Once Jessica Evans and her family figured out they could live a healthy life without any animals having to die, they chose to implement a vegan diet.
Evans, a teacher at a local private school, cut out animal and animal byproducts a little more than a year ago to avoid the exploitation or unnecessary killing of animals.
“After watching a few documentaries on Netflix and then learning what happens to animals in factory farms — the conditions they are kept in, the torture they endure, the disregard of their life — we just couldn’t take part anywmore,” Evans said. “Then, after reading studies on the effects on your body from ingesting animal products that come from factory farming, that are made readily available to the public if you take the time to look, we decided it was in our best interest to make a full stop.”
Other motivators for people choosing to go vegan include environmental and health reasons.
Evans made the dietary change with her husband and three children. She said changing her children’s diets wasn’t a quick choice but took careful consideration and her own research into the health effects and benefits. Being vegan isn’t something anyone should do on a whim, she said.
“What’s funny is, people like us are ridiculed for switching our children over to a vegan diet, but people who feed their children fast food sometimes three times a day, are rarely questioned,” Evans said.
Evans asked herself why meat is promoted so much in America. She then noticed how many people are facing health issues that could be helped by reducing the amount of animal products they ingest.
“I think the benefits of the vegan diet is that there is research around cardiovascular disease that a diet high in plants can be healthy, like fruits and vegetables provide fidonutrients and antioxidants, which can have anti-inflammatory properties,” said Shana Tatum, a local nutritionist.
On the other hand, Tatum said animal protein from meat provides the most bio-available of B vitamins, so having a diet that avoids meat limits your consumption.
So what works for some people may not work for others, because everyone has different health concerns.
“(Vegan diets) tend to be a high carbohydrate diet, and a high carbohydrate diet can promote insulin resistance,” Tatum said. “So people with Type 2 diabetes should proceed with caution if choosing a vegan diet.”
While some people switch to a vegan diet for health reasons, vegan doesn’t necessarily mean healthier.
“There are plenty of junk food options that would make a vegan diet unhealthy,” Evans said. “To be honest, it is really easy to become an unhealthy vegan.”
For the vegan diet to be healthy, a person still has to make small changes, such as baked over fried, fresh over frozen or unprocessed over processed. Those factors can make a difference in anyone’s diet.
In this day and age, going vegan is relatively easy with Google at your fingertips, but shopping at a grocery store can be tricky.
“You don’t realize how many items at the store have either milk, eggs or meat in them until you start reading labels,” Evans said. “It’s in almost everything.”
Evans has managed to find a way around some things. For example, if a cake recipe calls for eggs, she’ll use an egg substitute. If it wants milk, she’ll use almond milk. But other products already contain animal products. Grocery stores also now stock prepared meals from vegan brands.
The lightbulb moment that helped Evans transition was a change in how she viewed vegan products.
“I was mentioning to my husband that I wished we could find an almond milk that tasted like dairy milk.” Evans said. “He simply stated, ‘It’s not going to taste like cow’s milk because it’s not cow’s milk.’”
She kept expecting two different products to taste the same, but they never would. Relinquishing that line of thinking opened the door for her as she realized that she could find new ways to make her favorite dishes vegan.