DSC01270 (400x300)GreenAcres-Bradley Fair has started a new lunch and dinner program on Mondays. It’s called “Meatless Monday,” and our cooks who eat vegan or vegetarian themselves are coming up with the menus.

We started this morning with BBQ Jackfruit, Spicy Buffalo Cauliflower, Creamy Coconut Kale, Mashed Potatoes and Mushroom Gravy and a delightful Veggie Casserole that Keesha, our food manager, threw together using her personal favorite shredded veggie combinations, sprinkled panko on top and baked in the oven.

Our newest cook named River, who’s been a vegan for years, and who has six children he’s hoping to raise at least “somewhat vegan,” did the honors at the stove and oven and produced some might tasty food. River also posted his menu on a vegan website, and we had new customers we’d never seen before come to taste the food.

It looked like a roaring success to me, so we’ll be having “Meatless Monday” for the next several months to see how things go.

DSC01277 (292x300)What does a vegan menu look like? Well, think of a dinner plate. Three-quarters of the plate is vegetables, in one form or another. The rest of the plate is divided into whole grains, legumes, and beans.

Dedicated vegans avoid all animal-derived foods, which means no beef, chicken, pork or lamb, as well as fish, eggs, dairy or even honey. Vegans refuse to eat animal by-products such as rennet used in cheese making and gelatin in desserts. Even foods like the meat-replacement Quorn are off limits as they can contain eggs or dairy.

There’s a delicate balance for vegans trying to get enough protein from plant material in a variety that gives them the vitamins they need for healthy living.

In early Biblical days, people ate seasonal vegetables and dressed them lightly in olive oil. Today, many Americans eat few vegetables and get their vitamins from fortified foods and animal protein.

Vegans are quick to point out theirs is “the healthiest way to live,” albeit not without its challenges, and the only vitamin they don’t get from plants is Vitamin B-12 which is plentiful in vitamin supplements and “foods that are enriched such as nondairy milks, nutritional yeast, cereals, and some foods that have natural analogues to B12, like spirulina and other seaweeds.”

Vegans believe in eating the rainbow—a variety of vegetables in every color, starting with dark, leafy greens which should find their way onto at least half of the vegan lunch and dinner plate daily. Whole-grain pastas and semolina and myriad types of beans make up the rest of a perfect vegan meal. Tofu, which comes from soybeans and tempeh are vegan staples as well.

Health.com addresses the vegan’s need for Vitamin B-12 and Iron, and reports: “Good vegan iron sources include legumes, sunflower seeds, dried raisins, as well as dark, leafy greens. Vitamin C-rich foods (think: red peppers, citrus, and broccoli) aid iron absorption.”

DSC01288 (300x225)Eating enough protein is essential, especially for vegans. Health.com stresses “every meal should contain protein, the building block of life, which breaks down into amino acids that promote cell growth and repair. The Institute of Medicine recommends that adults get at least 0.8 grams of protein daily for every kilogram of body mass—that’s about 54 grams for a 150-pound woman. The best sources of vegan protein include natural soy, lentils, beans, quinoa and seitan.”

When deciding to go vegan, be prepared for family and friends to think you’ve gone to the dark side. You might find yourself defending your food choices to no avail. Our vegan customers say, “Just stick with the program, and gradually, everyone will get used to it and quit trying to change your mind.”

Oh, and you might want to look closely at soy. Scientists are still arguing over the effects of soy on cancer and heart disease, but many agree eating too much soy-based processed food is actually worse than consuming high-quality animal products. “Meat substitutes often are highly processed and contain too much salt.”

Other than that, we’ve noticed our strictly-vegan customers have beautiful skin and hair, but like the rest of us who are depending more and more on what we eat to keep us healthy, they are thoroughly invested in their decision to go vegan and they are prepared to spend their grocery shopping days reading labels.

We encourage any Wichita vegans within driving distance to GreenAcres-Bradley Fair to come join us for lunch or dinner some Monday and let us know what you think. We welcome any of your favorite vegan recipes you’d like to share. Until then, it’s “Never on a Monday”—meat that is. Come see us!