson: Veganism is a lifestyle that does not use any animal products — no meat, poultry, fish, eggs, or dairy. A vegan diet consists of plant-based ingredients, including beans, whole grains, soy products, fresh produce, nuts, and seeds.
GP: How does it differ from vegetarianism?
RR: Veganism is sometimes called “strict vegetarian” or “pure vegetarian,” to differentiate it from vegetarian, which often implies the inclusion of eggs and dairy products.
GP: Why would someone (especially a grandparent) go vegan? What are the benefits?
RR: As more people seek healthy alternatives to meat and dairy, many are switching to a plant-based diet. People go vegan chiefly for three reasons — ethics, environment, and health — or a combination of all three. The health benefits are many, since a vegan diet contains no dairy, cholesterol, or saturated animal fat, making it an ideal choice for those with dietary issues including lactose intolerance and high cholesterol.
GP: How do you get all your vitamins, minerals, and protein without meat?
RR: Fresh whole foods are loaded with vitamins, nutrients, and protein, as well as antioxidants, minerals, and calcium. Protein is found in a variety of whole foods including beans, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, along with tofu, tempeh, seitan, and quality meat-alternative products. A good rule of thumb is that if you eat a reasonably varied vegan diet and take in enough calories, you will get enough protein.
GP: Is it expensive? Can you cook vegan meals using food from the supermarket?
RR: A vegan diet doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, it can be less expensive than a meat-centric diet. The key to keeping the grocery bill in line is to cook fresh whole foods as opposed to processed convenience foods that cost more and are not as healthy. It’s so easy to eat vegan on the cheap that I wrote a book by the same title, in which the recipes cost between 50 cents and less than two dollars per person.
GP: Is it safe for children?
RR: A well-balanced vegan diet is a very healthy way to feed children. It’s rich in protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.
GP: Do you ever feel deprived?
RR: I have never felt deprived, because I eat everything I want, including pizza, burgers, pasta, chili, tacos, and more. Basically, anything you can make with animal ingredients you can make with plant-based ingredients. Vegan foods taste great and are better for you, the environment, and the animals.
GP: How can a non-vegan accommodate a vegan family member/grandchild?
RR: The best way is to first make a list of whatever you already cook that is vegan or easily "veganized" by changing an ingredient or two. For example, you can use vegan butter, nondairy milk, and vegan cheese to make many desserts and main dishes. Similarly, you can use beans, tofu, tempeh, or seitan (or prepared meat alternative) to make chili, tacos, burgers, and casseroles. Often it’s a simple matter of using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth in a soup or sauce. If you keep a few basic ingredients in the house, it’s easy to accommodate a vegan and you may find you enjoy the benefits yourself.
GP: Tell us about your new book, Party Vegan.
RR: Party Vegan is filled with menus and recipes designed for easy entertaining, as well as holiday meals and everyday cooking. Because the recipes are vegan, they have the added benefit of being healthy and accessible to everyone, without compromising on flavor. I’ve also included recipes for younger children and for teens, including Personal Pizzas, Build-Your-Own Ice Cream Sundaes, Baked Potato Skins, and the Ultimate Taco Bar. In addition to being delicious, these recipes entertain the children and keep them busy doing something constructive.
From Party Vegan: Fabulous, Fun Food for Every Occasion, by Robin Robertson © 2010. Courtesy John Wiley and Sons.
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