If you are new to the vegan life, I am here to help! But first we need to break the myths and stereotypes!
#1: Vegan Food is…..real food!
There is nothing “fake” or strange about vegan food because vegan food is real food. An apple is vegan. So is a lemon, rice, oats, all-purpose flour. It’s all vegan, because it all comes from plants. And we all eat these things every day. So vegan cooking is just substituting some ingredients and changing the way we think about food. It’s not scary or hard and there is no magic vegan dust -except nooch, but we will get to that!
Protein! Will I get enough?!
First, let me just say two things:
- There are a lot of vegans in the world, and none of them have ever dropped dead from a protein deficiency.
- None of us are worried about the amount of protein we consumer either.
See, no worries! Eating a diet that consists of a wide variety of foods (grains, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables) is going fuel your body with the nutrients it needs. And I have more news for you, my friend: virtually all of those foods have protein!
Here are some mind-blowing examples:
- A banana has 1.3 grams of protein
- 1 cup chopped broccoli has 4.2 grams of protein
- An avocado has 4 grams of protein
So, if for your lunch you had an avocado wrap with spinach, hummus and red peppers, a cup of broccoli with some vegan ranch dip and a banana you would haul in about 13-15 grams of protein (depending on if your wrap was whole grain). But wow, right?!
Ok, glad we got those worries out of the way! Phew!
I’ll have to start over and learn a whole new way of cooking and eating!
Okay, this may be partly true depending on how you are eating now. If you can’t remember the last time you ate a vegetable, the support group is tomorrow at 6 pm, show up with a salad to share. I’m joking, but in this case, yes, you will probably experience a whole new way of cooking and eating, but guess what?! You will probably surprise yourself by experimenting and eating foods you never dreamed of.
Why do I think I know so much? Because once upon a time, I couldn’t remember when I ate a fruit or vegetable! Yes, it’s true!
In my 20’s I ate a lot of processed food. I ate burgers and chicken wings and potato chips (no one person should ever eat that many potato chips) and Oreos and Teddy Grahams and frosting out of the can (Hey, no judging here! This is a safe place!) (Footnote: joke was on me though, Oreos and Teddy Grahams are vegan – accidentally – but we will get to that!)
So I go vegetarian in my early thirties and I’m like OH NO! What am I to eat? Well, I’m gonna tell you the truth. I didn’t like beans all that much and I just started experimenting with broccoli and I didn’t like spinach and asparagus and lots of other veggies. I still don’t like mushrooms all that much, but I’m still a fantastic vegan!
I went to the library and scanning the cookbook section to find any and every vegetarian and vegan cookbook I could carry. (It was a lot – and heavy! – good thing I wasn’t protein deficient yet! Sorry, a little vegan humor.) Then I brought them home and spread them all out on my living room floor and found recipes that sounded appealing and changed out the veggies for the ones I actually liked. I didn’t have a ton of cooking skills, but I found that cookbooks are full of education as well as recipes. They can tell you what flavors pair well together and also how to caramelize an onion or how to chop one up first in order to do so.
After awhile I started trying new spices, and new veggies and new flavor combinations and, well, I got more daring. And I kept checking out (then buying) but most importantly, reading cookbooks! The education that came along with all of that reading still goes on for me today. I still read vegan cookbooks cover-to-cover and I have an extensive collection (over 50!) and I still check some out at the library.
So, that was a long answer to the concern above, but if you are already a person who likes to try new things, loves farmers markets and the produce section, then you will only have to learn substitutions. Where ever you are in the journey, I am here for you!
Oh I can’t live without cheese!
You don’t have to. I sure as heck don’t!
“Wait, what?!” You say?
I make, buy and eat vegan cheese on the daily! For years, my advice to new vegans was to give up dairy cheese for a good month – like the October kind with 31 days – before even trying vegan cheese. But now, with the vegan cheeses on the market (and some are damn close to whole food) and the ones you can make yourself (which are whole food) you can start now and give up cheese first! Really. I sometimes shock myself when I say it.
Soon you will experience vegan cheese like you have never imagined!
Vegans are self-righteous and preachy.
Look, it’s not for me to say what kind of vegan you want to be (but you better not be self-righteous and preachy!), but just be kind to yourself and to others. It’s the only way. I always say that people need to help people help animals, so if you are doing things for animals and for yourself, just be kind to everyone around you in the process. Stick to the facts, and give them delicious food and everyone will be okay!
Okay, now that we busted the myths, let’s start cooking!