If you’re veg-curious, this Vegan Startup Guide shares lots of valuable advice and resources to get your journey started on the right foot.
Here you’ll find everything you need to know about vegan living, cooking, and eating. As you’ll see, being vegan isn’t a restrictive way of living. No, it’s a game-changer. In the best way possible! For me (and most others) going vegan is a process; it doesn’t often happen overnight. But once you’re on the journey, you’ll discover a healthier, inspired version of you!
What is a Vegan?
“I’m going to try being a weekday vegan!” That’s the email I received from an excited friend. He wasn’t ready to go full-time, but for him, taking on a vegan diet Monday through Friday was the best approach.
Does it surprise you to learn that I agreed with him?
In fact, there are a lot of ways to define veganism. I wrote a post called 10 Ways to Be Vegan to highlight most of them. However, that’s really more about your approach to taking on a vegan diet.
In a nutshell, a vegan diet is one that excludes ingredients that comes from an animal, such as meat, dairy, and eggs.
Some people will expand veganism to include lifestyle as well. They do their best to avoid purchasing leather or other animal-based materials and products tested on animals. As a result, you will see some commercial shampoos or other household products that have the label “Vegan” on them.
In my post 10 Ways to Be Vegan, I highlight the expansive ways Veganism can be applied to a larger audience. If you’re not interested in a full-time vegan lifestyle, there are options like the VB6 diet (vegan before 6) or the Paris Vegan (someone who eats vegan day-in and day-out, but will make exceptions when dining in Paris or some other special occasion and they want to enjoy the local culture and have a croissant which is made with butter and is not vegan).
I like the idea that a Vegan diet can be expansive. Inclusive. And with today’s new vegan products on the market and all the abundant research on the benefits of a vegan diet, it is much more approachable and do-able for a larger audience than ever before!
The Benefits of Being Vegan
To eat animal products or not to eat animal products? That is the question. And every day there are more discussions about the Benefits of Being Vegan, from weight loss, cures for chronic disease, and even improving the environment. That’s right. Adopting a vegan diet will help the planet.
But let’s get back to diet. Eating animal products increases your risk of developing some serious health issues, such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and more.
Think about it, there’s no other mammal that continues to drink dairy products beyond infancy, particularly dairy from another animal.
On the other hand, grains, vegetables, fruits, and beans are cholesterol-free, mostly low in fat, and high in fiber and other vital nutrients.
People always ask the question, where do you get your protein? We have a preoccupation with protein in our culture and it’s really a lot like brainwashing. According to scientist Ray Cronise, we have much more to be worried about from the overconsumption of animal-based products. “We are still obsessed with juggling mythical ratios of proteins, carbs, and fat,” says Ray Cronise in his blog post on Metabolic Winter. It’s a long read, but it has a lot of valuable information in it. Basically, we’re more likely to have experienced negative outcomes by being over-nourished as a result of our Standard American Diet (SAD). In other words, this whole discussion about protein is unnecessary.
A vegan diet is cholesterol-free and can take great steps toward improving a large number of health conditions. For example, the following health conditions can benefit from a healthy, plant-based diet: Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Heart Disease, Diabetes, Gout, and more.
What Do Vegans Eat?
Do you ever find yourself intrigued by a vegan diet but worry you’d be eating nothing but nuts and twigs? It’s a common misperception of vegan diets. I thought the same thing when I first made the leap.
I had been eating a vegetarian diet for years when I first heard the word vegan. I didn’t even know how to pronounce it at the time! I used to say it as VAY-gun. I still think it makes a little more sense to pronounce it that way, but I think that horse has already left the VEE-gun gates on that.
But there are thousands of great vegan recipes available and that means the list of Vegan Eats is quite expansive. Vegans can eat:
- Vegetarian Meatloaf
- Oreos (see “accidentally-vegan products”)
- Granola Bars
- Pizza (yes, vegans make some great pizza!)
- Vegetables (of course!)
- Ice Cream (did you see the reference above to Ben & Jerry’s?)
- French Fries
I can go on! Check out the Namely Marly Vegan Recipes page for more.
What Do Vegans NOT Eat?
Vegans don’t eat meat, dairy, or eggs. That means vegans do not eat:
There is some controversy on the topic of honey. Some vegans won’t eat honey because it comes from an insect. Others choose to eat honey because it’s a natural sweetener and bees are well cared for by beekeepers.
You could also ask the question, what do vegans not wear? I like to refer to the vegan diet as the thinking person’s diet because once you become aware of certain issues, like how animals are treated, you can’t unknow that.
So, what oftentimes happens is that you choose a vegan diet because you want to improve your health, or you care about the environment, and then you learn in the process how horribly angora rabbits are treated when their fur is plucked from their skin, and it’s difficult from that point forward to purchase a sweater that has angora in it.
This is not something that happens overnight either. But over time (and after watching a video or two showing how some of these products are extracted from animals), I’ve made more and more decisions to avoid clothing with animal products in them. It helps that I have itchy skin too. I’ve never been a fan of wearing things like wool or other itchy fibers.
See my resources on Incremental Veganism for ideas on how to ease into a vegan life.
What Meals can be Veganized?
This is oftentimes translated into…do I have to give up pizza? So, let’s start with that. There are vegan pizzas. Lots and lots of vegan pizzas.
There’s also vegan meatloaf. Vegan burgers. I’ve even had a vegan steak. Seriously. We make a Vegan Beefless Stew that we’ve shared with non-vegan friends who stare at us dumbfounded. I can’t believe this is vegan!
Oftentimes what we hear is, If I could eat like this every day, I’d have no problems going vegan.
Music to our ears!
But we’re talking about meals. Right? Just as an aside, sometimes dessert makes a nice meal. 🙂
We use vegan cheeses to make things like vegan pepperoni pizza, alfredo pasta, vegan grilled cheese sandwiches and more. Also, there’s a whole variety of vegan faux meats on the market. There are veggie crumbles that you can use in a pasta sauce. There are veggie meatballs. You can buy veggie chicken tenders, steak pieces, and even vegan crab cakes. Seriously. I know it boggles the mind, but these products are becoming more available and more affordable than ever before. It means that you can veganize just about anything. And that’s comforting, especially when you’re first making the transition to a vegan diet.
How to Bake Vegan
If you’re new to a vegan diet, baking without eggs or dairy can seem like a challenge. However, the Namely Marly Guide to Vegan Baking can help!
Vegan Meal Prep Tips
Blog Post: Whether you’re meal prepping for something you’re going to be eating today, or if you’re planning a week of healthy meals or simply wanting to make something for dinner tonight, you’ll love these handy Vegan Meal Prep Tips.
First, create a relatively simple meal plan for the week with recipes that work for the time you have available. Try to make recipes that you know you’ll like as leftovers. Then you can take those leftovers to lunch with you the next day.
When you have a plan you’re more than likely to stick to it!
Second, make sure you have the right ingredients on hand. I like to think of the recipes I’ll be having throughout the week to create a master grocery list. Having that master list will help you stick with it and avoid temptations while shopping. There are some staples in our pantry. These include:
- Canned beans (primarily pinto, black beans, and chickpeas)
- Vegetable Stock
- Nutritional Yeast Flakes
- Seasonings like garlic powder, dried basil, dried cinnamon, etc.
- Frozen or fresh vegetables, particularly broccoli, corn, and spinach
- Frozen or fresh fruits, like bananas, blueberries, apples, and citrus, like oranges or lemons
- Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat flour
Third, try to think about batch cooking. If you have two or three recipes that you’re working on for the week, preparing them on Sunday means you’ll only need to pull them out of the fridge and reheat during the week. Veggie Lasagna, Veggie Burgers, Vegan Pizza, BBQ Jackfruit — these are all great recipes that keep well throughout the week.
Batch cooking can save a lot of time. We love to cook on Sundays and live on the leftovers for the rest of the week! So if we know we’re going to make a couple of recipes that require brown rice, I’ll make a double batch and either refrigerate or freeze it. Other great batch cooking ingredients are sweet potatoes, spaghetti, and steamed broccoli.
One of our favorite quick meals that we make regularly is brown rice with diced potatoes, black beans, corn, rice, and taco seasoning. We actually call this “Shawnchiladas”, because Shawn created this recipe and makes it regularly. We serve this as a burrito, but I will also sprinkle it over a salad or with nachos.
Finally, be sure to prep any recipes that you want to create during the week. So if you know you’re going to make something like Veggie Rolls, go ahead and chop the ingredients ahead of time so fixing the meal on a weeknight is not a big deal. Besides, if you know you’ll be doing some chopping, you can put on a great podcast (Like the Namely Marly podcast!) and listen while chopping. This is a great time to chop up carrots, celery, bell peppers, or any of your favorite veggies.
Vegan Cooking Tips & Tricks
As I’ve mentioned before, there are a lot of misconceptions that vegan food is boring to eat and/or difficult to make. In my mind, nothing can be further from the truth, but I do agree there are some vegan cooking tips and tricks that make that possible. Here are a few of my favorites.
Accidentally-Vegan Food and Ingredients
Are you wondering which products you can and can’t use as a vegan? Check out this Guide to Accidentally Vegan Food and Ingredients.
Most people take an incremental approach toward veganism. Oftentimes people will start by going vegetarian. Then they might give up eggs or cheese. Or maybe even an allergy to dairy products surfaces and they find themselves kind of accidentally vegan. I have a friend who was bitten by a tick which caused her to develop an allergy to all animal-based products. Seriously, it’s a thing.
Whatever your reason for being intrigued and/or inspired by a vegan diet, know that you can consider yourself on a journey. Even though I’ve been vegan for years, I still consider veganism like a relationship. There are days when I’m passionately health focused. I’m all-in plant-based during these times. And then there are other times when I’m craving more comfort food and using vegan faux meats and other products to create dishes I’ve loved my whole life.
Typically, here’s a progression I’ve used and I’ve seen others use that works:
- Step One: Go Vegetarian. Start out as vegetarian, eating eggs, and dairy (lacto-ovo vegetarian). This is only minimally restrictive. You’re basically just not eating meat. Most restaurants offer veggie burgers. Learn more about How to Become a Vegetarian.
- Step Two: Eliminate Eggs. Remain vegetarian while giving up eggs.
- Step Three: Reduce Dairy. Give up all dairy except for mozzarella cheese and milk chocolate (or whatever your favorite dairy products are).
- Step Four: Reduce One “Preferred” Dairy. Slowly transition away from your “favorite” dairy, like milk chocolate. I say “favorite” because actually, it’s simply a preference. You will discover that once your taste buds have adjusted to dark chocolate, you may like it even more! Give this some time because taste buds take time to change.
- Step Five: Reduce Other “Preferred” Dairy. Slowly transition away from any other preferred dairy, such as mozzarella cheese. You may find that vegan cheese has a much better consistency (and is a whole lot less greasy) once you make the switch.
- Boom! You’re vegan!
- Sometimes you’ll go out with friends and you may order something that isn’t technically vegan. My theory is there is no such thing as 100% vegan so it’s up to you whether you want to stress out over that or not.
- Stay in this spot for quite a while. Check out our survey on 3 Ways to Be Vegan to see which one fits you!
- Try green smoothies. Discover that spinach in a blender combined with bananas and other stuff is actually pretty great.
- Have a plant-based cleanse week from time to time
- Slowly remove leather products from your daily life
- Slowly remove wool from your life
- Slowly give up buying any new sweaters with angora
You may find yourself back and forth between these steps at any given point in time. I think it’s important to give yourself the freedom and self-respect to know what’s right for you. I know I’ve done that for myself and it has helped to have that nonjudgmental approach.
Three Kinds of Vegan
Did you know there are different kinds of vegan? I’ve identified three main types so take our Vegan Type Quiz to answer the question: What Kind of Vegan Are You?
Best Vegan Beginner Recipes
I love vegan cooking and I want you to love it too! That’s why I’ve shared my 10 Best Vegan Beginner Recipes to help you get started on the right foot. What’s a beginner recipe? It’s one that’s relatively simple and helps you ease your way into vegan cooking!