To Vegan or Not to Vegan? (April 6, 2013)

Either click here or keep reading for April 6th’s piece on the pros and cons of going vegan. Happy to be on the cover of my section!

To Vegan or not to Vegan?

Going vegan (or eliminating all animal products from your diet) seems to become more and more popular by the day. Now much more part of the mainstream, you can find vegan options aplenty at your local grocery store and in most restaurants. You can spend a day shopping for vegan makeup, vegan clothes, and even vegan leather. In short, going vegan is no longer just for the hippie crowd.

According to the Association of Dieticians of Canada, 4% of Canadian adults are vegetarian, and roughly 2% are vegan. The stats are nearly the same for our neighbours to the south. These clearly are not staggeringly large numbers. But with prominent celebrities like Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, and Brad Pitt quite vocal about maintaining a vegan diet, it truly has become much more “normal” in popular culture.

People choose to go vegan (or vegetarian) for a variety of reasons — ethical, religious, political, physiological — or all of the above. Many assume that vegetarian or vegan automatically means healthy. It doesn’t.

Yes, red meat can be fatty and artery clogging. Yes, a fried pork chop is full of fat and yes, egg yolks pack cholesterol along with their protein. But if, as a vegan, you’re only eating pasta and bread, you’re a fair bit less healthy than a carnivore with a balanced diet.

If you love meat, eggs, and dairy, you shouldn’t feel like you have to go vegan to be healthy. You shouldn’t feel this way because you absolutely, positively, and without question do not have to go vegan to be healthy. Period.

Can you be a healthy vegan? Yes. A healthy vegetarian? Yes. A healthy meat-eater? Of course. The same lean protein, healthy carb, lots-of-leafy-greens rules apply to everyone. Don’t assume that you’ll lose weight just by cutting meat out of your diet because in all likelihood, you won’t.

Full disclosure; I am a vegetarian.

Well, technically I am a pescatarian, which means I maintain a vegetarian diet, but occasionally eat fish as well. My decision was an ethical one. I’ve toyed with the idea of going vegan, or even going ‘fegan’ (a vegan who eats fish), and I certainly understand those that do.

I consistently decide against going vegan, or any variation thereof. As someone recovering from an eating disorder, I fear limiting my diet quite so much. My relationship with food has been complicated and difficult enough — I don’t need to make it any more challenging.

That said, though, there is nothing wrong with eating less meat, for whatever reason you choose. If you’d like to try an easy meat-free meal, my veggie burger recipe below will leave you happy and satisfied, without gaining an ounce.

I don’t miss much about eating meat. Pretty well the only thing I find myself craving (especially if I’ve got a case of the Smirnoff flu) is a big, juicy, cheesy burger.

If I were a less honest saleswoman, I’d lie to you and say that these veggie burgers taste just like a cheeseburger at a pub.

They don’t.

No veggie burger does, and if someone tells you that their veggie burger does, they’re lying. That isn’t the point. They’re tasty, easy to eat, and while they aren’t a juicy cheeseburger, they also aren’t full of fat, calories, and regret.

After about two years of experimentation, I’ve found that these are my favourite burger substitute. They’re beyond delicious, easy to make, vegan, and freeze really well — not to mention 110% clean and healthy. I like to make a batch and throw them in the freezer for an easy and quick weeknight dinner.

Molly Daley runs a healthy cooking, fitness, and wellness blog, Diary of a Formerly Fat Girl, which you can find at You can also follow her on twitter, @DOAFFG

Molly’s Red Lentil, Spinach, and Carrot Burgers

1 and a half cups red lentils, dry

3 cups water

1 tsp. salt

Splash of olive oil

2 big carrots, chopped

2-3 cloves of garlic, diced

Half a white onion, diced

1 cup uncooked spinach

3 tbs. soy sauce

1 cup oats (or quinoa flakes)

Squeeze of mustard

Dash of paprika

Dash of basil

First thing’s first — you’ll want to cook your lentils. Toss them in a pot with your water and salt, and cook them on medium heat for about 40 minutes. If you’ve measured everything out right, you shouldn’t be left with any water in your pot. Set it aside for now. Grab a frying pan, and heat up your olive oil. Throw in your garlic and onions, and cook them until aromatic. Add your carrots. I like them to be a bit soft, so I cook them for about eight minutes. Take them out and put them to the side. Cook your spinach in the same pan, and when it is just done, throw it on top of your carrots on the plate. Now, grab your pot of cooked lentils. Throw in your spices and the soy sauce, followed by the cooked veggies, and mix it all together. Stir in your oats (or quinoa flakes) very thoroughly, and form patties with your hands. Grease a frying pan and bring it up to medium heat. Toss your burgers on. They should cook for about four minutes on each side. And there you have it. Vegan, virtually no fat, and high in protein, fiber, and flavour.

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To Vegan or Not to Vegan