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Vegan: A person who does not eat or use animal products.
It’s inevitable that some will roll their eyes when they hear the word “vegan.” Instantly, visuals of long-haired hippies eating nothing but beans and sprouts sporting peace signs are conjured, but this couldn’t be further from the truth (at least in most cases). Being a vegan just means you eat a whole foods, plant-based diet with no dairy, eggs or meat. In the great food Mecca that is Chicago, you might ask: what’s left to eat then?
Welcome to the first weekly column of Cheeky Vegan. What I aim to show you is how healthy and active you can be on a plant-based diet, as well as giving you tons of quick, healthy recipes to try. While there are some restaurants specifically aimed at vegetarians (Karyn’s and The Chicago Diner, for instance), you can get vegetarian meals at most places if you know what to ask for. The good news is we all need to incorporate more whole foods into our diets (5-7 servings of veggies per day, anyone?). And if you eat a plant-based diet, most of your meals can be made in less than 20 minutes. No fancy chef’s equipment or experience necessary. Just a desire to get healthier and eat better foods!
It’s a common misconception that animal protein is better than plant-based protein, or that we need a ton of protein to stay healthy and retain lean muscle mass. It’s simply the American way to make protein the centerpiece of every meal, and most of us get too much protein and dairy on a daily basis. You can get everything you need from plants, nuts, seeds and grains – you just have to understand how these foods affect your body, especially when it comes to physical activity.
As an obese nation, it’s important to pay attention to what we put into our mouths. It’s not about eating perfectly. It’s about slowly incorporating more veggies, fruits and healthy grains into our diets and eliminating processed foods. Even if you aren’t ready to let go of meat or dairy, you can still incorporate many of these recipes into your diet. Getting healthy isn’t about cutting anything out necessarily – it’s simply about looking at why you’re eating the foods that you do, and see if there’s room for improvement.
What do you think of when you hear the word vegan (be nice, please!)? What scares you about the transition? What would you like to know?
Here’s a recipe to start the day off right.
Buttermilk Pancakes (makes 6 medium pancakes)
1 Tbs. lemon juice
1 scant cup vanilla soymilk or hemp milk
1 cup all-purpose flour (oat or buckwheat are acceptable as well)
1 Tbs. granulated sugar or agave nectar
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 mashed banana (or egg substitute)
- Combine lemon juice and soymilk in a medium bowl. It will curdle and become much like buttermilk.
- Add the oil and “egg” to the buttermilk mixture and whisk together until smooth.
- In a separate mixing bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. Create a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the wet ingredients. Stir until there are very few lumps.
- Heat a skillet over high (sprayed with nonstick spray or coconut oil). Drop about 1/3 cup of the batter onto the skillet and cook until the edges begin to lift and the uncooked side is bubbly. Flip and cook for an additional minute. Serve with agave nectar and berries!