Updated: Sep 6, 2020
If you still don't know what veganism is, be sure to check out this video.
I've only been vegan for a year (I started my journey in January 2019 and you can read more about it here). So, I thought it would be super helpful to give you beginner tips from a beginner. I feel like most people giving tips have been vegan for several years or even decades and some things are outdated or they haven't been in our shoes. I am going to talk about some resources, tools, recipes, favorite blogs of mine, and other random tips that will help your transition and hopefully make it a bit easier for you.
If you still are on the fence about becoming vegan you can check out this video about the different reasons that you should go vegan that doesn't include for the animals, or you can watch this video about the pros and cons to going vegan. Spoiler alert, there really aren't any cons!
The first tip I have is to be easy on yourself and realize that veganism is a journey. No one changes instantly overnight. No one is perfect. We all make mistakes. If you watched my veganism story video, you know that there were many foods along the way that I had no idea weren't vegan. It's such a learning process. For me, I had to undo 20 years of habits and you might be in a similar situation or have even more years of habits to undo. So, be easy on yourself and know that it's a journey that will take time to polish and "get right."
Second is to do your research. There were many foods and materials and objects that I did not know were not vegan and was sad to realize I was still buying these things. I should have done more research right off the bat. I thought veganism was just not eating meat, dairy, and eggs, but it is so much more. I suggest researching what veganism actually is and what things are and aren't vegan so you can start off on a better foot than I did and hopefully avoid some mistakes and guilt along the way.
The third thing I have is to read ingredient labels right off the bat. I am still so terrible about this but I'm working on forming that good habit. If you start this from the beginning you will easily be able to create that habit as well as avoid accidentally purchasing non-vegan foods.
Another thing that goes along with that is to be aware of added milk products like milk fat, milk powder, and things like that. There are a lot of sneaky ways that they label milk products and use milk so just keep a lookout for these items.
Try not to be afraid of judgment. This is hard and I fell victim to this in the beginning, but it's so freeing when you just let that fear go. I used to hate telling coworkers and family and friends that I was vegan and we needed to have vegan options. Eventually, I guess I just got comfortable enough along my journey that I quit being scared to tell people. This also helps when going out to eat and letting the waiter know your dietary restrictions so they can accommodate you.
Going along with that, something else I've learned is very few people actually care. Most people are so willing to accommodate me and learn more and even try my cooking. Of course, there will be those who judge and make it hard but 9/10 people I'd say are very understanding and kind.
You will definitely be surprised at what your local store has. You don't need a Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, or a bulk store to go vegan like the internet might have you believing. I was so surprised once I started actually looking for vegan food how much was available. Just keep your eyes peeled, ask around, and read ingredient labels.
You really do have to push through the first few weeks especially when transitioning from an omnivore diet. I think vegetarians might have it easier, but I don't know that from experience. For me, I quit cold turkey and had stomach pains for about two weeks and felt so hungry. But, after about two weeks, my body adjusted and learned to digest the excess (but normal) amount of fiber in my diet and learned to accept the plant products and not be so hungry without meat. I think this is my biggest tip. Don't quit, keep going, your body will adjust.
It's not just your stomach adjusting but your taste buds will too. I used to crave chicken and fries and meatballs and what not. But now, I crave salads and roasted veggies and carrots and hummus. It's amazing to see what our bodies can do when we nourish it and give it what it needs.
One of my favorite apps is Happy Cow. This app is great for your hometown when you are new to veganism and is still a lifesaver for me when we travel. I've used it in Thailand, Okinawa, and mainland Japan. What Happy Cow is, is a food app. You can search and even upload vegan and vegetarian restaurants, food trucks, stores, bakeries, and so much more. Think of it as Google Maps for vegans and vegetarians.
Another app I love is Vegan Scan. This app just scans food labels and tells you whether or not the product is vegan or not. This can be very helpful for those products that might say "may contain milk" and it is extremely helpful to me living in Japan since I cannot read Japanese fluently.
A great resource that can be used as an app and on a computer is Pinterest. This is a great resource when you are first starting out and you don't know how to cook or what to cook. I found all of my first vegan recipes here and still use it to this day to find recipes though most of the time I just make stuff up or have my own recipes I've created. It's great for cooking, baking, making food for a crowd, and so much more.
Here are some of my favorite bloggers and YouTubers that helped me a lot along the way whether that was with recipes or with learning more about veganism:
Sweet Simple Vegan
From my Bowl (by Caitlin Shoemaker)
It Doesn't Taste Like Chicken
Go Guac Yourself
Ashley Wicka (great for teen vegans!)
The Viet Vegan
Learn to Love our Earth
Vegan Food Substitutes:
Jackfruit for chicken, pork or beef. You can make shredded bbq jackfruit or jackfruit stew.
Flaxseeds and water can be substituted for eggs in baking. Flaxseeds are so healthy and get gelatinous in water and help have that egg-like consistency
Tofu can be substituted for scrambled eggs. Just scrambled with salt, a little turmeric for color, and a little Kala Namak to make it taste like eggs
Tofu can also be used as a protein and "meat" substitute. You can stir fry it, bake it and make it crispy, bread it and fry it like chicken and so much more. It is so versatile.
Other substitutes for meat include tempeh, plant-based burgers, brats, hot dogs, and crumbles, lentils, chickpeas, and so much more
Other things you can substitute for eggs or butter in baking is applesauce, banana, avocado, or pumpkin puree.
We have even breaded and fried broccoli to be like bbq chicken. We don't have access to cauliflower here which would probably be most people's first choice but broccoli works just fine
Nutritional yeast is a vegan's best friend. Not only is this miracle food full of B vitamins, but it's basically vegan parmesan. It's great on salads, pastas, sauces, pizza, popcorn, mashed potatoes, and so much more. I eat it on just about everything.
Cashews make a great cream sauce. Just soak, blend with some water and nutritional yeast and you have yourself a delicious vegan alfredo.
But, what if you don't have access to some of these things? Well you're in luck because I don't have all of these items either so I've learned to work around them and you will too. Like I said before, you might actually have some of this stuff, you just have to have your eyes open and look! But, if you truly don't have some of these items, you can work around it.
like we've done with the cauliflower, we just found something close to it (broccoli) and used that instead
When a recipe calls for tempeh and we don't have any, I substitute for tofu or plant sausage
If you don't have access to vegan butter, you can easily make your own, or just use another fat like vegetable oil, olive oil, or coconut oil
You also don't have to use the exact kind of milk a recipe calls for. If a recipe says almond milk but you already have soy, just use the soy. The only time it really matters is coconut milk because it is so fatty
If it comes to it, you can order non-perishables on amazon. I've ordered Kala Namak and Soy Lecithin online and that works
You might also be wondering how do I even find some of this stuff in stores? Keep in mind this is all based on my local store and yours may be different though I believe that they will all be organized fairly similarly. I would love to hear your input on this section to see if these things are the same or not throughout other grocery stores.
Well, vegan alternatives like milk, butter, cream cheese, and that sort of thing will most likely be in the same section of those dairy-based products
Jackfruit and coconut milk can be found canned in the aisle oriental section
In our store, nutritional yeast is next to all the other Bob's Red Mill items
Our tofu is in our cold oriental section near the produce. We don't have tempeh but I would suspect it would be there as well or in the refrigerated meat section maybe
Flaxseeds and chia seeds are either with the other Bob's Reb Mill stuff, out in the "bulk section" of our store, or with other nuts and seeds. I say "bulk section" in quotes because for us this is just items that are larger than normal and therefore in "bulk"
Plant-based meats will likely be in the freezer or refrigerator aisle near regular meats, but for us it's in its own smaller section on the end.
When in doubt, Google will probably be able to help you locate things in your grocery store, or a store employee. You can order things online or you research how to work without it and create your own ways.
Wow, that was a lot. I hope you stayed here until the end and I hope that some of these tips can help you start your journey or help you along your journey. Don't forget to give this video a thumbs up if you like it and check out my other videos from veganuary this year. Also, let us know your biggest tips down below.
Thanks for reading! Don't forget to check out the video version of this post as well.