One of the hardest parts of being a new vegan (or even an old seasoned vegan) is trying to keep up with all the new products out there. I must have spent over $50 looking for the "right" vegan cheese my first year being a vegan and I have over 50 vegan/vegetarian cookbooks in my arsenal but not all the recipes are the greatest. I’m the first born so I’m used to being a Guinea Pig and now I’m your Vegan Guinea Pig. So here are my recommendations and critiques. Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Three Books That Every Vegan Should Own

There are a few essentials that every new vegan needs to ensure a long, happy, vegan life: a few great, reliable cookbooks they can turn to when they just can't think of what to make next, a strong conviction in why they have made the choice to go vegan and the right tools to ensure they can answer the onslaught of questions you will receive for the rest of your life like "where do you get your protein & iron?" "what do you eat" "is being vegan healthy?" My mantra is a simple one - A happy, healthy vegan is the BEST advertisement for veganism. 

When I first went vegan back in 2006, I wasn't a dietitian and hadn't even thought about getting my master's in nutrition. So I was pretty clueless on the nutrition aspects of veganism. At that point I had been a vegetarian for over 4 years so I knew that getting enough protein wasn't an issue. To be honest, I didn't think much about where I would get my calcium, iron and B12. And to be honest, I still don't - because they are incredibly easy to get in a vegan diet. There are 3 books that I think are essential in teaching the lay person every thing you need to know about vegan nutrition for all stages of life (from pregnancy, to lactation, infancy, and childhood to adulthood) and give you a brief crash-course in the importance of a vegan lifestyle.

The first is Vegan For Life: Everything You Need to Know To Be Healthy and Fit On A Plant-Based Diet by Jack Norris, RD and Virginia Messina, MPH, RD. A lot of people out there claim to know lots about vegan nutrition but the fact is registered dietitians have spent years upon years learning about nutrition and food. We know what every single nutrient in your body does down to the molecular level. It is literally our life's work. The co-authors of this book are two very well respected registered dietitians and will walk you through everything you need to know about vegan nutrition from where to get your B12, protein, calcium  vitamin D and other minerals to the in's and out's of transitioning to a vegan diet. They also walk you through vegan diets for those who are pregnant or lactating, raising vegan children and teens, veganism for people over 50 and the many health benefits of a vegan diet including managing weight, heart disease and diabetes. I love this book so much because it is the book that convinced by mother that a vegan diet was not only healthy but a fantastic way to raise a child. Before she read this book she was wary of me raising my daughter vegan (but hadn't gotten up the nerve to tell me yet). In 2-days she read this book cover to cover then came to me and announced "I now feel really good about you raising B vegan." For any vegan parents out there, you know what a big deal that is!

The second book you must own is Diet For A New America: How Food Choices Affect Your Health, Your Happiness and the Future of Life on Earth by John Robbins. 2012 marked the 25th anniversary of the original printing of this groundbreaking book that will force you to raise your consciousnesses and awareness of the food you eat. Robbins solidifies the link between factory farming and animal cruelty with disease and the current state of our environment.  Just in case you aren't familiar with Robbins you might be familiar with his family. The Robbin's in his name is none other than that of the Baskin-Robbins ice cream empire. Robbins has rebuffed the family business to advocate for a healthy, plant-based, vegan diet and lifestyle and spells out with stunning clarity the importance a vegan diet has not only on your health, but the health of the planet and the health of society at large. If you ever needed a top 10 list of reasons to go vegan and stay vegan then this book is for you! A book that is an honorable mention is Robbins The Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and Our World which uncovers the dangers of many of today's most popular foods and the impact it has on our health. 

Finally, the third must-have book in your collection is the first book on vegan nutrition I ever read Becoming Vegan: The Complete Guide to Adopting A Healthy Plant-Based Diet by Brenda Davis RD and Vesanto Melina MS, RD. Out of any book in my collection (and I have literally thousands of books in my home), this book is the most highlighted and tabbed book I own. This book opened me up to the world of vegan nutrition and gave me a passion for it. As a new vegan I found myself bombarded with questions about nutrition that I just wasn't prepared to answer. How was I supposed to know every plant-based source of calcium, iron and protein? I knew that major organizations like the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics endorsed a vegan diet for all stages of life and I could rattle that sentence off with ease but I didn't know the science behind why a vegan diet was so healthy and great for every stage of life, let-alone have the ability to regurgitate that information to a skeptical omnivore and sound intelligent. This book gave me all the tools I needed. The authors advice is practical, easy to follow and well-presented. One great feature I love about the book too is that it shows you what a poorly planned vegan diet looks like versus a well-planned diet. We also know that vegan living off of oreos and veggie burgers, if you happen to be that vegan then this is an essential book for you! 

There you have it. The three essential, can' live without, need in your life from here to eternity books you should own. Even if you're a tried and true, long time vegan these books are great resources to get your brushed up on the basics that we old seasoned vegans tend to take for granted in this every increasing vegan friendly world. Happy Reading!

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