We all know the reasons to go vegan: it's healthy, ethical, and environmentally responsible. But so many of us have trouble making those first steps. We miss our old treats, we don't replace vital nutrients, or we just get burnt out. Well, have no fear. The following tips will help make your vegan journey fun, easy, and-- most importantly-- delicious!
1. Try New Things
Many people use the wrong strategy when becoming vegan: instead of branching out and changing their diet, they instead eat all the same foods, minus the animal products. In this way, a dinner of potroast with buttery mashed potatos and green becomes dry potatos and bare vegetables. Not only is this lacking in many of the essential nutrients that your body needs, but that is just no way to live!
This is your opportunity to go crazy in the kitchen. Experiment, immerse yourself in new smells and flavors and cooking methods. There are plenty of places to find easy and delicious vegan recipes (my favorite is ohsheglows.com). If you want some of your old favorites, try vegan substitutes, such as Earth Balance vegan butter.
That being said...
2. Soup Is Your New Best Friend
Exploring the local produce section and trying out all of these new vegan recipes will be fun, but at the end of the week, you'll probably be left with a refrigerator full of vegetable odds and ends. If you're anything like I was, you'll have no idea how to combine Delicata squash, parsley, carrots, and legumes into a palatable dish.
The answer? Soup.
Follow these basic instructions and you'll never have to clean out a moldy produce drawer again.
1. Chop your (clean, peeled) vegetables into bite-size portions and bring them to a boil in a large pot with some vegan vegetable stock or even some water. Reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes, until all vegetables can be pierced easily with a fork. Remove from heat and let cool for 10-20 minutes.
2. Put these vegetables into the blender (you might have to do this part in batches) and mix, first on low and then on high speed.
3. Return to the large pot and season with your favorite spices. For squash-heavy mixtures, I tend to use a lot of cinnamon, and for lots of carrot, I tend to use paprika. But it's all about personal preference.
3. Be a Good Guest
One of the trickiest situations for a vegan is attending an event at a non-vegan's house. You don't want to make your dietary choices another person's problem, but you certainly don't want to sit around and watch everyone else eat while you go hungry.
Well, the trick here is to follow our mothers' advice and never show up empty-handed. Bringing food to the party not only shows that you have good manners and allows other people to sample your delicious vegan cooking (or purchasing from Trader Joe's, as the case may be), but it also ensures that you will have something to eat!
4. Invest in a Food Processor
This part is rather self-explanatory and oh-so-worth-it. You are about to eat a lot of food that requires mincing and dicing and grating and chopping. Therefore, you can either spend hours every week hacking at your pretty vegetables with a paring knife or you can press a button and have evenly cut food ready for your amazing vegan recipes.
Although it will eventually be worth it to invest in a sturdier model, food processors can be found for as little as $15 at your local big-box store. Well worth the expense, I promise!
5. Eat, for Goodness's Sake!
One of the greatest parts of being a vegan is discovering that healthy food is delicious and plentiful!
You can absolutely let yourself indulge, because (firstly) your food now is jam-packed with nutrients that your body needs. Within reason, more is better! Second of all, vegan food is less calorie-dense than most non-vegan dishes. Therefore, what looks like a lot of food on your plate actually has fewer calories than the non-vegan food that you are used to eating. You'll find yourself eating more and feeling better after the meal.
Becoming vegan is about more than what you don't eat. It's about changing your palate and experiencing new flavors, about becoming healthier and knowing that the food you eat is more ethical and environmentally friendly. From myself and the rest of the vegan community, best of luck as your embark on this journey!