So You Wanna Go Vegan?
First off, congratulations for making the best decision you could ever possibly make for your health, the planet, and the animals we share our earth with. You will feel better, lose weight, and have a more positive outlook on life. No guilty conscience from contributing to the death and torture of innocent creatures. If you want to learn more about animal cruelty in all areas (slaughterhouses, circuses, fishing, etc…), I highly recommend watching the documentary Earthlings. It is available in its entirety on youtube.com. Everyone needs to watch that film and be aware of what is actually happening to thousands of innocent animals daily that we can prevent by going vegan.
While the vegan lifestyle is not difficult to maintain, it does take a bit of planning and research to do it the right way.
Vegan Health, Nutrition, and Lifestyle Books:
The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone
Veganist by Kathy Freston
Becoming Vegan: The Complete Guide to Adopting a Healthy Plant-Based Diet by Brenda David and Vessanto Melina
The China Study by T. Colin Campbell
What is the wrong way to eat a vegan diet?
The wrong way to eat as a vegan is to rely solely on frozen soy faux meat replacements, junk food, sugars, etc…You can be a vegan and still be unhealthy. Soda is vegan, but that doesn’t make it a healthy choice. To fully embrace and enjoy eating as a vegan, you need to learn about what foods fuel your body and make it run its best. Not simply what is convenient or easy because convenience foods can still lead to obesity, illness, and fatigue. These are the symptoms that many new vegans attribute to their new diet, and not to the overly processed diet they are eating.
What can I eat?
If you going to be a healthy vegan, you will need to cook your own foods. You do not need to be intimidated by the kitchen or think that vegan food is “weird” or simply consists of salads. You can eat all of the foods you love: burgers, pasta, chili, smoothies, trail mix, burritos, etc… Just veganize it! Most of the food we already eat is vegan. The trick is to find easy and tasty vegan recipes. Something fun I like to do is take an old favorite and veganize it. It usually ends up tasting better than the original because as a vegan, you become more sensitive to spices and seasonings. Your palette expands as you begin to explore vegan recipes from cultures all around the world. If anything, as a vegan you will eat a more exciting and varied diet than ever before.
For free vegan recipes to get you started right away, check out vegweb.com! Here are a few of my personal favorite from that site:
Tandoori Seitan: http://vegweb.com/index.php?topic=14249.0
Spicy Carrot and Coconut Milk Soup: http://vegweb.com/index.php?topic=28908.0
Easy West African Peanut Soup: http://vegweb.com/index.php?topic=10092.0
Eggplant Lasagna: http://vegweb.com/index.php?topic=6093.0
Spinach and Basic Tofu “Ricotta” Shells: http://vegweb.com/index.php?topic=13949.0
Vegan Cookbook Suggestions:
Veganomicon by Isa Chandra and Terry Hope Romero
Vegan With a Vengeance by Isa Chandra and Terry Hope Romero
Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Chandra and Terry Hope Romero
The 30 Minute Vegan by Mark Rennfield and Jennifer Murray
Get It Ripe: A Fresh Take on Vegan Cooking and Living by Jae Steele
Vegan on the Cheap: Great Recipes and Simple Strategies That Save You Time and Money by Robin Robertson
Supermarket Vegan by Donna Klein
The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions by Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman
Vegan baking is also simple. You don’t need eggs, butter, or dairy of any kind to make tasty cakes, brownies cookies, breads, or pizza dough. Many different kinds of bread can be found in your local bakery if you take the time to look through the labels!
What are some essentials in a basic “vegan pantry”?
Grains-100% Wheat Semolina Pasta (no eggs), white rice, brown rice, quinoa, bulgar wheat, quick oats, wild rice, jasmine rice, sticky rice
Spices and Herbs- Rosemary, Oregano, Ground Pepper, Sea Salt, Cumin, Paprika, Curry Powder, Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, All Spice, Chili Powder, Red Pepper Flakes, Cinnamon, Basil, caraway seeds, ground thyme, sesame seeds, Chinese 5 Spice, Ground Ginger
Oils- Canola Oil, Olive Oil, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Sesame Oil, Hot Oil
Bagged/Canned Good- diced tomatoes, olives, chipotle peppers, chiles, coconut milk, black beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, red beans, lentils, sunflower seeds, cashews, panko bread crumbs (vegan), tortillas and taco shells (no lard), peanut butter
Baking- Energ-Egg Replacer, Flaxseeds, whole wheat flour, unbleached all purpose flour, walnuts, pecans, coconut flakes, agave nectar, organic cane sugar, organic brown sugar, molasses, sunspire vegan chocolate chips, Canola Oil, vegetable shortening
Condiments- vegan BBQ sauce, ketchup, mustard (yellow & brown), hot sauce, Annie’s Green Goddess Dressing, vinegrette (vegan), balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar, pickles, jalapenos, strawberry preserve
Once you have a vegan pantry, just stock up on fresh fruits ,veggies, non-dairy milk, and other refrigerated items and you’ll be set to go! Buy what’s in season and locally if you can…you’ll save money and help the planet.
Read your Labels!
Here are some common animal by-products to avoid while shopping at the supermarket (source: http://www.cyberparent.com/eat/hiddenanimalsinfood.htm):
The basic bad boys to avoid: eggs, casein, dairy, meat (of any kind!), rennet, lecithin (can be soy or animal derived), l-cysteine (can be made from human hair or duck feathers), red #4 (carmine, crushed beetle shells), natural flavors (could be anything), gelatin (substance taken from animal hooves), Lactic Acid, Lanolin (sheep wool wax), Oleic acid, Rennet (obtained from a baby calve’s stomach and used to make cheese),
The best way to avoid eating these kinds of foods is to read ingredient labels and limit the amount of processed food you are eating. Make your own food with whole foods like fruits, veggies, nuts, and grains and you can feel comfortable about you meals being vegan and healthy.
What about Vitamin B12?
You are going to get into a debate with several people over this issue when you decide to go vegan. B12 is not necessarily an animal derived vitamin. It comes from micro-organisms in the soil. When the animal eats plants from the soil, they ingest these micro-organisms, so it is a 2nd hand source of B12. We used to be able to get all of the B12 we needed from our veggies because they weren’t as carefully washed as they are today. Unless you grow your own organic foods in your backyard, it is wise to wash your food because of pesticides. You can easily get your B12 by eating fortified cereals and non-dairy milks. Also, Deeva Daily vitamins are a great supplement to the vegan diet and contain the required B12. Nutritional yeast also contains B12.
What vegan and cruelty-free products should I use?
I have a handy, dandy cruelty-free products list (this also includes household cleaning products as well):
I also list some vegan products on my website and I also sell my own line of vegan cosmetics called Pumpkin & Poppy Cosmetics. You can buy my products through my artfire store: http://www.artfire.com/ext/shop/studio/pumpkinandpoppy
The website, leapingbunny.org is another great resource and they have a free iphone app to help you while shopping. Remember to watch out for brands that are involved in 3rd party testing or are owned by a company that tests on animals (The Body Shop is owned by L’oreal, thereby making they non-cruelty-free.)
My favorite vegan hygiene staples:
Kiss my Face Triple Whitening Toothpaste
Kiss My Face Shaving Lotion
Crazy Rumours Lip balm
Eco Lips Bee-Free Lip balm
Nubian Heritage African Black Soap
Out of Africa Vanilla Shea Butter Soap (Walgreens carries this brand)
Dickenson’s Witch Hazel Toner (Walgreens)
Beauty Without Cruetly Rosemary Mint Clarifying Shampoo
Dr. Bronner’s 18 in 1 Castille liquid soaps
Desert Essence- Organics Conditioner for Dry Hair (Coconut)
Alba Leave in Conditioner, Hair Spray
Alba Very Emollient Body Lotion (Fragrance-Free)
Alba Green Tea SPF 45 Natural Sunblock
Crystal Essence Mineral Deoderant Body Spray (Lavender & White Tea)
Jojoba Oil (eye makeup remover)
What can I wear?
Ideally, all of your clothes would be made of organic, non-animal derived sources and made in a sweatshop free envioronment, but this isn’t realistic for most of us. If you are on a tight budget, your best bet is to learn to love thrifting. While it is never okay to buy new leather or wool, if you buy it second hand you are recycling and giving your money to a charitable cause. The animal was already killed and it is wasteful to throw things away. Reusing an item is much better for the earth, and the animals (and our pocket books). Use the money you save from thrifting to to buy other items from ethical and eco-conscious brands if you can. Etsy and Artfire have many artisans that craft lovely vegan items and clothing.
Vegan Glasses, Belts, Purses, & Shoes:
Good luck with your vegan journey and make sure to get involved with the activism side as well! There are so many wonderful vegan and animal rights organizations to support, I’m sure you’ll find one you will donate your time and/or money to.
American Anti-Vivesection Society
Mercy For Animals
Become an ASPCA Guradian
Humane Society International
Speak: The Voice for the Rights of Animals