From Rocktown Weekly, 01/18/13
by Samantha Cole
[Our thanks to Samantha Cole for yet another great story about vegan living in the Valley. Who would ever have thought that the word “vegan” could appear on the front page of a major local paper??? Also look for the story in this weekend’s Daily News-Record. ~ Justin]
“Being armed with the knowledge of what to look for when shopping makes the whole experience a lot more pleasant and less overwhelming,” says Ariana Witt, marketing and branding manager at the Friendly City Food Co-op.
“Not being quite sure what you’re looking for on a label or packaging may leave you standing and staring at products longer than you want.”
Avoid feeling overwhelmed and defeated — a slippery slope into sticking with what you know to be good, even if it’s not good for you.
On Jan. 20 and 23 at 6:30 p.m., Harrisonburg Farmers Market Assistant Manager Justin Van Kleeck will guide shoppers through a vegan tour of the store. Van Kleeck and his wife Rosemary own Sunberry Baking Company, creating exclusively vegan treats for sale at the market.
Through the event, the co-op hopes to educate customers on how to navigate the sometimes-daunting task of grocery shopping.
“Shopping vegan can be a challenge at first, but you will get more familiar with products that are vegan-friendly, learn what to watch out for and become more comfortable with and adept at reading labels,” he says.
“With a little effort, you can eat a very diverse, tasty, healthy diet and live a full lifestyle, without compromising your commitment to being vegan.”
Van Kleeck shares his tips and tricks for navigating the grocery store without putting offending items in your cart.
No. 1: Reading labels
Look out for labels that say “vegan” or carry the Certified Vegan logo.
Always, always read the ingredients. Here are some words to watch for:
- Whey: a milk byproduct.
- Gelatin: made from animal bones and other parts.
- Casein: another milk byproduct.
- Honey: no, honey is not vegan (more details to follow later).
- Mono- & diglycerides: often derived from animal sources.
- Natural flavors & colors can be derived from animal sources.
- Lecithin: unless it is specified as soy- or plant-based, it could come from an animal.
When something is not familiar to you and is not clarified on the label, be careful and ask the company.
No. 2: “What do you mean that’s not vegan?”
“Animal products can sneak their way into a lot of things you might not expect,” says Van Kleeck.
Even carefully reading labels can leave some questions unanswered.
- Beer, wine and spirits: some alcoholic products are filtered with isinglass (a fish byproduct) or albumin (from egg whites), in addition to those made with milk or honey; a good resource to check is barnivore.com.
- Red-colored juices and other products: many juices and other red-colored products made with “natural flavors/colors” can be made from cochineal (or carmine), an insect.
- Margarine: Although “butter” is the byword for dairy-based spreads, most margarines also contain whey and other dairy by products.
- Sugar: Many sugars are processed with bone char; in order to be certain your sugar is vegan, buy only organic sugar, where processing does not use bone char.
No. 3: Vegan substitutes for animal products
“Being vegan is not about sacrifice,” Van Kleeck says. Here, he suggests substitutes that easily stack up against animal products — without the cruelty.
- Meat: Tofu (soy-based), tempeh (fermented soy), seitan (vital wheat gluten), and specific product substitutes, such as faux-hot dogs or sausage.
- Milk: A host of non-dairy milks are available, including soy, rice, almond, coconut, hemp, oat, multi-grain, hazelnut, flax and more.
You can also find vegan substitutes for coffee creamer, eggnog, and other milk-like products that are coconut, almond, flax, rice, hemp and soy based.
- Butter: Be sure to look for the word “vegan” on the label and/or the Certified Vegan symbol.
- Cheese: plant-based cheeses are available in blocks, in slices and shredded.
Be careful! Not all “veggie” cheeses are actually vegan. Most vegan cheeses are not going to taste the same or have the same texture, but they work in many recipes and have other uses. Some cheese substitutes can melt and stretch like real cheese.
You can also make cheese substitutes at home using cashews and other plant ingredients.
- Eggs: Egg substitutes are available for use mostly in baking. You can also easily substitute ground flax seeds, xanthan gum, arrowroot powder, corn starch, guar gum, agar agar and other binders for baking.
- Ice Cream: Vegan ice creams made from soy, almond, rice, hemp and coconut are widely available — and delicious.
Shortening: Be sure to use the type made entirely of vegetables; you can also substitute with coconut oil in many recipes.
- Honey: Because bees are exploited for production, which can also take a toll on the environment, honey is not considered a vegan-friendly food. Agave and maple syrup make great honey substitutes for baking and most other uses.
No. 4: Vegan body care and other non-food products
Always look for the cruelty-free bunny symbol on body care products, supplements, cosmetics, cleaning products and more.
Also read labels for ingredients — some brands (such as Ecover) have some animal-product-free items and some that include animal products.
No. 5: Vegan on the cheap: How to save money when buying vegan
Buy in bulk (and always bring reusable bags). Also, avoid packaged products.
Get a few good vegan cookbooks so you can make food from scratch — rather than going out to eat.
For more information and local support, visit the Shenandoah Valley Vegans meetup page: meetup.com/Shenandoah-Valley-Vegans/. Contact the Friendly City Food Co-Op at (540) 801-8882 or visit friendlycity.coop.