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SundayKittens's avatar

What's your best advice for a new vegan?

Asked by SundayKittens (5814 points ) July 26th, 2011

I love a good meat joke…but save it. I need serious advice from a vegan POV.
I am a new vegan smack in America’s heartland with a cynical sensibility. In other words, I’ve quadrupled the difficulty of this venture. I need some words from my fellow Jelly vegans! Vegllys…

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13 Answers

tom_g's avatar

Was a vegetarian for 9 years (and vegan for a part of that). The only advice I can give you is: don’t justify your eating habits to anyone, unless you enjoy a nice argument and have the time. Come up with a stock line and stick to it.

syz's avatar

Did you start out vegetarian and go vegan? Vegan is an order of magnitude more difficult, in my opinion. If you’re just starting out, you may want to start with gradually eliminating meat from your diet, giving yourself time to find substitutes that you like and that satisfy your appetite and your protein needs. A minority of people have GI issues when switching to a vegetarian diet, too, so a gradual switch may help with the initial bloating, gas, or cramping (I never had any of those issues, but I’ve talked to folks who did). Once you’re comfortable with a vegetarian diet and know that you’ve found a healthy balance, then it may be easier to start elimination things like eggs, milk, and cheese.

It’s certainly easier these days to switch to a selective diet, whatever you choose. There are more commercial products and a wider acceptance now than there has ever been.

Seelix's avatar

I’m not vegan or even vegetarian, but an issue that my vegan/veggie friends have faced often is protein and other vitamins. Make sure you’re getting enough protein, and popping a multivitamin every day won’t hurt.

SundayKittens's avatar

I dived in cold tofurkey…I had to. I’m all or nothin’. Thanks for the info so far, guys!

zenvelo's avatar

Get some cookbooks that provide a variety of recipes that aren’t too difficult to prepare. It’s a matter of keeping yourself from getting bored.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Go see a vegan nutritionist – she was supremely helpful in getting our family off on the right track. We have all been vegan for over a year and a half now.

marinelife's avatar

Here is a collection of the best vegan blogs. It should serve as a resource for you for recipes, tips, etc.

Schroedes13's avatar

Don’t eat meat! The end!

desiree333's avatar

I am a vegetarian, not a vegan but I sometimes go vegan for a week to cut down all animal products I consume.

My best advice would be to try not to persuade meat-eaters into becoming vegetarian/vegan. Also, do not criticize their eating habits. If someone wants to change their lifestyle all they need is information, not pressure from us. Oh, and you might want to get some iron supplements and make sure to eat plenty of spinach and oatmeal (good sources of iron). I had lots of trouble keeping my iron level up.

Anemone's avatar

I am vegan, and have been for almost nine years. My best advice for starting out is so be gentle on yourself. Stick to your principles, but undertsnad that you will make mistakes—like not checking an ingredients list carefully, not knowing that a certain ingredient is animal-derived, or getting caught off-guard in a situation that makes you choose to compromise. When things like that happen, think about what to do differently the next time, then forgive yourself and get on with life. No one is perfect, and being vegan is more a process than an end-result.

Also, if you haven’t already read them, I’d recommend a few books which I sill find helpful: Becoming Vegan by Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina, The Vegan Sourcebook by Joanne Stepaniak and , and Living Among Meat-Eaters by Carol J. Adams. They are all good references about living life as a vegan.

Also, it might help to keep in mind that it definitely gets easier as you go along! Being vegan can be difficult at first, but you settle into it after a while and it just becomes second-nature.

Kardamom's avatar

I’m not a vegan, but I’ve been a vegetarian for over 20 years. Hopefully some of my experiences will come in handy for you.

Learn how to read labels carefully. Find out what all of the weird unknown animals products are often called and sometimes hidden in ingredients lists (like casein, chochineal, carmine, whey, rennet, gelatin etc.)

Learn how to read recipes thoroughly and learn how to cook, because you will be doing most of your food prep yourself. Even if you want to eat out at restaurants, unless you are planning to dine at vegan restaurants, you will have a very difficult time eating out (even bread has eggs, and most desserts and vegetarian entrees usually have dairy products in them).

Be prepared to be have people look at you with sympathy and/or disgust when they find out you are a vegan. And expect lots of embarrassing, awkward personal questions. And some just plain ignorant questions. Try to figure out what your pat answers will be ahead of time so that you are not caught off guard or end up feeling crappy or have to try to explain too much to people who really don’t care (but it’s like looking at a car crash for them, they can’t help it). Be prepared for some people to ask you if you are sickly, or have anorexia.

Learn all you can about all of the foods that are available for you to eat and overcome your aversions to certain foods that you thought you never liked before. Many new foods are an acquired taste and can take about 5 times of tasting them before you actually acquire a taste for them. Do not become what I like to call a “Cheetos Vegan”. That’s the kind of person who is super picky and not very health conscious and only eats a limited, mostly junkie diet. That is the type of diet that will indeed lead you to becoming sickly.

Make it a point to start going to farmers markets and specialty produce grocery stores and ethnic grocery stores. You will find vegetables that you never even thought of before, and many times (especially at Asian grocery stores) there’s a much wider variety of items available at a much lower price. I had a field day recently in our local Korean grocery store. I thought I had died and gone to mushroom heaven. I’d never seen that many kinds of mushrooms before, and for really good prices.

Know that you will probably have to pay premium prices for vegan convenience foods. Whole Foods Market is great and has lots of options for vegans, but it is very epensive. Learning to cook, and learning to use cost effective ingredients is a good idea. I have learned to love kale for instance and can prepare it in many ways and it’s one of the superfoods (nutrient dense).

Find out what super foods are and which vegan foods are the most nutrient dense. Vegetarian Times magazine or their online site has lots of info about that subject. There are also many books that tell you what’s good and better to eat.

Learn how to cook larger meals that can be frozen to eat later. Pretty much no one else but you is going to want to eat your vegan food.

Come up with a few signature vegan potluck dishes that regular people will like and actually eat. Otherwise, if you bring a dish of tofu sprinkled with nutritional yeast to a potluck, it will sit un-eaten. Better to bring something like my favorite cold soba noodle salad with peanut butter dressing

Plan to eat before you go to a party, or a wedding or any other type of social event where food will be served unless you know exactly what will be served, or you are likely to go hungry.

If a hostess asks you if you have any dietary needs, let them know politely and discreetly that you are a vegan and what that means (most people will assume that you eat chicken, fish, cheese and eggs). If a hostess does not ask you, then ask the hostess if she would like you to bring a dish to share with everybody, letting her know that you are a vegan (and what that means) and that you don’t want anyone to go to any special trouble for you. If she tells you not to worry that will be something for you to eat you can pretty much assume the opposite of that. Eat ahead of time and always, always, always keep nutrition bars and nuts in your bag (or in your car).

Learn to be able to graciously get out of attending lots of social engagements where a meal will be served (unless it’s your immediate family) unless you want to be the center of attention and have people feel sorry for you, or embarrassed that they didn’t understand what vegan meant or make long winded public apologies to you or have to watch people run back into their kitchen to “find something for you to eat” with a look of anxiety and sorrow on their face. If you already suffer from any degree of social anxiety, becoming a vegan will put you front and center in rooms full of strangers and forgetful relatives.

Know that some of your relatives will actually be heart broken and/or offended at Thanksgiving when you show up, being all vegan-like. And know that there will likely be chicken broth in the stuffing and bacon in the green bean casserole and potato salad, and butter on the potatoes and meat in the gravy and eggs in the bread and ham in any kind of soup or salad that might be served. Your best bet is to eat ahead of time and offer to bring a dish (but make sure that it is something that won’t horrify or disgust everyone, which can be quite a daunting task). And know that at least one of your relatives will get drunk and regale you with his story about eating cuys on his trip to South America.

Other than when it’s necessary to bring up the fact that you are a vegan, learn to keep that fact a little bit quiet. Some people will want to tell you how foolish and wrong you are and let you know that their family is proud of eating meat and running a cattle ranch/fishery/poultry farm etc. and they can’t imagine how anyone could live like you do because they would simply die if they had to live like that because they love meat and their family is a family of meat eaters.

Read, read, read up about nutrition and how to get proper nutrition through a vegan diet. The hardest thing to get for vegans is protein, so find out where it is (tofu, whole grains, sea vegetables, beans, nuts etc.) and make sure that you get enough. Again, DO NOT allow yourself to become a Cheetos Vegan!

Know that there are not many complete proteins in any one vegan item. Tofu and quinoa are two things that are complete proteins. You will need to learn to combine proteins, like rice and beans etc. Get at least one good book on vegan nutrition and find out as much information as you can about being a vegan. Make it easy on youself, don’t find out stuff the hard way.

Decide in your own mind why you want to be a vegan. Then come up with a polite, short phrase that sums it up for people who ask. Because, believe me, people will ask. If you want, you can let them know that your choice to become a vegan is very personal and a lot like religion or politics, it’s something that you’d prefer to keep private. Know that some people will demand an aswer. If you don’t want to get into it too deepy, or cause a big argument, just let them know that you have personal reasons for wanting to become a vegan and it’s the right thing for you although it might not be the right thing for anyone else. There are no black and white answers, but you are doing the best that you can, whilst trying to stay true to your beliefs.

Good luck and let me know if you need any good recipes : )

zenvelo's avatar

If you ever make it to San Francisco, try Millennium Restaurant . Strictly vegan but the most amazing dishes. Take a look at their sampel menus, it gives you inspiration for what you can prepare.

@Kardamom I wish I could give you more than 1 GA!

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