why being vegan is easy

as promised, today i'm sharing with you why being vegan has been an incredibly easy lifestyle change for me. buckle up, it's a long post! just in case you're just now tuning in, you may want to catch up by reading the first post (one year ago) on my 20 reasons to go vegan and (one year later) why it was the best deciscion of my life.

as many people do, i thought the vegan lifestyle was way to restrictive, impossible for us to achieve and maybe even a little crazy (and we were already vegetarians!). when we began, i was full of anxiety and had so many questions! today i want to share with you some of my initial concerns and answers to the questions i either had myself or get asked most frequently. are you with me?!

but i love creamy things!

yup, that was my first concern. i love cream in my coffee and alfredo on my pasta. well i'm happy to say that i still have creamy things, almost every day. i'll share with you how in just a moment! (for now, here's my favorite vegan alfredo recipe)

how can you eat out?

this is probably our most common question, and it's easy! traditional american restaurants (like steak houses) are the only tricky ones, and they still have baked potatoes and salads. we however, always opt for some kind of ethnic cuisine.

mexican: guacamole, chips and salsa, veggie fajitas, rice and beans, veggie tacos and more! both flour and corn tortillas are vegan, you'll just have to ask them to hold the cheese on your refried beans. this seldom occurs anymore, but you may want to just make sure they don't fry their veggies in lard.

italian: you might not know that pasta is vegan and so is about 80% of all bread! order veggie pastas with either marinara, olive oil or some pestos and you're all set.

indian: this one is a cinch. 9 times out of 10 they'll either have vegan items labelled or have a whole separate menu for vegan entrees.

thai: again, an incredibly easy choice, as they almost always have separate veggie parts to their menu, and they always serve tofu. curries, stir frys, veggie rolls, pad thai (hold the eggs!) and more.

sushi: yup, i said sushi! have you ever tried a veggie sushi roll? you won't even miss the fish! grab a ginger salad, some edamame and some miso soup, too.

pizza: though you can order pizza and have them hold the cheese, many pizza joints are starting to carry vegan cheese. mellow mushroom is probably the most famous, and you can order any pizza and ask for the vegan cheese!

we also travel a lot so when it's just the two of us, we LOVE to find the local vegan joints (yelp on the iphone or googlemaps on the droid is great for this!). once you open yourself up to the world, they are everywhere! and incredibly delicious. some of our favorites are lovin' spoonfulls in tuscon, az and adama in santa barbara, ca. if we're on the road, we also frequent the health food store's hot bar for dinner (think whole foods here!).

what do you do when someone asks you over for dinner?

we luckily have great friends who are all health conscious and don't mind cooking up a storm. we do however frequently ask people to our house, so we can be the ones cooking for them. if it's someone new, we'll insist on bringing a dish. if it's a cookout, we'll bring our own veggie burgers and plan to eat sides. we truly have not had many (if any?) terribly awkward moments, but at the end of the day if some still come up, it's worth it to us. we just try to be easy going and never make people feel like we're trying to be difficult, or judging their diet in any way.

isn't it more expensive?

i believe this is the most common misconception. it's actually much cheaper! we eat out less and cook in more (cha-ching!). we also buy way less filler foods at the grocery store (like cookies and snacks). we focus on buying whole foods with few ingredients and shop the local farmers market every week (also much cheaper!). we also focus on seasonal foods which saves us a lot of money. have you ever noticed that strawberries in january are a lot more expensive than they are in july? that's because they aren't in season locally and they had to ship them in from who knows where.

so what do you eat for dinner?

oh, so much! this is one reason why i started the dinner ideas posts. this series logs our nightly meals each week, and gives you a great idea of what an average week looks like for us.

don't you need to take supplements?

we choose not to. we eat a huge variety of foods including sea veggies, nuts and seeds, lots of legumes and of course tons of fruits and vegetables. we focus on a lot of dark leafy vegetables (for calcium) and hearty grains like quinoa for protein.

how do you find recipes?

well i have a few favorite cookbooks (see below) but i mainly take any old recipe and just turn it vegan. i'll show you how below.

what are some of your favorite cookbooks?

my current favorites are (in order): color me vegan, veganomicon and the conscious cook

a note on substitutions:

there are so many delicious and nutritious substitutions out there for dairy products! some are must haves, and some are just for fun. personally, i'm a fan of some meat substitutions and i think it can make the switch much easier for some people, but i don't believe that you really need them. it's just personal choice!

i'm also a huge reader of ingredients. i like short ingredient lists that contain whole foods that i can pronounce. remember, just because it's vegan doesn't mean you have to eat it! we also try to limit our soy intake. it would be easy to turn to soy everything but you don't have to. we try our best to stick to whole soy sources and only eat organic whole soy beans, tofu and tempeh.

here are a few of my favorite vegan substitutions, and how i use them to replace their dairy counterparts in recipes.

vegan substitutions

1. earth balance soy free butter. it taste like the real thing! delicious on bread, and can be used anywhere butter is needed.

2. vegan cream cheese. yup, you can still spread it all over your bagels. also great for mixing in with herbs for dips.

3. daiya cheese. not the most impressive cheese substitute, but it's pretty darn good. i don't use it often, but it comes in handy when i'm craving pizza or lasagna.

4. tofutti sour cream. really great on chili, for making dips and also good for baking (like for these simple biscuits!).

5. coconut bliss icecream. doesn't taste like coconut and it comes in all kinds of flavors. be careful, it's addicting!

6. so delicious coconut creamer. my favorite! it's ohm.azing. it's super creamy and has no taste (compare it to half and half). it also comes in flavors for your coffee like vanilla and hazelnut, if that's your thing. the ingredients are top notch and 1 tablespoon only has 10 calories (and none from fat!). i also use this to make just about anything extra creamy like soups and sauces.

7. almond milk. you can choose any kind of milk (rice, almond, soy, coconut etc) but after studying the nutrition facts we went with almond. it's great in cereal and can be used anywhere milk is called for.

8. vegan grated topping. yup, can still have parmesan topping in your life.

9. vegenaise. taste just like really mayo and can be used anytime something calls for mayonnaise!

*NOTE having a health food store nearby is going to be a BIG help. but if you don't have one, don't fret! many of these you can still find at your local grocery store and (though not my favorite option due to distances shipped) others you can purchase online, like from amazon's grocery section.

vegan pantry must haves

a few other pantry must-haves:

1. apple sauce. a great and healthy egg substitute in baking! use 1/4 cup for each egg.

2. raw cashews. i make a batch of cashew cream each week and keep in my refrigerator. it's another way i make things deliciously creamy!

3. ener-g egg replacer. full of nothing but starches, this makes a perfect 'binder' in recipes that call for eggs.

vegan favorites

1. & 3. if you haven't ever tried field roast company's products, you must! they are absolutely amazing! we use their celebration roast on occasions like thanksgiving and their apple sage sausage on a weekly basis. they are soy free and have a very short list of ingredients made up of all whole foods. plus, they are to.die.for.

2. gardein is a relatively new company that is coming out with a large array of vegan products, from buffalo wings to stuffed turkeys. everything i've tried from them has been really delicious.

in my experience, once i opened my eyes to the world of alternatives, it became easy. i can still indulge and eat my favorite foods, just with a twist. once you have restocked your pantry with vegan friendly items, it also becomes much easier. here's another great list on good vegan staples to keep on hand.

chocolate is veganwith these ingredients, i can turn just about any old recipe into a delicious and nutritious vegan meal, and that's why it's been an easy switch. i don't miss anything, and the benefits i've experienced are priceless.

questions? comments? anything i missed? please share with us in the comments section, i'll meet you there!

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  • Wonderful article. It makes so much sense. I’m going to look for some of the products you listed in our health food stores.

  • bonnie – I’m so glad you will be starting up your weekly meal posts again – our family eats 1-2 vegetarian/vegan meals per week and I have gotten some wonderful recipes via your posts! will be looking into the cookbooks you listed as well, thank you! :)

  • This is such a great and timely post! I’ve been slowly switching my family over to vegan foods, but am making the total switch now, in order to try to keep my darling husband off of migraine medicine. Thanks for all the great recommendations.

  • Be sure to ask for no fish sauce in your Thai food… They almost always put it in if you don’t specify.

    Vegweb.com is a wonderful resource for vegan recipes. They have thousands, in every possible category. Yummy!

  • Bonnie, I’ve been reading your blog for a while now, but never posted any comments. Couldn’t let it pass this time! I’m trying to have a healthier diet and your post comes in a perfect time! It seems to hard to be vegan and you made it sound so simple and easy! I will love to read your meal posts!

  • The spirit of this post is awesome, and I appreciate you writing it! More people need to know just how easy and enjoyable vegan living can be.

    There are a few points, however, that I think could be misleading to newbies.

    On Italian food: Some pasta is made with eggs, and most pesto contains parmesan.

    On sushi: Miso soup is usually made with fish stock. Some places also put mayonnaise in their sushi rolls (but, of course, you can always ask for them without mayo).

    I’ve learned that it’s important to ask about what’s in certain dishes if you have any doubts. I find most servers are pretty accommodating and are more than willing to ask the chef if they’re uncertain about what’s in a particular dish. It usually doesn’t take long, and can be done discreetly, even if you’re eating out with a group of people.

    On supplements: Anyone who is not eating fortified foods regularly should at least take a B12 supplement, if not a vegan multivitamin, just to be on the safe side. Vitamin B12 can’t be reliably obtained from any whole plant food, and although symptoms of deficiency can take years to manifest, the consequences can be severe. The good news is that B12 supplements are usually really cheap, and many packaged foods are fortified with B12.

    Anyway, thanks again for the post!

    • hi ej! thanks for the comment, excellent points! i agree that if your in doubt about a dish- ask! all of our experiences have been positive, as servers and chefs are usually always happy to either find out for us or make something vegan.

      regarding b12, i should have discussed it, so thank you for bringing it up! i agree that you should monitor to make sure you’re getting enough, but with so many (vegan especially) foods fortified with it, we don’t find that we need to take a supplement. though, it can never hurt! one emergen-c alone has 417% of your RDA, which makes getting enough very easy. xox

  • Hi Bonnie! What a fabulous post! Thank you so much for including So Delicious Coconut Milk Creamer on your list of vegan favorite substitutions (along with so many of my own favorites). Being vegan has never been easier (or more delicious), and we can’t wait to hear what you think of some of our other offerings!

    • why, hello gail!! it’s so wonderful to meet you, and so happy you found my post!! :) i LOVE all of so delicious’ products, but the coconut creamer had me at hello. :) your ice cream and yogurt are other favorites of mine, they are, well.. SO DELICIOUS!!

  • I love Vegenaise! It’s made by Follow Your Heart, and they have a store and cafe down the road from work in Canoga Park! They have the best veggie ruebens!

  • What chain pizza joints have vegan cheese? I’ve been vegan for 3 years & I did not even know theyr offered that at pizza joints!

    • hi heather! oh, some great ones!! mellow mushroom has a really great vegan cheese and even cheesy-bread sticks! the natural cafe also has a really good one. :) xox!

  • Hi! I just came across your website, and I really like it. Thanks so much for this post. About 3 weeks ago I made the decision not to eat meat for ethical reasons. Previously, I ate a lot of chicken and beef, so this has been quite a change for me. Then, about 2 weeks ago I realized that I was getting sick from eating dairy products, and have come to find that I am lactose intolerant. Bummer, because I love cheese.

    This is new for me and I appreciate your posts about veganism. I feel like an outsider because my family eats meat and cheese, and I don’t have any friends that don’t. I’m kind of nervous to declare myself as a vegetarian or a vegan because I feel like I will be judged and I don’t want to have to explain myself as to why I chose not to eat meat. And since this happened all of a sudden I feel that people may not believe that I really cannot digest lactose.

    I really appreciate your posts because it makes me feel like I’m not the only one, and I get lots of great ideas on how to live with this new lifestyle and diet change.

  • Just found your blog! We have been semi-vegetarian (no meat in the house) for about six months and I always wanted to be vegan, but it made me too nervous! Your posts have helped with my anxiety and we are going to decrease our dependence on dairy. Thank you very much for sharing.

  • It’s so much harder to eat out in South Africa. There’s not that many ‘ethnic’ restaurants if you’re in a smaller town. Most pasta at restaurants are made with egg here. So many times there’s not even any vegetarian options on menus. We also have much less vegan substitutes like milk and cheese in stores. We can’t even get soy milk at all the stores. One store makes soy, oat and rice milk and are going to stock almond milk from next year. Luckily it’s only a 20 minute drive to the nearest one. We also only have vegan dark chocolate and I get so jealous when I read about the different chocolates people get overseas. But I think it is growing and we eat amazing food at home.

  • Hello! I know I’m super late commenting on this, but I’m always late so why stop now? Ha. Anyway, my family (all boys and old fashioned country hubby) are pretty resistant to my healthy eating plights, but I’m determined to sneak in vegan food as much as I can. I have for years insisted that the hormones found in meat and milk is why our teens are developing early and why kids are growing bigger and bigger all the time….my 15 y o is 6’4″!!
    Thanks, Bonnie, for inspiring me to do what’s best for my family in spite if the mutiny I may face. Hehe