On the web
• Veganuary: veganuary.com
• 21 Day Vegan Kickstart: pcrm.org/health/diets/kickstart/kickstart-programs
• Three Season Diet Challenge: lifespa.com/3seasondietchallenge
• University of Colorado Vegan Justice League: veganjusticeleague.wordpress.com
• Boulder (And Beyond) Vegan Meetup Group: meetup.com/coloradovegans
• Boulder's Queer Vegan Food Cookbook: queerveganfood.com
Vegan food in Boulder
Increasingly more restaurants offer vegan options, and many restaurants will make vegan adjustments to regular menu items. Here are a few places to find vegan fare in town: Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant, Native Foods and Zeal. In addition, most any Boulder restaurant is prepared to vegan alternatives on request.
What: Ask a Vegan, a vegan meetup open to the public to ask questions about a vegan lifestyle. This month's event is especially angled at helping people make "positive and meaningful life changes" for the new year.
When:6-8 p.m. Jan. 22
Where: Native Foods Cafe, 1675 29th St., Suite 1272, Boulder
You've heard of Movember, when mustaches and beards infest the fall. November is not the only month with a movement. You're in the middle of Veganuary.
Veganuary is just what it sounds like: the commitment to eat vegan throughout the month of January. That means no (or for many people, as few as possible) animal products.
The official movement with the catchy title began last year, organized by a United Kingdom-based group, but local people — many not knowing it's a trendy thing to do — have been resolving to try vegan in the month of January for years.
That's the story of Longmont resident Joanna Crawford. Last New Year's, she decided to go vegan for 22 days. This January, she has decided to stick with the lifestyle indefinitely.
Laura Leigh, also of Longmont, vowed to eat vegan in January four years ago, following a program called the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart. She, her husband and her three daughters enjoyed the increased energy and lighter feeling so much that they made it a permanent diet.
In fact, a plant-based diet can have health benefits. Veganuary.com cites studies showing a vegan diet can lead to lower blood pressure, cholesterol and BMI, as well as a reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes.
For others, it's an ethical and environmental choice. Lisa Shapiro, of Boulder, believes a vegan diet is "the single more important thing we can do as planetary citizens."
"Our planet is being trashed, and there's no sustainable way to eat animal products. That includes organic and free range," she says.
Shapiro has not eaten animal products for about 30 years. She started the Boulder (And Beyond) Vegan Meetup Group, which began on Thanksgiving seven years ago with eight people and today has more than 1,000 members.
"A vegan lifestyle has never been easier, more delicious and more urgent," she says.
Her group provides online and in-person support for vegans, with at least three regular events a month. The next event, Jan. 21, is Ask a Vegan at Boulder's Native Foods Cafe, where anyone is invited to ask advice and questions of experienced vegans.
The group's monthly potlucks draw 40-80 people, she says. About half of those aren't vegan but are curious about transitioning, Shapiro says.
Boulder also has a vegan group, the Vegan Justice League, on the University of Colorado campus. A growing number of restaurants, such as Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant, Zeal and the new Lyfe Kitchen, offer vegan fare or can make vegan adjustments to menu items. It's no surprise that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals chose Boulder as one of the top 10 places for vegans to live.
Today, it's easy to find plant-based alternatives for meat and cheese in any area grocery chain, and Boulder is home to a variety of vegan-friendly companies, such as Beyond Better, which makes cashew cheese, and Boulder Baked, which makes vegan cookies and cupcakes.
National trends reflect increased interest, too. Veganuary says sign-ups this year are 12,000, three times those of last year, so much that interest caused the website to crash, according to spokesman Gary Smith. Hollywood trendsetters also have played with a plant-based diet: Jared Leto, Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce and Jay-Z, even though only about 2.5 percent of the nation identifies as vegan, according to a 2012 Harris Interactive study.
Smith also notes that Bill Gates and other business moguls have been investing multimillions of dollars in vegan startups.
Jane Land, founder of Veganuary, also notes that "vegan" has surpassed "vegetarian" on Google Trends.
And beyond being a trend, Veganuary says half its participants last year indicated they intended to remain vegan permanently.
The hardest part about transitioning to vegan was giving up cheese, says Leigh, the Longmont mom. Instead, she says she replaces cheese in her favorite Mexican dishes with peppers and spices. Although she says some of the plant-based cheese alternatives are tasty — after you get used to them — she says she still prefers unprocessed food, whenever possible.
"The best thing to do is focus on eating whole foods. Fill up your plate with vegetables and real foods, and you don't really miss the other stuff," Leigh says. "You don't notice missing the meat as much if your plate is full of delicious other whole foods."
But your body might notice the missing protein, if you aren't careful, says John Douillard, a Boulder-based Ayurvedic physician who runs the LifeSpa. Following Ayurvedic beliefs, he says 90 percent of his diet is plant-based.
Despite the January trend, he says, launching a plant-based diet in wintertime can be extra challenging. Seasonal veggies are more limited in the winter — he believes in eating only what is in season — so you must make an effort to eat more nuts, seeds, root veggies and the "insulating" foods that nature provides now ... If you already have a cold, dry body type and switch to a cold, dry diet in a cold, dry season, you're not going to feel very good, he says.
Nuts, beans, seeds and oils will help fill in the protein gap, he says. Otherwise, a vegan diet might leave you sleepless, anxious, craving more food, craving sweets and with achy joints.
Some new vegans tend to replace animal proteins with breads and pastas, but that can leave you depleted and with unstable blood sugar, especially when combined with fruit, he says. (Beware of granola and fruit and fruit juices, for example, he says. Ayurvedic devotees believe in eating fruit alone.)
If you are considering trying a vegan diet, Douillard recommends his Three Season Diet Challenge instead. This free plan can be done vegan or with a small amount of animal products. Sign up any time throughout the year, although the LifeSpa just launched a big January push, and receive regular, research-based support and recipes to help you eat seasonal foods.
"A lot of people aren't ready to go vegan or don't understand how to do it correctly," Douillard says. "With this, people will naturally be able to digest more efficiently, so they won't crave the heavy, dense foods we think we need, like meat, eggs and animal foods."
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