By Tara Gillies
Public Relations Assistant
Growing up an athlete, I was always told the “correct” way to eat was utilizing the traditional food pyramid: meat, dairy, carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables. It was drilled into my head at a young age that eating meat several times a day was essential to swimming success. Although there was an emphasis placed on fruits and vegetables, meat and carbohydrates were always at the forefront of my family’s meals. It was not until two years ago when I educated myself on the food industry that I drastically changed the way that I think about food. I went vegan, a diet consisting of no animal products. This goes slightly further than vegetarianism because vegans do not consume dairy or eggs, and some refrain from honey.
Although I was enthusiastic about veganism, I met this change in lifestyle with critics that questioned how I could possibly get adequate nutrition without eating any of the aforementioned products. The most common argument is that vegans cannot obtain a sufficient amount of protein. However, people can easily get all of their protein and other nutrients through a plant based diet. Vegetables such as spinach, cauliflower, and celery are rich in protein and regularly consuming legumes and nuts can easily amount to the recommended grams of protein per day. In fact, over-consumption of protein is more harmful than beneficial as it is linked to several types of cancers as well as kidney problems.
Veganism has many benefits beyond limiting animal suffering. First of all, vegans tend to have a lower Body Mass Index (BMI) than their meat-eating counterparts. This leads to lower risk of heart-disease and certain types of cancers. In addition, vegans have lower-blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Overall, I choose to remain vegan for not only for the health benefits, but for the way I feel. I have more energy and rarely get sick. In fact, now that I think about it, I cannot remember the last time I had so much as a cold. I also used to get seasonal allergies and, although this may be a figment of my imagination, I think my allergies have disappeared as well. I cannot say enough positive things about a vegan diet. I feel better not only for my health, but for doing my part for the animals.
Below is my favorite recipe:
Quick and Easy Vegan Lasagna
1 Package Firm Tofu
3 Cloves Garlic
1 Large Bunch Fresh Basil
1 tbsp lemon juice
4 Medium Zucchinis
1 Jar Tomato Sauce (I use Rao’s Tomato Basil…Mmm)
1 Cup Vegan Mozzarella (I use Daiya)
Salt and Pepper to Taste
1. Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. In a food processor, combine garlic, basil, tofu, lemon juice, and salt until you get a consistency similar to ricotta.
3. With a vegetable peeler, make thin slices of the zucchini and layer them in your pan (to use as your noodles). Then layer “ricotta” and sauce. Repeat several times with the zucchini noodles, “ricotta” and sauce.
4. Sprinkle Vegan Mozzarella over the top of you lasagna.
5. Bake for about 30 minutes or until lasagna is bubbling.
I sometimes sauté spinach, mushrooms, onions, carrots, broccoli and any other vegetable together to make a layer or two of vegetables in my lasagna. Or, you can use a package of vegan meatballs or ground beef crumbles to add a “meaty” texture.