Victoria Moran has been a vegan for 31 years, long before supermarkets carried Vegenaise. A New York City-based author, holistic health counselor and speaker on the plant-based lifestyle, Moran, 65, started practicing vegetarianism when she was 19 and slowly made her way toward a total vegan diet.
Her new book, The Good Karma Diet, says we should align our eating habits with our ethics, and as a result do what's best for the planet. To her, veganism means "to live and eat in a way that means I'm doing the most good and the least harm possible, to both others and to my body."
Being a vegan in particular appealed to her for traditional reasons: She doesn't support the killing of animals for consumption, and she found that there were health benefits to cutting out animal products. As an overweight child who had eating disorders growing up, she said she was always looking for "the perfect diet." For the past three decades, a vegan lifestyle has helped her stay healthy by cultivating positive food habits.
She calls the common concern that vegans don't get enough protein a "non-issue," saying that, in general, vegans get plenty of protein and other nutrients if they are eating an "array of plant-based foods."
"Your plate and your shopping cart ought to look like a Christmas tree," Moran said. "Mostly greens with splashes of bright colors. The foods that have those bright colors are loaded with vitamins."
She emphasizes working nuts into a vegan diet, and especially beans: "Not only do they have protein and they're really satisfying, they're also very cheap. You can do so much with them."
Her daily meal plan, which she said is simple and seasonal, looks something like this. For breakfast, soy milk smoothies packed with berries, a frozen banana, ground flaxseed and some sort of protein powder. Lunch consists of a salad so big that she buys her salad bowls at restaurant supply stores, with "added oomph" like beans, nuts, seeds and sometimes steamed yams or broccoli. She makes dressing out of raw cashews and pairs the salad with something sturdy and substantive, like bread or raw flax crackers. Dinner is usually a vegan entree, such as zucchini pasta with marinara or chili, and another salad.
She suggests that, when entertaining nonvegans, it's important to "pull out all the stops."
"People expect that it won't taste good or that they'll be hungry. But once they eat the food and it's good, maybe they won't want to convert the next day, but they'll get off your case, they'll understand."
As someone who has been a practicing vegan since the '80s, Moran said the recent groundswell in veganism is encouraging, attributing the credit for its increased popularity to total vegans but also to people willing to eat more plant-based foods in general, and to try things like "Meatless Monday."
"It's all made a lot more plant foods available in a lot more places, for those who want to do it part time or full time," she said. "The more who do it, the more the marketplace responds."