I have been a vegetarian for half of my life — that is almost 30 years now. I began my vegetarian journey as I was on a quest to get thinner. But more than that, I read a book on vegetarian diets that said, “We are what we eat.”
The book forever changed me because I read that that we inherit the personalities of the animals that we eat. I was much younger then, and I believed almost everything I read. It said that the wildest animals, like tigers, eat other animals, and the gentle animals, like cows and rabbits, eat grass.
I wanted to be a gentle person and I also wanted to be kind to animals, so from that day onwards I opted for a life with no animals (anything with eyes and feet) in my diet.
I have kept to this way of life until today, and I hope that I am a better person because of it.
The journey has been fun, starting from a time when not eating meat products was something out of the ordinary in the ’90s.
After 2000, people who opted for a vegetable-based diet began to rejoice. From my experience, by the time 2010 rolled around, it became so much easier to find a vegetable option in different dining establishments and that made eating out so much more fun.
Plant-based eating patterns focus on foods primarily from plants. The plant-based diet sort of popped up during these two years of the pandemic lockdown (although, don’t get me wrong, it had been there for a few years already), as people began looking for healthier options.
Vegans, vegetarians and then some
When people think about a vegetarian diet, they typically think about a diet that doesn't include meat, poultry or fish. But vegetarian diets vary in what foods they include and exclude.
Lacto-vegetarian diets exclude meat, fish, poultry and eggs, as well as foods that contain them. Dairy products, such as milk, cheese, yogurt and butter, are included.
Ovo-vegetarian diets exclude meat, poultry, seafood and dairy products, but allow eggs.
Lacto-ovo vegetarian diets exclude meat, fish and poultry, but allow dairy products and eggs.
Pescatarian diets exclude meat and poultry, dairy, and eggs, but allow fish.
A semi-vegetarian diet — also called a flexitarian diet — is primarily a plant-based diet but includes meat, dairy, eggs, poultry and fish on occasion or in small quantities.
Vegan diets exclude meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products — and foods that contain these products.
Let me just say I am no purist when it comes to my vegetarian diet. I have a sweet tooth and do enjoy cookies and chocolate, but I look for those that are made for my diet.
So let me start off my discoveries with food that is sweet and made with animal kindness in mind:
One of the discoveries that I made during the pandemic and that I have grown to love is the BeKind cookies of Maxene Magalona.
“On #WorldVeganDay, may we be reminded to be a little kinder every day and pray for more peace, love and joy for all living beings,” she wrote on her Instagram. “If human beings deserve to be free on this planet, so do all our animal friends.”
Maxene, who lives a vegan lifestyle and practices yoga, makes the BeKind cookies herself. These cookies are for those who want make kindness a way of life, and they taste great, too.
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If you want to have some sweetness and kindness minus the guilt, try BeKind vegan cookies. They are homemade with love.
I learned that Caleb's Garden started last July 4, 2021. Since the start, there have been a lot of customers, both from the North and the South, as far as Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, Valenzuela, and Antipolo.
I ordered the siomai and lasagna and was happy with my choices.
Caleb’s specializes in homemade vegan meals and they have choices like siomai, lasagna, chickpea brownies, tofu sisig, and kare-kare with mushroom bagoong and sukiyaki, among many others.
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“We have done lots of trials in their kitchens,” says Lorraine Otake. “We begin with classic Filipino dishes in mind and reverse-engineered them to conform to our plant-based lifestyle. However, we also have our own takes on Japanese and Chinese cuisines.”
Lorraine also shared that the business has been growing during the last year, with more people looking for dishes that are healthy to order online.
“The best and most foolproof way to protect yourself and loved ones during times like these is to improve your health by eating and consuming whole foods with the majority of your diet being plant-based.”
Vegan Treats Manila
I discovered @vegantreatsmanila one day as I was searching for frozen food delivery. I had had many misses in frozen food delivery for vegetarian meals by the time I discovered it. And I am glad I did.
“We started our vegan online business as we aim to provide ease of service to people who are interested in going vegan, or transitioning to a plant-based diet, or to those looking for more vegan food options,” said Alta Villanueva, co-owner of Vegan Treats Manila.
“Our ultimate mission is to further our movement as vegans to spread awareness to concerns revolving around animal cruelty, climate change and plant-based diet health benefits.”
She informed me that there has been a growing market for vegan food. And she mentioned sisig, tocino, mushroom calamares, chicken-free drumsticks and Choco Loco ice cream, among their many bestsellers.
“As much as possible, we include, add and introduce new products monthly for our customers to have more options,” added Alta.
Chef RJ Madrigal’s vegan chicharon
For the holidays I gifted my friends with vegan chicharon. The feedback I got from them was good. I am happy they liked it.
The chicharon of chef RJ Madrigal comes in two flavors: original and spicy. It is made with soybean, green peas, potato, cassava, and coconut oil and has a six-month shelf life.
Also check out their Facebook page.
Plant-based fast food
I also like the new plant-based options at Army Navy, which I only recently discovered. I tried the naked burrito and liked it. I will go back to try the others. I have also tried the Shakey’s Good Burger, and regularly eat Burger King’s plant-based Whopper when I am in a hurry for a meal.
These plant-based fast foods have made my eating choices yummier, but let me just add a few tips that I’ve learned through the years:
Eat lots of vegetables. Fill half your plate with vegetables at lunch and dinner. Make sure you include plenty of colors in choosing your vegetables. Enjoy vegetables as a snack with hummus, salsa, or guacamole.
Choose good fats. Fats in olive oil, olives, nuts and nut butters, seeds, and avocados are particularly healthy choices.
Include whole grains for breakfast. Start with oatmeal and quinoa, which are readily available. Then add some nuts or seeds along with fresh fruit.
Build a meal around a salad. Fill a bowl with salad greens such as romaine, spinach or red leafy greens. Add an assortment of other vegetables along with fresh herbs, beans, peas, or tofu.
Eat fruit for dessert. A ripe, juicy peach, a refreshing slice of watermelon, or a crisp apple will satisfy your craving for a sweet bite after a meal.
I am no nutritionist and neither am I a diet expert. But these have worked for me: Stay healthy and safe and eat for kindness when you can.