Living a vegan lifestyle.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term "vegan" it is considered the strictest form of vegetarianism. Only 5 percent of vegetarians are vegans.

Vegans do not consume any animal products or by-products such as eggs, dairy, honey or gelatin. Many products that are labeled "vegetarian" contain these ingredients so a vegan must make it a habit to read the nutrition labels. Usually if something is vegan it will say on the package. Common hidden ingredients a vegan should avoid are albumin, carmine, casein, gelatin, lactose, lard, suet and whey.

People choose to be vegan for many reasons such as health, environmental, ethical or spiritual. Mine was for health reasons. A vegan diet has been shown to reduce many chronic diseases such a cancer, heart disease, stroke, adult onset diabetes and osteoporosis. Some medical researchers believe many forms of degenerative illness can be prevented by adopting a plant-based only diet.

The number one question posed to vegans is, "Where do you get your protein from?" Protein is nothing but amino acids and is fully obtainable in a healthy based vegan diet. Some of the best sources of protein are in beans, lentils, brown rice, nuts, seeds, and soy products such as soy milk and tofu. Soy beans are considered a complete protein.

Being vegan does not give you the license to eat french fries and peanut butter crackers all day. You must make sure you are receiving all of your nutritional requirements daily. Vegans also are advised to take a vitamin B-12 supplement.

An average daily menu for me is:
Breakfast: raw fruit
Lunch: raw nuts, unsweetened coconut or raw seeds such as sunflower or pumpkin with chopped dates (toasting nuts and seeds cause them to lose nutritional value)
Dinner: lentil soup or black bean chili, brown rice, vegetable and salad

My family does not follow my vegan diet. On the contrary. My son is a competitive body builder and eats predominately chicken and beef and my husband eats the average American diet. On any given day I am preparing three different menus. To make it easier, I will prepare three or four days worth of soup and brown rice for myself at a time. My husband and son do not eat the same menus either so I try to prepare enough food for them to have a night of leftovers as well.

I have been a vegan for the past 9 years. The vegan diet is not for everyone but for me it was the right choice. There are many wonderful books and cookbooks available to anyone who is interested. Below is one of my steadfast recipes that I prepare on a regular basis.

Lentil Soup

1 large onion chopped
3 large carrots diced
3 stalks of celery diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cups lentils
2 tablespoons dill weed
1 vegan vegetable bouillon cube (available at Whole Foods)
7 cups water

Saut onion, carrots and celery in olive oil. Add lentils, dill weed and bouillon cube. Add water. Bring to a boil and simmer on low for 45 minutes. Enjoy!