With the coming of the new year, you might have made a resolution to eat healthier or even go vegan.
According to the National Institutes of Health, adults who eat a more plant-based diet can increase their odds of living longer. Most people are aware of the benefits of cutting the amount of animal products in their meals — including better fitness and a lower risk of heart disease. The problem, however, lies not with our brains but with our taste buds. How, oh how, can we live without all of those tasty animal products like butter — and bacon?
Choices Organic Café's Lori Zito is aware the struggle is real. That's why her café now offers freshly baked maple "bacon" doughnuts ($5.50).
The flavorful doughnuts are vegan and soy- and gluten-free. The kick is the bacon, which comes from a tree instead of a pig.
Coconut bacon isn't new. Jugofresh uses it in some of its salads. But putting it on a doughnut is an act of genius. The coconut isn't an exact bacon replica, but the yin and yang of sweet and smoky are there in all their glory. The result is a guilt-free treat suitable for vegans, vegetarians, and people who love the taste of bacon but want to cut animal products out of their lives.
Zito says she wanted to offer a healthy version of a doughnut at Choices, so she started playing around with recipes at home. "I wanted the balance of taste indulgence while still making it good for you. Anything we bake in-house is gluten-free, so we made a superfood doughnut with chia. We tried chocolate and vanilla varieties; then one of our people suggested maple. It tasted great."
The faux bacon — coconut tossed in liquid smoke and organic maple syrup — is the kicker. The Choices president says this doughnut is particularly satisfying for new vegans and people wanting to simply cut some meat and fat from their diets. "People are very protective of their bacon, and they don't want to get rid of it. They say everything's better with bacon. I agree ... as long as that bacon is made from coconuts."
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Choices also offers a strawberry snowball doughnut, containing real strawberries. "We decided to do something a little more indulgent. It's still gluten-free, but there aren't chia seeds, so it's lighter in texture. Some people want their dessert to be really healthy, but if I'm going to eat dessert, I want it to be superindulgent.
The local vegan restaurant chain prides itself on making plant-based foods that carnivores will crave too. "Our menu is built for those people who are the friend of a friend of a vegan," Zito says. "Just try it once. If we get people to try the food, there's shock on their faces when they realized they just enjoyed a vegan meal. You can really eat a meal that is good for you, the planet, and the animals."
If Anthony Bourdain can call bacon the "gateway protein" and urge meat eaters to cook some strips in front of their vegetarian friends in an effort to sway them (Bourdain's porcine quote begins at 4:09 in the video above), maybe vegans should always keep one of these doughnuts handy in the hopes of running into Bourdain on the street. Consider the vegan maple "bacon" doughnut the "gateway veg."