Art by Lissette Vaca / Daily Nexus

Art by Lissette Vaca / Daily Nexus

Oreos. Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup. Pillsbury Crescent Rolls. Ritz Crackers. Nutter Butters. Bagels. What do all of these things have in common? You’re right. They’re delicious. And not too healthy either. But what else? Every single one of those deliciously fattening foods is completely vegan. What does this mean? It means that no animals were harmed in the making of these pleasurable foods. No cows were milked until their udders were sore and tender. No chickens were locked up and forced to surrender their eggs.

Now, a lot of people completely disregard the idea of veganism for one of two reasons: 1) Vegans tend to shove their opinions down people’s throats and tell them that they are bad human beings; 2) Cutting out dairy, meat, eggs and a few other key items from a diet seems pretty difficult.

I am not here to shove my opinions down your throat, not this time at least. I want to make it clear that a vegan diet is not as tough as it may seem. It is a lifestyle change, yes, but it is definitely a psychologically and environmentally beneficial one. Many foods are accidentally vegan, and many foods can be altered just slightly to follow this type of diet. Food technology is becoming so advanced that vegan cheese tastes virtually the same as dairy cheese (also a pro tip for those of us who are lactose intolerant). Dairy milk can be replaced with soy milk or, even better, almond milk.

These milk alternatives are actually far more nutrient dense than dairy milk. It gets tricky when it comes to gelatin — a structural component of food, often giving it a chewy or gummy texture, made from raw animal materials (you may know it as ground up horse hooves or cartilage). It is one of those ingredients that has proven harder to replace. But, it seems that gelatin, like all other animal products, is actually not necessary in creating gummy snacks. Although they are a little harder to find, many candies are made with other textural ingredients.

It is a lifestyle change, yes, but it is definitely a psychologically and environmentally beneficial one.

The amount of benefits that come along with a vegan diet is pleasantly surprising. For one, you can be at peace with the fact that nothing was harmed in the making of your meal. It is such a psychological issue that many people choose not to address because meat is just “too good” and they “need ice cream for dessert.” Plot twist: Vegan ice cream might actually top normal ice cream. I mean, Ben & Jerry’s even has a line of non-dairy ice cream.

Meat alternatives are getting disgustingly realistic, but they are good for those vegans who want meat without the use of slaughterhouses. Being vegan does not make anyone less masculine or more timid. Vegans prove their strength in the way that they are not afraid to show the world that they care about something enough to have enough self control and discipline to just stop eating it. If you live a life where such a diet is possible, there is no good reason to not give it a try, or even switch out a few snacks a day for vegan snacks or maybe have one vegan meal per day.

It is surprising how easy it is to eat vegan. It is even easier to enjoy Oreos with some almond milk without the thought of cuddly and loving creatures being abused, misused and confined.

Lauren Goodman hopes you give a vegan diet another thought.