Of all the people I know who’ve gone vegan, I’ve noticed that there is always a powerful, soul arising urge to embrace a more conscious lifestyle. Sometimes it’s for health reasons, sometimes it’s because we feel compassion for sentient life, sometimes it’s because we love the planet and often, a combination of all of those. We see the total rightness in it, we lunge forward enthusiastically with a passion that feels as if it might even set the world on fire… For some it may seem challenging, especially when surrounded by others who don’t quite get our heartfelt choices. Yet, it needn’t be so difficult if we see things from an open-hearted perspective and prepare ourselves ahead of time.
Scroll down for my 12 tips and please do watch my video here for a more condensed version with lots of inspiration for your vegan journey…
When I first started out it was so lonely
When I embraced a vegan lifestyle some 21 years ago I felt incredibly alone. That loneliness, however, soon unraveled itself opening up a whole new world of possibilities. One of the first things I did was subscribe to a vegan magazine, reading each issue from cover to cover. Knowing that there were others out there paving the way made a huge difference. I found a couple of penpals (these days you’d join a forum or subscribe to a blog). I located my nearest local vegan contact who lived about an hour away and we arranged our first meeting. We didn’t have internet or email back then (or at least most of us didn’t), so I had lots of time to contemplate and try to figure things out myself… getting any sort of information usually involved a long, eager wait for the postman to arrive after finding addresses on adverts or articles in various publications. You had to be totally committed!
Down the West Coast USA one vegan restaurant at a time
I remember in 1997 when traveling to the USA, I wrote to the Ahimsa Magazine for travel advice (which I believe may now be the American Vegan Society). Weeks later I received a list of vegan friendly cafes and restaurants on the West Coast. That one piece of paper with addresses and phone numbers was my route-map when I arrived. It allowed me to venture my way from Seattle to San Diego, one veggie cafe at a time. Thankfully, it’s infinitely easier to find information now. In recent years the world-wide-web has gained increasing popularity. The day HappyCow.net flung open it’s etheric doors changed my travel plans for ever! I’ve enjoyed the most delicious vegan food all over the world as a result, with a couple of simple clicks on my keyboard and an adventuresome spirit. I often travel with the retreat work that I do and one of the very first things I do when we are set to visit a new country is excitedly check HappyCow and see where we can eat!
Healthy plant-based eating is now taking the world by storm
Being vegan is much more popular these days. It really excites me when I hear that more and more people are making the transition to a much more conscious way of living. I still often hear stories of how difficult it can be to stay vegan though, especially when visiting friends, family or traveling. So here are some friendly tips to help you stay on the vegan path…
1. Find out where you can eat out ahead of time
It can be so disheartening wandering around trying to find a vegan friendly restaurant in a strange town. I’ve been there many times! So, find out where you can eat ahead of time. Discover new local places you’ve never heard of. Unveil far away hidden gems. Without Happy Cow, I wouldn’t have found so many amazing eateries!
2. Learn to cook new dishes
There is a plethora of awesome recipes and vegan friendly recipe books available these days. When I first started creating vegan dishes in the 1990’s I had to start from the ground up, on a mission to show people how delicious vegan food could be. In the last couple of years I’ve published my first two recipe books “Angelicious” and “Trinity’s Conscious Kitchen“. My website has lots of healthy vegan recipes listed for free too. Set some time aside to create tasty food and enjoy your own culinary delights. It doesn’t have to be complex; often the simplest dishes are the most tasty. For simplicity, see my mint pea soup. It’s ready in 15 minutes, has only five ingredients! Find recipes that inspire you. Surprise your family with tasty new foods or have a party and invite a bunch a friends around to share. Everyone can cook!
3. Be prepared if you go out for the day
It might be tempting to diverge from the vegan path when you go out for the day, especially if you have lots of stuff that you used to eat wafted under your nose. So bring some tasty filling, conscious snacks in case you can’t find anything while you are out. I’ve always found it invaluable to think ahead and pop a few delicious things in my bag to keep me going.
One of the most common concerns about staying vegan is whether or not you’ll get enough protein, iron, vitamin D and other nutrients. There’s a plethora of information and insight out out there to put your mind at ease and some reliable books devoted to vegan nutrition. Make sure that you know where important nutrients like B12, vitamin D and iron come from. Stay up to date with new research too – new discoveries keep surfacing – many of which are most supportive. There are a couple of books that I highly recommend as easy to read, excellent resources for vegan nutrition: Becoming Vegan, Express and Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition
5. Remind yourself why you went vegan in the first place
For many people it’s because they really care about sentient life. Watch ‘Earthlings’ or ‘If Slaughterhouses had Glass Walls’ or see what new videos are current. It’s very difficult to have anything to do with consuming animal products after reminding yourself of the hard facts. Likewise, if you adopted a vegan diet after a serious health condition, remind yourself why you made the change in the first place.
6. Find like-minded people
It can be a lonely journey on your own. Find a local vegan group; join a vegan forum; go to vegan fairs, gatherings, camps, festivals, etc. Getting to know other people socially can make a world of difference. I’ve always found people super friendly and happy to connect, share experiences, meet up, etc. Although I find most vegan people lovely, like all walks of life you get all sorts, so be discerning. Don’t be put off if you meet a bunch that you don’t resonate with. I know a few people have told me lately that they’ve met folk that have made them feel uncomfortable, which can be off-putting. If that happened to me, I’d just walk away. Stick with it, try something else and you’ll soon gravitate to like-minded souls before you know it.
7. Help out when invited to dine at a friend’s house
People usually love getting help! It doesn’t need to be a big deal. If you are fortunate enough to be invited over for dinner, then offer to bring a delicious dish that everyone will love. You’ll find people become really interested in what is actually in it and how you made it taste so good. One of my favourite dishes to share is ‘Sweet Potato Turmeric Falafels’. They’re filling, delicious, and there has never been a morsel left during all the years I have baked them. No-bake Carrot Cake and Coconut Chocolate Fudge are also big winners. The most common comment is, “Wow – I didn’t realise that eating vegan could taste so good!” Better still – don’t tell people it’s vegan until later…then they’ll really be amazed. People often don’t realise how scrumptious vegan food can be. With a tasty dish or two you can soon dispel the ‘I thought vegans only ate rabbit food’ myth.
8. Call the restaurant ahead of time
If you are eating out with friends later, it might seem like a bit of a faff to call the restaurant ahead of time, but it saves that awkward moment of not having a clue what you can eat when you get there (and then sticking out like a sore thumb when you ask a thousand questions about every option on the menu). If that bothers you, then call ahead. Most places can usually offer something and you’ll have the opportunity to get any questions out of the way, so that you kick back and relax when you are there.
9. Make being vegan ‘normal’
Paradoxically, when I stopped being bothered about what people would think about my eating choices, everyone started accepting it as normal. People really don’t like it if you get in their face and criticize their own choices, it just throws up walls. First of all, be happy that at least you are doing your bit! Feel compassion for others no matter what they eat.
Here’s the key….
if you can be content in yourself, people are much more open to ask about what
you are eating, with genuine curiosity, and at times, even start questioning their own choices.
I used to think that if people became informed, then they’d go vegan in a flash. It doesn’t work like that with most people… so don’t be disheartened, just do your own thing. If people resonate with your vibe, then you’ll be the first person they turn to if they need advice on more conscious food choices. Now I see lots of people going vegan around me, because they keep asking what my secret is and genuinely want to learn more. It rubs off – just by ‘being’ – and frequently invokes LASTING change!
10. Find new vegan meals, products and dishes ready-made in your local health food store or supermarket
This can be a bit of a fun adventure. What exciting new thing can you discover today? Make sure you’ve always got something tasty in at home to pull out at a moment’s notice. If you haven’t weaned yourself of junk food yet, then keep some semi-healthy vegan junk food alternatives in. At least it will stop you reaching out for something that you’d regret later and you can tell yourself that ‘at least it’s vegan’.
11. Forgive yourself
Self-forgiveness is not to be underestimated! Eating vegan is all about being compassionate. So don’t forget to be compassionate towards yourself too. If you slip from the path, then remember that there’s always the next moment to get back on track again. Learn to forgive your slip-ups and use them to motivate yourself to be more committed in future. Celebrate the journey – don’t make it a prison sentence. Being mostly vegan is far more beneficial than not being interested in conscious eating at all.
12. Learn more about which ingredients are vegan and which are not
Peta has a list of the most common non-vegan ingredients that you might find. Learn to love reading ingredients. It really does get easier with time. See reading ingredients on the back of packets as a mission, knowing that you’ll never know what you might find. It’s really exciting when you find something new that meets your compassionate ethics. Alternatively, if you are super-keen, do what I did and start making everything from scratch with whole, fresh ingredients and you’ll never need to read a label again.
Enjoy your vegan journey. Please feel free to share your experiences or ask questions in the comments below.
From my heart to yours
And one final thing..