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Curious about Veganism?

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 google 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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Published on February 22, 2008

Meet Katie

Chocolate Covered Katie is one of the top 25 food websites in America, and Katie has been 
featured on The 
Today Show, CNN, 
Fox, The 
Huffington Post, and 
ABC's 5 O’Clock News. Her favorite food is chocolate, and she believes in eating dessert every single day.

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  1. Sarah Lang says

    Hi Katie! I really appreciate this post. I became a lacto-ovo-vegetarian back in November of last fall, and I’ve toyed with the idea of veganism. I haven’t been able to let go of my dairy and eggs, but I haven’t eaten meat or seafood in 5 months, and really don’t have any future desire to do so. When thinking about veganism, there have just been a couple things that have held me back from converting over.

    1) I’m a junior in college, with 3 more years of school ahead of me. However, I feel that the healthier I eat, the more expensive my grocery bill becomes! At Wegmans (my local grocery store), I asked the cashier, “Anything on Shopper’s Club?” and their response was, “No, you eat too healthy to get the Shopper’s Club savings.” EXACT WORDS. It seems that the healthier, clean, whole, natural, RAW foods are more expensive, while the processed, cheap, crap that can sit on the shelf for millions of years and not go bad is buy one get one free, 50% off, etc. etc. etc. I guess what I’m saying is that I’m afraid of going vegan because of how much more expensive my grocery bill could be! For example, my eggs for breakfast are so cheap! I would need to replace it with something like a tofu scramble I suppose. Vegan options just seem much more expensive which is disheartening!

    2) Some social situations are already so difficult being vegetarian! My boyfriend is VERY tolerant and even made me homemade eggplant parm for me for Valentine’s Day, and will happily eat veggie stir fry, cauliflower pizza, or other vegetarian-friendly options when we cook together. But sometimes, literally the only thing I can order off a menu is the chef salad and a side of cottage cheese, because every single menu item contains meat and/or seafood. People that I am close to think about my vegetarianism and take it into consideration when preparing meals or planning events, but it’s those spur-of-the-moment trips to a chicken wing joint that leave my stomach grumbling.

    I guess my question to you would be – how do you keep a fulfilling and healthy vegan diet without going bankrupt? What are some of your staples that are cheap and easy to keep around the house? And what are your best tactics for dealing with tricky social situations?

    Your blog is such an inspiration to me! I have combed through your site with a fine-tooth comb, made so many of the recipes, and share them with others. I don’t eat meat or seafood, and almost always drink almond milk rather than dairy. I hope that my efforts as a vegetarian are still admirable even though I’m not a complete vegan, and I really value your insight, opinions, and sharing of your personal experiences!

    Thank you 🙂

  2. Keila says

    Hello!

    Thank you so much, this article was extremely helpful. I am new to veganism (as of January this year), although I do “cheat” every once in awhile. This is because at school, there are very few food options. I was wondering if you knew or had any ideas of how to make the transition easier for a college student. I was wondering if you know of any cheap, easy, meals, with ingredients that I could keep in my fridge and make when the school has no other options. Perhaps a series of meals that all include the same approximate ingredients.

    I love that you have such a positive view on food. It is very refreshing.

    Thank you very much for your consideration,

    Keila

  3. Caitlin says

    Katie, I’m really inspired by your story. Over the past couple of years, from learning about animal testing and the downfalls of meats and dairy, it’s really made me want to become vegan, or vegetarian to start. I’ve become lactose intolerant and I’ve never liked eggs so how far off is it?

  4. Ryann says

    HI Katie,

    You have a great blog, I’m so glad to find so many vegan recipes in one place!
    I’m newly vegan and am looking for a great soy-free non-gmo meal replacement powder and was wondering if you’ve tried Vega One and, if so, what you thought of it. Any other tips on getting enough vitamins/fats/protein would be greatly appreciated!

    Thanks!
    Ryann

  5. trajayjay says

    Some vegans annoy me because they act like eggs are really bad for you. They claim that they are too high in cholesterol (the link b/t dietary and blood cholesterol has been delegitimized) and too high in saturated fat (they only have 1.5 g per egg).

    They also say that they have no fiber, and are therefor bad. But, we like fiber because it slows down the absorption of carbs. And this is especially important because we all know how high in carbs eggs are *sarcasm*. And unless you are only eating eggs, you can get enough fiber from other food sources. In fact, no foods contain all the necessary nutrients.

    They, according to them are also too high in protein and will give you kidney disease. Once again, that’s only if you eat too many.

    You, I actually respect, because you don’t demonize anyone else’s eating habits, and you’re not snobby about other people’s diets.

  6. Bethany says

    Hey Katie!
    So I am very interested in becoming vegan, but I’m not sure my parents would let me. You see I am almost 16 and I live with my parents, and in the past I have struggled with anorexia, I eat a lot now. I have a very fast metabolism and I find myself eating unhealthy foods in order to not lose weight. So I guess my question is do you have any suggestions for talking to my parents about becoming vegan? I really want to be healthy, I have danced since I was 5 and dream about doing it professionally. I think becoming vegan would be very good for that because it would help me to stay healthy, and eat healthy.
    Okay so I probably gave more information than you needed, but any advice you could give me, or anyone else could give would be amazing!
    Thanks so much!
    Bethany

  7. Ruth says

    Wish I could be vegetarian/vegan but my parents wouldn’t let me because they’d say I would get too thin and my sister doesn’t like me being healthy (she actually said that, yes, it ‘worries’ her) Any tips?

  8. collee says

    Hi, Katie:
    I am trying to alter the Salad Nicoise to be vegetarian/vegan?
    The salad includes tuna, egg, anchovies, and capers. The rest is vegetable. I don’t have much luck using tofu and the cheese or meat substitutes have too much salt.
    Thanks. C

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