Hi, and welcome to my frequently asked questions! If you don’t find the answer to your question here, feel free to email me at kitchen (at) fatfreevegan (dot) com. While I appreciate every email I get, I regret that I’m not able to answer every one.
Who are you?
My name is Susan Voisin+, and I’m a vegan–in other words, I don’t eat or wear anything that’s made of or by animals. I went vegetarian in 1988 because I didn’t want to eat animals. Then, about 6 years later, I eliminated all animal products from my diet (and as many as possible from my life), learned how to cook without added fat, and lost over 100 pounds. (Just to be clear, childbirth and age have put some of those pounds back on, but the fat-free vegan diet has kept me from getting anywhere close to my former weight.) For the past few years I’ve maintained the Fatfree Vegan Recipes website, a collection of over 1400 low-fat vegan recipes sent in by hundreds of people.
I live in Jackson, Mississippi, with my husband, D, and our 15-year-old daughter, E, who test my recipes and offer helpful criticism. (Or at least they think they’re being helpful!) I don’t use their full names here because they’re easily embarrassed.
What’s this “fatfree” business all about?
In general, I don’t cook with refined fats (oil, margarine, and shortening). This simply means that instead of sautéing in oil, I use water or broth. In baking, I substitute apple sauce or flax seeds or some other substance for margarine, butter, or shortening. I do use a little sesame oil now and then because a little bit imparts a lot of flavor. And once in a very long while, I go crazy and make something with a little olive oil in it, but this is rare, and I don’t use whole heaping gobs of it.
Wait a minute…I saw a recipe with coconut milk…and another with walnuts. Those aren’t fat-free ingredients!
You’re very observant! Yes, I sometimes use lite coconut milk (though I’m trying to cut down), and I do include avocados, nuts, and seeds in my diet as forms of healthy, unrefined fat. This blog probably should have been called “Oil-Free Vegan Kitchen,” but I didn’t like the way that sounded. Whenever a recipe gets more than 15% of its calories from fat, I add the tag “Higher-Fat” to it, which you can see at the end of the blog post.
But if you don’t use any fats, how do you get your Essential Fatty Acids?
Actually, all foods contain some fat, even lettuce and apples. So there’s no such thing as a truly fat-free diet–and we wouldn’t want there to be! But I also use limited amounts of avocados, nuts, and seeds in my cooking. In fact, what you don’t see from looking at the blog is that just about every day I eat walnuts and flax seeds on my lunch salad. Flax and walnuts are both excellent sources of Omega 3 fatty acids. I definitely believe in getting EFA’s, just not in the form of refined oils but in their natural “packages,” along with all the other beneficial nutrients that nuts and seeds contain.
But don’t you want to enjoy eating? Isn’t it important to enjoy food?
Yes! Though I do believe that what we eat affects our health, I also think that food feeds our senses and affects us emotionally as well as physically. Food to me is something of a celebration, and cooking is a gift I give to my family and friends; I want it to taste good to them as well as be good for them. That’s actually why I’m writing this blog. I wanted to show others that a healthy vegan diet does not have to be boring and bland. If it did, I would have given it up long ago!
I don’t follow a fat-free diet. Can I add oil or margarine to your recipes to make them taste better?
My recipes are all about tasting good while keeping the fat, sugar, salt, and processed ingredients to a minimum. I experiment with ingredients to get the best taste without using oils or margarine, and sometimes I increase the seasonings to compensate for the reduced fat. If you want to sauté in oil or substitute oil or margarine for the apple sauce in some of my baked goods, I certainly can’t stop you. But I can’t promise that the spices and seasonings will work as well as in the original recipe, and changing the ingredients in baked goods is usually a recipe for disaster.
Is there a name for this type of diet? Any books about it?
Yes, there are actually several. Eat to Live is a book and way of eating created by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. You can find out more about it at his website or on the FAQs page on mine. Another very low fat vegan diet is the The McDougall Program, by Dr. John McDougall. You can discover more at his website. And recently Caldwell Esselstyn has done research showing that a fat-free vegan diet can Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease.
Any more links you want to share?
As a matter of fact, there are:
A Clear Case Against Moderation (what the recent study of low-fat diets really tells us)
15 Reasons to Avoid Vegetable Oils (with references cited)
Frequently Asked Blogging Questions:
I’m currently using a program called The Living Cookbook to analyze my recipes and provide the graphic nutritional info. (I previously used software called MasterCook, which is primarily a recipe archiving program, as well as the website Nutritiondata.com.) I enter the recipes’ ingredients into Living Cookbook, but since a lot of the ingredients I use are not in its database, I use Nutritiondata as well as the products’ packages and input the nutrition data into the program (I only have to do this once for each new ingredient). There are more expensive and professional programs available, but this solution works well for me. I advise anyone who purchases either Living Cookbook or MasterCook to double-check its accuracy right at first, until you get accustomed to the way it works. It too easily can think you mean 16 ounces of dried beans when you meant 16 ounces of cooked beans–a difference of around 1000 calories!
When I started the blog, I used a 4 megapixel Olympus Camedia 4000. In August of 2006, I moved up to a Canon Rebel XT, a digital Single Lens Reflex camera, and a 50mm lens. In December of 2007, I treated myself to a Canon 40D; its larger viewfinder and LCD appealed to my aging eyes. I upgraded again in December 2012 and currently use a Canon 5D Mark iii. (For some of my photography tips, check out the bottom of this post.)
In general, no. In the past I’ve reviewed one or two books or products that were provided to me free from the publisher or manufacturer. When those books/products were mentioned on my blog, I stated very clearly that I had been been provided with them for free. Since then, I’ve stopped accepting free products for review. So, with only a few exceptions, which are clearly noted, any products or books I recommend in my blog posts were bought and paid for by me, and I recommend them only when I like them. PR people are advised not to waste their time emailing me with offers of products; they are welcome to advertise through my ad network, BlogHer Ads.
Do you endorse the products advertised in your sidebar and at the bottom of posts?
No. While I appreciate my sponsors, the products in my sidebar and at the bottom of each post are paid advertisements, and I have no experience with most of them. The two exceptions are Vita-Mix and certain products on Amazon.com, which are available through my store; those are products which I have tried and heartily endorse, and their ads include my name and endorsement. If you purchase a Vita-Mix or an Amazon product through my links, I receive a commission. To all of you who have bought through my blog, thank you for your support!
While I try to keep non-vegan ads off the blog, they do slip through from time to time. If you see one, I would appreciate it if you would email me the details so that I can have it removed.