A Beginners Guide To Veganism

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Written By: Brianna Snyder

The joke about vegans is that they never shut up about being vegans. That alone can be enough to turn you off to the lifestyle. But vegans do appear to live morally pure lives. They live with sacrifice and hardship. They have to plan meals, avoid lots of convenient foods, restaurants, BBQs. At least, that’s what it seems like.

Here’s the thing I don’t want to tell you, though, about the realities of factory farming and animal mistreatment in this country:

  • Your meat is full of antibiotics, employed to keep the animals alive long enough to get big before they’re slaughtered.
  • As many as 65 percent of pigs have pneumonia.  
  • You don’t want to know what happens to male baby chicks.

  • Veal calves are forced to wear very heavy chains their whole, short lives, and suffer forced anemia to keep their flesh pale. :/

There’s more, and I’ll spare you. I’m sure you’ve been avoiding those PETA videos just like I have. So it takes asking yourself a very hard question: If I can’t even bring myself to watch the videos, how can I justify eating meat?

I can’t. So here it is, a beginners’ guide to giving up animal products. AKA: How I learned to stop hating and give in to the soy cheese.


1. Start slowwwwww

You don’t have to make the jump to full vegan right now. You can take it in stages if that’s more comfortable for you. Start with pescetarianism (where you don’t eat meat but you still eat fish), and start to bulk up your vegetable intake. Slowly wean yourself down to vegetarianism, then continue to eliminate animal-based products from your diet. Finish the eggs and the milk and the cheese. Start experimenting with nutritional yeasts and nut milk.


2. Build your meal plans

We’ll include a sample meal plan at the end of this post, but in the meantime, it’s worth getting a few recipes lined up to give yourself an idea of what you’re going to be eating every day. If you normally eat yogurt, can you eat vegan yogurts made with almond, coconut, or soy? What about a fruit smoothie? Or gingerbread waffles?

The key, at first, is going to be preparation. You’re going to be giving up a lot of convenient foods like sandwiches, cheese, and other processed foods (which often, sneakily, contain animal products). So making sure you have lunch packed and dinner planned will help you maintain your vegan diet from day to day.


3. Celebrate vegetables

I know this one sounds extremely boring and stuffy. But when did we all decide to relegate vegetables to a side dish? Truly, have you had spicy roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon? I could eat just that for Thanksgiving dinner.

When you start to center vegetables on the plate, to really take pleasure in vegetables, veganism is an easy path forward. What if we regarded vegetables the same way we regard steaks, burgers, or ribs? It’s a total lie that veggies are less delicious than anything else we eat. Blackened green beans, pickled beets, roasted broccoli, all vegetables have as much potential for being delicious as literally any raw food. Have fun with them and eat as many different kinds as you can get your hands on.

 
 

Want to know how to get going? Here are a few recipe ideas.

 

AVOCADO TOAST WITH GARBANZO BEANS
(via PETA)

METHOD:

  1. Slice avocado in half, and remove the pit. Cut into cubes, and pour the cubes into a bowl. Add salt and pepper, and squeeze lemon juice into the bowl. Mix thoroughly.
  2. Begin to toast the bread. Once the bread is toasted, drizzle olive oil on the bread before adding other ingredients.

  3. Scoop the avocado mixture onto the bread.

  4. Garnish with cherry tomatoes, garbanzo beans, minced parsley, and red pepper flakes.

INGREDIENTS:

1 large avocado
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup garbanzo beans
1/2 lemon
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. parsley
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
2 slices whole grain bread


SEITAN SAUERKRAUT SANDWICH
(via VeganYackAttack)

METHOD:

  1. Place the onion and mushrooms into a small pan, over medium heat.

  2. You may use a little oil in the pan if you'd like, but it's not necessary. Just cover the pan and stir occasionally, until the onions are translucent and the mushrooms have reduced in size.

  3. Once they are cooked, place them in a bowl. Using the same pan, lay the seitan slices flat on it, again, over medium heat. Turn over every 2-3 minutes, or when there is a slight browning on each side.

  4. Spread the creamy horseradish onto one slice of toast, and the mustard on the other.

  5. Next, stack the seitan first, then the drained sauerkraut, mushrooms/onions and the top piece of bread. Slice in half and enjoy with a great Hefeweizen, don't forget the lemon!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2/3 cup thinly sliced onion
  • 1 cup button mushrooms, sliced
  • 5-6 slices thin seitan
  • 1/2-1 tablespoon Dijon or stone-ground mustard
  • 1/2-1 tablespoon vegan horseradish sauce
  • 2 slices of whole wheat or sourdough bread, toasted
  • 1/3 cup sauerkraut, drained

ROASTED BROCCOLI AND TOFU WITH CREAMY MISO DRESSING
(via Bon Appetit)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 425◦. Cut off stems from brussels sprouts; discard. Place outer leaves on a large rimmed baking sheet. Finely slice inner brussels sprout cores and transfer to a medium bowl. Coarsely grind coriander seeds in spice mill or with mortar and pestle.
  2. Add broccoli and tofu to baking sheet with outer sprout leaves. Drizzle with 2 Tbsp. oil, add crushed coriander and pepper, and toss to combine; season with salt. Roast, tossing once halfway through until broccoli is browned (even lightly charred in a few spots) and tender, 30–35 minutes. Let cool.

  3. Meanwhile, add olives, 1 Tbsp. oil, and 1 Tbsp. lemon juice to sliced brussels sprouts and toss to combine. Season with salt.

  4. Purée hemp seeds, miso, 2 tsp. sesame seeds, remaining 5 Tbsp. lemon juice and 2 Tbsp. oil, and ¼ cup water in a blender until smooth. Season with salt.

  5. Spread some dressing on bowls or plates. Toss roasted vegetables with sliced brussels sprouts and arrange over dressing. Top with sesame seeds, almonds, and parsley.

Special Equipment:

  • A spice mill or mortar and pestle

INGREDIENTS:

  • ½ pound brussels sprouts
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 2 small heads of broccoli (about 1 pound total), cut into large florets
  • 1 14-ounce block firm tofu, drained well, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon Aleppo-style pepper or other mild red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt
  • ⅓ cup green olives, pitted, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
  • ½ cup hemp seeds
  • 2 tablespoons white miso
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds, plus more for serving
  • Crushed toasted almonds and/or parsley leaves with tender stems (for serving)