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Omnivores and 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 Over 500 Healthy & Vegan 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 to 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! 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!

Published on January 6, 2010

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  1. Jenny says

    What a wonderful post! I’m so glad you put this up again 🙂 I’ve been a vegetarian for a year now and on Jan 1st I decided to challenge myself to 30 days of going Vegan. 6 Days in now and I feel wonderful! I plan to continue after the 30 days!

    I love your blog 🙂

  2. Casey says

    Thank you for the thoughtful info Katie! I’ve never really thought about going vegan, but you present it in a tactful, knoweledgeable way. I might start thinking about the whole thing. Love your blog! 🙂

  3. Serena says

    Personally I don’t like soy milk that much but I love almond milk.
    I have also tried hemp milk but it has a very distinctive taste.
    I also LOVE the So Delicious ice cream bars dipped in chocolate and if you haven’t tried Coconut Bliss, you MUST:

  4. Serena says

    I also wanted to add that one of the worst things a new vegan/ veggie can do is try to replace all of their old faves with fake meat (you touched upon this already)
    It’s one thing enjoying fake meat for what it is, but you won’t get the same taste as your old fave dish…instead experiment with pure veggie stuff…plus, fake meat is really processed so i only eat it sparingly.

  5. Leah says

    Great post! I love that you tell about brands that you like, because I think it can be overwhelming for someone new to eating things like veggie burgers, to try and pick from the plethora of brands that a place like Whole Foods offers. I totally agree with you about tofutti ice cream too haha, my favorite is actually Good Kharma Rice Divine…its soo creamy!

  6. Quix says

    I am about as far from veganism as can be, but I have found that I don’t mind a meal or two a week without meat doesn’t kill me, which is a new revelation to me! I also wanted to chime in that the whole mindset of enjoying meatless things differently is huge. Zliten used to snub his nose at them when I brought them in the house, but now as long as we call them veggie patties and he thinks of them as a different type of sandwich and not a burger replacement, he actually likes them.

  7. Chrysta says

    Awesome post sweetie. I really love all the amazing information that you put out there. Im excited for vegan thursdays. Im thinking I might possibly try making some sort of “meaty” dish using a portabella. Grill it up maybe over zucchini still thinking about what I want. So many choices! lol. Hope your keeping warm down in Texas girl!! =) xoxox!

  8. Angela says

    I have fallen in love with So Delicious Coconut Milk Beverages and Coffee Creamer. (Especially the vanilla!) I used to use Pearl Soymilk and Almond Breeze, but the coconut milk beverages and creamer make my chai taste uber delicious!

  9. Bianca- Vegan Crunk says

    Great advice Katie! I went veg in middle school too. I think it’s probably easier then…when you’re all strong-willed and set to save the world. I guess I’m still like that now…but way more cynical.

  10. JoLynn-dreaminitvegan says

    Great idea for Vegan Thursdays Katie. Also you gave a great explanation about being vegan and how not everyone can make the switch overnight.

    Nice to mention the protein thing about leeching calcium from the bones and make sure you mention that it’s animal protein that does this. Maybe you did and I just read it wrong. Oh well I think you did a real nice job with the letter.

  11. Stef @ moretolifethanlettuce says

    you have a great way of expressing your views without them ever seeming holier-than-thou, so no worries on that front! vegan thursday is only one day away 🙂

  12. erintakescontrol says

    That, in no way, shape, or form, came off as “holier than thou” – just so you know! I love this post! Thank you for re-pubbing it!

  13. MaryZ says

    Great info! I have been tinkering with vegetarinism for the past 6 mths. I’m joining you for Vegan Thursdays! Can you give me some ideas for vegan chocolate…I can’t live with out a bite or two of chocolate. (I’m sure you have answered this before, so I appreciate your response!)

  14. ohhmay says

    I think tomorrow (as long as I have time!!) I’m going to make a vegan soup for everyone for dinner and then vegan cheesecake for dessert… (I have some ideas with nut yeast! ;-))

  15. Lexi says

    Loved the post rewrite! So much helpful information. For Vegan Thursday, I’m thinking I want to try making fudge babies!! I never have, so it will be a fun challenge! Hopefully I’ll have time!


  16. Michal says

    I love vegan thursdays! I think ill make some tasty new creation… but it will have to start next week since i work tomorrow! Oh and you know whats funny, I just watched Its a Wonderful Life for the first time the other day with my mom 🙂 It was really cute I liked it a lot.

  17. Trail says

    Thanks for reposting this! I think you covered some great things. I technically can’t say I’m going cold-turkey on meat because I’ve faced a few situations where I either had to get meat or not eat, but those have been my only lapses. Still, I can’t say that I’ve missed it at all. I may miss dairy more when I’m ready to transition on to vegan (see my 1/5 post about detoxing from cheese!), but one step at a time.

    As I help Irish ease into a meatless diet, I’ll certainly keep in mind your tips on not saying it tastes “just like…”

    Two questions I’m hoping you might be able to help with:
    1) Why do so many vegans seem to avoid soy? From what you know, is it a taste preference or a health concern?
    2) Any thoughts on affordable alternatives to cheese and yogurt? (As I said, Irish is a big dairy addict!)
    Thanks as always for your great info and for your help!

  18. Margie says

    I’m going to plan my meals ahead of time to keep me on track. I decided to go vegan as much as possible for the entire month of January. I’ve been wanting to try, but I never buckled down and actually did it. It will be fun!

  19. Leng says

    Hi Katie! It’s been a while. I’ve missed you!

    This was a great post, even though it was recycled. 😀

    I too, gave up meat cold turkey. I didn’t have any cravings though…I guess I got lucky, but ice cream and some cheeses are hard for me to give up. I have tried going vegan many times, but to no avail. I guess It’s just not meant to be for now…I’d love to go for Vegan Thursdays. Is it too late to join in?

  20. Marissa says

    I am not vegan but I don’t do dairy, and don’t do eggs unless I know the chickens personally (and know they are treated the way I feel they should be). My boyfriend doesn’t do dairy or eggs (same thing) but he also doesn’t eat fish (like I do) so things got a little more complicated.

    For instance, it’s very hard to identify if a wine or beer is vegan if it isn’t on the online list.

    Very frustrating!

  21. Melissa says

    Vegan Thursdays (or whatever day we choose) sounds great! I’ll have to mention this idea on my blog. Love your blog, Katie!

  22. Bobbi says

    So I have been considering becoming vegan for quite some time. A couple things have been holding me back though. I feel like it would be expensive to be vegan and get the right nutrients. I also don’t have much time to cook because I am in college and working. Any suggestions?

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