I've been a vegetarian for more than 27 years, and following a vegan diet for more than ten years. As such, I've heard, or been the brunt of, the many jokes carnivores like to tell about Vegans (and the fact I am pronouncing my veganism to you here is actually the punchline to one of those jokes - "How do you know if someone is a vegan? They will tell you!")
Despite the gentle teasing by meat eaters, the fact is that the number of people following a vegan diet or vegan lifestyle has been growing dramatically in recent years. According to Forbes, "The number of U.S. consumers identifying as vegan grew from 1% to 6% between 2014 and 2017, a 600% increase, according to GlobalData." In addition to actual vegans, the popularity of plant-based foods, in general, is on the rise. According to the same Forbes article, "Sales of plant-based alternatives to animal-based foods including meat, cheese, milk, and eggs grew 17% over the past year, while overall U.S. food sales rose only 2%, according to data from Nielsen and the Good Food Institute. The market for such foods totaled more than $3.7 billion."
So, in today's world being a vegan is not only more common than it was when I began, it is a lot easier, with food choices far more varied and accessible. Advances in food science from companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have proven that it is possible for good tasting vegan options to be successful and available at both the corner supermarket and neighborhood restaurant. Dare I say we're on the brink of a golden age for vegans?
I travel a lot for business and even as recently as three or four years ago, in many countries I visited it was not so easy to find vegan options at restaurants. Thus, before a trip to Germany a few years back, a German friend taught me to say "Ich bin ein Veganer" to my servers at restaurants in Germany, where at the time there was rarely a vegan option on the menu. Being able to declare my veganism in the local language certainly helped, but I still found myself often negotiating with servers and chefs to get an off-menu vegan meal, as I wrote about in this article for Entrepreneur.com.
Now things are a lot easier, even in Germany. As I travel the world, I can count on the app Happy Cow to recommend great vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants in just about every city I've visited. On a trip to Germany last year Happy Cow led me to Vevay, in Frankfurt, a fun and trendy 100% vegan restaurant. I posted a picture of my delicious meal there (as I am often wont to do) and it has been viewed over 40,000 times, much to my surprise.
So, if you are considering a plant-based diet, there's never been a better time to give it a shot. Being vegan is a personal choice, and of course, it is not for everyone, but it works for me. I appreciate that it is a choice that has health benefits, shows compassion for animals, and is better for our environment - all issues that are important to me. Even if you have no inclination to change your overall diet, thanks to the growing popularity of veganism there are now some fantastic new restaurants and no shortage of plant-based options for you to try.
Every year I create a short video compilation of the many colorful and tasty vegan meals I've enjoyed throughout the year. Below is my 2018 "Year in Vegan Food" video, and you can see previous year's videos here. Maybe it will inspire you to eat a few more plant-based meals this year. Enjoy! (I did!)