Though I live in Los Angeles now — the Vegan Wonderland of the US — I didn’t always live in a place where Vegan food was abundant. In Indiana where I grew up, meat-eating was a staple for every meal. Vegetarians were few and far between, and most people didn’t even know what Vegan was, let alone how to pronounce it.
So when I decided to go Vegan, I knew that I was going to face my share of challenges. Between friends, relatives, social pressure, and culture — deciding to eat differently can be hard.
But if you’ve decided that this is the lifestyle for you, great! Let me share some advice to help you on your journey.
Though my first exposure with Veganism was about weight-loss, I quickly learned that it was way more than that. Being Vegan meant that I needed to learn about animal and worker rights, the environment, and nutrition in ways that I never considered before.
All of this might seem overwhelming, but instead I was strangely comforted. I thought I had found a diet, but I had actually found a lifestyle and a cause to fight for.
What are your motivations for wanting to go Vegan? It’s a trendy thing to do right now, and there are more options now than ever before. Whether it’s to lose weight or join a global cause, consider looking deeper into the research that’s behind the word.
There are hundreds of resources online and in print to help you along the way. Two of my essential tools since going Vegan have been reading books and watching YouTube videos.
Below are the resources I’ve used in my research and motivation to continue this journey. There’s quiet a variety. Some are more focused on health, while others are focused on the environment or animal and people rights.
I encourage you to start with one from each category!
I am an all-or-nothing person. I basically gave all of my non-Vegan things to my friends or family and went grocery shopping the same week I watched my first Vegan movie. I just couldn’t stomach eating meat, and dairy made me nauseous to even think about.
But it might be different for you. And that’s totally fine. Take your time. Take it one non-Vegan product at a time for as many weeks as you need. Just keep making progress.
Dairy is usually the last thing people give up when they go Vegan. There’s a reason for that. Dairy is straight-up addicting. It’s also one of the worst things for you. The good news is that there are more Vegan options and recipes that mimic what dairy does. You might have to take the time to experiment, but in the end it’s worth it.
I honestly believe that finding YouTubers who I could look up to helped me the most in this transition. If you want to find great recipes and great people, YouTube has amazing vloggers that are funny, sincere, and helpful for new Vegans. Here are just a couple that I watch regularly.
Each of them are quirky and live completely different lives, but if you want inspiration for food recipes and how to live life as a normal person who just happens to be Vegan, these are your people.
Pinterest is another great way to stay inspired. If you search “Vegan Recipe for *BLANK*” you’ll probably find at least ten different recipes.
There’s also online resources such as Happy Cow that help you find Vegan stores and restaurants wherever you go.
**Bonus: if you’d like to see a couple vegan restaurants I’ve visited in Los Angeles see below:
Click to see Au Lac review.
Click to see Donut Friend review.
In the first two weeks of being Vegan, I was struggling. It was weird to not have a piece of meat on my plate between my veggies and my carbs. I felt a little sluggish and tired. Then I started introducing more plant-based proteins to my meals. Like all different beans, tofu, seitan, and veggie burgers.
You see, the key isn’t to just ditch the meat and be left with a hole in your plate. It’s to replace what the meat was (protein) with something else that also has protein. If you’re worried about protein, I really suggest looking up some of those resources listed above.
According to the article “How To Become Vegan: 12 Tips From Experts” by Perri O. Blumberg, you don’t have to worry about protein, but on getting a variety of different fruits, vegetables, and grains in your diet. The best thing you can do is eat widely.
There are also tons of fun Vegan substitutes. Beyond Burgers, Daiya Cheese, Chao Cheese, Earth Balance, So Delicious, Oatly, etc. The list goes on. If you want to still eat junk food, trust me, there’s plenty.
While I would consider myself to be a foodie before I went Vegan, I would consider myself to be food obsessed now. There are so many fruits, vegetables, and grains that I never knew existed before I went Vegan.
My food became more colorful and exciting. My food knowledge doubled. Being Vegan can mean being creative with your spices and herbs if you want to mimic your favorite non-Vegan dish. It can also mean you can create something entirely different.
When I first went Vegan, all my friends and family just kept asking me if I could eat ____ (insert random food here). For the most part, I could tell them that there was a substitution available or that you could actually find an abundance of breads, pastas, and cereal that were Vegan.
When some of my family felt like being Vegan meant that I was depriving myself of major food groups, I decided that the best way to show them what I eat was to make food for them.
So for Thanksgiving we made Vegan Mac and Cheese from Daisy cheese and Vegan butter (made from soybean and palm oil). I made rice and beans or Vegan Lasagna (with tofu ricotta — it’s amazing) once a week.
Slowly they began to see that what I was eating was not only delicious but super filling and nutritious as well. Sometimes they would still put butter on the bread I had made (and I internally fought to roll my eyes). Or sometimes they would see that I was experimenting with new ingredients and make a stink-face. But eventually most of them either came around or didn’t care.
I know that it’s hard to imagine living without some of your family’s traditional non-Vegan foods. There are options. You can try to make a Vegan version (maybe with this relative so they don’t feel hurt). Or you can introduce new traditions to your family.
Our culture and many other cultures revolve around food for tradition. Really, the tradition is gathering together and eating with our family and friends. Be patient with them, as they might not understand at first or ever. Soon it will just be a part of who you are.
It happens. You check the label three times, and when you get home you see it like a blinking red light. “Animal ingredient!” Instead of freaking out — especially if you’ve already taken a bite — take a breath and know that this happens to all of us.
For starters, now you know this product isn’t what you thought it was. Great. Now what do you do with it? You could give it to a friend, roommate, or family member. You can throw it away. You can try to return it.
Whatever you do, don’t throw in the towel. I’ve had drinks made at Starbucks with cow’s milk even though I asked for almond. I’ve had Indian dishes with cream when I thought they were Vegan. I haven’t died. And I’m also still Vegan.
Some Vegans in the community will make it a percentage game. “How Vegan are you when you still have that leather jacket you’ve had for ten years?” Don’t listen to that. In reality, we live in a non-Vegan world. We do the best we can, but at the end of the day there will still be issues with the products and produce we buy.
The best thing you can do is stay updated, keep on researching, and be open and flexible to learning every day. Just because you now know more about the environment and animal sentience, doesn’t mean there isn’t still more to learn.
Stay positive. Stay Vegan. You’re doing great!