Tara Parker-Pope on the challenges associated with going vegan. (via The New York Times)
Giving up favorite foods is never easy, food scientists say, for it means overriding taste preferences imprinted on the brain during a lifetime of eating. “In most American adults, meat intake has been associated since childhood with pleasurable nutritional effects,” said France Bellisle, an eating behavior researcher in Paris. “Liking for meats has been learned and reinforced over years. Any substitute would have to mimic the total sensory experience elicited by meats.
“It always takes more motivation to change any type of behavior than to go on with old habits,” she added.
Dairy products are particularly difficult to replace, says Daniel Granato, a researcher at the Federal University of Paraná, Brazil, because the intrinsic attributes of dairy foods come from proteins and fats that are difficult to mimic in a nondairy substitute. And because people start consuming these foods in infancy, the taste preference is deeply ingrained.
“Usually dairy products made with milk fat are softer and present a very pleasant viscosity and texture,” Dr. Granato said. “Consumers do feel the difference between milk-based and soy-based products. And once their first reference is milk-based products, they tend to reject plant-based products made with oat and soy or other vegetable-based food.”
Vegan ingredients and cooking techniques can be overwhelming for beginners, even if the changes are relatively small. Substitutes like vegetarian margarine and nutritional yeast can impart an unaccustomed nutty or cheesy flavor. Another method for making vegan foods creamy or cheesy involves soaking and blending cashews.
I'm just a vegetarian (I drink milk), which is vastly easier. The successful vegans I know tend to cook most of their own meals and tend not to use fake meats. They have learned to prepare and enjoy meals painted with very different brushes.
In the end one should go with a healthy diet that you are comfortable with - with or without meat. It is a personal decision. What is clear is that many of us have unhealthy and unsustainable diets and exercise behaviors.
What if fatness, even obesity, is less a lurking danger than a likely destiny, and the surprise isn’t how many seriously overweight people are out there but how few?
Those are among the unsettling questions raised, at least implicitly, by “The Weight of the Nation,” an ambitious multiplatform project that takes the full measure of our girth, its genesis and its toll.
A book with that title will be published next week by St. Martin’s Press, and it boils down information from a more sweeping, ambitious, four-part documentary to be shown next month on HBO, which produced it with input from the Institute of Medicine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health. HBO will also make the documentary available on many Web sites, including the network’s own.
Distilling many decades of research, “Weight” chronicles how we’ve eaten our way into disease and sometimes despair. About two-thirds of American adults now qualify as overweight or obese, according to the C.D.C.
But here’s the scariest (and trickiest) part, which deserves much more attention than it has received and must be factored into our response: we may be doing nothing more or less than what comes naturally to us. Our current circumstances and our current circumferences may in fact be a toxically perfect fit.