Transitioning from Vegetarian to Vegan
Q I’m very new to being a vegetarian and still worry about getting good nutrition. But the more I read the more I am convinced that veganism is the best diet and lifestyle. Do you have some suggestions for me to help me through the transition to vegan? I always struggle with coming up with foods that give me that “meaty” taste that I miss so much so I’m afraid becoming a vegan will be even more of a struggle. Please help!
A Yes, you are correct by saying “veganism is the best diet and lifestyle”. It’s excellent that you are doing so much personal research by thoroughly checking out veganism. The harms of dairy are connected to a multitude of degenerative health conditions.
Regarding your concerns about nutrition, if you are eating a VARIETY of plant-based foods such as WHOLE grains (complex carbohydrates) legumes – such as beans and lentils, seeds, nuts, vegetables and fruits and eating enough calories for your body – you cannot help get enough protein. If it’s possible for you to shop at a Farmer’s Market to buy organic, fresh, local, and in season, this is best. Many supermarkets as well as natural foods stores, carry good amounts of organic produce and vegan foods.
The closer you’re able to stay to ‘whole foods’ rather than processed & non-GMO ingredients – you will be getting the highest quality of nutrition. Be certain to include calcium rich foods such as: Broccoli, Kale, Collards, Arugula and dark, leafy greens, sesame seeds and beans. I also recommend that you include a B12 supplement.
For the transition to veganism, familiarize yourself with vegan products and dairy alternatives, such as: non-dairy milks, in the form of almond, coconut, hemp, hazelnut, rice, soy, etc. Or make your own fresh almond milk – with soaked raw almonds (drained & rinsed) in a blender with dates or maple syrup, (or any sweetener of your choice) adding enough water for consistency, then chill in the refrigerator. An alternative to dairy butter is Earth Balance vegan butter, which is very delicious. Sour Creams and Cream Cheeses can be made with raw, soaked cashews, (drained & rinsed) garlic, water for consistency and lemon juice and sea salt. Chill in the refrigerator, allowing cheese to set up until firm.
There are delicious non-dairy cheeses in the stores today. Daiya, Sunergia Soyfoods, Galaxy Nutritional Foods, and Follow Your Heart brands are only a few. Some of the varieties are: Mozzarella, cheddar, American and Parmesan. It may be helpful for you to google ‘list of non-dairy cheeses’ on the Internet.
To satisfy your ‘meaty’ texture and flavors that you have concerns about missing, keep this in mind. Once you start feeling so much better on the vegan diet and try duplicating some of the flavors you are used to – you will be surprised that you can still enjoy flavors from your past taste-bud memories – such as smoked barbeque sauce with Seitan’s meaty flavor. Or making a dish like Shish-kebab (freezing your tofu beforehand for heartier texture) and then marinating the cubed tofu (or Tempeh) in a Marinade sauce of your choice. Raw coconut meat dehydrated makes up a ‘meaty’ texture. There are myriads of vegan recipe books for you to choose from.
There are way more awesome & creative varieties of ingredients for the vegan to enjoy and explore. I enjoy preparing dishes with Portabello Mushrooms, Tempeh, and Seitan for the ‘meaty’ textures. For the ‘meaty’ tastes you mention – these have to do with the flavorings of the sauces – which are plentiful for vegans.
I don’t like to recommend my own book when I advise people because I really don’t want to come across as being self-promotional. But in some cases it really is the best advice I can give. So if you’re inclined to buy something to read, I do sincerely recommend “Vegan Bite By Bite”. I believe it will be a great help for you as you work through the transition to becoming vegan.
I hope this information is helpful.