- Food and Cooking
Vegan for Beginners
Are You Considering Becoming Vegan?
Paul, also known as TheCureForYouthMinistry, tagged me in the Virtual Jenga 2 Quest. He asked me to create a Vegan for Beginners guide. I was both thrilled to participate in this challenge, and very pleased with the chosen topic. I love helping others learn more about the Vegan lifestyle and healthy, animal free food.
I grew up in a Midwest, Meat-Eating family, where every meal consisted of a large serving of meat, along with one vegetable, one potato, and bread and butter. If one did not like the meal on the table, they were welcome to eat the bread and butter. I often ate nothing but potatoes and bread and butter on Keilbasi and Saurkraut nights. At the time, my distain for these meals had nothing to do with animals as I never thought about where my food came from, nor did I ever consider an animal free diet as a viable alternative.
It wasn't until I was an adult and started learning exactly where my food came from, and started seeing pigs and cows as gentle innocent creatures like dogs, that I realized that I could choose to be a vegetarian. I lost the taste for meat immediately and had a strong aversion to anything that looked or smelled like meat right off the bat. I did, however, find that I still missed the mystery meat products like Hot Dogs and Hamburgers. Fortunately, there are plenty of animal free alternatives for those foods.
I was greatly helped on my journey by various books, websites, and guides created to help new vegetarians slowly change their diet from animal focused, to animal free. I hope that this lens will be a jumping off place for others considering going from Omnivore to Herbavore, or for those that would just like to include more animal free options in their diet.
When people ask me why I'm a vegetarian simply say I am an animal lover. I would never consider doing harm to them and there are plenty of non-animal alternatives to eating and wearing animal products.
Steps to Exploring a Vegan Diet
- Replace the dairy in your diet with healthy vegan alternatives. We love Silk soymilk instead of cow's milk, Earth Balance spread is a delicious and heart healthy alternative to butter and margarine. Eggs can be replaced by egg replacers such as Ener-G in baked goods, and we use Nutritional Yeast or Dayia vegan cheese instead of dairy cheese. Most dairy products are very easy to replace, except for cheese, which is often the last animal product vegetarians still eat.
- Replace the meat in your diet with vegetarian versions. Simple swaps include replacing pork bacon with Morningstar veggie bacon, hamburgers with Boca vegan burgers, chicken with Gardein Crispy Tenders, and a meatless marinara sauce or mushroom sauce on pasta is always yummy.
- Pizza is often a big hit with new vegetarians. An easy swap is to simply order a veggie pizza and load it up with the good stuff. Remember, though, that cheesy pizzas can be fattening, even without the greasy pepperoni and sausage, so consider trying Tofurky's Vegan pizza or practice moderation.
- If you don't want to go cold-turkey, start with Meat-Free Mondays, or Meat-Free Weekends, Meat-Free Monday, Wednesday, Friday, etc and work your way up from 1 meatless day to a whole meatless week.
- Explore tasty vegan recipes online. If you are comfortable in the kitchen, you will find a huge assortment of vegan dishes online and in wonderful vegetarian magazines and cookbooks.
Tasty Transitional Foods
These are some of the foods that tend to be popular with new vegetarians and meat eaters interested in adding more meatless meals to their diet.
- Earth Balance
Swapping your regular butter or margarine with vegan Earth Balance is one of the easiest changes you can make toward a vegan diet. Earth Balance is heart healthy, 100% natural, and rich in Omega 3's. It's also a delicious, gult-free spread. Earth Bal
- Field Roast Sauasages
You won't miss pork with these vegan sausages. They have Italian, Chipotle, and Smoked Apple Sage. Crazy delicious. They are perfect for sausage sandwiches, or sliced and added to your entrees. We buy these at Whole Foods.
- Gardein Seven Grain Crispy Tenders
These are a big hit with meat eaters and vegans alike. They are delicious and taste so much like chicken that many people can't tell the difference. These are a healthy alternative to chicken nuggets and kids love them. We find them at Whole Foods an
- Morningstar Veggie Corn Dogs
If you love corn dogs, you will probably love this vegetarian variety. Fans of these corn dogs went wild when they were discontinued some time ago and fortunately they are back again and as popular, as ever. These should be available in most grocery
- Tofurky Deli Slices
Tofurky has a fantastic selection of deli slices that are perfect for anyone that loves a good sandwich. I could live on sandwiches three meals a day and I was in heaven when I discovered these. They taste great and don't include the sodium and nitra
- Vegenaise Eggless Mayonnaise | Follow Your Heart
I was a big fan of Hellmann's Mayo before, but I don't miss it at all, since discovering Veganaise. It's a perfect vegan replacement for mayo and it's just terrific when used in creamy salads like macaroni and potato salad. We find this at Whole Food
- Worthington Veja-Links
Hot Dogs were one food that I really craved after going vegetarian. Veja Links are possibly the best tasting vegetarian hot dogs available. They come in a can, which is nice so they are always on hand. We buy them by the case from Amazon.com. They ar
Veganist - by Kathy Freston
This is a perfect guide to exploring the vegan lifestyle. The author, Kathy, is a long time vegan and gives helpful advice for those considering a vegan diet, or even a vegan-ish diet. Kathy's husband reminds me of my own, in that he follows the vegan diet at home, where she does most of the cooking, but follows a pescatarian diet (eats no meat, other than fish) when eating out at restaurants for business lunches and dinners. This is a very fleible way to approach the subject, regardless of one's motivation
As much as I love cooking, it's also fun to eat out. At first, I was concerned that it would be difficult to find restaurants that serve vegan food, but I quickly learned that most restaurants will gladly suggest vegetarian alternatives both on and off the menu. Fine dining restaurants will generally create something custom for you, especially if you let them know in advance when making your reservation. Casual dining chains are less likely to offer special orders, but more and more of them are including vegan and vegetarian items right on the menu. Family owned restaurants are some of the best places to dine, and most eager to offer alternatives, particularly if you are a regular or call ahead. Asian and Mexican restaurants almost always have a vegetarian section on their menu, or at least offer vegetarian options. I frequently order asian dishes with tofu as a replacement for chicken or beef. Italian restaurants are a favorite, as well. Most Italian restaurants offer a meatless marinara sauce, and it's usually easy to order an entree with vegetables or simply pasta marinara with a hearty garden salad.
The list below includes some of the popular chain restaurants that offer vegetarian items on the menu. If you have additional suggestions, please feel free to mention them in the guestbook below. I'd love to hear them!
- Burger Kingoffers the BK Veggie Burger, which is a nice option for fast food fans. You can top it with all your favorite vegetables and it's quite a nice sandwich. Unfortunately, it's not vegan, but it's a start. They also have good garden salads there.
- Chipotleis vegan friendly, just remember that the pinto beans are made with pork! Update: the pinto beans are no longer made with pork! Order any of the items with black beans, veggies, rice, and salsa. customize as you like and you can enjoy a wonderful veggie burrito, tacos, salad or burrito bowl. Some locations also offer tofu, too!
- Moe's Southwest Grillhas a fantastic vegetarian friendly menu. They not only offer plenty of meatless items with beans and vegetables but they also have organic tofu! I'm a huge fan of tofu and love any restaurant that offers it on the menu. Most Mexican restaurants are a good choice for vegetarians because they usually have a vegetarian section of the menu and the cuisine is rich with meatless dishes. It's always a good idea to ask if the beans are vegetarian because some restaurants may still use pork or lard in their beans.
- Panera Breadhas a variety of vegetarian and vegan items on the menu. Your best bet is to ask for the vegan options when you get there as the menu changes frequently and differs by location. They have super tasty hummus, veggie sandwiches, great salads, and amazing vegetarian soups.
- Red Robinallows one to replace any sandwich on the menu with a Gardenburder or a Boca Vegan burger. I love the Boca burgers and load them up with my favorite veggies and condiments for a fantastic sandwich.
- Ruby Tuesdaymakes their own vegetarian minis that are like vegetarian sliders. They are also one of the few restaurants that has a nice salad bar, which is a perfect meal in itself. I often order the salad bar and a vegetable side dish or two and it's more than enough food.
- Subwayoffers a tasty Veggie Delite sub that you can load up with their fresh veggies and condiments.
- Taco Bellis another favorite with vegetarians. You can customize anything on the menu and the easiest thing to do is to replace the meat with beans on tacos or simply order from the meatless options on the menu.