Guest Post: You Are What You (Don't?) Eat.

"Ninety per cent of the diseases known to man are caused by cheap foodstuffs. You are what you eat." -- Victor Lindlhar, Author, You Are What You Eat: How to Win and Keep Health With Diet,1942

You are what you eat.

There's no denying it's a popular phrase, uttered by moms and nutritionists alike over the last 70 years. It's a pretty well agreed upon notion.

So why are we vegans and vegetarians defined by what we don't eat?

Mirriam-webster.com (the online version of the old reliable Webster's Dictionary) defines vegan as follows:

vegan: (noun) a strict vegetarian who consumes no animal food or dairy products; also: one who abstains from using animal products (as leather)

Now, I am not one to question Mr. Webster, nor his cyber descendants, but I don't think this definition necessarily suits me, or my vegetable-happy friends.

I would say that this feels a little better:

vegan: (noun) one whose diet is 100% plant-based

Maybe I would add this:
also: one who eats a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, and grains, while respectfully abstaining from the consumption of animal products in any form
And this:
also: one who attempts to lead a cruelty-free lifestyle with regard to the other animals and people who roam the earth alongside said vegan.

I understand that it wouldn't be practical to define a vegan as someone who eats kale, spinach, potatoes, tomatoes, kidney beans, almonds, walnuts, tofu, quinoa, apples, cherries, bananas, and on and on through the bounty of the earth. It's a mouthful, no pun intended. I understand that it's easier to classify us by our meat-free, cheese-free choices.

But doesn't that make us vegans sound somehow deprived? Like we've disinvited ourselves to one of life's big parties?

I picture a world of gaunt, skinny vegetable eaters, pale and sickly, wandering the desert in their Tom's Shoes and organic cotton T-shirts, mourning the absence of chicken breasts and country-fried steak, moaning, "Protein! Protein! I'm not getting enough protein!"

Not so, my friends, not so!

Today, I had beets, carrots, lettuce, a lemon, and an apple in my morning juice alone! There's more color, variety and, dare I say it, excitement at our dinner table because we choose to eat vegetables - and lots of them!

As a former omnivore myself, I remember the weekly routine: Chicken, Leftover Chicken, Hamburgers, Spaghetti with Meat Sauce, back to Chicken, Dinner Out! (probably Chicken), and on Sunday, well, most likely more Chicken.

When you're no longer tethered to the tricky rut of protein centered meals (Hmmm, what can we eat with the meat?), you will find yourself eating all kinds of things on a daily basis.

I'm not saying it's all fun and games on the vegan side. Trust me, it's just as easy to get bored eating veggies. ("Swiss Chard again?" "No. More. Hummus.") Remember, variety is the spice of everyone's life, right?

If you're interested in testing the waters and finding your own personal definition of 'vegan',
PCRM's 21 Day Vegan Kickstart is a fantastic way to get your veggie-curious feet wet. Go for it! Give it a shot! Get vegan-ized with our very own Jen!

It's only 3 weeks. 21 little days. 504 swiftly-passing hours. What's the worst that could happen? You eat some new foods, lose a little weight, feel a little better and save a little bit of the planet. Win, win, win, if you ask me.

Think of it this way - you're not giving up meat, you're gaining vegetables! And grains! And fruits! And beans! And....well, you get my point.

Perhaps we could convince Old Webster to add this:

vegan: (noun) someone who's not afraid to make a daring choice (and eat lots of things that are green)

To get you started, here's one of my favorite vegan meals - Collard Wraps! (And if you're not ready to dive right in with unfamiliar leafy greens, feel free to substitute your favorite tortilla!)

Wrapper's Delight Collard Wraps

You'll need:

4-6 large raw collard green leaves***
Vegenaise or your favorite condiment
Tasty things to wrap up in your collards
tooth picks

To get started, remove the ribs from your collards by running a small sharp knife right along both sides of the center rib. This should leave you with two large flaps of collard goodness. Take your 'flaps' and layer them flat on a plate, darker green side down, so that they overlap at the center.

Next, gently spread the Vegenaise (or condiment of choice) on your collard wrapper, carefully ensuring that the leaves stay overlapped.

Now, fill it! Put your favorite ingredients right down the center of the wrap, leaving room on either side to wrap.

Throw in whatever vegetables you like! Sliced red peppers are great, as are green onions, avocado, tomatoes, kidney beans, beets, you name it. Experiment with a meatless meat substitute. (I have a feeling soy chicken strips with BBQ sauce would be awesome wrapped in collards!)

We wrapped up some roasted sweet potatoes (sliced, coated in olive oil, salt and pepper, roasted at 400 degrees until browned and tender) with sliced green onions and some leftover chickpeas from the night before.
Once you've got your filling all set, fold in the bottom flap and roll starting from one side (I always start from the right), tucking in the filling as you go, until you are wrapped up like a burrito. Secure your wrap with toothpicks if need be, and Voila!

***A note: Some collard wrap recipes call for blanching or steaming the greens. Be my guest! I keep 'em raw, but maybe a little steam would help them hold together without the toothpicks. Up to you!
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