I get this question A LOT. It comes right after my refusal of the french fries or the dismissal of the house salad dressing when eating out with others and often after I’ve outed myself as eating a plant-based diet: no meat, no eggs, no dairy, no oil. The confusion comes primarily because oils are typically not derived from animals.
So what’s the problem?
Let me back up a sec. 7 years ago I began my plant-based journey first giving up meat, then eggs, then the dairy. I had read about the elimination of oils in many plant-based books, resources and documentaries. That is to say, the plant-based “diet” is stipulated by all the medical researchers and leading experts in the field to not include oils due to their direct correlation to the heart disease and obesity epidemics.
This, in part, is what separates the plant-based movement from the vegan community. By definition, being vegan is to not eat or use animal products. Period. It states nothing about health.
A plant-based diet is, by definition, a diet based on fruits, vegetables, tubers, whole grains and legumes; and it excludes or minimizes meat (including chicken and fish), dairy products and eggs, as well as highly refined foods like bleach, flour, refined sugar and oil.
So it can be said that someone who is following a plant-based diet is a vegan, but it doesn’t go the other way around. And, while we are at it, I could give you an endless list of "accidental" vegan foods, meaning foods that are not created to be or marketed as such, but are vegan such as Oreos, Ritz Crackers, Pillsbury Crescent Rolls, Duncan Hines Creamy Homestyle Frosting, Duncan Hines cake mixes, Jello Instant Pudding Mix, Betty Crocker’s Baco’s Bacon Flavor Bits and McCormick's Bacon Bits (cue vinyl scratch sound. Yeah, you read that right bacon bits are vegan)
mmhmm...and these "foods" are too
Wow. I totally got distracted by that. It seems like such good news, doesn’t it? But because we know this list of familiar foods is vegan, we also know they are NOT plant-based.
Ok. I think I beat that drum long enough.
It took me 2 years to get myself ready to give up the oils. The fact is that oil is in just about every grocery item that lives on the shelves in the interior of the store. Giving up oil meant I would have to eliminate even store-bought condiments like barbecue and teriyaki sauces, salad dressings, chips and crackers. But as far as weight loss and cholesterol levels go, my progress had slowed and even stopped a while after giving up meat and dairy. Even then my cholesterol was still over 200, just being vegan.
Full disclosure here: it’s hard to eliminate it completely. In fact, I have found it nearly impossible, even though I NEVER cook or bake with oil- not even for my family who primarily eats the Standard American Diet (SAD). It’s just not necessary and easy to cut out when cooking at home. You can sauté vegetables beautifully with water or vegetable broth. And applesauce, pureed pumpkin or mashed bananas make excellent substitutes for oil when baking. I have DIY recipes for the barbeque and teriyaki sauces, but have also found oil-free brands pretty easily in our local grocery stores. Salad dressings have been the hardest to transition from. I was married to bleu cheese dressing. But it’s not impossible and I’ve come to love new favorites using dates, tahini, lemon and lime juices, miso, Dijon mustard, vinegars, salsa, hummus, nut butters, avocado, Sriracha, vegan mayos and spices.
The truth of the matter is that it gets tricky when you’re eating out at restaurants or basically when you haven’t made the food yourself. I think it’s safe to say that I maintain an oil-free diet about 90% of the time, leaving a good 10% margin for error. Life. Stuff happens.
I know what you’re thinking. First I made you get rid of all your stuff, then had you cancel the cable, quit your job, revoked your Sam’s Club membership and now I’m asking you to ditch the oil: the olive oil, coconut oil, sunflower oil, avocado oil, walnut oil.
Maybe this will help! Here’s a recipe that’s adapted from the Whole Foods No-Oil Balsamic Dressing and happens to be my husband’s favorite. I start small with the Dijon mustard, working my way up because it’s strong for me. Here, the dates give the dressing a nice body and the quantity can be adjusted for a sweeter variation. This makes about 1 3/4 cups of salad dressing.
4 Medjool dates, chopped and pitted (soaked in 2 cups boiling water for 15 minutes)
1 cup balsamic vinegar
3 Tbsp soy sauce or tamari (gluten free) or coconut aminos (soy free)
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
3 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1 Tbsp onion powder
1 clove garlic, minced
Blend ¼ cup soaking water and all other ingredients until smooth.
Jeanmare and Cristy are creators and contributors of the Living Simply Nourished Blog. Grab a cup of tea (or coffee!), find a cozy spot, scroll around, read some stories, find some inspiration, and enjoy!
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