For The Family: Care Packages

We know that sometimes it can be hard to involve family members in your vegetarian/vegan adventures. We’re here to help! By offering easy ways in which you can involve your family, our goal is to not only help make your lifestyle a little easier with the cooperation of your family members but also just to make the transition easy for them to understand. Perhaps they’ll even want to join in!

Ha.

One step at a time.

For our series launch, we’ll start with care packages for university students!

You know how hard it can be to find decent vegan/vegetarian food on campus. Of course, it is all dependent on your campus and where you live, but for a lot of us it’s a huge challenge. Well, if your family is the type to send you some food and/or snacks, here are just a few brands and items to consider adding to your packages!

Some things to consider are:

  1. This article is not all-inclusive. There might be some other things that you’d want to incorporate into your diet that are not included here. Think of this list as a starting point rather than an end-all.
  2. Your family members will need to get into the habit of checking labels and confirming whether or not something is vegetarian/vegan. This is a good practice anyways, as it will help them get in the mindset of examining what exactly it is they’re eating.
  3. Make sure you make clear what exactly your on-campus resources are. If you have access to a full-on kitchen, you’ll have more options available than a student who only has a mini fridge and maybe a(n illegal) toaster. Be sure to communicate this to your family, and give them examples of what you can use.
  4. Buyers beware: not all brand options are vegetarian-/vegan-friendly. The ones I am putting up here all have vegetarian and vegan options, but not all of the options the brand offers are vegetarian or vegan.

BRANDS

  • Annie’s
    • This brand is a really good resource for shelf-stable, yet organic and healthier staples. From mac & cheese and cereals to dressings and cinnamon rolls, this brand has a pretty wide variety.
  • Amy’s
    • Hands down, one of my favorite brands for vegetarian/vegan soups! The brand offers other products as well (which I, Savannah, haven’t tried) and the website has a convenient key to show you which soups are vegan, vegetarian, or neither. In person, the ingredients label will tell you right away if the soup is vegan, so it’s good for family members who hate examining every ingredient!
  • Garden of Eatin’
    • This is one of my favorite brands for chips! They have a wide variety of choices, and I haven’t disliked a single one I have tried.
  • Tofurky & Gardein
    • Two trademark brands for meat alternatives, these are generally regarded to be solid choices when looking for reliable, good-tasting “meats”. One of my personal favorites is Tofurky’s chorizo.
  • Dr. McDougall’s Right Foods
    • The items offered by this brand are fantastic if you have limited cooking options. Generally dehydrated, mostly organic, and in eco-friendly packaging, I have discovered quite a few good options that only need a microwave. You’ll have to try some yourself and determine which are your favorites. The ones that are vegan say so right on the front of the packaging, making it easy for family members who aren’t used to buying vegan products.

INGREDIENTS:

  • Canned legumes (beans, chickpeas, lentils)
    • These are helpful for microwave cooking and dishes, particularly the refried variety. They have good Zinc content and are high in protein, so be sure to get plenty of legumes in your diet.
  • Vegan cheese
    • This is great if you have room in your fridge. If you don’t, this isn’t as practical an option, so keep an eye out. Also, there are some cheeses that are lactose-free but not actually dairy free (an example being Go Veggie; avoid this brand unless the front clearly states “VEGAN”). The ingredient “casein” is milk protein and renders an item NOT vegan. Keep an eye out.
  • Nuts
    • Another member of the legume family, these lovely beauties are a great snack and wonderful additives to foods. This also helps to achieve your intake of Zinc.
  • Nutritional yeast
    • This fortified treat adds a  sort of “cheesy” flavor to foods and is fortified with a lovely variety of vitamins and minerals, making it a great additive to vegan diets. This product can easily be found at Whole Foods.
  • Turmeric
    • This lovely spice contains curcumin, which is absolutely wonderful for your health, as it is anti-inflammatory and helps reduce the effects of heart conditions. Turmeric extract or a curcumin supplement contain more of curcumin than the powdered format you put in food, but any bit helps. If the powdered format is all you got, be sure to put some in your foods! It doesn’t have a strong flavor, so I am comfortable putting it in most savory meals and snacks.

SUPPLEMENTS:

NOTE: If your family members are concerned about you not getting enough of certain vitamins and minerals, feel free to show them articles containing statistics about deficiencies common in the US, regardless of diet (examples here and here). The common Western diet is very flawed on its own. One shouldn’t feel like they are eating incorrectly because they need certain supplements. Since some vitamins and minerals are only available from certain sources, and we all live in very specific places, we probably won’t have access to everything without a supplement or two. Think instead about how lucky we are that we now have to resources and technology to have balanced nutrition. 🙂

If they need further convincing, here is a video of a vegan YouTuber who got a blood test done and what her results were.

Before purchasing supplements or if you have any concerns, it is recommended that you talk to your doctor. Please make sure to explain to them what your dietary needs are (i.e. explicitly tell them that you are vegetarian/vegan) and discuss what they think you need to ensure is in your diet. There will be some doctors who will not encourage a plant-based diet, as there are widespread bias and misunderstanding worldwide. Regardless, take note of what they say is necessary for your diet (protein, iron, b12, etc), and consider ways you can incorporate them into your diet in a way that suits you best.

Water-soluble vitamins such as the B-vitamins and Vitamin C are generally very safe to take as a supplement, as they need to be replenished daily. Therefore the ones that are starred (*) are thought to be necessary to take and/or are often in fortified foods and shouldn’t be a problem. We are not medical professionals, however, so please make sure you talk to someone who is if you have further questions.

ESSENTIAL:

  • Vitamin B12*
  • Iodine*
    • This is essential for everyone’s thyroid health, and is a very common deficiency in the US, no matter your diet. You can find iodine in seaweed, so if you’re a fan of traditional miso soup with tofu and seaweed, you’re well on your way to doing just fine. Not a lot of us eat enough seaweed in the West, though, so it’s best to be safe and make sure you’re getting iodized salt. My favorite is Himalayan Pink Salt for its additional health benefits, but if your family isn’t into salt that is pink, there is also this type of sea salt.

MIGHT NEED TO SUPPLEMENT:

  • Iron
    • Iron is the other vitamin that is present in a vegetarian/vegan diet, but not in a format that is as easily absorbed. Basically, there are two types of iron: heme and non-heme. Heme iron is from animal products and is more easily absorbed into the body. Non-heme iron is present in plants, and will be absorbed, but not as much as heme. This supplement is most beneficial for women, as they lose more iron during their menstrual cycle. It’s good for most, regardless. NOTE: Don’t take a supplement if you know you have sufficient iron levels. Too much iron is a bad thing. If you’re worried about whether or not you need it, you can instead incorporate foods such as blackstrap molasses into your diet, which a serving of contains about 20% of your daily value, while you wait on your blood test results.
  • Vitamin D
    • This is a common deficiency in the USA no matter your diet, so it’s a good idea for everyone to get this supplement in. The benefits include healthy calcium absorption and immune health. You could also get vitamin D from limited sun exposure, but if you are using certain skin care products, take medication that recommends avoiding sunlight, or have a family history of skin cancers, it might be wiser to go with a supplement. Please also understand that if you are going outside for your vitamin D, you do not need to get a tan. Only a few minutes is enough.
  • DHA
    • Also known as long-chain Omega 3 Fatty Acids, DHA is a little harder to get in one’s diet without fatty fish. It’s thought that if you get enough AHA (which is plentiful in plants), your DHA levels will be fine. Some studies have suggested that this isn’t necessarily the case (here and here). We’re not really sure what the truth is, but if you’re worried, feel free to take an algae-based vegan supplement. If you are pregnant or nursing, it is recommended to have a higher dosage of DHA.

And there you are! Hope this will give your family some ideas toward what they can include in your care packages!

 

Have a beautiful day ❤

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