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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
with 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!