The vegan diet
Vegan diets are attracting more followers for reasons that range from animal welfare and environmental concerns to the potential health benefits of a plant-based diet. Not just plant-centric, the vegan diet goes a step beyond other plant-based approaches and even a vegetarian diet, says Shelley Wood, a clinical dietitian with Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in California.
“Both vegans and vegetarians exclude flesh from meat, poultry and fish. Vegetarians often eat dairy and eggs, but vegans exclude any foods from animal sources, including honey, and get their nutrition exclusively from plants,” she explains. This means vegans limit their foods to fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.
The power of a vegan potluck
Potlucks can be a great way to bring other people into the lifestyle in a very approachable way, says Joshua Awesome, who is the creator of Kind Living Collective, an IT and marketing support firm focused on serving nonprofit organizations and vegan businesses. He’s organized a lot of potlucks and other vegan-themed events over the years.
The diversity and abundance that characterize a potluck can be a great antidote to the idea that there’s not much that vegans can eat. In fact, there’s an overwhelming range of options available to people following a vegan diet.
Easy vegan substitutions
A vegan diet includes no animal products. Therefore, you may need to make some substitutions to certain dishes to meet the definition of vegan. For example:
— Milk can be replaced with a non-dairy option such as almond or coconut milk.
— Eggs can be replaced with applesauce, bananas and commercially available, vegan-friendly egg replacement products.
— To get protein in your diet, meat can be swapped for beans. Eggplant, mushrooms or tofu also have some protein, though not as much as beans.
— Cheese can be swapped for cheese made with nut milks or tofu.
— Butter can be swapped for coconut or vegetable oil.
— Honey can be replaced by maple syrup or agave nectar.
Replace the meat in traditional dishes.
Swapping out the meat in some traditional dishes is a good way to create vegan options. For example, it’s relatively easy to take the meat out of lasagna. There’s no shortage of meat options, as there are plenty of vegan-friendly proteins. You can saute tempeh, a protein-rich soybean-based product, or mushrooms instead of meat. A robust mix of spices such as oregano and garlic powder add the Italian flavors of lasagna without the meat. In enchiladas, you can replace the meat with black beans and a dash of cumin and chili powder.
Commercially available vegan cheese options abound, but you can also make your own vegan cheese at home. Blend a mixture of soy milk, raw cashews, almond meal, lemon juice, grape seed oil or olive oil, miso paste, spices and agar powder, which will help the cheese set. Add a dash of nutritional yeast into the mix for a cheesy flavor and for a boost of beneficial vitamin B12, which can be challenging for vegans to get enough of.
More than just veggies
Some popular suggestions for your next vegan potluck include:
— Pasta, quinoa or couscous salads that sub in vegan mayonnaise for traditional egg- and dairy-based mayonnaise.
— Bean salads that use olive oil dressings instead of cream-based salad dressings.
— Homemade salsa and chips.
— Roll-ups and finger sandwiches that feature fresh vegetables, grilled tempeh and vegan spreads, like a roasted red pepper dip or white bean hummus.
— Mashed or roasted chickpea-based dips and snacks.
— Seven-layer dip that incorporates vegan cheese, avocado and different kinds of beans for a creamy, delicious texture.
Appetizers and snacks
Be sure to include vegan dishes that people can munch on before they dig into the main meal, says Maggie Michalczyk, a registered dietitian based in Chicago.
Here are two of Michalczyk’s favorite vegan appetizers/snacks:
— Roasted chickpeas.
— Cashew queso.
Roasted chickpeas are a good source of protein and fiber. “Plus, you can roast them in nearly any spice combination to give them a really appetizing flavor,” Michalczyk says.
Cashew queso isn’t your typical cheese dip. “Cashew queso is made from cashews instead of cheese, making it a great vegan alternative,” she says. Dip crackers or veggies in cashew queso for a delicious appetizer or snack.
Don’t forget dessert.
A vegan potluck can be a great place to try out new fruit-forward desserts and recipes that replace eggs and dairy with plant-based ingredients, such as dairy-free chocolate and cream made with nut milk. Fruit salads and muffins made with vegan eggs, dairy and milk products are also great, shareable options for any potluck.
Tips for a vegan potluck
— Make simple swaps of animal products for plant-based options, like almond milk for cow’s milk or coconut oil for butter.
— Get creative with conventional comfort foods by subbing vegan-friendly ingredients, such as mushrooms or tempeh for meat in lasagna.
— Try pasta, quinoa or couscous salads.
— Don’t forget about appetizers and snacks.
— Dishes for a potluck can suit a wide range of tastes and preferences.
— Look for comfort foods and holiday favorites that can be modified for the vegan diet.
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Update 01/25/21: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.