A reader asks:
I am currently making the transition from being a vegetarian to being a vegan. I have been reading your website for information and inspiration. I recently started working on my honors project (much like a senior thesis) and I am planning on creating an exposé on the truth about Veganism. I want to inform and inspire my fellow peers on the truth about Veganism and get rid of a lot of the myths circulating about why Veganism is “wrong” or “bad” or “unnatural.” Anyways, I think my point was that I was wondering if you had any tips for me on this. I am still transitioning, so I don’t have all of the experience with the lifestyle that you do. I am sure you also have experienced situations where you had to explain your lifestyle to people who nor understood it nor wanted to understand it. Thank you for your time and I hope you have a wonderful day.
It sounds like you have a few different–though related–questions here. The first one seems to be any tips on transitioning to veganism from lacto-ovo vegetarianism. When I first became vegan about seven years ago, I went from an omnivore to full-on vegan overnight. If my decision were based upon vanity or self-interest, I don’t think I could’ve pulled it off. But the fact that I was doing it for ethical reasons made it actually so simple and easy. One of the strongest motivators for us humans is behaving in ways that fulfill our own self-conception. Put another way, my belief in my ability to do the right thing made it easy to actually do the right thing. So I think the first step in your transition is to really know why you’re doing this. When things get tough, ask yourself: How does your journey define who you are as a compassionate, conscientious, peaceful human being?
Now, let’s get down to the specifics. Many vegetarians/ omnivores have said to me that the reason they won’t try veganism is their love of cheese. (“I can’t become vegan because I’d miss my cold glass of dairy milk,” said no one in the world, ever). If you feel the same way, I urge you to try some of my favorite vegan cheese options out there. My absolute favorite vegan cheese brand is Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet Cheese. I recommend Cheddar and Mozzarella flavor. Here’s how these babies have gotten me through the lean college years (and uh, lean post-college years): take water, boil it, add macaroni, drain, add some chopped up Vegan Gourmet Cheddar and melt over medium heat for about half a minute–BOOM instant mac n’ cheese (and the best one dish meal, ever). Easy vegan lasagna–prepare lasagna noodles, drain and layer with tomato sauce, crumbled tofu, chopped Vegan Gourmet Mozzarella, repeat, stick in the oven at 350 degrees for half an hour. BAM delicious bubbly, rib-sticking casserole dish. Other great options are Daiya and Tofutti (Mozzarella flavor especially). I would also advise you to experiment with using nutritional yeast for that cheesy umami flavor.
Besides the big C question, the key to becoming fully vegan is remembering that vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains should form the basis of your diet. Make these wholesome ingredients the centerpiece of your meal, and let their true flavors come out instead of masking them with dairy or eggs. You likely already love vegetables, but some of my favorite hearty veggies are lentils, chickpeas, broccoli, eggplant, mushrooms, beets, fennel, kabocha and butternut squash, sweet potatoes, etc. These veggies will come alive especially when combined with whole grains, nuts, and seeds–you won’t miss any non-vegan flavors, I promise.
Finally, it sounds like you are dealing with some skeptics. We’ve had quite a few articles on how to handle criticism (Practice Kindness: How to Speak Up for Veganism and 5 Reasons Why Going Vegan is Not Scary and Let Your V-Flag Fly) if you haven’t checked those out already. When I first became vegan, I was lucky enough to get just a few raised eyebrows (from one best friend and my sister), nonchalance (Dad), and support (Mom). In fact, my mom–though not a vegetarian or vegan herself–was very happy about my decision, and started making me vegan Korean soft tofu soup right away. But when you first declare your allegiance to the V-flag, your loved ones might show their concern or confusion the WRONG way–by becoming snide, rude, critical, or judgmental. Remember though that it’s their love and friendship that makes them concerned–and that, the longer you keep to your resolve, they will know that it’s not just a passing “phase” but a permanent lifestyle choice. Prove to them that you are healthier and happier for your choice. Cook a vegan meal to share with the family. Share Peaceful Dumpling articles with them! If they question you about veganism, be gracious and say, “I’m thrilled that you’re so interested in veganism. I’d love to share why I’m vegan,” and point them toward informational places like here. And most of all, be patient, because you never know how they will grow and evolve themselves. As I write, my initially-skeptical best friend has been a vegetarian for over 2 years.
Good luck on your new journey, congratulations and God speed! And I hope all the best for your honors project. Keep me posted!
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