I've heard from a lot of you that in this beautiful new year of 2014, many plan to go vegan, or part vegan, or just give more veggies a whirl. I want to help. Having gone straight from rare steak eater, to vegan in one night, I assure you, I made many mistakes right off the bat. Hopefully, if I share some of mine, I can help you avoid these deadly sins...ok, they aren't deadly at all, but I think it will make things a little smoother.
Sometimes people are completely baffled as to what I live off of. Others think it must be sooo much work. Once you get used to being vegan, it's really easy. I often compare it to walking. You spend your whole life learning how to walk forwards. If you decide all of a sudden you want to walk sideways, it will be awkward, and you will probably trip a few times, but if you keep doing it, eventually walking sideways will be second nature.....I don't recommend learning to walk sideways and going vegan at the same time. That would really freak your friends out! So anyways, here we go. What NOT to do when going Vegan.
1. Don't throw out all your kitchen gadgets.
Steak knifes, fondu pots, cheese graters, a barbecue, meat slicer, grill pan, you name it! Although a good kitchen cleaning is a great way to start a vegan diet, don't throw out tools! Tools are tools, regardless of their original purpose, they are designed to be useful. They make life easier and, ehem, shall I say "fuss free". They can let you create and explore, and even though some tools intended use is for meat or dairy, you can find many new interesting ways to use them. Barbecue up some mixed veggies, use a meat slicer to evenly slice bananas lengthwise, dehydrate them, and hello banana candy! Before you know it "steak knife" will become tofu package opener, and "cheese grater" will be vegetable shredder.
2. Try not to talk about it too much.
You're excited about your new food adventures. Trust me, I get it! But don't go bragging to your meat eater friends about it... too much. I have noticed that people take food very personally. This is something they enjoy several times daily, so when someone waves their new food morals into your face, it can be annoying. Just wait for the "where do you get your protein questions". See, annoying. You can talk about it, sure, you will probably have to at some point, but just try to keep it simple. Chances are people will be interested anyways, so let them ask the questions. Itching with excitement and just want to tell people? Leave a comment here! The vegan community is very supportive.
3. Don't rudely turn down food.
You ate it a month ago, so when your friend offers you a cheese plate, don't scoff and be disgusted. Just politely say no thank you. Did someone plop down a piece of meat on your plate? Just return the meat to the serving plate. No need to make a big fussy deal. It's new to you. It will take your friends and family a while to get used to it too. To soften the blow, just say that you are currently experimenting with a vegan diet. Friends serving you food aren't trying to be jerks, infact, just the opposite, they are trying to be friends. It's not their job to cook for your diet.
4. Don't live off of salad.
I've gotten questions from new vegans wondering how they could possibly live off of this diet, and when I ask what they are eating, they tell me salad, hummus, and that's about it. Agh! I would be starving! Not to mention bored beyond belief. There are so many delightful things to eat and no need to be that limiting. Dive into vegan pastas, pizzas, sandwiches, soups. Asian food is a great option when on the run, just get the veggie options, and maybe check that there is no egg. Feast yourself galore! Don't deprive yourself. Meat and dairy are much more calorically dense than most vegan foods, so let yourself eat big bowls and plates of food. I almost always go for seconds. You are changing to an all new diet, so let yourself breathe a little. If you come across a vegan cupcake, go for it, want another slice of bread, do it. You are already eating healthier so get comfortable in this diet before considering limiting it even more. Don't forget to check out all my recipes here and give them a go.
5. Don't forget to cook!
Maybe you don't cook a lot, but if vegan is your goal, you will end up cooking often. This doesn't have to be a lot of work. Some people take a couple of hours on a Sunday and prepare large portions of food to last them throughout the week. Others, (like me) tend to cook on the fly. Whatever your style, make sure your kitchen gets some action. Even if you have great options at restaurants around you, nothing beats the price, the taste, and the comfort of a homemade meal. Cooking is even a little less frightening now. No worrying about meat being undercooked or raw eggs in batter. Vegan foods can be eaten at any stage of the cooking process. Pass the cookie dough!
6. Don't be afraid to try new things.
Going vegan is trying a new thing. Many of the dishes that used to be my faves don't even interest me anymore, and instead I have racked up a list of yummy new foods I like to munch on. There are so many awesome fresh fruits and veggies available, don't be afraid to venture away from the basics. If you see someone eating seasoned hemp seeds, have a taste, never heard of seitan? Try that. Seaweed chips? Sure thing. Dragonfuit? In the basket. You probably won't like everything, but you may come across your new favourite.
7. Don't leave the house without snacks.
In the beginning it is tough to know how to find vegan food on the go. Your old snack spots or restaurants may not have a lot of options, so don't get stuck somewhere, starving without anything to eat. I like to always have some fruit, a granola bar or some nuts on hand just in case I get hungry. Prepare some snack bags, and don't leave house without them!
8. Don't be so hard on yourself.
So you had something with cheese, or you ate meat or fish... yeah that isn't what your striving for, but what you are striving for is completely new. It's not about perfection. Your taste buds are learning, old habits are being broken, and that isn't always easy. Do you know that you can literally be addicted to cheese!? It takes about 3 months for your body to completely rid itself of these addictions. I used to be obsessed with cheese, now I don't miss it at all. It will happen! Give yourself some time, and before you know it, you won't even be interested in your old favourites.
I hope these tips have been helpful! I would love to know, what mistakes you made when going vegan? If you are in the process, what are you finding hard? Leave a comment, question, or just say hello!