By Grace Usher
The modern day diet for many individuals greatly differs from past generations. A traditionally meat-heavy society, many Americans are now choosing a more plant-based diet. In fact, Lake Havasu City has a large, hidden vegetarian/vegan community. The main issue with choosing this dietary lifestyle in a rural community is the lack of apparent resources; however, there may be more than many would think.
What is the difference of Vegetarian and Vegan Lifestyles?
A traditional omnivore diet of a human being consists of grains, fruits, vegetable, sugars, dairy and meat.
Vegetarian: An individual who excludes meat products. There are many subcategories within the vegetarian community. For example, a lacto-ovo vegetarian is one that eats dairy and eggs yet excludes meat. A pescitarian is a vegetarian that excludes land-based meat from their diet such as beef, chicken and pork, yet includes fish in meals.
Vegan: An individual who excludes any animal-based product from their diet. This includes the removal of all meats (including fish), dairy, and eggs. With strict vegans, restricitions go a deep as avoiding meals cooked in lard, soups made with non-vegetable broths, white sugars/flours that are processed with bones.
In addition to items on the dinner table, many vegetarians and vegans avoid the use of cleaning, hygiene and cosmetic products that have been tested on animals.
Mary Delsantos is a local certified nutritionist who has been a vegan for more than 30 years. She has helped local restaurants become more aware of the vegan community. Here are some common myths she has debunked:
Myth #1: Switching is too difficult and not healthy
“It was a gradual process. I did some research and decided to make changes for health reasons. I removed dairy for congestion. When I ate less meat, I had more energy. I first noticed that the plant-based foods I ate digested easier and the nutrients were absorbed better. Overall, vegans are leaner which leads to a lower risk of disease.”
Myth #2: Eating Meat and Dairy is not bad for the environment
“Switching to vegan is also the largest eco-friendly habit one can have; more than cars and plastic combined. Animal agriculture is the greatest cause of air and water pollution in the world.”
Myth #3: Vegans do not get enough protein
“Where do you think your meat gets its protein? If we have to eat something else to get enough, so do they. The grass, and other vegetables they eat give them protein. Eat dark greens everyday for a healthy amount of protein”
Myth #4: Vegans hardly eat anything.
“I eat huge volumes of food; work through your process of being satisfied. Change what you are cooking. Start with things you like. Don’t start with vegetables you hate and try to like them. Work with what you like and make them your new comfort food.”
5 Tips to transitioning to a vegetarian/vegan diet.
- Always check ingredients. Boxed, bagged, and canned food products in a typical grocery store will include an ingredient list on the back. Most will include an allergy label on the bottom. Look for “contains Milk or Dairy.” If there is no allergy warning, check the ingredients for non-obvious animal-based ingredients including: Carmine (an insect-based food coloring), Casein (Dairy), and Gelatin (processed with bone marrow), to name a few.
- Try cooking more at home. The best way to truly know what you are eating and how it is prepared is to cook it yourself! There can be much enjoyment when cooking a meal at home and experimenting with new ingredients.
- Substitution is a great start. Instead of a traditional beef patty on a burger, try a veggie patty. Get extra veggies instead of meat on a pizza and eventually try it without cheese. The more plant-based items you add to your plate, the easier they become your go-to-items and will inevitably push out animal-based products without major sacrifice.
- Just because it is vegetarian/vegan doesn’t mean it is necessarily healthy. A large order of french fries or a salad drenched in dressing may be plant-based, but the empty calories still lead to health problems. Add more raw fruits, vegetables, and multigrains to pack in essential nutrients and feel fuller longer.
- Be patient and enjoy the gradual journey. With any habit or lifestyle change, be forgiving if you have the pepperoni pizza. Applaud yourself for the other meals you made vegetarian/vegan. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is a sustainable, plant-based diet.
Local spots with Vegetarian and Vegan Options
The veggie-lovers have spoken and Lake Havasu has listened. Check out these local restaurants that have plant-based options (without the sacrifice!)
*Tip: Before heading to a new restaurant, check if their menu is online to check options*
- Lin’s Little China: Asian cuisine is traditionally made with smaller meat portions and the easiest type of food to make vegan. Tell the waiter you are vegan and they will make you a fresh meal with water instead of broth.
- Burgers by the Bridge: Enjoy the view of the London Bridge while eating a fresh vegan burger. They are happy to make any special burger vegan.
- 360 Deli: With an ever changing vegan menu, this gourmet sandwich shop has new items on the menu regularly. (Try the vegan sourdough made in Havasu by Harvest Moon Bakery)
- Martini Bay: Vegan’s deserve a fancy night out too and this restaurant and grill has recently debuted a vegan menu. Enjoy a drink and delicious, nutritious meal you will not soon forget.
- Frankenstein Pub: Want to go out with friends for a drink and a game of pool but need a bite to eat. This new bar and grill now offers a vegan hot dog and bratwurst.