These days it is quite common to hear about vegan diets or celebrity vegans in the news — talk show host Ellen DeGeneres and former President Bill Clinton are making plant-based diets seem downright normal.
With visibility comes scrutiny. Often the vegan diet is portrayed as difficult, expensive, or potentially harmful to one’s health.
Not so! Victoria Moran, bestselling author of eleven books, including Creating a Charmed Life (in 30 languages around the world) and the plant-based weight loss classic, The Love-Powered Diet, has been vegan for over 30 years and her latest book Main Street Vegan: Everything You Need to Know to Eat Healthfully and Live Compassionately in the Real World, written for the “real person with a real life,” debunks the idea that a vegan lifestyle is unhealthy or hard, or just for the rich and famous. Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore says, “Finally, a book isn’t preaching to the vegan choir, but to the people in the pews — and the ones who can’t fit in those pews. This is a book for the Main Street majority who aren’t vegans. Once you read this, you’ll know it’s possible to get healthy and enjoy doing it…”
In Main Street Vegan Moran, along with her daughter Adair, a lifelong vegan, tackle compassionate, plant-based basics. In 40 chapters- each just a few pages in length – they debunk myths, offer facts, figures and advice, and toss in a vegan recipe for good measure. Just now, I let the book fall open and it landed on chapter 27 – Rethink Macho – which begins with a quote from The Cro-Mags lead singer John Joseph, “You’ve got the whole John Wayne/frontier life/Marlboro Man thing, and ads like ‘Beef: it’s what’s for dinner.’ But what’s for dessert? Colon cancer and atherosclerosis!” The chapter goes on to share how to eat a healthy diet that builds strong bones and muscles and includes a “Working Man Stew” recipe – with potatoes, carrots, beans, kale, cabbage, tofu, and more – that made this working woman rush to the kitchen to make a big pot.
At the heart of the book is Moran’s desire to help the real person, with a real life, live compassionately. She wants the reader to know that being vegan is not as hard as it might seem. Moran encourages us to “start where you are,” whether it’s taking it one-day- or one-thing-at-a time, being vegan at home, or simply vegetarian for now. She feels that any effort is legitimate and reiterates that this isn’t hard, it’s simply new and it can be wonderful. She illustrates this by walking the reader, with gusto and genuine enthusiasm, through topics such as dieting, rethinking what a dinner entree looks like, money-saving tips, overcoming the “need” for milk, eating a whole foods diet, the basics in veganizing our kitchen, creative breakfast ideas, choosing compassionate fashion, plant-based travel tips, aging gracefully, and more. Recipes offered at the end of each chapter range from an ALT, the BLT sandwich alternative (featuring avocado instead of bacon) to mock chicken noodle soup to raw collard green wraps to mashed potatoes and easy mushroom gravy. The wide variety of recipes are sure to please all readers, as there is something for everyone.
Victoria Moran concludes Main Street Vegan with a challenge to go the distance: agree to live compassionately and agree to live healthfully. Because you are worth it, as are all living creatures. She leaves the reader with appendices rich with information, including a diverse bibliography for further reading and resources such as organizations, websites and blogs, lists of cruelty-free toiletries and household products and online shopping options for vegan/compassionate goods.
If you have ever considered a plant-based diet or vegan lifestyle and felt like you just didn’t know where to begin, now you know. Pick up a copy of Main Street Vegan.
Victoria Moran recently launched the Main Street Vegan Academy to train and certify Vegan Lifestyle Coaches to counsel and educate individuals and groups in adopting a vegan lifestyle. I recently completed the inaugural training program and am proud to be a certified vegan lifestyle coach. I had the opportunity to sit down with Moran after the training to ask a few questions about her Main Street Vegan activism.
JL Fields: You have been traveling the country on your Main Street Vegan book tour and you also work with individuals who want to follow a plant-based diet. What are some of the common obstacles new vegans, or the veg-curious, face? How can they overcome them?
Victoria Moran: The main thing is that even some people who really want to do this can’t shake the idea that it’s weird, a lovely concept but too extreme. What I’ve seen really help is, first, to get educated. When you know what happens to farmed animals these days — and what happens to your body on a diet centered around animal foods and processed foods — there’s really no going back. It also helps to know other vegans, either in person — the MeetUp groups are fabulous — or online. And finally, refuse to see this as a diet. A diet is something people go off of. This is a commitment to saving the lives of animals and improving your own life quite a bit. It’s also the most environmentally responsible action anyone can take.
JL: Some people feel food is activism – a good vegan dish can influence the biggest skeptic! What’s your go-to dish when you’re preparing a plant-based meal for non-vegans?
VM: In the winter, it’s my “Cheapish Chili” from Main Street Vegan — people love that. And whatever the season, I make a huge, amazing salad. There’s a stereotype that vegans ‘just eat salad’ — not true! — but even if it were, I make salads so yummy that that would be a good thing. The first secret to a great salad is fresh greens, then a dynamite dressing (I often do the tahini-based ‘House Dressing’ that’s in the book, or a creamy ranch made from raw cashews, water, onion, garlic, and salt). And finally there’s ‘oomph factor,’ something solid and satisfying tossed in — avocado, artichoke hearts, steamed yams or yellow Finn potatoes, braised tofu, or fluffy quinoa.
JL: Main Street Vegan isn’t just about the food. Can you tell us why you also focus on fashion and other lifestyle issues?
VM: I was taught by my first vegan mentors that making this choice is really about reverence for life, about attempting to do the most good and least harm possible, even though we’ll never be perfect at it. Animals suffer and die to produce things other than food — fur and leather, of course, and then there are the really grisly tests performed on live animals for cosmetics and household cleaners. These tests are not required by any law in the U.S., and there are far more sophisticated and reliable ways to ensure product safety, but old ways of doing things die hard. Part of the vegan adventure is learning about exciting new companies such as Olsenhaus shoes and Jill Milan bags, and beautiful cosmetics lines — Dr. Hauschka, Arbonne, Aubrey Organics — that are cruelty-free.
Learn more about Victoria Moran and how to be a Main Street Vegan at MainSteetVegan.net.
I Eat Plants columnist JL Fields is a certified vegan lifestyle coach and educator. She writes about her transition to a vegan diet and lifestyle at JL goes Vegan: Food & Fitness with a Side of Kale. Her original recipes have been featured on Foodbuzz, BlogHer and Meatless Monday. She is the editor of the community blog Stop Chasing Skinny: Find Happiness Beyond the Scale. JL is the founder and lead consultant for JL Fields Consulting. She serves on the board of directors of the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary and the advisory board of Our Hen House. Follow JL on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Google+.