New vegans explain their motivations and how easy or hard it is to eat differently – The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

By Avery Yale Kamila, Posted March 18 2015

Sam Moore never knew any vegans until he went vegan himself two years ago.

“Veganism is a very new idea to a lot of people, including me,” said Moore, 35.

The Maine native, who now lives in North Conway, New Hampshire, took the vegan plunge after watching YouTube videos of cooks preparing raw food.

“I tried to do some of the things they were doing, but it was cumbersome and difficult,” Moore said.

Then he discovered the growing number of physicians prescribing a plant-based, vegan diet to improve health. Moore learned that “instead of buying 10 bags of kale, I could just eat some oatmeal.”

He continues to eat raw fruit one meal a day, but today Moore sees himself as “less of a raw foodist” and more of a vegan.

Moore’s exploration of vegan eating reveals something many non-vegans don’t realize: The diet has a lot of variations.

In general, a vegan diet means no meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy or food containing other animal products (such as gelatin or white sugar processed using animal bones). But that’s where the similarities end.


Raw-food vegans, like those Moore found on YouTube, aim to eat food that hasn’t been cooked above a certain temperature, typically around 110 degrees F. In contrast, macrobiotic vegans center their diets on cooked whole grains and beans and eat only small amounts of raw food.

Another common variation is referred to as oil-free, plant-based veganism. Stefani Berkey of Brewer is a former full-time chef (and one-time butcher) who adopted this style a year ago.

“I don’t eat any oil, and I don’t eat anything processed, like Tofurky,” said Berkey, who trained in Europe and is a graduate of the culinary program at Case Western Reserve University. “I eat whole grains, fruits and vegetables. I do eat tofu occasionally.”

Berkey, 59, uses substitutes such as water to stir fry and parchment paper for baking (no need to grease the pan).

At the opposite end of the vegan spectrum is the so-called “junk food vegan.” It sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s not. Junk food vegans eat fast food, potato chips, vegan doughnuts and milk-free candy bars without restraint. In my experience, these vegans tend to be young and lack cooking skills.

But most new vegans fall somewhere in between – they eat whole foods and from-scratch cooked meals, but they also eat vegan grocery items like packaged meat analogs, nondairy cream cheese, tofu mayonnaise, soy ice cream and coconut milk yogurt. Many take a mix and match approach.

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