Friday, November 6, 2009

Three Steps


Recently, I've been trying to take my online activism to the "streets", which just means that I've been visiting websites which have forums that discuss veganism (including those in favor of it and those who aren't), and I've been posting a few comments of my own. I've decided to only post positive comments - words that are encouraging to someone who may be new to the whole "vegan" thing and looking to learn more.

What I'm finding is that there are a lot of people who seem to be interested in trying to transition, but just don't know where to begin with it all. Whether it's that they're afraid of not getting enough protein, their misconception about soy products, or that they think it's an expensive proposition, going vegan is something they want to do, but don't feel that they are easily able to.

I've decided to devote my latest post to the people who want to know how to begin.

(This may be old news to a veteran vegan, so be prepared if you already know all this info. Also, feel free to add your own comments with more recommendations if I missed something!)

How do I even begin to explain ways to start your vegan lifestyle? Well, the best way I can: with a list. I think you know by now that I like to make lots of lists of things that make me smile. Well, here you will find a list of ways to get started on your vegan diet - a few steps to lead you in the right direction. I'm sure if you visit other vegan blogs, other people will have completely different steps - and that's okay. The best way to learn about veganism is to get as many different sources of info as possible, so I'm happy if you find someone who gives you an alternative route to going veg.


Lindsay's Three Steps for Transitioning to Veganism
(which include many links - if you see an underlined word in blue or purple, click on it to learn more about it!):

1. Do your research

There are countless books out there that can be great resources of information to help you make informed decisions. Some of these may be at your local library, and if not, you can always order them on half.com if money is tight. You may even be able to find a book swap online, where you can swap an old book for a book about veganism. The more you learn, the better equipped you will be in any situation - be it if you're out at a restaurant and unsure of what to order, with a closed-minded friend whose opinions differ from yours, or just trying to find a decent vegan cake recipe.

Here is a list of great books to begin your journey. Some are books about how to go vegan, some discuss the moral, physical, and environmental impact of eating animals, and some are just fabulous cookbooks. All of them are wonderful ways to inspire you at the beginning of the process:


Diet for a New America, by John Robbins
The Vegan Sourcebook, by Joanne Stepaniak (this was the first book I ever read on veganism)
Skinny Bitch, by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin
(for the gentlemen out there - they also have Skinny Bastard)
Quantum Wellness, by Kathy Freston
Vegan with a Vengeance (a cookbook), by Isa Chandra Moskowitz
Farm Sanctuary
by Gene Baur
Making Kind Choices
, by Ingrid Newkirk
Vegan Yum Yum, by Lauren Ulm (another awesome cookbook!)
The Kind Diet
, by Alicia Silverstone
Food for Life
, by Neal Barnard

There are also countless websites that can lead you in the right direction, whether they contain recipes or words of encouragement. Here's a list of few to get you started:

www.vegforlife.org
www.vegcooking.com
www.caringconsumer.com
www.farmsanctuary.org
www.woodstockfas.org
www.vegnews.com (They also have a great magazine too!)
www.bryannaclarkgrogan.com
www.blog.fatfreevegan.blogspot.com
www.vegandad.blogspot.com
www.quantumwellness.com
www.skinnybitch.com
www.eatinganimals.com
www.vegweb.com
www.ppk.com
(And of course - www.kissmyvegan.blogspot.com. Duh.)

And if you need even more inspiration: watch "Earthlings", which is a film documentary about our current treatment of the world's animals. If you're looking for a resource that will kick your butt into going vegan for the animals, this is one of the best ones.


2. Learn to cook with new foods

Give yourself about 30 days or so and challenge yourself to learn to cook with new foods. There are countless dairy, meat, and egg alternatives out there - it's almost silly how much is there for you if you take the time to explore!

I've been a vegan for over a year now, and I feel the best I've ever felt. But it definitely took time - I had to challenge myself to try a bunch of new foods, some that I didn't love at first (like tofu and tempeh). I bought cookbooks, scoured the internet for vegan recipes, and did a lot of trial and error. The result? I've fallen in love with this way of life, and this diet! As I've said before, I actually wake up each morning excited to eat! I never feel deprived or unsatisfied. It does take some work to live this way, but it is more worth it in the end than I can ever possibly explain.

I also must add that aside from the financial investment of stocking my kitchen properly with spices, eating vegan on a weekly basis is as expensive, if not cheaper than eating a diet including meat, dairy, and eggs. We are fortunate to live in a time when vegan alternatives are becoming more reasonably priced and much more accessible, so celebrate this by being bold and trying out a few new foods today!

Here's a starter list of great vegan alternatives to commonly used foods. Always try to buy local and organic when possible, because you will be supporting local farmers and workers, as well as sustainable and environmental living:

Dairy alternatives (always try to make sure they're fortified):

Almond Milk (a great starter milk for transitioning away from cow's milk)
Organic Soy Milk
Rice Milk
Hazelnut milk
Hemp Milk
Oat Milk

Other dairy alternatives:
Earth Balance vegan butter (the perfect dairy butter alternative - available online and in most health food stores)
Coconut Milk - to add creaminess to dishes or as a delicious dessert with fresh fruit and a little sweetener
Follow Your Heart Vegan Cheese, Vegan Cream Cheese, and Vegan Sour Cream
(Tofutti also has great dairy alternatives - just make sure to buy the non-hydrogenated version of the cream cheese)

Egg Alternatives:
Tofu - I eat scrambled tofu frequently and love it. It takes roughly the same amount of time to make as a scrambled egg takes, but with no cholesterol!

Basic Tofu Scramble "Recipe" (I put the ingredients in bold):

Buy 1 extra firm tofu package and squeeze the excess water out of it. Crumble it into a bowl. Heat a pan with a little bit of cooking oil, toss the tofu in, and let it cook till nicely browned (I like it crispier than most people). After about two minutes or so, sprinkle on a good amount of turmeric and mix well - this spice will turn the scramble a lovely yellow color. I also like to add the following spices: salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, nutritional yeast and basil (and sometimes italian seasoning). I don't really measure, and I don't think you should either - just sprinkle a little of everything on, and taste it to see what you like. I usually require a lot of spice for mine - the most important spice is definitely the turmeric. This whole process should take as long as it takes to scramble an egg, especially once you get the hang of it. If you're serving it for friends or want it look a little fancy, I suggest sprinkling a little paprika on top.

Tofu Scramble tastes great with baby spinach, onions, mushrooms, or whatever other vegetables you can imagine (baby spinach is my favorite). Just add whatever vegetable a few minutes at the end of cooking.

Egg Alternatives for baking:
Ground flaxseeds, mixed with water
Mashed Banana
Silkened Tofu
Soy Yogurt
EnerG Egg Replacer (can be purchased online or at health food stores) 
* For measurements, go to: http://www.theppk.com/veganbaking.html *
 

Meat Alternatives:
Beans (the cheapest and easiest alternative, in my humble opinion!)
Tofu
Tempeh
Seitan
Nuts
Quinoa - pronounced "keen-wah" - which is a complete protein (it also happens to be a grain!)

Other things you should eat:
- Local, organic produce! Lots of it! (I know it's more expensive than the other stuff, but it is so much better for you! Think of the extra cost as a donation to the Earth and local farmers).
Basically, learn to love vegetables. Find ones you like and learn to cook with them in ways that excite you.
- Brown Rice Pasta and Quinoa Pasta (I love these - they are both excellent wheat pasta alternatives for people with gluten sensitivities, or if you just want to vary things up a little.)
- Nutritional Yeast (Can be purchased at health food stores - a great natural source of B-vitamins. Can be added to dishes as a parmesan cheese alternative, among many, many other things.)

The key is to eat a little bit of everything and to include a good vegan multivitamin in the mix- my favorite is SuperNutrition Calcium Blend Multivitamins, and I take them with a vegan B-Essentials vitamin.

3. Go slow

 Veganism is a big change, especially if you're transitioning from a meat and dairy heavy diet. My advice is to take baby steps. Don't pressure yourself to make all of these changes at once. Like any lifestyle shift, veganism takes time and tons of patience. And forgiveness.

You could be all gung-ho about going vegan one day, and the next day, you eat a piece of cheese without thinking. Forgive yourself. Believe me, there have been many times in the past where I've either accidentally eaten meat in a dish or lazily eaten something that had a little dairy in it. Take it one day at a time, and don't punish yourself if you haven't been perfect one day.

And likewise, if you've read this post and you still don't think veganism is for you, that's okay. Just try one aspect of it. Take your time with it. Just one small change can make all the difference. For instance, keep eating meat, but add tofu to your chicken stir-fry. Or for one day a week, pour almond milk over your cereal. No one is asking you to make big changes right away - this is your life. Go at your own pace, and celebrate your small successes along the way.

I wrote a post about change a little while ago, if you need more words of encouragement in this area.
 
As a final note, you are already doing the right thing if you've read this post! Congrats!

If you still have questions, feel free to post them as comments. I am more than happy to answer anything!

With love and endless amounts of support,
Lindsay


P.S. A few quotes to inspire (find these and more quotes at http://www.happyvegetable.com/blog/inspirational-vegan-quotes/):


Being vegan helped me realize I can say and do what I believe is right. That’s powerful. Nothing’s changed my life more. I feel better about myself as a person, being conscious and responsible for my actions and I lost weight and my skin cleared up and I got bright eyes and I just became stronger and healthier and happier. Can’t think of anything better in the world to be but be vegan.
-Alicia Silverstone
  
I just could not stand the idea of eating meat – I really do think that it has made me calmer…. People’s general awareness is getting much better, even down to buying a pint of milk: the fact that the calves are actually killed so that the milk doesn’t go to them but to us cannot really be right, and if you have seen a cow in a state of extreme distress because it cannot understand why its calf isn’t by it, it can make you think a lot.
-Kate Bush
  
I think and speak clearer since I cut the dairy out. I can breathe better and perform at a better rate, and my voice is clearer. I can explore different things with my voice that I couldn’t do because of my meat and dairy ingestion. I am proud and blessed to be a vegetarian, everything became clear.
-Common
  
I don’t understand why asking people to eat a well-balanced vegetarian diet is considered drastic, while it is medically conservative to cut people open and put them on cholesterol-lowering drugs for the rest of their lives.
-Dean Ornish, M.D.

If you don’t want to be beaten, imprisoned, mutilated, killed or tortured then you shouldn’t condone such behavior towards anyone, be they human or not. -Moby

I do not like eating meat because I have seen lambs and pigs killed. I saw and felt their pain. They felt the approaching death. I could not bear it. I cried like a child. I ran up a hill and could not breathe. I felt that I was choking. I felt the death of the lamb. -Vaslav Nijinsky

The beef industry has contributed to more American deaths than all the wars of this century, all natural disasters, and all automobile accidents combined.  If beef is your idea of “real food for real people” you’d better live real close to a real good hospital. -Neal Barnard

I began to wonder why we cuddle some animals and put a fork in others.
-Henry Spira

 I have no doubt that it is a part of the destiny of the human race, in its gradual improvement, to leave off eating animals, as surely as the savage tribes have left off eating each other…. -Henry David Thoreau

Some people are still going to want to eat meat. We do agree though that vegetarianism is a healthier diet. -David Stroud (of the American Meat Institute)

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. -Ganhdi

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this list. I have often thought about becoming vegan or vegetarian, but I never know where to start.

How did you make the transition? How long did it take you? Was there any one moment when you decided to stop eating meat and/or dairy?

Lindsay said...

Hi there - thank you for your feedback and questions!

I actually made the transition to veganism one year ago. I had been a vegetarian about six months before that, and a pescatarian a year before that. My transition took about 3 years - definitely proof that you need to really take your time and be patient with yourself when bringing a change like this into your life.

About three years ago, my fiance showed me the end of "Fast Food Nation", which showed what happened to cows at the time of slaughter on the kill floor. I was a mess watching it - I cried more than I've probably ever cried. I think it was the first time it really hit me that animals suffer so needlessly for us. I made the decision the next day to cut out land animals from my diet. It took a while to finally give up salmon, shrimp, and the fish I enjoyed eating, but after doing some research, I realized that they feel pain too - and they were unbelievably unhealthy to consume due to intense amounts of water pollution.

I think it took me a while because I just didn't know what the alternatives were. Tonight for dinner, I'm having coconut lime tofu with chopped sweet potatoes, rice noodles, and baby spinach. If you had asked me to eat that three years ago, I probably would have laughed at you!

Milk was unbelievably easy to give up once I realized that it is not our milk to drink - it is made for baby cows. Even worse was realizing that by purchasing and consuming dairy products, I was also supporting the veal industry, because the baby male calves that the dairy cows gave birth to are immediately ripped from their mothers to be raised for veal. It's an awful system and a warped justification just to consume the milk of an animal whose baby needs it.

But cheese was definitely the toughest! I used to love the stuff. That definitely took a while to stop eating, as well as creamy dairy desserts. But the great thing is I've found endless amounts of alternatives that satisfy me just as much as the dairy foods did. And no animals have to be harmed for me to indulge in the alternatives.

I wish you so much luck on your journey - thank you for stopping by my blog and checking out the post! Please feel free to ask as many questions as you need - I love to help in any way I can!

Lauren said...

Hi Lindsay! I love your blog. I wanted to add the brand new book, "Eating Animals" by Jonathan Safran Foer, to your list of literature. I am only 100 pages in but I love every page of it. He isn't trying to "convert" anyone, just giving people the facts of the factory farming and fishing industry. You can choose to do what you want with that knowledge. It is wonderful and the most comprehensive book I've ever read on the subject. Thanks for your great blog and for inspiring others to transition to this lifestyle. It is definitely a happier and healthier one! :)

Eileen W. said...

This list and the suggestions you offer are so helpful!!! Thanks for posting this. One note, skinnybitch.net is where we want to go, the other is a porn site. lol
I'll be reading and I'm going to read your change post as well for more support. :)

Gary said...

Excellent and useful post!

One easy way for me to find vegan recipes is to type "recipe vegan" followed but whatever into a search engine, e.g. "recipe vegan burgers" or "recipe vegan alfredo". I often add the words "quick" and "easy," too.

Anonymous: some thoughts...

- Most people I know are surprised by how much they enjoy their new vegan diets even if they feared otherwise before making the switch.

- As you try more new foods, cuisines, and cooking styles, probably you'll really get into how much more diverse and interesting your diet becomes.

- Good luck!

Lindsay said...

Haha Thanks for catching that Eileen!