Ride-or-Die Vegan Essentials for your Resolution

Of course January is the perfect time of year for people to change their lives around, whether they start going to the gym, practicing more self-care or participating in Veganuary and going vegan for a month (hopefully longer!) But a really common question is “Where do I start?” and I think these beginner roadblocks are what lead to many a discouraged new vegan, and may lead to giving up on veganism altogether because it seems too hard. I’ll start with some tips:

*Disclaimer: I’m not advocating for nor against plant based diets (as opposed to a vegan lifestyle), I’m discussing what works best for me personally and this post is not to be read as the be-all, end-all vegan bible*

  1. Don’t try to switch right from animal cheeses to vegan cheeses. This is number one for a reason. Although many vegan cheeses are great in their own right, if you’re a hardcore cheese lover, you’ll probably be sorely disappointed. I suggest giving up any kind of cheese, vegan or otherwise for at least a month or so, that way your tastebuds’ memory will have faded a little bit. From conversations I’ve had and threads I’ve read online, this seems to be the biggest issue for people. I’m Italian, so I get it.
  2. Take a multivitamin. New vegans often complain of lethargy and a lack of energy, which is understandable because first of all, you’re turning your dietary world upside down and second of all, you haven’t got the hang of it just yet. But you will!
  3. Don’t feel obligated to drink kale smoothies every day. Am I encouraging you to eat like shit? No, I’m encouraging you to eat what you like, but make it vegan.
  4. Figure out how to veganize your favorite foods first. You’ll have these to rely on while you experiment and explore with new vegan foods.
  5. Don’t let peoples judgements and shitty attitudes discourage you. You’re likely going to catch a lot of flak from people you know, but mostly people you don’t, but that’s a fact of life you have to deal with as a vegan, unfortunately. People don’t like their ideals challenged, and you don’t really have to say much for them to feel that way.
  6. Learn your substitutes. Knowing off-hand what things can be swapped in the place of animal products can be super helpful, like flax for eggs, cashews for cream, oil or Earth Balance for butter, etc. That way, when you’re at the grocery store you’ll know what staples to pick up every time you run out.
  7. Check out recipe databases. Pinterest, One Green Planet and my personal favorite, Food Gawker, are great resources for a diverse selection of vegan recipes.
  8. Join Facebook groups and/or follow subReddits. Facebook is a treasure trove of groups for just about any obscure (or not-so-obscure) interest, as well as Reddit. Just type ‘vegan groups’ in the search bar, or head to r/veganrecipes or r/vegan to check it out!
  9. Look at the menu before you go. Eating out as a vegan is far from impossible in most places. Be sure to check out the menu before you head out to a restaurant, that way you can figure out what you want, and also prepare yourself for any questions you may have for your server. When in doubt, salad and french fries.
  10. Know what’s vegan and what isn’t. There are things that usually aren’t vegan, but on a very rare occasion, they might be. For example, Worcestershire sauce contains anchovies but there are brands like Annie’s and Whole Foods 365 that are 100% vegan. There are also many really sneaky ingredients hiding behind unsuspecting names. Did you know that not all wines and beers are vegan? Check out this handy list.
  11. Realize you don’t have to truly give anything up. There are tons and tons of vegan alternatives to the foods you know and love. Cheese, ice cream, chicken, burgers, hot dogs, even fish have all been veganized!

Now comes actually going to the store and buying things. Below I’ve created a list of the things I usually keep in my house, and the items in bold are the ones I use frequently (multiple times a week or almost every time I cook).

Veggies

  • Acorn squash
  • Asparagus
  • Bell peppers
  • Bok choy
  • Broccoli
  • Broccoli rabe
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Butternut squash
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Cucumber
  • Eggplant
  • Escarole
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Kale
  • Mixed greens
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Radish
  • Scallions
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Spinach
  • Sweet potato
  • Swiss chard
  • Tomatoes
  • Zucchini

Fruits

  • Apple
  • Avocado
  • Banana
  • Blackberry
  • Blueberry
  • Cherry
  • Grape
  • Grapefruit
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Orange
  • Peach
  • Pear
  • Pineapple
  • Raspberry
  • Strawberry

Legumes

  • Black beans
  • Cannellini beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Edamame
  • Kidney beans
  • Lentils
  • Peas

Fresh herbs

  • Basil
  • Cilantro
  • Dill
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Thyme

Dried herbs & spices

  • Basil
  • Bay leaf
  • Cayenne
  • Celery seed
  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Coriander
  • Cumin
  • Fennel
  • Fenugreek
  • Garam masala
  • Garlic powder
  • Ginger
  • Montreal steak seasoning
  • Oregano
  • Paprika
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Thyme

Grains

  • Barley
  • Farro
  • Oats
  • Pasta
  • Quinoa
  • Ramen
  • Rice

Nut butters, sauces & condiments

  • Almond butter
  • Gravy master
  • Ketchup
  • Liquid smoke
  • Maple syrup
  • Mayo
  • Mustard
  • Peanut butter
  • Soy sauce
  • Tahini
  • Tomato sauce
  • Tomato paste
  • Worcestershire sauce

Canned goods

  • Apple sauce
  • Canola oil
  • Coconut milk & cream
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Jackfruit
  • Olive oil
  • Salsa
  • Sesame oil
  • Thai red curry paste
  • Vinegar (white, balsamic, red wine, rice)

Dairy subs

  • Tofutti cream cheese
  • So Delicious coconut whip
  • Earth Balance butter
  • Ice cream
  • Shredded mozzarella and cheddar
  • Tofutti sour cream
  • Unsweetened/unflavored almond, cashew or soy milk

Protein

  • Gardein products (especially beefless crumbles)
  • Veggie burgers & sausages
  • Vital wheat gluten
  • Tempeh
  • Tofu
  • TVP

Nuts & seeds

  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Chia
  • Flax (ground)
  • Hemp
  • Pecans
  • Sunflower
  • Sesame
  • Walnuts

Author: Amanda Spinosa

Amanda Spinosa is a vegan illustrator, animal rights advocate and mother to two adopted dogs, Ludo and Sasha. She is born and raised in the Hudson Valley of New York where she spends much of her time hiking, foraging, experimenting with plant-based recipes and volunteering at the Woodstock Farm Sanctuary. Amanda is also an avid gardener and grows her own food during the summer months.

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