BEING VEGAN – Plant-Based Food Choices Have Never Been Better
By Paul Graham
Las Vegas Informer
We have always had a bounty of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, legumes and seeds. There was, I am sure, a day when you didn’t have to worry about how these were grown and cared for. As long as we know where these foods are coming from and how they were grown, we can still enjoy a plentiful bounty. That part hasn’t changed. What has changed is the number of quality plant-based foods that are available now to supplement our eating regimens. This part has never been better and seems to be improving by the week. No matter where you stand on these products, we have to understand that it should be a goal to build a bridge into the mainstream of our culture and provide quality alternatives for those curious or transitioning into this conscious living and eating lifestyle.
Kite Hill has just introduced their incredible-looking and no doubt-tasting vegan artisan cheeses. They are being introduced in a select group of Whole Foods stores in Northern California and eventually in stores around the country. These could make even the most hardcore cheese lover turn their heads and palates. The Expo West 2013 recently unveiled a barrage of new products to tempt to taste buds, some from new companies you may not of heard of to products like Tofurky, which is unveiling a new line of gourmet plant-based sausages that sound tremendous. I was able to make my way to the International Pizza Expo here in Las Vegas, an annual event that I have had the opportunity to attend the past couple of years and get a chance to get up close and personal with some of the companies that are really making a difference.
The Pizza Expo was obviously full of meats and cheeses, but I noticed a continued and expanded move towards organic products, sustainable packaging and foods to reach those that need to eat gluten-free. One of the first booths that I came to was that of Daiya Foods. I remember the Expo two years ago when I visited their booth before they had gotten their products on retail shelves and I tried their shreds for the first time. I knew this was going to be a game-changer and it certainly has been. Last year they introduced their cheese wedges and they have been a bit hit, especially the Garlic-Jalapeno Havarti. This year they are introducing some exciting products. They will have four frozen pizzas: Mushroom and Roasted Garlic, Cheese Lover’s Pizza, Fire-Roasted Vegetable and Margherita. They now have three spreadable cheese products: Plain, Chive and Onion and Strawberry. They also have rolled out new Cheddar and Swiss slices, which will be great for sandwiches…hot and cold. These products will be available in Whole Foods, Sprouts and other stores including some new big box and membership outlets. They are definitely finding their way into the mainstream.
Another favorite company of mine is Follow Your Heart from Southern California. They have already rocked things with their non-dairy cheese wedges and their great vegan dressings and dips. Not to mention their wonderful variety of Vegenaise products. I tried their new Mozzarella wedge that was melted down and it tasted terrific. They are also introducing a line of cheese shreds will be a great addition to some of the existing options out there. I also tasted their new vegan Bleu Cheese Dressing and it was as good as anything I have ever tasted. I dipped some vegetables in it and it definitely brought a smile. If you go to almost any store now you will see an expanded number of plant-based food options. As we are seeing the numbers of people switching to plant-based eating, for whatever the reason, two things are happening. As the numbers increase the demand increases and companies are developing new and exciting products to meet the growing need in the marketplace. Also, retailers are taking notice and clearing space in their stores for these existing and new products. Just the variety of quality products from companies such as these as well as Gardein and So Delicious that are offering quality options like never before.
You may have seen comments recently by billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates talking about the future of plant-based food and our need to move in that direction for a variety of reasons. This is important to have this kind of endorsement and investment on this scale, though I would encourage Mr. Gates to do something with his half-million shares of Monsanto stock…they are on the other end of the food spectrum and we are working diligently to hurt their future profitability. Top venture capital firms are investing in innovative plant-based products and companies like Beyond Meat and Beyond Eggs that are truly revolutionary products that provide quality meat and egg alternatives unlike anything we have ever seen or tasted before. If we can provide people a viable alternative product at less cost, cholesterol-free, animal-free, lower fat and with superior taste and texture, we are eliminating many of the objections that people might have to changing their eating habits and lifestyle. These products may have a part, small or large, in your eating regimen, but more importantly will help the numbers of people switching to plant-based eating and a vegan lifestyle increase like never before. Nothing but good for all can come from that. Change is happening and it is increasingly evident in the food that is being set before us.
Paul Graham was born and raised in Northern California and has lived in Las Vegas since 2004. He is a top wedding officiate, a green Realtor and writer. He has a daily vegan food blog www.eatingveganinvegas.tumblr.com which is 365 days and 365 vegan meals in Las Vegas. He can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.facebook.com/EatingVeganinVegas.
Paul’s upcoming book, “Eating Vegan in Vegas” will be published by Sullivan Street Press and for more information please go to www.sullivanstpress.com.