Have I ever mentioned that I love your emails? Because I do. Especially emails like this one from Olivia. I thought her question was such a good one that I decided to share it here, just in case someone else is curious about adopting a vegan diet. If you are a vegan, or a vegetarian, and have advice -- please leave it in the comments for future readers (and Olivia!). Thanks!
"Hi Lindsay. I was always weary of going vegan because even though I *love* to cook, I always thought making vegan dishes had to be difficult! This was until I found your recipes! Everything is so simple and fast!! Anyway, I decided to go full force vegan for 30 days. Since you really did (or your recipes did anyway) play a major part in my decision I wanted to ask you if you had any advice. Maybe like a top 10 list of things you can recommend?" - Olivia
Olivia's feelings are something I can relate to. When I first went vegan I so intimidated. I freaked out over the long list of ingredients in my new vegan cookbooks (some I'd never heard of before in my life) and the 2-hour start-to-finish recipes. Heck, I felt intimidated recently when I read the Kind Diet and I've been a vegan for three years! Even just last week I had to google 'raw carrageenan' because it was called for in a recipe and I had no idea what the hell it was (& I'm still confused).
This makes me sad because I think a lot of people see these kinds of vegan recipes or books and think veganism is unattainable or expensive or both... I'm hoping with my cookbook and this blog I can prove that being vegan and eating healthfully is very easy, attainable, affordable and yes, delicious! I really tried to prove this with my cookbook. I took care to make recipes that use common, ordinary ingredients, recipes that whip up in 30 minutes or less, recipes that are easy to make but still kick-ass delicious (and healthy!). I try to follow this approach here on happyherbivore, too, but sometimes I get lost and caught up in the more complex dishes...
That said, here are my top 10 suggestions!
- Find a good "milk" substitute. Try all the kinds, all the brands. Sweetened plain almond milk tends to be popular among new vegans.
- Eat as much as you want of anything while you adjust. If you want a vegan cookie, have a vegan cookie. Let yourself off the hook this first month. Adjusting to a new diet and way of thinking is hard enough. Don't try to also hold yourself to a strict or restrictive diet. If you're worried about weight gain, exercise.
- Have a laundry list of 10-25 recipes that are easy to make. Pick ones you've had before or ones you know you'll like. Keep the ingredients for those recipes on hand.
- Make meals that yield leftovers like lasagna rolls, red lentil dal and chickpea noodle soup.
- Have a well-stocked pantry and fridge of basic like wraps, refried beans, beans, salsa, instant brown rice, frozen veggies and pasta. Remember that meals don't have to be complex. Slap beans and salsa into a wrap. Combine equal parts soy sauce and sugar and mix it with cooked stir-fry veggies and rice.
- If you really liked meat or cheese get yourself some fake stuff. I lived on Boca burgers at first, I'm not ashamed to admit that. Heck, I still eat fake meat and cheese from time to time. Gardein, Field Roast, Gardenburger, Yves... and Daiya! All good stuff.
- Network! Start a blog, join online veg groups -- make friends through social networks... build an online community of friends you can swap recipes with, ask questions and talk to. Most vegans are really welcoming and happy to meet new people. I know I am!
- Try new things every week-- at least one! whether it's something you've never had before like tempeh or something you previously disliked. Before I was a vegan I *hated* mushrooms and now they're one of my favorite foods.
- Examine cravings. Is your body asking for a nutrient (iron, calcium, protein) that you're simply associating with animal products or is it more mental and you're looking for a comfort food. Even people who are not typically emotional eaters can get mentally-charged cravings.
- Stash vegan food everywhere -- your locker, purse, car, desk at work -- over load it so you're never without options. Know where Subways are at all times, too! if possible too!
Lastly, ENJOY IT! If you go in happy, full of optimism believing that you will love it, succeed at it and have a great experience... you will!
(My friend Carrie also wrote a wonderful post with 7 other tips! A must read!)
... and if you ever have a question for me and you're shy about it, you can ask me anything anonymously!
I'll be hosting a LIVE Interview about a low fat vegan diet -- plus talking about my story tomorrow on HHTV! Questions are welcome! Ask me via email, facebook, twitter or anonymously!