Veganism, Hold the Soy

Being vegan is easy for anyone with access to a modern supermarket. Being a healthy vegan takes a little more diligence. But then, being healthy takes diligence. One of the criticisms vegans receive is of being too heavily reliant on soy. Rather than view soy in vegan diets as a problem, I’ve seen it as motivation to explore more foods, to “mix it up,” if you will.

Truthfully, most people tend to rotate through a fairly regular roster of meals. After switching to a vegan diet, or mostly vegan diet as the case may be, you may realize that many a meal involves large quantities of soy. This can often happen when looking to replace a non-vegan meal with a vegan substitute such as a a burger with a soy burger, a chicken cutlet with a soy chicken cutlet, ribs with soy ribs, milk with soy milk, butter with soy butter, etc. Instead of just looking to replace old meal habits with a vegan version of the same, try exploring a new vegan dish altogether.

I’m not going to reinvent the wheel here and argue out the pros and cons of soy in the diet, but I will point you an awesome post on a website called Vegan Lunch Box, and she has some handy links that are well-researched on the subject in response to questions from readers (and also provides a super-cute website with suggestions for packing a vegan lunch!). I definitely think vegans should be aware of the amount of processed foods consumed as well as lazy vegan “meals.” French fries for lunch, anyone?

Fresh vegetables.
Remember these?

More fresh foods, less packaged goods, and keeping the meat subsitutes to a minimum are good general rules to follow in my book when it comes to watching out for a soy overload. Using rice, almond, or other milks instead of falling back on soy milk is a  simple switch-up too.

Avoiding soy and meat substitutes was the motivation for the most delicious meal I’ve had in some time. Post Punk Kitchen is a wealth of yumminess, and my girlfriend tried out the Doublebatch Chickpea Cutlet recipe in pursuit of a meal sans soy. Heck, was it good! I am a giant fan of chickpeas, and this meal is both hearty and full o’ flavor.

How do you mix it up?

By Jamie J. Hagen

Jamie J. Hagen lives in Brooklyn and is a Contributing Editor for Autostraddle and writer for The Line Campaign. Follow her on twitter @jamiejhagen and visit her personal website for more of her work.

5 replies on “Veganism, Hold the Soy”

I believe lots of gluten free options are good sources of protein, I think? Like quinoa, I try to buy that when I think of it even though I shove it in the back of the pantry and forget to use it for the most part. I’m going to share a link to a chickpea salad sandwich recipe, it might be kind of redundant now but the rest of her blog looks good! I haven’t made it before though, and I actually never use veganaise so I’m guessing it has soy in it?

I like tofu quite a bit, but I don’t always go the soy route, even when making replacements. Since I am A-OK with metabolizing gluten, I love using seitan. I also like to throw some nutritional yeast on top of pasta instead of finding a cheez substitute (but PS – I am slowly being won over to the Daiya side, which while a cheez subtitute, is made from cassava, not soy). Generally speaking, I like to take a carb and build on it, using veggies in large numbers and meat/cheez replacements in smaller numbers. That’s how I managed to find a great arrabiata recipe and why my stir fries give me like 200% of my recommended vitamin C.

I’m not vegan, not even vegetarian, but I agree that eating vegan is pretty easy, even without soy. My biggest pieces of advice would be to go for vegetables like mushrooms, that highlight that unami flavor that adds a richness and complexity to a dish (I recommend trying mushroom stock over vegetarian). Roasting any vegetable adds to its depth as well. Trying out new grains is always a good idea, like barley and millet. And don’t forget lots of fresh herbs and acid. And nuts! Given the chance I will throw nuts into any and every dish.

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