First of all… HAPPY NEW YEAR! I hope you had a fabulous end of the year and that you’re having an even better beginning of this one! Right before going vegan, taking real steps towards this way of living was my New Year’s resolution. There I was thinking I would finally watch the images I hadn’t wanted to before, read a few more books and slowly begin to make some changes in what I ate. I thought the road would be long, hard and far away. Little did I know, that 17 days into the year I would already be 100% vegan (which by the way means I have a vegan birthday coming up!). The truth is, and you’ve heard me say this a hundred times before, that the road to veganism was exciting, delicious, simple and completely natural. Nothing felt forced to me or made me think twice about moving forward and making better choices with each passing day. The truth is that what I learned when I was researching the ‘why vegan‘ was so shocking and horrifying, that anything that would help me move away from all that pain and suffering my habits were causing others and the planet (not to mention my health) felt like the right thing to do. It felt natural, it felt kind and I welcomed it. I was ready to do whatever I had to. When I began, I had no idea where to start, what to read or what to cook. I didn’t have a single vegan friend to ask questions to, I didn’t even know that there were these awesome little stores that had basically everything I needed. I was going on this journey on my own, with only the company of authors, podcasters, bloggers and speakers to guide my way. But here’s the thing… you don’t have to because that’s why I’m here!
Since January is the month of new beginnings for many of us, I thought we would start the year off with some helpful tips to guide all of you awesome new veggies along the way. By ‘tips for new vegans’ I mean tips for anyone who is thinking of making a change, taking baby steps towards it, those who tried last year and took a few steps back, those who are already fully committed, and even those of you who haven’t really considered it, but somehow got here and are wondering what all the ruckus is about. I’ll guide you through the top 10 tips that helped me in the beginning, and I’ll also link to some of our previous posts that address why this is such a significant change for your health, the planet and of course, our beloved animals. Let’s get to it shall we?
Tip number 10: Find your way to transition
For some of us transitioning took place in a matter of days and some might have even made a drastic change overnight. For others, transitioning might be a bit more of a process and that’s ok. Many people decide to start changing their dairy for non dairy options and then move on to replacing meat, poultry and fish. Others might have done it the other way around, starting by becoming vegetarian and then removing dairy and eggs from their diet. Some start by eating vegan at home and then venture out to being vegan 100%. Some eat vegan on some days and slowly start increasing the frequency until they’re completely there. Whatever seems doable for you, that’s where you should start. Removing these foods from your diet completely is not as difficult as it seems, perhaps the most difficult thing about being vegan is dealing with the social aspects of this change, and I don’t mean that you won’t find what to eat in restaurants because you will! I mean dealing with people’s reactions and opinions regarding your choices. We’ll talk about this in a separate post because there’s just so much to say, but know that removing these products is really fun and exciting when you’re motivated and you’re replacing them with vegan yummies (and trust me, there’s a replacement for everything!). Having said this, for those of you who feel going all the way at once is too much, take it a step at a time, a day at a time and don’t feel bad about it. Remember you’re changing a lifetime of habits here, be proud of yourself and simply strive to make better and bigger changes as often as you can until you get there. If leaving sushi behind scares the ‘tempeh’ out of you (non vegan sushi that is, because of course you’ll still eat sushi!), then start somewhere else and give it up last. Find your way to transition, keep going further and you’ll be there in the blink of an eye!
Tip number 9: Visit a health food store
The first bookI ever read on veganism was Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet. I remember opening the book a few years before going vegan, trying a couple of recipes, loving them, but then getting stuck because I couldn’t find any of the ingredients. Tempeh? Silken tofu? Non dairy butter? Agave what? Quinoa?!!! What in the world??!! Turns out, there are these little magical stores that sell everything you’ll ever need and more, they are called health food stores. These are stores that cater not only to vegans but to macrobiotics, vegetarians or people who want to buy more whole food ingredients. You still need to check labels though because not everything is necessarily vegan. Here you can buy veggie burgers, whole grains, spices, nondairy milks, non dairy butter, nuts and seeds, whole grain breads and flours, dried and canned beans, tofu, tempeh, seitan, and so many other goodies. Some of the bigger stores have all of the crazy delicious foods like vegan sausages, vegan roasts, non dairy ice cream, vegan cheeses, the sky is the limit really! If you live in a city that only has the basics, don’t worry, you can still be a joyful vegan that eats nothing but wonderful goodies all year round. Since finding these stores and understanding what these ingredients were, Alicia’s book and I, and many other books for that matter, have enjoyed an awesome love affair that will last a lifetime.
Tip number 8: Visit a farmer’s market
May I present the Disneyland for vegans! I know the supermarket has almost everything you can imagine when it comes to produce. But trust me on this one, go to a farmer’s market at least once a month, or do your regular shopping there if the one near you is affordable. It’s one of my favorite parts of the week and I get so inspired and feel the bounty of what a vegan diet really is. You might want to check out this post regarding some farmer’s market shopping tips.
Tip number 7: Use happycow.net and try a vegan restaurant
Happycow.net will be your new best friend! Do a search for your city and find all the vegan, vegetarian and veg friendly restaurants and stores near you. Go to a vegan restaurant if you have one in your city, and feel the joy of being able to pick anything from the menu. Try different dishes and discover your favorite flavor combinations and textures for these new foods. If there isn’t a vegan restaurant near you, every single vegetarian restaurant I’ve ever been to has vegan options clearly marked on the menu. Go and indulge yourself, remember, this new way of life deserves as many treats and pampering as you can give it!
Tip number 6: Be a detective
I want you to become a little vegan detective. This includes keeping a watchful eye, wearing a cute looking detective hat (figuratively or literally!) and even some serious spying. What do I mean by that? I mean I want you to go to stores, supermarkets and restaurants and be on the hunt for vegan food. I want you to see how abundant vegan food really is, and how many of the foods we call ‘normal’ are actually vegan! Go to restaurants and even if you’re simply going to have a cup of coffee with soy milk, ask for the menu and find what things you could order or easily make vegan if requested. I want you to go to your favorite sections in the supermarket and do the same. I want you to read some labels and take a mental note of all the yummy foods that are vegan. Take a stroll down a big health food store and see what items are vegan. Then I want you to go online and find some of the big old time famous vegan restaurants (do a little search online for this or use happycow.com) and simply read their menu. This will open your mind to all the many wonderful possibilities and combinations and will help you let go of ‘the center of the plate syndrome’ (I talk about that a bit more here). Be a detective. Just as beauty and love are there when you’re ready to look, so are delicious vegan foods and options, anywhere and everywhere.
Tip number 5: The kitchen is a mysterious place but it will not kill you: Watch the vegans cook and try a new recipe
Time to get those shoes out of oven storage and get your Top Chef on! If you’re a cook, great, this tip will be a snap for you. If you’re not, you’re not alone. So many people hardly ever step foot in the kitchen other than to make a bowl of cereal or their morning latte. Don’t worry, but don’t take this as an irremovable fact either. Cooking can be as simple or as elaborate as you need it to, and it can make your new vegan life so much more enjoyable and easy! If you’re new to cooking, I recommend the two things that helped me when I started cooking many moons ago, watch some vegan cooking shows on youtube (do a simple search for ‘vegan recipes’ or ‘vegan cooking’ or search for your favorite cook book authors), and second, try one recipe. When you’ve made it, try another. Our blog is full of them in the recipe section, all with a step by step format with pictures perfect for newbies. I also want to let you kitchen virgins know, that vegan cooking is SO MUCH EASIER than meat based cooking! There’s no serving a chicken raw or a fish over cooked, there’s no washing of the carcass which makes almost everyone uncomfortable (hmm.. I wonder why that is?). Vegan cooking is easy, special and down to earth, you will love it once you simply get to know it.
Tip number 4: Dive into whole foods, indulge in some transition foods
In order to have incredible and radiant health, get all your nutrients as a vegan, get your energy levels through the roof and feel all the hundreds of health benefits that can come from a vegan diet, you want to make whole foods the foundation of your diet. Just to give you some examples, lettuce, broccoli, brown rice, potatoes, beans, lentils, mushrooms, fruits and all natural foods that grow from the ground are all whole foods. Brown rice is more of a whole food compared to white rice, so favor brown. Wheat in itself is more a whole food than the bread or noodles made out of it, so opt for the original grain when possible, and enjoy the whole grain varieties of yummy breads and pastas too (remember white is out!). The actual soy bean is more of a whole food than tempeh, tempeh is more of a whole food than tofu and soy milk. It doesn’t mean you can’t have plant based milks and grain products, it just means that whenever possible prefer the whole food, and then enjoy the rest. Then we move into the subject of transitional foods. This doesn’t mean you won’t be able to have these after being vegan for a while, you’ll be able to enjoy anything that is vegan, again, it just means that the whole foods are better for you, and that then you can indulge in these sparingly. I’m talking about the vegan mock meats, vegan ‘chicken’ vegan ‘ribs’, vegan ‘beef tips’, we even have vegan calamari and shrimp alternatives! I still eat these whenever I feel like it, but I just like to be aware that these are processed foods and that the natural whole foods are better for you on a day to day basis. These are great for transitioning, though, especially the vegan sausages and cheeses! Yum!
Tip number 3: B12… B-protected (and important information about supplements)
Once you’re vegan, there is one supplement you absolutely need to take, and some you might want to read up on and consider. That supplement is the elusive B12 vitamin. By no means does this imply that a vegan diet is lacking in nutrition or is somehow incomplete. We go into the nutrient side of things more deeply here and will do so again in a new post soon, but just as a brief summary, B12 isn’t a plant based vitamin nor is it an animal based vitamin. It comes from bacteria. We used to get it through veggies when our soils weren’t so depleted and full of pesticides. Animals get it from the soil and from bacteria in their gut, and you used to get it from them, but now, as opposed to not washing your veggies and being exposed to all the farming chemicals in the soil, the easiest way to get this essential nutrient is to take a supplement. Find a great source of how much to take through this link. B12 deficiency is a serious matter and can cause irreversible damage to the body, so take your B12 and B-protected! It causes no harm and any excess amounts will be excreted through the urine.
There are other supplements you may wish to consider, such as vitamin D if you don’t get enough sun exposure daily, and possibly a vegan source of DHA and EPA supplement (these are two essential fatty acids the body needs). These can be avoided if you eat ground flaxseeds daily, about 1 tablespoon (the body transforms the fatty acids found in flaxseeds into EPA and DHA), or if you have a regular intake of sea vegetables (which is where the fish get these essential acids). I take a supplement about twice a week just in case I’m not getting enough from the diet (we don’t eat 100% varied or ideal every day right?), some people do a month of taking DHA daily every few months. I found a great one that has EPA, DHA and Vitamin D all in one little vegan capsule, which simply means I take vitamin B12 twice a week and one capsule containing EPA, DHA and vitamin D two or three times a week. I’ll leave you with some resources on the subject and we’ll have another post on this soon (click here for our first one). Whether you decide to take DHA or other supplements or not, B12 is essential, and according to some sources is really all you need if you have a very varied diet and get enough sun. Don’t forget to eat those flaxseeds even if you take the supplement! It’s choc full of health benefits. Please take note of the fact that I’m not a doctor or nutritionist, I’m simply pointing you to the information that help me out in the beginning and showing you what I take on a weekly basis, so please do a little reading, watching and listening with the resources below and be well informed when choosing if and how to supplement your diet.
– Watch Dr. Michael Greger talking about essential supplements here and here, and a little about DHA here. Browse the supplement section of his website for many more videos and information on vegan health including the latest research.
– Nutritionist Jack Norris has this incredible website dedicated to answering your questions when it comes to supplements and individual nutrients: veganhealth,org His books are also highly recommended.
– Listen to this great podcast episode by Colleen Patrick Goudreau titled “The Safety of Supplements”
– There are many great books on the subject of vegan nutrition such as Vegan for Life by Jack Norris and Virginia Messina, Vegan for Her by Virginia Messina and JL Fields and Becoming Vegan by Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina and many others.
Tip number 2: Start listening to the Vegetarian Food For Thought Podcast and if possible, take the ’30 Day Vegan Challenge’
This one is by far one of my most recommended tips. Colleen Patrick Gouddreau is to me one of the most reliable sources of information and inspiration. Through her incredible podcast which you can find free on itunes and through her website, you’ll hear her talk about the animals, the environment, our health, delicious food ideas, tips for being a joyful and social vegan and possibly anything and everything you might ever need to know to help you on your journey. You will feel connected to other vegans who send her letters which she reads on the podcast, you will have so many questions answered and you will feel less alone if quite possibly you’re the only vegan you know. It’s a lifesaver and I urge you to get to know her work. If you want a more hands on and personalized experience, you might also enjoy her ’30 Day Vegan Challenge’ online program, which is absolutely worth every single penny. Take a look at what that is here, and find the podcast here.
Tip number 1: Find your ‘Why’
This tip is number one for a reason. Have you ever wondered why it is that diets never seem to stick? For me, it was because I never not wanted to eat ice cream and pizza and cake. I always craved it, always felt like having just a little. We try but we fail because the ‘want’ is bigger than the payoff at some point or another. Here’s why going vegan was different for me (and please note that I’m not comparing veganism to a weight loss diet in itself, only as a change of habits). I had read, watched and dug deep into so much information regarding our treatment of the animals, the effects of animal agriculture on our environment and the massive negative effects that eating meat and dairy has on our health, that I simply didn’t want to eat those products anymore. If I craved something, I found a vegan substitute that would have a similar texture and flavor which usually did the trick, because going back and eating the actual animal or animal product just didn’t fly. I didn’t feel like buying it, or cooking it, or eating it. Soon I found vegan versions of my favorite dishes and I never looked back. When you get in touch with ‘your why’, making a change becomes so easy. For me, that ‘why’, was mainly our treatment of the animals. What I saw and what I read, made me not want to continue supporting, much less feeding my body with these products. For this, I recommend so many resources, that I’ve created two sections for them on the blog: ‘I feel like reading‘ and ‘I feel like watching‘. They include free videos and material you can find online, or books and movies you can buy or rent online. If there are only two films that I recommend you start with, it’s ‘Forks Over Knives‘ for the effects an animal based diet has on our health, and ‘Vegucated‘ for the ‘why vegan’ and the ‘how vegan’ and everything surrounding the reasons for making this choice. If you’re feeling very brave, take it one step further and watch ‘Earthlings‘. This is a very tough one, but if you’re here and you’re reading this, perhaps you’re stronger and braver than you think you are. Find your why, and dig in, no matter what it is, it will give you the greatest support of all on this incredible and magical journey to better health and a kinder and less violent planet.
I’ll see you soon with more goodies for the new vegan. In the meantime…
Some of our previous posts regarding beginning your vegan journey are:
– The Social Aspects of Being Vegan (and all of our Vegan Social 101 series… find it in the Going Veggie section)
– From Meat Eater to Vegan and Everything in Between (my personal story)
– More posts in our ‘Going Veggie’ section
UPDATE AND NEWS!
After several years blogging here at Little Green Kettle, we’ve made the blog bigger and better! Meet our new blog everyone!: www.brownble.com