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!
Hi, everyone! I went vegetarian about 3 months ago, and honestly, it was a piece of cake. I never ate a lot of meat, and once I denied my favorite sausage EVER, I was set and ready to go. I don't even miss it. I plan to ease into being a vegan, with time, by trying vegan recipes and using substitutes. Alright, that was my intro. After I became vegetarian, I told my sister, and she said she wants to become a vegetarian too, but she has iron deficiency. Ironically, same with my best friend. The best way to get iron is through red meat. What should they do?
you should really let people post at the top instead of the bottom. I had to scroll through a lot of stuff to get here
Going vegan is something I've thought about for years, but that's as far as I'd ever gotten with it, was just thinking about it. Now I am ready to dive in and go fully vegan. Mostly for ethical reasons, but I am so nervous. I don't want to answer a million questions from people, when I'm new to it myself! I'm going to try to just not tell anyone I"m vegan until I"m comfortable talking about it. I think what's holding me back the most is just the fact that I"m going to have to try a bunch of weird expensive ingredients, and live on salads. I"m going to be so bored and starving! I've tried looking up vegan recipes on Pinterest but they are so overwhelming, like I said strange and expensive, hard to find ingredients! So I'm going to keep it simple and try to just eat fruit and salad. What's your tips on controlling my appetite?
Sam Turnbull says
Congrats, Serena! You can find my recipes here. While some of them are more complex, many of them are super easy and quick using ingredients you can find at your local grocery store. Other than oil, the most calorie-dense foods are usually meat and cheese. So when you switch to a vegan diet which is often high in fiber and water and low in calories, it is easy to accidentally under eat. You may find that you feel hungry, tired, or light-headed, but these are not symptoms of protein deficiency, these are symptoms of calorie deficiency. So make sure you eat enough and go back for seconds and thirds if need be, Enjoy!
Just read this. I have been vegan for almost 5 years (and following you for most of them) and this is the best list I've read so far. So many of the "What not to do..." lists on the web are just about keeping your mouth shut. Letting people know their tastebuds will change is the best advice I know. We're not unhappy with our food - we LOVE it.
You do a great job, Sam. Thanks. (I always go to you for comfort food.)
Sam Turnbull says
Aww thank you so much, Bethery!! Appreciate your comments as always 🙂
I am so glad I came across your blog, granted a few months ago - but this post I came across last night and just now read all the comments and blog post. I had been Vegan on and off for about three years now and each time it's three months then I stop. I would like not to stop anymore. What would you recommend in being Vegan and living in a meat household? It isn't really a bad thing, I can find things to eat (i.e beans, veggie burgers, apples and other fruit/veggies, oatmeal) but the biggest deal is protein. My mom mostly - I understand because I am her child and she wants what is best for me - but how can I get it to be a full yes not a yes to change to no within a few days? I will be going on a vacation by myself to family soon and there I will be Vegan for a week. I'm hoping I can help her understand that this isn't a bad thing when I get back. Otherwise I push through even more for another 2-5 years.
Sorry for this long comment, I am always asking people this question and my story. It feels good to have different opinions every now and then.
Sam Turnbull says
HI Marissa! So glad you are enjoying my blog. A vegan diet contains more protein than you could even need, so it's actually not something you need to worry about at all. I recommend showing your mom this little video by Dr. Michael Gregor (his entire site and book are amazing). I also recommend checking out the book Proteinaholic and the documentaries Forks Over Knives and What the Health. Both are availabe on Netflix if you have that. I hope that helps!
NERISSA KUENY says
I had the same problem with my family and i supiment protein now. Protein smoothing in the morning and I add the flavorless protein to soups, dressings, and sauces. 🙂 the one i use only has 3 ingredients
What brought me to this article is that I don't know how to balance my passion for animals and the environment with my understanding for other people's choices. I find myself so disgusted seeing meat and watching people eat it that it ellicits such a strong emotional response from me. And when people talk about animals in a derogatory way, I feel my heart start pounding and my face getting red, as if I'm ready to fight or something! I feel that this keeps me from having productive conversations with people when they share their opinion about it. I usually avoid them! I've been trying my best to be polite and understand that I was once a meat eater too like you mention in your article, but sometimes it just feels as if I just care so much about animal rights and the global warming that my emotions just take control. 99% of the time I have kept these angry emotions to myself because I know they will not be received well, but I hate feeling like this! Those times that i did get angry at people make me feel shameful and just mean. It seems like I battle with this issue everyday and I need help bc it's tearing me apart a little :'( How do i share my passion without being called a crazy vegan? How do i understand and be okay with something I know causes so much pain? To my core, I feel that factory farming is wrong so how do I act like it's not all around me when people are eating burgers and egg sandwiches without a second thought? I know whoever reading this is probably like "girl, just get a hold of yourself!!". Anyway, I just had to share that because I feel like I can't talk about this with anyone out of fear of being judged.
I am also debating on whether or not to even go to my sister's house for the super bowl as friends and family will be over and I will be the only vegan. It's just so awkward sometimes being the only one because people start asking me questions and it makes me feel very uncomfortable because I'm scared that I may say something rude or arrogant.
How can I explain my diet to people without offending them? People always ask me why I'm vegan. What I want to say is: "Because I don't want to eat a tortured slaughtered dead piece of an animal that spent it's whole life suffering just so I can have a few minutes of pleasure. And because it's disgustung." I feel like such a bad person that i get angry at others for eating meat. I feel stupid, judgemental, unloving and like I put others down. I usually just end up saying something about the conditions of factory farms and then something about global warming while hoping more people don't gather around me and join the convo (which I feel like would be other vegan ppls dream). I think in reality, what I end up saying to people is very lukewarm, but I guess it's all the feelings I hold inside that are driving me crazy.
Sam Turnbull says
Hi Jennifer! So sorry that you are having a hard time. I totally understand where you are coming from, once you know the truth, it can be quite upsetting to see the mass amounts of animal-cruelty surrounding you on a daily basis. I learned over time that the best way to plant seeds about veganism is to not alienate, but relate. So here are my tips: Always remember that you too used to eat meat. Probably because it was the way you were brought up, it was normal, and you didn't know better. Keep that in mind and think about how you would have felt if someone started telling you that your choices were cruel, unhealthy, and bad for the environment. I'm sure you can imagine your automatic reaction would be defensive, right? So instead, try to talk about your own experiences instead of just general statements which can come off as accusatory. When you talk about yourself and your own experiences, no one can argue with it. So, for example, as opposed to saying "veganism is healthier than a meat-based diet, and killing animals is wrong". I would say something along the lines of "when I went vegan I felt so much healthier, and it felt so nice knowing I wasn't contributing to animal suffering anymore". Do you see how I'm basically saying the same thing, but I've taken the blame out of it? When you talk about your own story and your own experiences they can't be argued with, and it won't feel like an attack to the other person so they are more likely to hear what you are saying. So, when you say that eating meat is disgusting, it almost feels like an attack and my guess is the automatic reaction from most people would to be offended and angry. How would have you feel if someone had told you your food is disgusting, probably defensive right? Instead of saying meat is disgusting, say something along the lines of "and then I realized that I was literally eating a dead body and that seemed really gross to me all of a sudden". You can talk about everything you want to say, but just talk about it from your own experience. This will hopefully make it easier to talk about, and easier for people to listen to and hopefully plant some seeds. And of course, keep in mind that you don't have to talk about it if you don't want to. If someone asks you about it and you don't want to engage, just say something along the lines of "I'm really loving being vegan, but I don't really feel like discussing it right now, I just want to enjoy my snack and watch the football, but if you are interested to learn more, I can send you some info, or can recommend some documentaries on Netflix". I hope that helps a little and you are able to have a better time with these discussions. 🙂
Wow, that's really helpful advice. I never thought of that approach before. I'm definitely going to try it the next time I'm in that situation. It actually feels very liberating to know that there is a way I can express myself honestly without eliciting conflict or causing others to feel negatively (which had always made me feel the worst about it all).
There are so many documentaries about veganism but none of them tell you how to go back into the world of omnivores and steakhouses and deal with all of your newfound emotions. I think it definitely felt like a catch 22 where if I was standing up for my beliefs, I was hurting people I cared about, but If I didn't, it felt like I was turning my back on the animals. Thank you so much for your advice. It was really helpful. 🙂 I honestly wish this kind of thing was discussed more in the vegan community.
Sam Turnbull says
Yay! So happy I could help, Jennifer. I also recommend checking out Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's podcast, she talks a bit about this stuff. 🙂
Susan Thornton says
I went vegan for the same reasons you have, and I truly understand how you feel. Unfortunately, the hardest lesson for me to learn was that we can't control other people's actions, only our own. This means to me that the best way to change the world starts with my little corner of it. Instead of condemning those around me who don't seem to care about the plight of the animals being raised for food and food products, I decided to lead by example. If I try a new recipe, I offer it to friends to try. I don't harp on the fact that it's vegan. I have found that, in order to get results, it is necessary to be (or appear to be) understanding of others' positions. I am just so much happier that, at the end of the day, I can sleep better knowing that I am not supporting the inhumanity in the food chain anymore. Try to take solace in that.