Your Thoughts Thursday: Help New Vegans

August 26, 2010 by Keri

Most of us weren’t raised vegan.  For the majority, there was a definite transition period from “mainstream” to vegan.  During this time, a lot of us relied solely on pre-made packaged vegan products, trying them all to find the good, the bad, and the inedible.  We discovered vegan shampoos, household products, clothing, and that our new vegan lifestyles didn’t actually mean a life without fabulous footwear. And then we discovered a few amazing vegan cookbooks and blogs, helping us to become gourmet vegan chefs in our own kitchens.  Today, I’m asking you to share your tried-and-true vegan wisdom with our new vegan friends.  Let’s call it a vegan starter kit in word form.  Take a few minutes to help those who want to go vegan, but are a little confused where to start, or those who are newly vegan and could use a little guidance.  We’ve all been there!

  • What are your favorite packaged vegan food products?
  • Which products do you wish you’d known to save your money on?
  • What websites, stores, and brands would you recommend?
  • Must-have beginner vegan cookbooks?
  • Most helpful blogs?
  • What things have hidden animal-products that are easy for new vegans to miss?
  • What advice would you give them on facing “the vegan interrogation” from family, friends, and complete strangers with confidence?
  • Feel free to share whatever you wish someone would have shared with you!
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I Eat Trees is a blog featuring my adventures in all things vegan. My favorite recipes, snack food finds, and restaurant trials are all on the menu so enjoy!


  1. Angel says:

    What are your favorite packaged vegan food products? GARDEIN! They are the best prepackaged vegan “meats”, daiya cheese has come out with an amazing vegan cheese product.

    Which products do you wish you’d known to save your money on? I spent so much time and money looking for the right vegan cheese. I love nutritional yeast but was looking for something more, I found Daiya early this year and will never go back to another vegan cheese brand.

    What websites, stores, and brands would you recommend? TOMs shoes! They have vegan options and for every shoe purchase, they donate a pair to those in need. As much as I LOVE Whole Foods, find a farmer’s market or local market and hunt the aisles for things, they are usually less expensive and grown/made locally.

    Must-have beginner vegan cookbooks? Vegan with a Vengeance AKA The Bible. Isa Chandra breaks everything down and makes it SO easy to have really yummy food. Vegan on the Cheap is also a good one, because uhmm hellooooo?! C-H-E-A-P.

    Most helpful blogs?,,,, and of course

    What things have hidden animal-products that are easy for new vegans to miss? LOOK FOR GELATIN AND CASEIN!

    What advice would you give them on facing “the vegan interrogation” from family, friends, and complete strangers with confidence? Stick to your guns, you are doing something GREAT! Don’t let anyone put you down for such an important decision in your life. Let them know how you’re helping the environment, animals and your own health. DON’T BE A JERK, and don’t make it seem hard. Most people think we vegans think we’re better than them (ahem. we are, but that’s a different story), but show them that we’re just normal people with certain beliefs.

    I wish someone would have introduced me to some of the awesome and easy vegan recipes I’ve come across in blogs over the last year. When I first went vegan I stuck to prepackaged products (because that’s what was easy). But with a little imagination, you can make a great homemade healthy meal. Don’t beat yourself up for overlooking something. There are plenty of new vegans that consume or buy something that has a non vegan ingredient accidentally. It happens. It sucks, but it happens. Learn from your mistake and triple read ingredients, have a second set of eyes look over it (I always have my husband look through it after I have). HAVE FUN creating and veganizing your favorite recipes 😀

  2. Great questions!

    What are your favorite packaged vegan food products?

    I love Daiya cheese (because I miss “cheese” the most)

    Which products do you wish you’d known to save your money on?

    I try to be careful about buying expensive shakes. I’m realizing I can make some pretty nutritious, protein-packed smoothies without the expensive mix.

    Must-have beginner vegan cookbooks?

    30-minute Vegan!

    Most helpful blogs?

    This one! I’d like to think mine is, too 🙂
    Vegan Matters: has a great number of vegan blogs listed.

  3. kate says:

    As a relatively new vegan (2 years), but long time vegetarian (15 years), I think the key is knowing how to cook. If you’re relying on restaurants or packaged foods, you’re going to have a much harder time than if you can make yummy vegan food at home. And for me that doesn’t just mean just buying vegan cookbooks. Most of the food I make isn’t vegan versions of typical American food. Instead, I make lots of Indian, Middle Eastern, and Chinese dishes. With all the wonderful flavors of these cuisines, even my carnivore boyfriend doesn’t miss the meat or dairy.

  4. Noelle says:

    Lots of thoughts here! Well, I have to say that Ezekiel breads are awesome and Daiya cheese has been a lifesaver since going vegan Last November. I miss cheese sometimes. Field Roast is amazing is you miss meat as is Uptons Natural Seitan crumbles for ground beef meals. Starbucks can have hidden ingredients in their newer frap drinks and veggie burgers in restaurants are not vegan all the time. Explaining to your waiter before anyone orders is ALWAYS good when in mixed company so people will not have to wait on you.

  5. MaryBeth says:

    Hi, Wow I will definitely have to come back and add additional comments when I have more time. I love for recipes. Amazing vegan recipes with ratings, some photo’s, tips, grocery list etc. I would go hungry while traveling if I didn’t have Happy Cow. Excellent way to find vegan friendly restaurants, food stores, etc. I have a 10 and 12 year old, along with my husband we are all vegan. My kids are amazing, I feel like they are poster kids for veganism- very bright, happy, in great shape, amazing athletes, kind and compassionate yet savvy too. I kind of chuckle when asked about being vegan… just comes from within. I think to myself-beef, it’s what’s rotting in your colon. All someone needs to do is take a look at us-we are radiant and beaming with the knowledge that we choose compassion. Random thoughts off the top of my head. I’ll be back.

  6. HappyAly says:

    Oh my what an awesome set of questions! I still consider myself a new vegan since I’ve only been for about 18 months now . . . but . . . I have advice especially for those in more rural/secluded areas (I live in Alaska).

    I purchased the book Becoming Vegan right before I made the full commitment. It was a great choice for me because it wasn’t just a cookbook or a philsophy or diet book, but a mesh of everything. It educated me on things I didn’t realize I could run short on (B12), places to get it (Nooch!!), and also came up with week-long menus and kitchen must-haves.
    I didn’t know for awhile that Soy Cheese is actually not all that vegan friendly since most of them still have caseinate. Daiya, if available, is a much better option, or experimenting with nutritional yeast.

    POLENTA became my best friend for awhile. I ate it in everything.
    Unless it’s someone’s goal to make a drastic change into every aspect of their food, try and just make things that you regularly eat vegan. Make vegan tacos – take out the meat, and if you want, sub a tofu meat. Or, if non-processed is your fare (it wasn’t at first for me and has become my goal), taco nut meats are *super!*

    This site and Averie’s LoveVeggiesandYoga have been really big idea-starters for me in recent months. For the first year, though, I didn’t use cookbooks all that much or blogs; I used my own stuff.
    Invest in a local CSA or Full Circle Farms for quality organic/localish produce. It’s fresher, they suggest recipes, and can offer a good chance to connect with other veggie eating friends.

    Giovanni and Alba health products are my favorites; they aren’t crazy expensive and smell great!

    Two things I’ve found to be invaluable: A rice cooker and a blender/food processor. I’m in the process of getting a spiralizer and a dehydrator.

    In the handling snarky comments section I still have issues. I’ve had to stop my preachy side and just ask the person if they are genuinely curious, or just asking to rebut. If they are just asking to rebut, I don’t bother and just say it’s a personal choice. If they say they are genuinely curious and don’t seem as if they wish to be combative, I’m happy to share. I’m in a place where I’m done defending myself and tired of having people ask “are you allowed to eat that?” But if people do become combative and you do wish to go further in the discussion, the best explanation is just knowing why you make the decision and knowing all of the points you believe in and wish to make.

    Awesome questions, Keri!

  7. I’ve been vegan for about 10 months now. I think what has been the best for me was finding staples I love to fall back on. For me these have been quinoa, chickpeas, kidney beans, avocado, tomatoes, carrots. Quinoa can be made into salads, eaten as a side, spiced in any way, topped with gravy, and it’s so easy! I have often mashed up an avocado, mixed it with quinoa and beans, and topped with all manner of cooked and/or raw vegetables. Whatever I have around the house! Filling, fast, nutritious, easy.

    Also, green smoothies! They make getting greens and any supplements you want so easy and fun. They really changed how I feel about my nutrition! I get so much power from them without being bored or munching on lettuce forever. is my go-to for great, trustworthy, do-able recipes. for travelling.
    and TWITTER! The #1 tool that has helped me on my vegan journey. What an amazing community! 🙂

  8. cleaninggirl says:

    Being a Brit finding vegan products can be a bit of a challenge but I have found lots of great places to get what I need which is great.

    Okay onto answering the questions I have some very different answers with being vegan for only a year myself as well as linving in the UK

    What are your favorite packaged vegan food products?
    I love Redwoods products they have some great melting cheese a HUGE range of cheating ‘meats’ (ham slices that taste just like ham, turkey slices, beef slices, chicken peices, burgers, sauages, mince, beef/turkey joints, bacon ect) They also have a variaty of melting cheese from red leister to motzerella. I love Toffutti speadable cheese and Brute Island sheese their hard chedder is to die for. I also love Provomel yogurts they are so yummy. I also love buying seasonal veggie from my local market and winter is my favourite as I love making veggie stwes to have when I come home from a cold day at work.

    Which products do you wish you’d known to save your money on?

    I can’t really think of any alot of it is trail and error on products to see if you like them plus my diet changes with the season I tend to eat alot of sald based foods during the summer and soups/stews during the winter and a mix in the middle of the two in the other two seasons.

    What websites, stores, and brands would you recommend?

    There are so many I love sometimes I wish I lived in the US as there is alot more choice there than in the UK but my 2 essential online stores are & I have a couple of fav websites as well but this one is my favourite to date I also visit for more local based information on things happening in the UK.
    A great shoe site I found the other week is along with and
    I have to admit I couldn’t live without my local health food shop where I can get alot of my ingredients to make kickass foods (I love making vegan deserts for my family such as cakes, cookes, crumbles, muffins & cheesecake). I also can’t live without my local Holland & Barrett it’s one of the best ones I’ve found when I was at my sisters I went to her closest one and it was pretty poor for choice but I managed to get a couple of basics including jelly for my vegetarain niece who wishes she could have jelly as none are vegertarian,

    Must-have beginner vegan cookbooks?

    Easy Vegan Cooking I actually ended up buying a second copy as I lost my first one this book is still in my kitchen it covers so many dishes from breakfast to pudding and great from me as it’s british based (well it gives you the british words for food and tells you where you can get them in the uk) I also brought a few other vegan cookbooks but this has been a godsend for me in the early days I don’t use it much unless I want to make cakes .
    Another great source for vegan recipes has been and

    Most helpful blogs?

    again I recommend (they have a family tree with some of their fav blogs mine is on there The Noise Inside) and

    What things have hidden animal-products that are easy for new vegans to miss?

    The biggest one has for me has been whey protein (they seem very keen in the UK to add it to products like Walker salt&vinger crisps), Gelatin & casein

    What advice would you give them on facing “the vegan interrogation” from family, friends, and complete strangers with confidence?
    As I said I’m fairly new to the whole vegan scene and haven’t really had an issue of vegan interegation. I haven’t told my parents as my mom doesn’t approve so I just let her think I’m vegetarian that keeps her quiet, but my sister guessed I was vegan when I went to stay with her last month and she was very supportive she asked me why and I just said I’d had some health issues before hand (the smell of cooked meat made & still makes me feel sick just seeing some meat makes bile rise up in my throat) and I have since discovered since ditching dairy that I have a milk intolerence (I would suffer from constant sore throats and would feel sick or vomit after having milk/yogurts) I haven’t had a sore throat in a year! I also haven’t really eaten eggs in over 10 years just the idea of what they are – non fertilized eggs that could of been baby chicks made me sick to my stomach so not eating those wasn’t a problem even giving up mainstream chocolate & sweets wasn’t a hardship just think of what they really are made it so much easier just think of them as a cow or a pig or whatever and I can’t stand the thought of eating them.
    I think before long I’m going to end up having a confrontation with my mum over being vegan but if I explain it to her I think it will be okay most of the people I have met and have told that I’m vegan have been really non-plused about it.
    I actually told my boss last year when I went vegetarian a few months before going vegan that I was vegeatrian and he was like ‘what about the farmers ect’ and I just explained that it was my choice and dissision to not eat meat nobody elses.

    One piece of advice I’d like to give is don’t fret if you accidently eat something that isn’t vegan it happeneds don’t worry about it’s all a learning experience once you know something isn’t vegan then you know to avoid it.

  9. VegMuffinMan says:

    One of my favorite packaged vegan products would have to be peanut butter. I love it in most dishes and it is an absolute favorite of mine (i hope i answered the question right)

    My favorite websites are twitter (for news on all things vegan) and believe it or not, this one! I am rather fond of my own site but it is no where near as good as i eat trees!

    Must have vegan beginners cookbook? Veganomicon for sure!

    Galaxy foods rice cheese has milk protein that i did not notice until after i read the ingredients when i got home. I mean come on. Rice cheese with milk protein? Kind of defeats the purpose.

    As far as being a new vegan, the key is confidence. I am 16 and live in a family of non vegans. I work around meat and even have to work with it! But never give up hope. Do not expect everyone to take in your lifestyle. Just remember that you are not alone in this crazy world. We vegans have your back 😉

  10. VegMuffinMan says:

    Been a vegan for only 4 months (vegetarian for 10). I always get confidence by reading Keri’s posts!

  11. Vegmom says:

    Sorry for not posting on Thursday, but just getting a moment to read some blogs 🙂

    I have several friends making the switch to a healthier and sometimes vegan lifestyle.

    The cookbooks already mentioned, along with vegan cupcakes take of the world, and the cookie one… I find that if you can win them over with the desserts that the rest is easy 🙂

    I also like to offer quick and easy alternatives… Smashed avocado spread on a sandwich instead of mayo. 1 mashed banana in muffins or pancakes instead of eggs. Smart Ground or Yves Ground to replace the ground beef.
    Lentils or chick peas smashed to replace the ground beef in tacos, etc.

    Apple cider Vinegar mixed with Soy Milk, makes “butter milk” and get then veganize almost every buttermilk recipe. From Scones, to cupcakes, to pancakes.

    Tofutti Cream Cheese, the soy and coconut ice creams.

    Wayfare or Daiya cheeses

    I could go on all day! 🙂 but I think Offering healthy alternatives first, makes for a quick and easier transition.