If the line that snaked down 18th Street and wrapped around the block forming a two-hour wait to get into yesterday’s First Vegetarian Food Festival in NYC was any indication of the rising popularity of plant-based diets, then I’d say we’ve come a long way since I went veg back in 1993, almost 20 years ago! At the age of 13, I knew little about the benefits of a plant-based diet, which include:
- lower risk of heart disease
- prevention of Type 2 diabetes, cancer and obesity
- glowing skin
- a positive environmental impact
Although I may have been more progressive than I realized, all I knew at the time was that after reading several books on the topic, I no longer wanted to participate in a way of eating that caused so much suffering to animals. So just like that, I quit all meat and seafood. Cold turkey, so to speak. My family was beside themselves. I remained steadfast in my beliefs, so they supported me, though reluctantly at first.
Today, with all of the research now available on plant-based diets, I feel more vindicated than ever about my chosen way of eating. After years of being a “junk food vegetarian,” relying on pizza and mac-n-cheese dinners, I have finally found a balance that works for me. More importantly, I have learned the “right way” to eat a plant-based diet with whole foods, instead of processed foods.
At the Vegetarian Food Festival, vendors gathered to share their take on healthy, vegetarian and vegan fare. Here were some of my personal favorites and why:
Liz Lovely: Gluten-free, vegan cookies
Why I liked them: Besides the fact that they are vegan and gluten free, these cookies just tated good and had a unique soft, chewy cake-like texture. I have never tasted a better Snickerdoodle – non-vegan or otherwise!
Purely Elizabeth: All-natural and organic line of vegan, gluten-free baking mixes (granola is the newest addition).
Why I liked them: The products are delicius, wholesome and don’t sacrifice flavor. Better yet, they are the brainchild of founder Elizabeth Stein, a fellow Institute of Integrative Nutrition grad.
The V-Spot Restuarant: 100% vegan restaurant in Brooklyn
Why I liked it: Vegan sushi. Enough said.
Born Again Vintage: Vegan coutour
Why I liked it: Statment tees go veg. My favorite was a t-shirt that read I
SolVitality: Raw chocolate
Why I liked it: I’ve never tasted raw chocolate I didn’t like. The mint flavor was particularly bold.
Bad Ass Organics: Raw Slaw and fresh-brewed Kombucha
Why I liked it: I like raw foods and believe fermented foods are important to incorporate into a healthy vegetarian diet (provided there are no pre-existing medical conditions). They even had a raw ketchup product. Jackpot!
Gnosis: Raw, vegan chocolate
Why I liked it: Another invention by IIN grads, this chocolate has been a personal favorite since I made the switch from milk chocolate to raw. Try it, and you’ll be converted too!
Verite Catering: Vegan catering and personal chef services
Why I liked it: These dessert pizzettes on at oat-based crust were so imaginative and tasted swell. Great for dinner parties, a small gathering of friends or when you want to treat yourself to something sweet.
Organic Nectars: Raw, vegan ice cream (Cashewtopia)
Why I liked it: This sweet frozen treat is made with cashew milk and who doesn’t like a healthier version of ice cream right in time for summer!
Raw Ice Cream Company: Raw ice cream – the name says it all!
Why I liked it: It tastes identical to high quality ice cream, what’s not to love about the adorable blue dinosaur on the container and they even make raw ice cream sandwiches.
Sweet & Sara: Vegan marshmallows
Why I liked it: These are the daintiest vegan treats I’ve ever laid eyes on. Vegan S’mores are just about the best invention ever and I wouldn’t refuse the coconut marshmallows either.
Foodswings: Vegan fast food
Why I liked it: While I’m not a fan of any fast food, vegan or non-vegan, I thought these skull-shaped peanut butter cupcakes were rad.
Coconut Bliss: Frozen vegan dessert made with coconut milk
Why I liked it: When I first discovered their coconut milk frozen desserts in Whole Foods about three years ago I thought I had died and gone to heaven. In the veggie world, anything soy free is winner (soy is a common allergen and often highly processed and genetically manufactured). The coconut pineapple flavor was new to me and oh so refreshing!
Kombucha Brooklyn: Home-brewed kombucha
Why I liked it: The grape flavaor I sampled had a more delicate taste than the bottled kombucha sold in stores. There’s something about making this stuff locally and fresh.
If you’re thinking about adopting a plant-based diet, be prepared to do your research and remember, that the most important aspect of this diet, in my opinion, is its dedication to the greater good.