When I first pursued vegetarianism in 2008 I decided I wasn’t only going to stop eating meat, I also didn’t want to consume any animal products or by-products. Looking back on it I know my body took the news as a bit of a shock, dropping nearly 15 lbs in just a few weeks. I’m not saying that transitioning from an unrestricted diet to a vegan diet can not be done, but I know from personal experience that it is not easy on your own. I couldn’t immediately understand how to plan a healthy vegan diet, which left me just eating much less than before. I decided to eat a vegetarian diet until my mind and body were ready to leave behind all egg and dairy products as well. A year and a half later I made the official switch to veganism and this blog was created to show others in the same position just how amazingly fun and delicious it can be. At a family gathering this past weekend my sister, a firefighter on the Engine 2 Vegan diet (more on her story later) explained how she came home one day and completely cleared out her pantry and fridge; giving all non-vegan and processed foods to the neighbors. It was this clean break that made the transition for her and her family much easier. Here is a photo of my recent “clean break”:
First things first: A stocked vegan pantry
I understand that it isn’t always feasible to completely restock your pantry and fridge, change doesn’t always happen over night. That is why I mentioned needing a year and a half to become vegan. I listen to a really great podcast called Vegetarian Food for Thought. In an early episode host Colleen Patrick-Goudreau talks about this exact issue: Transitioning to a Vegan Diet – or – Tips for Eating Healthfully.
Being vegan doesn’t mean you have less options, you actually open yourself up to a new world of amazing foods. Grocery shopping became a scavenger hunt of sorts for me to find all the foods to stock my pantry. I followed a list from Compassionate Cooks.com: Essentials for a Well-Stocked Pantry and also just bought foods that I know I really love. Stock up on lots of fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains and nuts. You’ll want to have all your fruits and veggies washed and ready to eat to make for easy snacking and meal preparation. In the photo above you’ll notice I have clear containers for my dried fruit and nuts and I do the same in my refrigerator with fresh fruit that expires quickly. I do this because I know that if I don’t make my food easily accessible, I’ll forget about it and end up having to throw it away, which is never a good thing.
I’ve also been shopping at oriental markets to find more tofu, vegetable and spice options. I suggest Tim’s Oriental & Seafood Market. Yes, I know “Seafood” isn’t vegan (note: I never liked seafood even before becoming vegetarian), but they have lots of great vegan groceries, just pay attention to the ingredients on the food products.
Ingredients to avoid: Gelatin, Casein (also known as calcium caseinate) Rennet and Whey
These are just the more common ingredients in products, since a full list of animal by-products is incredibly long. My advice is to buy products with ingredients you recognize and to keep in mind the more natural it is, the better.
p.s. The box of cereal shown in the photo (Smart Start) is not vegan. I eat Post Shredded Wheat (original) with fruit and soy milk if I’m in the mood for cereal.