Your Thoughts Thursday: Vegan Advice

November 11, 2010 by Keri

It seems counter-intuitive, what with all the “traditional” carcass this time of year, but the holidays definitely seem to be a popular time to go vegan. Perhaps it’s the compassion and love in the holiday air, or as Isa put it, “Maybe because that dead bird in the middle of the table starts to seem like…a dead bird in the middle of the table.”  Whatever it may be, those new vegans and vegan-curious, especially those living in non-vegan-friendly families and towns, often turn to the internet for advice.  That’s where our little vegan community comes in.  I know it’s easy to put new vegans and the vegan-curious in our own shoes, forgetting how much we’ve learned from experience, but the transition can be confusing.  The, “Where will I get my protein and iron?” and, “Why can’t I eat honey, free-range eggs, or wear silk?” may seem monotonous or trivial to you now,   but a little compassion on your part can inspire a lot more compassion in others.  So this YTT, I’m asking you to share your most helpful advice with those in search of it.  Even if you consider yourself a fairly new vegan, sharing what you’ve learned so far could be very helpful to someone making the decision to go vegan.  As always, you can answer in the comments below or on your own blog, but if you do the latter be sure to leave me a link in the comments so I can read your thoughts.  Answer them all, or just choose the questions for which you have the most helpful advice!

Common questions people have when choosing to go vegan or newly vegan:

“I’m worried about getting proper nutrition on my new vegan diet.  Do you carefully plan your meals to make sure you’re getting everything necessary?”

“Should I be taking supplements? Which supplements do you take?”

“I’m not going vegan for my health, but how will the diet effect me physically?  Is it going to take my body some time to adjust?  Will I notice any initial effects, good or bad?”

“There are so many packaged vegan foods on the market, and I want to try them all, but which ones are your favorite? Which should I save my money on?

“I’m new to vegan cooking and baking.  What are a few vegan dishes I can make to impress my nonvegan friends and family and prove to them vegans eat more than tree bark and pine cones?”

“What things have hidden animal products that are easy for me to miss? What non-vegan ingredients should I look for on the label besides the given meat, eggs, and dairy?”

“I don’t use animal products, but what else can I do to help the cause?”

“It’s as though my friends are trying to catch me in an inconsistency with their constant questions and comments.  What should I say to people when they’re quizzing me beyond my knowledge of my new lifestyle?”

“What should I do at social events when there’s no vegan food available and everyone keeps trying to force me to eat things? I know I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to, but it’s awkward.”

“What online resources will be most helpful to me as a new vegan?  Are there any books or movies you would recommend to me?”

I was cool and all before I went vegan, but now I’m like, whoa. Why are vegan so awesome?”

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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. Jess - The Domestic Vegan says:

    Ooh, love this post! Great idea. 🙂 I wish I would have had a blogpost like this available to me when I was first considering veganism.

    I’m going to make some coffee & come back & answer. (Just thought I’d keep you updated on my every move this morning, I guess?! ;))

  2. cleaninggirl says:

    Oooh good questions something I’m going to answer on my own blog it will give me something to write about today for my vegan mofo entry.

  3. Jess - The Domestic Vegan says:

    -Nutrition/planning: I plan most of my meals both to make sure I’m eating a healthy, balanced diet & to save money on groceries. I will say that I think vegetarians, vegans, and omnivores alike should all be paying attention to what they’re eating; good nutrition isn’t only a concern for vegans. I don’t think meat-eaters are automatically eating a balanced diet just because they eat meat; quite the contrary, in fact. For every “Where do you get your protein?” that veg*ns get asked, meat-eaters could be asked, “Where do you get your fiber?” 😉 I think everyone, regardless of dietary “box”, should be paying attention to proper nutrition.

    -Supplements: That’s totally up to you, of course. Personally, I take a multivitamin, one calcium supplement (that supplies 50% of my daily needs), and vitamin D in the winter months. Then I take a B12 supplement a couple times a week. Mind you, I would take all of these supplements even if I weren’t vegan! (Meat-eaters can be deficient in B12, too.) I try to get all of my vitamins & minerals through food, and most days I’m sure I have no problem, but I see supplements as extra insurance against the occasional gap in my diet – not due to veganism, but just due to being a busy person who doesn’t always eat “perfectly”!

    -Side-effects: I’d say this depends on the person. I never had any side-effects, per se (good or bad), but I have vegan friends who did. I know a couple people who experienced minor acne breakouts, but I believe that was due to an initial “detox” period. When a person switches from eating a Standard American Diet, complete with lots of junk, to eating such nourishing, clean food, that can be a shock to the system. A good shock, but a shock nonetheless. (Then once the short breakout period was over, these friends had better skin than ever.) Personally, I didn’t experience any side-effects, other than noticing that my energy was up & I felt really happy! It’s exciting making such a big change, and I love the feeling of finally matching my actions & my lifestyle to my ethics.

    -Buying vegan food: I went crazy trying new products when I first went vegan! It’s like a whole new world opened up to me & I was noticing things at the grocery store that I never even knew existed. I’d say skip most vegan cheeses, except for Daiya! I love Daiya. (Though everyone is different, so really I’d just say buy what you want to try! If you don’t like it, don’t buy it again.) Another favorite is Coconut Bliss brand ice cream, and I also love Amy’s brand non-dairy pot pie (be sure to check the label because Amy’s has both a vegan & non-vegan version). Gardein brand (found mostly in the freezer section) makes fabulous vegan “meat” products. The Seven Grain Crispy Tenders are my favorite!

    -Cookbooks/Feeding non-vegans: I suggest practically any recipe from the books “Vegan with a Vengeance”, “Veganomicon,” and “The Vegan Table.” Soups are always great, as are things like bean tacos/enchiladas, and stir fries. And everyone loves baked goods – particularly cupcakes. For those, I recommend “Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.” AWESOME book!

    6. Hidden ingredients: This is a toughie. Personally, when I’m buying a pre-made or boxed product, it’s usually organic & has as few ingredients as possible. I wasn’t always this way, but I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t want to be eating anything that I can’t pronounce or recognize – so if there’s something listed in the ingredients that I’m not sure about, I just don’t buy it. That’s not even necessarily a vegan thing, but just a health concern. I also love products that have a big VEGAN stamp on the package, advertising that it’s 100% animal-free.

    7. Quizzing from friends: This can be really overwhelming. I remember the feeling of thinking I had to have all the answers, and be able to explain every question perfectly! Now I’ve realized that this isn’t the case, and I just do my best to speak MY truth & answer to the best of my ability. There’s nothing wrong with answering a question you don’t have an answer to with, “That’s interesting. I’m not sure what my answer to that is, actually. Let me think about that & get back to you.” You’re not perfect, and neither is anyone else! 🙂 I think that the vast majority of the time, people asking questions are genuinely curious about the veg lifestyle & they’re not “quizzing” to be rude, so I always smile & try to answer politely – even if I’ve heard the question a hundred times. To me, it might be a tired question, but to them, it might be the first time they’ve asked it, or even THOUGHT about it! Lastly, if I can tell that someone ISN’T asking me questions in a respectful way, but is instead trying to irritate me or “catch me” in any inconsistencies or something, I end the conversation with something like, “Being vegan is a personal choice that I have made. I just try to do my best to live my values of compassion, and I do the best I can everyday. I’m still learning & I don’t have all the answers.” It’s okay to admit that you’re not an expert!

    -Force-feeding: I’ve experienced this only a couple times, but it is awkward. I would just politely, but sternly, say, “No, thanks! I really don’t want that. I’m good with my fruit plate [or something].” Usually if you say it confidently & with a smile, they’ll understand that you’re doing just fine without the cheese & crackers or whatever. If they keep persisting & literally shoving/waving food in my face, PERSONALLY, I would get a little sassy & tell them that they’re being rude. Do what feels comfortable for you, but don’t allow anyone to make you feel bad for standing up for yourself. People shoving non-vegan food in your face are just acting immaturely & are being obnoxious, and you have every right to ask them to stop. True friends won’t do that crap – or at least they’ll listen to you when you ask them not to.

    -Online sources/Book recs: I love, and of course, all the fabulous vegan blogs out there! Favorite books for information are “Becoming Vegan,” “The Vegan Sourcebook,” and “The Food Revolution.”

    -YES, vegans ARE really awesome. 😉

    I’m looking forward to the other answers! 🙂

  4. Danielle (Runs on Green) says:

    OooOhh I want to answer on my blog! 🙂

  5. bitt says:

    I’ll just tackle a few here:

    I’m planning a post about dairy alternatives, but I have to say, each person has their favorites. You will have to try different ones out to see what you like. For example, my husband likes coconut milk and I prefer almond.

    For nutrition questions, get a good book like “Becoming Vegan” to address the issues of protein and other nutrients. Take a supplement for Vitamin D and b-12 to be safe. you body does have stores of these so you can rely on those for awhile but it’s good practice to take a supplement.

    As for social events, try not to go on an empty stomach. Bring a dish with you if possible. People will try to tempt you because they want to see how far you will go. Just stay strong and they’ll eventually stop teasing or tempting.

  6. My advice is simple:

    Keep a positive attitude and have fun! Being veg is a challenge, not a plight.

    Viewing veganism as a challenge rather than a problem is way of looking at things that solves a lot of issues right out of the gate. I guess relative to being omnivorous, being vegan is more challenging out in the world, but I have never thought of it has being hard. There are so so so many complaints floating around about how hard it is to be vegetarian or vegan while traveling, in the airport, in small towns, at chain restos, etc. Going veg*n is a CHOICE and we all choose it for ultimately positive reasons: love of animals, love of our health, love of the environment, etc. So don’t feel sorry for yourself and don’t assume things will be worse for some reason. Live the choice and respect its challenges. I’m tempted to say, “no one said it would be easy, they just said it would be worth it,” but with a positive attitude, it *is* easy…and fun…and joyful! 🙂

  7. cleaninggirl says:

    Settle down with a nice cup of tea gather the blankets around you and get cozy to read my answers that I’ve posted on my blog along with my first home made seitan recipe

  8. Tony says:

    1st: This is site is great. Keep doing what you’re doing.
    2nd: I will take today’s Pop Quiz, finish it off, and post the answers on my blog and leave a link in here asap.

    But now I want to read your other post…

    [Damn interesting blog.]

  9. Laura Jill says:

    Great questions, Keri! I may answer them this weekend in my blog (like I did last week w/ your survey!) if I have time. Much crazy fun planned for this weekend, YAY!