Veganism is often defined by what we don’t eat: Meat, fish, eggs, and dairy, plus some of the animal ingredients that are hidden away in products, such as whey (from milk) and gelatin (from animal bones).
But really, we should focus on all the great stuff that vegans do eat. And in reality, the difference isn’t all that huge. Instead of meaty burgers, sausage, and steaks, we eat plant-based versions. Instead of dairy cheese on a pizza or cows’ milk in our coffee, we choose the plant-based versions. For almost every animal-derived ingredient and product, there is now a vegan alternative, and this means that a vegan’s meal may look and taste exactly like a non-vegan’s meal, it just doesn’t come with the animal suffering, or the same environmental impact.
Don’t wake up on the first day of your vegan adventure without having thought about what you might eat! That is the absolute quickest way to fall off the wagon. Ahead of time, have a think about your first day’s meals and buy non-dairy milk for your coffee or tea, some dairy-free butter for toast, and something tasty for your lunch and dinner.
Some people find making a weekly meal planner helpful, so they always know what they need to shop for and what they will be eating. Here are some ideas to get you started.
Toast – with vegan butter, peanut butter, jam, hummus, avocado, sliced tomato, or dairy-free cheese
Oatmeal – with your choice of plant-based milk. Add seeds, nuts, and fruits
Breakfast cereals or granola – with dairy-free milk or yogurt. Add seeds, nuts, and fruit
All-American – vegan sausages and bacon, scrambled tofu, hash browns or homefries, toast
Tea, coffee, and fruit juice
Soup and roll – homemade or store-bought
Sandwiches and wraps – vegan BLT; PB & J; deli slices, hummus and veggie, or make a delicious vegan chickpea “tuna” salad
Pasta salad or a hot pasta dish
Baked potato with dairy-free cheese and/or chili
Sushi – homemade or shop-bought
Tacos filled with vegetarian refried beans, veggies, salsa, guacamole, and dairy-free cheese
Pizza – with vegan cheese, sausage or pepperoni, sundried tomatoes, basil, artichoke, olives, pineapple, or jalapeños
Spaghetti Bolognese – made with lentils or meatless crumbles, or a combination
Curry – Thai, Indonesian, Indian, Bangladeshi, or ‘veganize’ your old favorite recipe
Burger – in a bun with a fresh green salad
Chili non carne with corn chips
Burrito filled with rice, beans or meatless crumbles, dairy-free cheese or sour cream, and avocado
There are so many everyday foods that just happen to be vegan, so open up your cupboard and take a look. Pasta, rice, peanut butter, most breads, canned tomatoes, chickpeas and kidney beans, jam and jelly, coconut milk, curry pastes, marinara, canned beans, many chips, crackers, and cookies, herbs and spices, many instant soups, tea, coffee, and fruit juice… There is a good chance that half the foods you already eat are vegan!
There is no need to reinvent your eating habits completely. If you like a sausage sandwich, have one – just make sure the sausages are vegan. If you want ice cream, go ahead. There are dozens of different delicious flavors out there. You can have almost everything you had before in a vegan version, so just switch like for like.
Again, there is no need to adopt a whole new eating regimen. If your signature dish is lasagna, make a vegan version with meatless crumbles and vegan cheese. If you love a big all-American breakfast, you can make it with vegan bacon and sausages. Whether you cook curries, casseroles, soups, stews, chilis, stir-fry, cakes, desserts, or anything else, simply veganize it.
Many people find that becoming vegan opens up a whole new world of recipes and ingredients, and rekindles their love of great food. Once you’ve got the hang of the basics, why not jump in and try some brand-new recipes (there are thousands online) and see if it ignites your culinary passions?
Don’t get caught empty-handed! It’s really easy to pick up vegan snacks in most places but not everywhere, so make sure you keep a bag of nuts, a chocolate bar, or some fruit in your bag or car just in case.
Not every vegan product will work for you, but just because the first cheese you try or the first latte you make doesn’t hit the spot, don’t rule out all other non-dairy cheeses and milks. There are so many different ones to try – cream cheese, melty cheeses, nut-based, coconut-based, soy-based, all flavors and lots of different brands and styles; and as for milks, you’ll find oat, hemp, almond, coconut, rice, and soy. Try them all, and you will soon find your perfect match.
Like eating out? Download the HappyCow app onto your phone and let it guide you to your nearest restaurant, café, or shop where you can find vegan food wherever you are in the world.
It’s easy to feel isolated as a new vegan but there are millions of us out here. Find your local vegan meetup group and make like-minded friends virtually or in real life or search online for vegan groups that interest you. From vegan runners to bakers to knitters; from vegan weightlifters to fashionistas to activists. They’re all there waiting for you.
Everyone makes mistakes. Whether you ate something non-vegan accidentally or simply gave in to temptation, it’s OK. It doesn’t mean you are no longer vegan; it just means you are human! Chalk it up to experience and move forward.
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