Steps to becoming vegan
- Educate yourself about vegan nutrition. Find out which
nutrients are sometimes missing in a vegetarian diet and
what foods are most beneficial in providing those
nutrients. If you are becoming vegan for reasons other
than health (such as animal welfare or the environment),
research those issues as much as you can as well; doing
so will help to strengthen your resolve and will better
equip you to answer questions when people ask. When you
gather information, take special care to see that it
comes from a knowledgeable source, such as a registered
dietician. Many people will try to be helpful but can
only tell you what they have found to be true in their
own experience. (I'm one of those!)
- Find the vegan resources in your area: a natural food
store that caters to vegans, a local vegetarian or vegan
society, restaurants that cater to vegetarians, and a
library or bookstore with a good supply of vegetarian
cookbooks. If you cannot find such places just by
looking in the yellow pages, try asking people on a
vegetarian newsgroup or contact The
Vegetarian Resource Group (if you live in the U.S.
- Find a support network such as a newsgroup, a mailing
list, a local vegan society, or some vegan friends or
relatives. No matter how good your books are, they will
never be able to answer all of the questions that might
come up. Being in touch with experienced vegans will
allow you to ask specific questions when they arise.
Also, since vegans make up a very small segment of the
population, talking with other vegans can help remind
you that you are not alone.
- Go on a shopping spree! Vegan cooking requires a set
of ingredients not often found in other types of
cuisine. Stocking your kitchen with some of the common
ingredients will make it easier to begin experimenting.
See my section on vegan
ingredients for a list of staple items.
- Don't be afraid to experiment. If you are trying a new
recipe that you're not sure is going to work, consider
making just a quarter recipe so that less food will go
to waste. Try a variety of soy milks and rice milks,
veggie burgers, soy cheeses, vegan ice creams, and other
prepared foods until you find some that you like. Taste
and quality varies widely from one brand to the next.
Eventually you will learn what tastes good to you, and
you will then be able to settle back into a routine.
- Find a comfort food. Everyone has special foods that
remind them of their childhood or help to cheer them up
when they are depressed. Comfort foods are just as
important for vegans. Think about the foods that make
you feel better (pizza, cookies, ice cream, or whatever)
and figure out if there is any vegan equivalent. If you
have a favorite recipe, see if there is any way you can
easily "veganize" it. If you can't figure out
how to do away with the milk and eggs, or if you don't
have a recipe to begin with, try asking on a vegetarian
newsgroup. Vegans are very willing to offer cooking help
when they can.
- Regardless of your reasons for becoming vegan, don't
feel pressured to make the transition all at once.
Although some people do switch to veganism practically
overnight, other people make the transition over a
period of months or years. Take it at your own pace. If
you feel more comfortable experimenting with vegan
recipes before committing to a new lifestyle, then do
that. If there is some aspect of veganism that is
holding you back (such as trying to find vegan food in
restaurants or giving up cheese or milk chocolate), then
put that off for the time being and just make the
changes that come more easily to you. As you become more
experienced, you will find that there are literally
thousands of ingredients used in preprocessed foods that
may be made with animal products. Don't let the lists of
"forbidden" foods scare you off. Just decide
where you feel comfortable drawing the line, and then
push yourself to do more when and if you feel ready.