Tips for New Vegans: A Post for Sara

Last week I received an email titled: "Help! I don't know where to begin!" from a woman named Sara. Sara is very interested in going vegan, but feels like she needs some guidance and advice for how to start. I know everyone is different and everyone has their own idea of what might be helpful, so I am inviting you all to please leave comments and share your tips for Sara in case they can assist her in getting where she wants to be.

So to kick it off, I will start with some of my own tips.

1) Right away it is helpful to know that going vegan is not about what you can't eat; it's about what you CAN eat! There is so much lovely and amazing food out there, and going vegan has really expanded my food knowledge and flavor experiences. When you view the world through this new lens you will begin to see just how many new and wonderful food-related experiences await you! (A couple of years ago, I gave a talk at Village Books and touched on this a little. I am posting my Powerpoint slides above, and included in them are just a few pictures of some of the delicious vegan food I have enjoyed.)

2) If you are looking for some inspiration, check out the variety of fun vegan blogs that exist online. There are so many vegan "foodies" now eager to share their culinary expertise and serving up fabulous ideas for new food adventures.  Also, it can be fun to watch an inspiring film, like Forks Over Knives, to learn more about some of the health benefits of going vegan.

3) Keep in mind that anything that is different or new to you may seem hard when you first consider it. BUT, this does not mean it is hard once you actually try it. I think it is natural to feel as though making a big change is daunting, but often once you try something out, you will discover it's  a lot easier than you originally thought it would be--especially if you shift your frame of reference to one where you are focusing on all that you are gaining rather than thinking about what you are "giving up." (Again, I really believe veganism is not about sacrificing anything--it's about enjoying food and life even more!)

4) When thinking about literally where to start: take it meal by meal. Start with what you want to eat today and think about what would make it vegan. If you can make the time to cook and you enjoy cooking (or you can learn to enjoy cooking), I think you will get more satisfaction from your food. There is something really satisfying about creating a delicious meal from ingredients you choose and put together yourself. If you are new to cooking, start small. Pick a dish you  are already familiar with that you like and figure out how to "veganize" it. Look online for recipes or check out some cookbooks for inspiration. (The public library has some great vegan cookbooks).

5) Know that you are not alone. You may be the only vegan you know right now, but trust me, there are a lot of us out there! And if you want to meet some of us, come to the potluck next Saturday! It is always so much fun to connect with other vegans and have positive, stimulating, and  food-centric conversations!

What else? I know you guys have some other great tips for Sara. Leave a comment if you can and share your advice!


Elizabeth said…
I went vegan for a week to see what it was like. At the end of that week I felt better than I had I felt in a long time--so I knew this was what I wanted to do. Clarissa asked me how it was and I told her it was easier yet still difficult--all at the same time. The difficulty was the disruption in my convenience foods: grabbing a muffin when I was running late and whatnot. But now? I don't even think about it.

Do what you can. And if you need to, ease into it. This will give you time to adjust, figure out alternatives, and whatnot. I thought it was be much more difficult than it was, and in the last almost five years, I've gotten to the point where I don't even think about it anymore.
loumura said…
I've been a strict organic vegan for a year, 3 months, 2 weeks and 4 days :)! I've been told it's normal for many of us to obsess the first year or so about food and go through a challenging stage until it gets more familiar. I sure have! First realize that there are a lot of UNHEALTHY vegans out there, so please think about it before you jump in or you'll end up living on vegan snack foods and gaining weight and feeling puny! I also was disappointed initially by many recipes that didn't turn out, and being one who loves to cook, I decided to take a little different approach which might work for some of you. Take a recipe you already make for dinner. For example: Tacos tonight? Put all the usual stuff in them (tomatoes, olives, cabbage or lettuce) except omit the sour cream, cheese and meat. Replace these with mashed sweet potatoes, sliced avocado and some black beans and corn. I saute some onions and peppers, stir in the corn and beans and you have a nice mix to put on your shell. The mashed potatoes keeps it moist. Since my husband isn't vegan, it allows us to still eat essentially the same basic meals. Oatmeal for breakfast? Toss 2 or 3 tablespoons of chia and hemp seeds on it, fruit like blueberries or raspberries and some rice or almond milk. This way you get the protein. I carry some raw mixed nuts in my purse for emergencies. I'd like to say it is easy to convert but it wasn't for me. We are a huge minority so it helps to have a commitment to the reasons you chose to go vegan in the first place as this gets you through the adjustment period. The hardest part is eating out. I have lost interest in doing so as variety is so hard to find. We need to get more vegan chefs. because I hate to say it, conventional chefs hearts don't seem to be in it! I recently had to eat out for 4 nights on a business trip with my husband and they were told ahead of time to prepare vegan dinners for me. Guess what? Spinach salad with raspberry vinaigrette, quinoa with Portabella mushrooms and black beans all 4 nights with minimal adjustments/changes and no imagination so I felt like I was eating the same stuff every night which essentially I was! There is a huge opportunity for variety with vegan cooking, but it's going to take a long time before you find it in restaurants. So, start small, read a lot on line about vegan cooking and get familiar with all the foods you never knew existed. It really can be satisfying and you know you are doing your part in protecting animals, the environment and your health! Clarissa is right when she says you need to think about all the foods you CAN eat and are available to you. I'm still a vegan work in progress!