People everywhere will be ringing in the New Year by celebrating the memories of the past year and creating hopes and resolutions for the coming year. This year, how about creating the ultimate resolution to help animals, and I mean really help animals….by leaving meat, dairy and eggs off your plate, or at least reducing your consumption. If you are already a vegetarian, push yourself further-- consider a vegan diet to help end even more cruelty. Involve your family in this resolution-- kids will love being part of something big, and they'll be excited to participate and contribute.
In a society so saturated with meat, dairy and eggs, it’s easy to understand why people are so reluctant to change their eating habits. Most of us have grown up eating animal products, so it’s what we’re used to and comfortable doing. And most of us have never questioned it; it’s the norm. We can’t underestimate the power of habit and tradition-- it is perhaps the greatest deterrent to change. But it’s a new year….and you’re looking for a meaningful change, right? You can make a change for some animals who desperately need an ally, while also helping the environment and even your own health. It's a win-win (and win!).
New Year’s Resolutions guaranteed to make a positive difference for animals:
Meatless Mondays: Give up meat (and dairy and eggs) just one day a week. Check out the official Meatless Monday website for tips, resources, support and recipes. In addition to individuals, many hospitals, restaurants, K-12 schools and universities are participating in Meatless Mondays, including all 14 of restaurateur, Mario Batali’s restaurants across the country. Sign the pledge.
Swap out: Swap out a few animal products in your kitchen for vegan products. For example, switch out your Land O’ Lakes butter for Earth Balance which is sold in most mainstream supermarkets. Switch out cow’s milk for soy milk or almond milk; many brands actually contain 50% more calcium than cow’s milk. I also highly recommend the Boca chik’n patties which are also sold in most supermarkets.
Go Vegetarian: Don’t waste time remembering which days you can eat meat, and which days you can’t. Keep it simple and just ditch meat entirely to help animals every day. You can also download a Vegetarian Starter Kit online, or order one through the mail. Read through this list of 101 Reasons to go Veg for inspiration.
Go Vegan: Be the person that doesn’t want to be connected to animal cruelty in any shape or form; the person who refuses to buy products that contribute to animal suffering. Drop meat, dairy and eggs from your diet. It’s easier now more than ever… there are tons of meat alternatives that taste just like the “real” thing, and there are also substitutes for milk, butter, cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise and cheese. And when you focus on veggies, grains and other plant-based food, a whole new palette of flavors will be waiting for you. Check out this post I wrote for Girlie Girl Army about stepping it up; it also includes suggestions for common food substitutes.
21-Day Vegan Kickstart: Want to test the waters first before diving right in? Then sign up for The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine’s (PCRM) free 21-Day Vegan Kickstart. You’ll receive a meal plan, tips and recipes. There is also an online community forum to connect with others, get support, and have your nutrition questions answered by PCRM experts. You can also download the free iPhone app that compliments the online program. There’s really no good reason not to try this, especially if you call yourself an “animal lover.”
The American Dietetic Association (ADA), the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals has given the stamp of approval not only to a vegetarian diet, but also a fully vegan diet. In their own words … It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases…well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.
It’s always easier to do this with a buddy, so encourage a friend or coworker to join you. Or involve your whole family and make this a special, fun mission that your kids will be excited about participating in. But if you can’t find anyone to join you, be strong on your own, and consider the animals you are saving to be your “buddies.” You’re doing it for them, afterall.
Here are a few vegan recipe sites to get you started: VegWeb, VegNews, PCRM, All Recipes, Vegsource, PETA, The Kind Life (Alicia Silverstone), Post Punk Kitchen, and Meet the Shannon’s who are veganizing The Betty Crocker Cookbook!
There are also tons of vegan blogs filled with every recipe you can imagine, so google until you find what you’re looking for. To get started, kick off the New Year with this amazing vegan mac & cheese. It doesn't contain any cheese (real or fake!). It's healthy, and soooo delicious. I make it for my family on the holidays, an everybody LOVES it!
Don't forget to pick up a copy (or order a subscription) of VegNews: the leading source for all things vegetarian/vegan.
You may also want to stock up on some items to make it easier for you. So check out these two great online vegan websites: Pangea Vegan Store and Vegan Essentials. They sell food, vitamins, personal care, home products, cruelty-free cosmetics, books, bags, shirts, gifts and much more.
Remember, this isn’t about perfection. It’s about making a positive difference for animals whenever and wherever you can. It’s about voting with your dollars. If you “fall of the wagon” get right back up again and don’t give up on yourself….or the animals.
Happy New Year…may it be filled with compassion and respect for all!