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Curious about Veganism?

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When I first started writing this, it was just meant to be a simple reply to a comment I received from someone interested in veganism (Hi Cecilia! *Waves*). But by the time I’d finished writing my answer to her question, I discovered I’d written so much that I should just turn my reply into a post! So here it is:

Hi Cecilia (and everyone else who is intrigued by veganism),

I can honestly say that going vegan was the best decision I ever made! I feel better (both physically and mentally), have so much energy all the time, and am just really happy with life in general. 🙂

I first became a vegetarian (cold-turkey… or cold-tofu?) in middle school, due to a love of animals, and had no intention of going vegan. I liked my ice cream and cheese too much! For the first month of being a vegetarian, I really did miss meat. But have you heard the saying “28 days to break a habit”? I think it’s true; after a month, I was surprised to find that the idea of eating meat suddenly seemed revolting to me.  Once I read up on factory farming and learned about the health drawbacks to dairy (and all the hormones and antibiotics they feed to the animals, which in turn end up in our bodies), I decided I really did want to be a vegan. One of the books that helped me realize this was John Robbins’ Diet for a New America.  And I started to see how odd it was that we’re the only species that drinks another species’ milk.  So I gave up dairy products for Lent after being a vegetarian for one year, and I never went back.

However… I know that the cold-turkey method doesn’t work for everyone. So maybe you’d want to start out by designating a few days a week to be a vegetarian or vegan. Then you could add more days as it gets easier. Or you might want to start by eating one vegan meal per day. Invest in at least one really good vegan cookbook, as well as one good book on nutrition. My go-to book whenever I have a vegan nutrition question is The Vegetarian Way, by Virginia and Mark Messina.

I think it’s probably harder to give up meat than it is dairy because of all the good-tasting dairy substitutes out there. Don’t try fake meat products expecting them to taste like real meat. Instead, maybe start out with meals that are vegetarian on their own, such as pasta with marinara or peanut sauce, coconut curry, veggie stir-fries with noodles, rice pilafs, soups or stews, peanut butter and banana sandwiches (or pb& j), bagels, cereal, baked potatoes with vegetarian baked beans, black bean fajitas, hummus sandwiches, chilis, etc.

Here’s a link to hundreds of completely vegan Healthy Dessert Recipes.

You can try foods like tempeh, but don’t treat them as a meat-substitute; rather as just another delicious and healthy food. Don’t worry about getting enough protein—as long as you get enough calories to meet your energy needs, you will be fine. In fact, many omnivores get too much protein, which can be a problem because protein leeches calcium from your bones! So not every meal has to have a protein component. Besides, grains and veggies actually have some protein, themselves. Plus, there are beans, nuts, nut butters, and foods like tempeh, seitan, soymilk, and tofu (crumbled up veggie burgers in stir fries are good too).

As for the dairy: a great ice cream alternative that even my non-vegan friends and parents like is Purely Decadent ice cream, especially the cookie avalanche flavor.  If you’e wary of soy, try the coconut milk-based ice cream from the SoDelicious company.  I find Tofutti ice cream to be too sweet, but I like Tofutti Better-n-Cream Cheese. I also love Amy’s brand Bistro or California burgers (much better than Boca, I think).  Milk alternatives abound these days, so don’t give up if you aren’t a fan of the first few you try.  I tried three brands of soymilk and two brands of ricemilk that were just ok before I fell in love with Almond Breeze or Silk almondmilk.  Many people also like Vanilla Rice Dream, which has a sweet taste. Oat milk, almond milk, hemp milk… there are so many “milk” choices that it’s just a matter of finding the right one (or two or three!) for you.  Most brands are also fortified with nutrients, so you’ll get the same vitamins as you would from cows’ milk (such as calcium).  Also, flavored soymilks are delicious, even to many non-vegans. Look for Silk spice latte, SoDelicious mint-chocolate, Silk coffee, etc.

If you’re in the UK or USA, Whole Foods Market is a great place to shop, filled with the aforementioned vegan products and more, such as vegan cookies, frozen waffles, and cakes. Or, if there isn’t a Whole Foods near you, just look for a health food store or a natural section of a regular grocery store. Regular grocery stores are becoming much more veg-friendly; you can even find healthy products in Wal-Mart these days.

As for eating out…

I wrote a long post here: Eat Out on a Special Diet

If you go to a party, you can offer to bring a main dish and/or a dessert so that you won’t feel left out when everyone else is eating cake. Most vegan cookbooks have great dessert sections (plus there are so many recipes online and on blogs, as I’m sure you’ve discovered!). If you’re hungry while at the mall, you can opt for a smoothie (make sure you get one without yogurt) or an Auntie Anne’s pretzel (ask them to hold the butter—they hear this request all the time from fat-wary customers).  And if you’re going out to a restaurant, maybe look at the menu ahead of time, and if there isn’t a vegan option, call the restaurant—many chefs are happy for the challenge of making a customized vegan dish (sometimes they get bored of making the same thing day in and day out). Or you can always come up with your own menu item by substituting. For example, if there’s a meat-y meal that comes with a side of veggies, you know that they have veggies. So you could ask for a baked potato or pasta with veggies, or a salad hold the cheese, etc. And go here to see if there are any vegetarian restaurants in your area.

There are so many amazing vegan products and recipes available nowadays that it’s possible to satisfy almost any craving you may have! Just search through my recipe page to see that a vegan diet definitely doesn’t need to be boring ;).

Any other craving I haven’t covered?  Just google “vegan ______” and you’ll probably be amazed by how much comes up!

I’ve probably given you way more info than you were expecting!  Hopefully some of this is helpful! Good luck on your adventure.  And even if you never make the switch to becoming completely vegan, cutting back on animal products at all is a great thing to do– for the animals and for your health. You are not any less wonderful of a person if you find it too hard to be 100% vegan, so never beat yourself up.

Every little bit that you can do helps, and every little person can make a big difference in this world!

Love,
Chocolate-Covered Katie

P.S. I’m always here to talk, both on the blog and the CCK Facebook Page.

 

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Katie is the baker, photographer, and author of the popular blog Chocolate-Covered Katie. Her favorite food is chocolate, and she believes in eating a balanced diet that includes dessert every single day. More about Katie—> 
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  1. Romina says:

    Katie, that was amazing. I will point any omni interested in veganism to this post!

    I too did the switch almost cold turkey (or tofu, hehe). I actually never ate dairy or eggs much (except maybe cheese, but that was easy to give up because of its high quantity of saturated fats). For some people it’s impossible though, and transition is most definitely necessary. I think the problem is that the North American diets tend to revolve around animal protein. And I also noticed that “vegetarian” (non vegan) recipes seem so full of cheese or eggs to make up for it.

    Becoming a vegan is really a huge step for some people, and I hope whoever reads this is inspired. Not because all vegans want to convert the world, but because we care and every person who decides to eat even just LESS meat, is making a huge difference. HUGE. Everyone matters. Just like every animal matters. If we’re not vegans for animal compassion, we should be for our health.

    Again, this is fantastic Katie. I hope omnis everywhere read this and are inspired to give up eating animals, and think about what’s on their plate.

  2. kindkitchen says:

    Very cook post-I will definitely show this to any omni friends on the fence-thanks!

  3. kindkitchen says:

    haha cook=cool

  4. Vegyogini says:

    That is a fantastic letter, CCV! You presented a thorough, well-thought-out case for how easy it is to become vegan. I hope a lot of people read it and make the switch! Great work!

  5. Alison Nicole says:

    Girl, that was a fabulous answer and an intriguing one for any omnivore I would say! You hit all the great aspects of being a vegan/vegetarian. Even if someone chooses to be a vegetarian all the vegan products are an extra incentive to become one. I know from experience. Vegan food is so yummy, and it always surprises people. Also, lots of foods we eat everyday are vegan and most people don’t even know! Your post is definitely inspiring for me. Reading it made me so happy because you also mentioned some of my favorite vegan products! Good job, and as always, I LOVE YOUR BLOG!! Thanks for the inspiration, wisdom and sharing your light.

  6. Lizzy says:

    What a great post! I’m still a newbie to veganism so thanks a lot =)

  7. Cecilia says:

    Hi Katie 🙂 Thank you so so much for your very GENEROUS advice, I even printed out your post and highlighted out all the tips n stuff!!

    I think the best way for me is to go lacto-ovo first then progressing slowly to be a full VEGAN!

    I’m actually really excited about this because I just love to bake, it would be funny to see my friends’ facial expressions when they realised that they just ate a tofu cake hehehehe…..*evil*

    Oh btw, I’m currently a soymilk drinker, I just LOVE LOVE LOVE the taste of soymilk – much better than milk actually! However, my tastebuds doesn’t agree on the taste of soy-yogurt 🙁 Hrmm… cheese would be easy as I’m not a big fan of it!ok maybe except brie..hehe.. and as for soy ice cream – I’m yet to try one!!

    Take-out/dining out with my family would be a challenge because as you know they are all “omni”..and we always order abt 3 dishes and share it around…any tips on that? Two of my brothers are almost fully carnivorous so I don’t think they would be too thrilled if it was all “vegan” dishes that they’re eating…

    Last but not least, I live in Aus(Perth) so finding a ‘delicious’ vegan product could be a challenge…so any aus. vegan out there..pls HELP!! 🙂

    MANY THANKS TO ALL OF YOUR GREAT ADVICE…CHEERS..LONG LIVE VEGAN!!

  8. Melody Polakow says:

    Katie, what a wealth of information you gave you here! Thanks for taking the time to write this out and give her (and probably many people who read your blog) such wonderful tips.

  9. Jenny says:

    Great post! I am pretty new to being vegan, and I can totally relate to your post! I actually started out with the intention of eating vegan only one or two days a week, so I wouldn’t feel pressured. Also, that made sure I didn’t feel horrible if I “messed up” and forgot to check a label. However, the vegan foods are SO yummy and SO nutritious, (unless you are just eating newman-o’s 😛 ) that I didn’t miss any omni foods and I started eating vegan all the time, and then I was inspired to start my blog. I was so excited to share how delicious everything I was cooking was! I hope all omni’s get inspiration from your post, because you are absolutely right: even incorporating a few vegan meals into your weekly diet is a huge benefit to your health, the animals, and the environment!!

    Thanks for keeping all of us inspired and drooling for more!

  10. Jennifer says:

    I too found John Robbins’ book to be very eye opening. Even though I’m already a vegan, I just want to thank you so much for putting this out there. You, along with many other vegan bloggers I follow, lead by example, and show that veganism is not only tasty, but (in my opinion), the right way to live, ethically and environmentally. I think you’re advice would be just the thing for a mind wanting to know more about our lifestyle.

    I like that you don’t recommend everyone go veggie cold turkey. I actually did it gradually, as that’s what worked for me, but also know many people who just up and stopped eating meat. I think whatever works for you is best, if you are an all or none kind of person, go ‘cold tofu’ as you say, if you’re not a fan of drastic change, do it over time, with no pressure, timelines, any of that, only with the goal of eventually becoming vegan. You won’t set yourself up for failure that way.

    What a great beginner’s guide Katie! You rock!

    🙂

  11. Jess - The Domestic Vegan says:

    What a completely fantastic post!! So comprehensive & interesting. I’ve been asked by a few omnis (and vegetarians) in the past about the benefits of veganism & why I love it so much… I feel like my answers were “good,” but wow–this should be printed on a pamphlet & handed out to anyone at all interested–or not interested (yet). 🙂 I’ve already “converted” (well, okay–had a hand in converting) 3 people (YAY!) to veganism, but this is amazing… I should be pushy & send it out in a mass email to everyone I know. 😉

  12. Cody says:

    Very nice. And as someone who took three months to fully become lacto-ovo, and another four years to manage veganism, I appreciate the fact that you don’t take the ‘one size fits all’ approach. So many people seem to think that zero-to-vegan is the only way to go. I’d admire those who did it, but there’s no reason to make the rest of us feel lazy or weak because we don’t work that way.

  13. DJ says:

    Very Well Put, Katie! As you point out, with so many options available it’s no longer a struggle to be a healthy, well-fed vegan! I mean look at us – we’re all OBSESSED with delicious food!

  14. regina says:

    I will join in with everyone else and say waht a great post! I think I’ll have my omni husband read this. It’s a great reference for anyone interested in becoming veg*n!

  15. Kati says:

    Solid advice – good job! I think the key to sticking with it is finding inspiration through books, websites, and blogs. Also, learning to cook for yourself is empowering no matter what your food preferences are – highly recommend that one.

  16. asmexyhousewife says:

    This is a good post! I like how you suggest to try vegan food that isn’t full of meat replacer. I think if more omnivores realized that a lot of “normal” foods that they probably have every day can easily be vegan-ized, it might not be as scary.

  17. Monika K says:

    Great advice, Katie! I like the idea about gradually eliminating meats and dairy from the diet (particularly for my omni family who have been more than willing to experiment right along with me). You might consider making this post a permanent link on your “sidebar.” Way to go!

  18. VegMomma says:

    Holy hannah banana, Batman!
    Great advice, Katie! I love that you are so not condescending!

  19. Bianca says:

    Yea for veggie advice!

    It took me ten years to go vegan. I actually made the change in celebration of my 10-year vegiversary. I gave up meat at age 14 after spending a week with my Indian friend’s family and eating yummy vegetarian Indian food. I realized that if she and her family could stay away from meat, so could I.

    Then 3 years ago, at age 24, I decided it was time to make the next step to veganism. Now, I can’t imagine how I ever ate cheese or drank milk!

    BTW, I just found out recently that Auntie Anne’s pretzels were vegan. I’d always assumed they were not, but I asked at the mall one day. It made me so happy! Thanks for reminding me. I think I’ll go get one this weekend!

  20. ChocolateCoveredVegan says:

    Cecilia,

    Haha, if you already like soymilk, then you have the hardest part done already ;o).

    Here are two vegan-friendly blogs (one is vegan, the other is mostly-vegan) that I read from people who live in Australia: http://travelingvegan.blogspot.com/
    and
    http://vegetationramblings.blogspot.com/

    Maybe they can be more helpful in sharing places to find products!

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