For their latest giveaway, Vegan MoFo is offering up a fully-stocked fridge full of Lightlife meat alternatives. The entry requirements? A photo exposing the depths of your refrigerator. While Lightlife certainly fits the bill of a compassionate company (they donate 5% of all their profits to support causes of human dignity, the environment, and good health as well as producing vegan foods powered by solar energy), I have only ever purchased their organic tempeh—the lone Lightlife product line that features a short list of wholesome ingredients. Two reasons for my disdain of their other goods:
- Living a vegan lifestyle should not mean deprivation or restriction. I always like to respond to the question of what on earth vegans eat with the broad spectrum of “Everything except for animal products!” Marketing these faux hot dogs, chick’n, sausage, and bologna nurtures the popular belief that vegans miss eating meat and have difficulty finding sources of protein without animal flesh. Why would a vegan revert back to meat-like foods when they eliminated the real versions in the first place out of compassion for animals, the environment, and their own bodies as well as/or out of a simple dislike of meat? I believe that veganism should showcase all that vegetables, legumes, grains, and other whole plant-based foods have to offer rather than disappearing beneath a shroud of meat substitutes.
- Just take a gander at the ingredient list for Smart Chick’n Cutlets: water, textured soy protein concentrate, wheat gluten, wheat starch, egg white powder, less than 2% of: yeast extract, cellulose gum, tapioca starch, potato starch, sea salt, natural flavor*, salt, canola oil, sunflower oil. How about for Light Burgers: Water, soy protein concentrate, textured soy protein concentrate, soy sauce (water, soybeans, salt, wheat), tapioca starch, natural flavor (from plant sources), maltodextrin, less than 2% of: caramel color, hydrolyzed soy and corn protein, barley malt extract, yeast extract, soybean oil, minced onions, soy milk powder, salt, cellulose gum, molasses, onion powder, garlic powder. My verdict? I would willingly put 9 out of 27 of those ingredients into my body. Soy protein concentrate is what gives whole soy foods like non-GMO tofu and edamame, both of which nourish your body rather than harm it, a bad name (read details about soy protein here), while “hydrolyzed” anything is incredibly processed and unhealthy. All the added gums and extracts may be naturally derived, but I certainly wouldn’t find them in my home pantry, nor could I make them myself. Finally, take a closer look—the Chick’n isn’t even vegan because it uses egg white powder! I wonder how many unsuspecting herbivores have accidentally ingested this animal product because they assumed the vegan-friendliness of Lightlife products.
All right, rant over. Even though I didn’t enter the giveaway, it inspired me to photograph my refrigerator and pantry to exemplify the wholesome, vegan, gluten-free staple foods I use on a day-to-day basis.
Dinky Upstairs Pantry:
#1: Dried Fruit/Vegetables and Nuts. Figs, apricots, currants, thompson raisins, chili-lime mango. Shiitake mushrooms, wood ear mushrooms, reishi mushrooms (which brew a fabulously medicinal tea), sundried tomatoes. Almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, cashews, pistachios.
#2: Dried Herbs and Spices. I like to think that I keep a very well-stocked spice cabinet, but my favorites include basil, rosemary, thyme, cinnamon, bay leaf, cumin, coriander, and cardamom.
#3: Energy Bars. For a quick pre-yoga snack when I haven’t had the chance to whip up a batch of my own energy bars, I turn to Raw Revolution and Larabars, both of which are vegan, minimally processed, and full of nourishing ingredients (three Raw Revolution bar varieties even include a blend of powdered greens—wheat grass, spirulina, spinach, kale, broccoli, and the like).
#4: Seaweed. Kombu, wakame, dulse, nori, arame.
#5: Oils and vinegars. Extra virgin olive oil (the only oil I use for cooking), balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar.
Hefty Basement Pantry:
#1: Brown Rice Cakes. Perfect for a quick-fix lunch box meal when I don’t have a batch of cooked gluten-free grains on hand in the refrigerator. Lundberg offers an astounding variety of rice cake flavors, but I prefer their Salt-Free Brown Rice Cakes and their Mochi Sweet Rice Cakes.
#2: Nutritional Yeast. My absolute favorite vegan source of amino acids and vitamin B12. So versatile, so full of umami, so lip-smackingly tasty (especially in my Liquid Gold Dressing!).
#3: Granola. Before my switch to a gluten-free diet, I enjoyed a sprinkle of Ezekiel Golden Flax granola atop my morning smoothie. Lately, however, I’ve experimented with new gluten-free granolas, such as my homemade recipe for Power Pumpkin Granola.
#4: Squash. During the fall months, a squash—whether it be butternut, kabocha, acorn, delicata, or spaghetti—always lives in my basement pantry, ready to caramelize into succulent roasted yumminess.
#5: Lundberg Rice Blends. Wild Blend, Jubilee, Country Wild, Black Japonica.
#6: Bulk Gluten-Free Grains. Quinoa, millet, buckwheat, amaranth, short-grain brown rice, mochi brown rice, wild rice, brown risotto rice (brought back from my Italy trip), gluten-free rolled oats, germinated brown rice.
#7: Eden Canned Beans. Chickpeas (the king of all legumes), kidney beans, black beans, cannellini beans, Great Northern beans, butter beans, adzuki beans, black-eyed peas.
#8: Edensoy Extra Soy Milk.
#9: Dried Beans. Red lentils, black beluga lentils, French Le Puy lentils, sprouted mung beans, sprouted green lentils, adzuki beans, cannellini beans, green split peas, Black Turtle and Horto beans from Flyte Family Farm, anasazi beans.
#10: Potatoes. Sweet potatoes, purple viking potatoes, all-blue potatoes, fingerling potatoes. All from farmers market stands such as Butter Mountain Potatoes, Driftless Organics, and the Plahnt Farm.
#11: Gluten-Free Flours. Buckwheat, amaranth, brown rice, almond, hazelnut, oat, soy, garbanzo bean.
#1: Dijon Mustard.
#2: Asian Condiments. Miso, tamari, Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, brown rice vinegar, ume plum vinegar and paste, mirin.
#3: Drinks. BPA-free metal water bottles, home-brewed Kombucha.
#4: Dressings and Spreads. Liquid Gold Dressing, homemade hummus, corn relish from the farmers market, almond butter, tahini.
#5: Pickles. I swear, after becoming a vegan, my love affair with pickles skyrocketed and I haven’t turned back since.
#6: Homemade Quick-Fix Lunch Box Items. Foolproof Tofu Burgers (or other veggie burger variations), roasted vegetables, cooked grains, baked tofu or tempeh, vegan sushi.
#8: “Power” Foods. Chia seeds, hemp seeds, flaxseed meal, dates.
#10: Fresh Fruit. Honeycrisp apples, sungold and cherry tomatoes, lemons, limes, avocados.
#11: Smaller Vegetables. Onions, parsnips, beets, bell peppers, green beans, cucumbers, shallots, brussels sprouts, turnips, rutabagas.
#12: Frozen Fruit for Smoothies. Bananas, mixed berries, raspberries, peaches, figs.
Comment Provoking Questions: How do you feel about Lightlife products and other meat alternatives? What does your pantry/refrigerator look like? What are your pantry staples? What vegetables do you always have on hand in the refrigerator?
Until next time, Ali.