Recently, many people in my life have transitioned to being vegan, especially after watching “Forks over Knives.” A lot of them have come to me for advise because I guess I’m the wise vegan. The truth is, there are lots of times when I struggle to be a healthy vegan. In the beginning, I was very careful and I rarely ate any of the processed foods. Now, I have changed into being a bit lazier. I realize that this is somewhat opposite of most people, but we’ll get to that.
This “page” of the website will be a bit of work-in-progress. I’m not going to give you THE only 10 steps to becoming vegan or THE most important nutrient you need. There are some general and specific aspects of transitioning to veganism. Here is my go at it:
Where to start?
So you want to be vegan. Chances are you’ve been vegetarian, but for some of you this is completely foreign territory. Either way, you have to start at the root of it: your kitchen.
Yes, it sounds so simple doesn’t it? A while ago, I read a book by Victoria Boutenko called 12 Steps to Raw Foods: How to end your dependency on cooked food, where she talks about the day she decided her whole family was going raw and she rampaged her kitchen throwing out every item from the fridge, freezer, and cupboards. Now, I would not go that far, but if you have non-vegan items feel free to give them to a women’s shelter or a school with a lunch program in need of donations. The bottom line is that you need to get it out of your kitchen.
Then there’s the grocery store. Personally, I LOVE food shopping. Since being vegan, it has become one of my favourite and most calming places. I have my list of needed staples and I try to keep specific meals in mind as I am selecting the ingredients. It’s good fun! One part about grocery shopping as a vegan that is not really good fun is reading labels. Being vegan makes one a proficient label-reader. You must watch labels carefully to make sure you don’t accidentally get something that has “casein” or “milk ingredients” in them. More about labels in a bit.
Every kitchen and every person has their own list of staples, as is the same with any household omnivore or herbivore. Here is a list of my staples:
- brown rice
- soy milk
- peanut butter
- vegan margarine (Earth Balance or Becel’s vegan marg)
- Braggs’ soy sauce
- frozen strawberries/fruit
- other green veggies
- olive oil
- balsamic vinegar
With these staples, I can eat well for two weeks at least! And good meals too. I’ll get specific on that probably in a blog post, which I will put links to at the end of this “page.”
How I created my list of staple foods is by trying out recipes. I highly recommend How it all Vegan by Sarah Kramer & Tanya Barnard as a good place to start with awesome recipes. They have great ideas for awesome dishes. I still go back to that cookbook regularly, at least once every two weeks. Once I found some meals I liked to make, I made sure I had those ingredients around. After a while, I started making my own meals and varying the ingredients I used. It’s a process to make your list of staples, but it’s important to start the process and to think about it.
How to tell your family
Whether you live with your parents or have been gone from home for a long time or have a family of your own, you will need to tell them sometime. It took my family many years and many tears for them to accept me. Yes, TEARS! People are very attached to their food and food is often seen as a lifestyle; I believe that many people take it personally when someone chooses to be vegan, especially family. It’s like a rejection of their lifestyle that they have perhaps unknowingly accepted with little though. You might make them think and that might upset them. It seems like I’m preparing you for the worst-case scenario, that’s probably because that’s what I went through. Every family gathering, holiday meal, and birthday for many years was a struggle. I have heard that other people’s families were much more accepting. I hope that for you.
So I didn’t really answer the question, did I? If I were to do it all over again, I would make a meal, invite my family over and tell them that what they just ate was 100% vegan that is the kind of food that you eat now. Then you will inevitably be answering these questions….
Why are you vegan?
One of the first questions anyone asks me, family or otherwise, is WHY are you vegan. I hate that question. I do. I have answered this question so much that I am just sick and tired of it. I wish I could go to someone who I hardly know at a restaurant and ask them why they eat meat. Guaranteed their answer is not nearly as thought-out or carefully prepared as mine. Usually people volunteer it by saying, “I just love the taste.” Seriously? You want me to spill out my philosophy on life and the world and how that is reflected in the foods I choose to put in my body, and all you can come up with is “I like meat.” It is just so unfair. Anyway, that’s my little rant. Just be prepared for this question. A lot. I have often thought about carrying a card or something explaining my reasons (health, environment, animal welfare, and my belief that animals are not on earth solely to serve humans)
What do you eat?
When I first became vegan and old friend from high school was SHOCKED that I didn’t eat any meat, dairy, or eggs. She went through her entire day’s worth of food in her head and would ask me, “Can you eat *insert food*?” And I would answer her. Then she asked me so what DO you eat? In that instance, I did go through my day’s food consumption, but only because she had done it for me. I don’t really do that anymore. Depending on how tired I am of this question, I will either shrug and say “lots of things” or go into a bit of an explanation about the foods that I generally eat.
Dear Lord/heavenly body that is supposed to do something, I am also tired of talking about protein. “Where do you get your protein?” OMG! People do NOT believe me when I inform them that the average North American consumes an average of 5 times too much protein every day! This is scientific fact – and it’s hard on the body to digest and process all that extra protein. And when was the last time anyone ever heard of a protein deficiency? I’ve never heard of such a thing and if there was, you can guarantee someone would have sent it to me. Protein is not as big an issue as some of the other nutrients like the B-vitamins, iron and calcium.