Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Going Vegan

I haven’t been vegan for that long, but here are a couple of tips that I found to be helpful.

1. You have to cook. If you don’t cook now, you’ll need to learn – even if you just learn to make a few things. If you don’t, you’ll either starve, or you’ll spend a small fortune eating expensive pre-made vegan foods. Seriously. If you live in the US, you live in a vegan unfriendly culture. Even restaurants in liberal cities like Portland can be tough. So learn to cook. It’s an awesome hobby and will save you a lot of money.
2. Give it time. It took me 10 months of eating mostly vegetarian to move to vegan. If you try to go from a hardcore meat diet to complete veganism overnight, you’ll have a difficult time because it’s a big change. You need to give a vegan diet at least a month. Your cravings for meat and fat will gradually diminish, but you need to give it all time.
3. Eat a wide variety of food. You can get all the nutrients you need on a vegan diet, but you may need to eat a wide variety of food in order to do it. If nothing else, it also keeps your food life interesting.
4. Find some foods you can make quickly when you’re starving. You always need something you can make when you’re blind with hunger. I can make miso soup in 20 minutes, but I can also make hash browns from frozen potatoes in 10 minutes. Hardcore foodies would claim that the miso soup is superior because it’s from scratch and it’s “real food” but sometimes I’m so hungry that I can’t wait the extra 10 minutes – and who said that hash browns aren’t real food?
5. Similarly, find snack foods, particularly portable ones, which you can eat. Fresh fruit (bananas are incredibly portable), fruit cups, chocolate soy milk, crackers, whatever. Most fast food places and convenience stores aren’t vegan friendly, so plan ahead and bring a snack.
6. Go ethnic. A lot of ethnic food is either vegan or can be adapted easily. Asian and Indian are pretty good choices (although watch for meat stock in Chinese, fish sauce in Thai and Vietnamese, and dairy in Indian). German? Not quite as easy, but there’s still spaetzle. Ethnic restaurants are also a good choice if you go out with friends. Ethnic grocers are often great places for cheap spices, beans, grains, etc. Got questions? Ask - most of places are happy to explain things to people who are genuinely interested.
7. It’s OK to feel a little smug in the grocery store because it keeps you on track. I hesitated to add this, but I think it’s true. Look at the crap that other people are buying and feel good that you no longer eat that way. But keep your smugness to yourself and keep your mouth shut, because the world hates self-righteous vegans. Plus it is obnoxious and not a very nice thing to do.
8. Some people will never understand and will think you’re completely crazy. You can list a dozen health and environmental benefits but they won’t care. For a lot of people veganism is akin to new age mysticism and is practiced only by unwashed hippies and nothing will ever change their minds. And while there are some vegans who fit that description closely (and who annoy me as well), most of us aren’t like that. There’s nothing you can do about this except to take solace in the fact that their end of the spectrum includes Weston Price, Ted Nugent, and climate change deniers. No one has a monopoly on lunacy.

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