Greetings, blogosphere. My first week back in the vegan world has been fantastic. I’ve gotten a lot of support from friends and family, as well as those who’ve reached out through social media. Last week I posted on my instagram (@chefjamielove) about some of my struggles with vegan and vegetarianism over the years with a link to my last blog post. I was very grateful for two instagrammers (@thisismynameman & @vegan_dee_lite) who gave some useful tips on continuing my journey to the healthiest, earth-friendliest, and kindest diet & lifestyle out there.
Here’s some of my favorite advice from others & a few tidbits from my own progress lately:
- Combat sugar & sweet cravings with fruit. @thisismynameman even says that his cravings for dairy & desserts eventually turned into cravings for fruit by enforcing this habit
- Combat meat temptations by reminding yourself why you went/are going vegan in the first place (-@thisismynameman)
- Watch footage of animal testing, factory farms, etc. to spark your compassion
- Research animal products’ impacts on the planet – deforestation, world hunger, land degradation, animal extinction, climate change, etc.
- Remind yourself of the health implications associated with eating animal foods: cancer, heart disease, high cholesterol, etc
- Try faux meat/dairy products, says @vegan_dee_lite
- Over the weekend I tried Gardein’s orange chicken – TO. DIE. FOR. The texture was spot on & it was so sweet & wonderful.
- Nowadays they’ve gone beyond faux chicken nuggets, burgers, & hot dogs. Look in your grocer’s frozen sections for vegan meatloaf, pizza, ground “beef” crumbles, & even fried “fish”.
- @vegan_dee_lite recommends trying coconut ice cream sandwiches – sounds amaaaazing.
- Focus on your health
- @vegan_dee_lite recommends starting up an exercise routine or yoga to remind yourself of the self-love you have for your body and that you don’t want to fill it with poisonous foods.
- Set your priorities
- @vegan_dee_lite wrote something on my instagram that really stuck with me in her post: “Our cravings should not be more powerful than our compassion towards life.” Though I’m the first to say that cravings sometimes feel like a life/death situation – I need that Philly Cheesesteak! – in making choices that harm other beings, you actually are putting another spirit in a life/death situation. You have the choice to end needless suffering & death every single time you pick up a fork. Remind yourself of that at every meal.
- Keep snacks handy & plan ahead
- Bring filling – & protein-packed! – snacks with you in case hunger strikes. I like to keep some trail mix in my purse and/or car just in case.
- If you’re going out to eat with a friend or family, look online first. Most restaurants have their menus listed online & if not, call the place beforehand. It’s usually not difficult to find something vegan or veganizeable on a menu almost anywhere, but it may make you more likely to pick a vegan option if you know what you’ll be ordering before you get there.
- Find supports
- Connect online with other vegans through social media like Facebook, instagram, pinterest, etc. Even if you don’t directly talk with anyone, these are great resources for information and recipes.
Now for the “misunderstandings” section… I’m just going to break the tip of the iceberg here & focus on what I’ve experienced in this last week as a born-again vegan.
I visited my boyfriend’s dad, his dad’s girlfriend, and his half-sister & her boyfriend over the weekend. We had a fantastic time, but – of course- my new diet came up in topics of conversation.
I’d asked my boyfriend – Ricky – to text his dad before we drove down & let him know that I’d switched back to a vegan lifestyle again because I was worried his dad might make non-vegan food & I didn’t want him to be offended if I didn’t eat it. Upon arrival, Ricky’s dad offered us fish to eat that he’d fried up earlier that day. Apologetically, I declined & had to explain to to his dad what “vegan” really meant. Hence we have…
Vegan Misunderstanding #1: Not knowing what a vegan is.
Though the vegan community is growing by the day, there are still many people out there who don’t understand what it means to be vegan. This situation is the perfect opportunity for you to explain to your family, friends, restaurant server, or whoever else, what being a vegan means to you. Though it’s easy to get caught up in the reasons why you are vegan, in my experience doing this first makes others very defensive about their own diets. It seems best to first explain what you do a do not eat. For example: I don’t eat any animal products. I do not eat meat of any kind (fish, poultry, red meat, wild game, etc), I don’t eat milk or any of it’s derivatives like cheese, ice cream, butter, etc., I also don’t eat honey or eggs.
Usually by this point many people will have their jaws dropped and be begging for more information. At this time I commonly get the question, “Well, what DO you eat then?”
Vegan Misunderstanding #2: Vegan food is boring/gross: i.e. I couldn’t eat salads for the rest of my life.
I think this is a critical point in the conversation because depending on how you answer this, you can either intrigue someone or bore someone with what sounds like a mundane diet. If you start listing off things like salads, pasta, beans, etc. your listener may be thinking – What a boring diet. Glad I’ve got my sizzling steaks, bacon, and mac’n’cheese to keep me going. Instead, I prefer to talk about some of the recipes I’ve tried recently OR throw them off by mentioning a food that’s normally non-vegan & explaining how I veganized it. My answer may look something like this:
“Well I’ve been really in to summer squash lately because it’s in season & I recently made this amazing lasagna with zucchini “noodles,” home-made cashew cheese, and fresh marinara I made from these heirloom tomatoes I scored at the farmer’s market. I’ve also been splurging on Trader Joe’s Soy Creamy Cherry Chocolate Chip ice cream; it’s amazing, especially topped with toasted almonds. When I don’t have time to cook, I like to try out ethnic foods in the area like this taco truck a few blocks away from us that has great veggie tostadas or this chinese place across the street from our apartment that has roasted eggplant in garlic sauce, which is soooooooo yummy.”
Ok, ok, that answer may be a tad bit over the top, but it’s important for us vegans to let everyone know that veganism is not mundane, it’s excitinganddeliciousandvariableandeasyandsogoodforyourhealthandtheplanet. I’m not trying to convert people to veganism per se, but I do think it’s essential that we clear up some of this nonsense associated with the word “vegan.”
~Now back to my story… Once it was understood that I would not be eating fish for dinner, I had to find an alternative. I asked what restaurants were in the area & was quickly told, “You won’t be able to find anything to eat here; this isn’t Los Angeles.”
Vegan Misunderstanding #3: It’s impossible to find vegan food.
AAAAAAEEEEHH!!!! That was the sound of a buzzer communicating: “INCORRECT.” Did you hear it? You can find vegan food just about anywhere. Be adventurous & don’t be shy about asking questions of what ingredients are in a menu item. There is a lot of variety to be had out there & you do not have to suffer through salad after salad to be able to eat out. Just this weekend I had Farmer Boys – fruit bowl & hash browns; they also offer a veggie burger & sandwich – AND In-N-Out which offers a veggie option – hold the spread, add extra tomato & grilled onions (and perhaps a boca burger or two from home?) and you’re in vegan heaven.
At a sit-down restaurant, try ordering a meat-dish without the meat! At Perkins I once ordered the Sesame Ginger Steak Big Bowl with no steak & extra veggies and it was one of the best things I’ve ever had at Perkins, including my memories of eating animal products there. Going greek? Try a gryo with just veggies or add in some falafel. Italian? Check if their pasta has egg in it, then add some marinara & veggies, hold the cheese. Or opt for a vegetarian minestrone & breadsticks with no butter – I’m talking to you Olive Garden!
If you’re feeling adventurous like I was, try stopping at a local grocery store & grabbing some fresh produce to cook up. I made a stir fry with snow peas, tomato, carrots, turnip, & mushroom seasoned with garlic & rosemary for a relatively cheap & easy dinner, along with a side of that Gardein orange “chicken”.
That’s all for now, folks, but stay tuned for more tips, tricks, and recipes from Chef Jamie Love. ❤