Wednesday, July 18, 2012

How to be vegan: A newbies perspective

Going vegan! Who's going vegan? I am? Really? Are you sure? 

Oh how I thought I was being incredibly crazy!  I thought the fact that the hubby mentioned first meant something infiltrated our water system affecting our brains!!  

It's been 6 months! 

And, now? Nope, I don't think we are crazy!  We are so very happy with our choice!


Have you thought about the vegan/vegetarian lifestyle? Does it intimidate you just a bit? It did for me, actually.  I remember the very first week we didn't eat any meat or dairy I thought I would eat the house! I was SO hungry! I'd wake up in the middle of the night starving! Famished! Ready to eat the cats as they lie sleeping on my bed! Anything! I was so hungry! 

Think about the times you eat Chinese food, within the hour you are hungry again. It's as if you didn't eat any dinner, right? That's how I felt! 

Then, I thought, what was I missing when eating a big plate of Chinese food? Protein. I was missing protein. I generally ordered a plate full of veggies in some sort of sauce over a bed of white rice. Of course I was hungry an hour later. That didn't have the amount of protein I was used to as I sat down to a big steak! 

Just like everyone else, we vegans need complete protein to get all our essential amino acids. We don't want to fall prey to the negative protein balance now do we? That's starvation and I love food so that is NOT an option.

According to the USDA, a man age 40 weighing 160 pounds needs 56 g of protein per day. A woman, weighing 140 pounds age 40 needs 46 g of protein per day. That's about 0.36 g of protein for every pound of body weight.

Protein needs to very based on age, size, health, physical activity, body weight, body type and for those pregnant or nursing.

When I speak of protein, I speak of a complete protein, all essential amino acids needed. There are some plant-based foods that carry all essential amino acids. Soy is one of them as is quinoa. It was once believed that vegetarians and vegans could possibly develop a protein deficiency if they didn't get all the essential amino acids that they needed within one meal. But, when we eat, our body stores amino acids in something like a storage bank, we use what we need when we need it. So, it's not a necessity to get all 8 amino acids in one sitting. As long as you eat a variety of foods throughout the day you will get all of the essential amino acids that you need. So, don't go eat a block of tofu. It's just gross.

Okay, so now that I have protein in my system I don't wake up wanting to eat everything in sight in the middle of the night. It took about a week and I was used to being "vegan." Ah! Much better!

What is vegan?

Vegan has so many different definitions. Some are vegan based on ethical reasons, some for environmental reasons, some for health reasons. There are vegans that combine all of them as well. It's up to you to decide what is best for you. I don't judge how vegan other people are as I only wish that people don't judge me.

Being vegan, for myself, is mostly about health. I am more aware of items that I purchase, trying to purchase cruelty free items,  but I'm not perfect. And, because I am not rich (although I wish that I were!) I still own a variety of leather shoes. Does this make me a bad vegan? To some, it may. For me, I certainly don't want to waste what I already own. But, I will be more aware next time I buy a pair of shoes.

I was definitely pretty nervous when I decided to stop eating meat and dairy. I didn't know what to do. I was trained in a French culinary school, I cooked with meat and butter, lots of it. That's when I decided to start this blog. And then I found twitter, I know, that sounds so weird, right? But really I couldn't have done it without all my awesome vegan Twitter friends.

Twitter is where I met Dreena Burton. I must say, Twitter and blogging are like high school. You want to fit in, you want to be the cool kid, and you want to be noticed. Dreena was like my high school crush, in a way. She's the cool kid and I wanted her to notice me. She was the first that gave me the advice to keep on tweeting and keep on blogging. Then, one day she followed me on twitter. I almost peed my pants. Seriously! The cool kid followed me! But, to be serious Dreena is an amazing vegan cookbook author. I ordered her book, Let Them Eat Vegan, off of Amazon and waited, patiently, for it to arrive. What I love about Dreena's book,  is the simplicity of all the recipes, they use of whole foods, and all of the real life suggestions to make things just a little bit easier. Read my view review here. Anyway, I don't think I could've been vegan very long without Let Them Eat Vegan. I thought being vegan meant lots and lots of fake meats. I am not a huge fan of fake meats! Being vegan absolutely does not mean you need to stuff your faces with the fake stuff!

I have met many supportive people on Twitter, Facebook, and around town. Support is key.

I met another friend on twitter, Janae Wise,  mother of 4, vegan, gluten-free, fitness instructor, and all around wonderful woman. She is constantly encouraging my blogging by reminding me that I am new. All bloggers have to start somewhere and I can't be perfect or the best right off the bat. She is so right. She is very encouraging and has kept me going. One day I strive to be a wonderful picture taker, blogger, and inspiration like she has shown to be herself.

Of course, I have a good friend that lives nearby that welcomes all my questions no matter how silly.  Mel Mason,  My holistic health coach, has been a saint. Without her encouragement, dedication, and willingness to listen and help without judgment I would not have made it as far as I have.

How do you go vegan or vegetarian you ask? Yes, it will take a little dedication, practice, and time. But, it is all worth it. Your heart, health, and happiness will thank you.

I am a lover of lists. I make lists for what needs to be done during the day, what I need to pack for trips, what food I'm going to make during the week, and a list of items I need to buy at the grocery store. This makes the process that much easier.

So, here are a couple of lists. What I've learned, what's in my pantry, what's in my refrigerator, and some of my favorite vegan staples and some of yours.

A couple of things that I've learned in the past 6 months:
Have support: family, friends, Twitter, Facebook
Eat plenty of protein
Enjoy your food
Have a well-stocked pantry
Plan your meals
Ask questions, of me, of  dietitians, nutritionists, healthcare providers, friends
Talk to people
Don't give up

Staples I like to keep in my pantry:
Rice, brown and white. Forbidden rice as well.
Canned tomatoes
Beans, all varieties (kidney beans, black beans, garbanzo beans, white beans, any bean!). Dried and canned
Vegetable stock
Better than bullion vegetable base
Green chilies, Trader Joe's has the best!
Black olives
Artichoke hearts
Sun-dried tomatoes
Pitted dates
Spelt flour
Chia seeds, great information on Chia seeds found here
Raw cashews, other raw nuts and seeds
Raw sugar
Agave Nectar
Bragg's Liquid Amino Acids
Popcorn kernels

One of my favorites! Popcorn!

Vegetables and fruit I always have on hand:
Lettuce, Romain
Sugar snap peas
Purple cabbage
Lemon and limes
Onions, red and yellow
Mini bell peppers

Apples, Oranges, lemons!

Items I like to have on hand, in my fridge:
Almond milk or other plant-based milks
Hummus, different varieties
Hemp seeds
Nondairy plain yogurt
Flax seed oil
Hemp seed oil
Maple syrup
Tofu, I know tofu can be scary! But, give it a try! There are so many ways to use it and love it!

The first time you go grocery shopping it may cost you a little bit more than your usual grocery trip. But, this is just to stock your shelves with all your staples. Once you get the hang of it, shopping and cost will be easy and low. I tend to shop weekly because all that produce barely fits in my refrigerator each week. If I shopped bi-weekly there would be no way. I even created extra space, a sort of pantry, in my laundry room to make room for all the goodness I buy.

Raw Cashews

My favorite staples:
Raw cashews
Braggs Liquid Amino Acids
Carrots, celery, onion (I lump these together because they often go together in soups and such)
Hemp seeds
Chia seeds

Chia Seeds

I asked of you some of your favorite staples in your vegan kitchen:
Quinoa of course was one of them. Tofu in tempeh, kale and other leafy greens, nutritional yeast, beans, raw cashews, and flax oil.

 Do you have any others to add to my list?

I believe a good diet, is one that's not a diet at all. More of a lifestyle. You eat healthy because you want to be healthy. You are what you eat, as they say. Going vegan can be intimidating, difficult, expensive. But, as with any new thing this is only the beginning. Once you're in, you're in. Less difficult, less intimidating, and less expensive. I've been at this for 6 months and I sometimes feel like I've been doing it my whole life. I'm still learning how to cook, how to use items I've never heard of, and what substitutes I need to use for certain things. But I love the learning, the experimenting, and the vegan world that I've fallen into. Everyone has been so supportive and helpful.

Go out, give it a try, experiment, have fun with it! If you have questions drop me a line! I'd love to hear from you. I'm here to be supportive. 

Blogging, vegan, it's all new to me but I'm here to stay.

Cheers and happy eating!

Combichrist - Caliber:Death
Peter Murphy - Cuts You Up
The Faint - Fish in a Womb
Justin Timberlake - Rock Your Body
Accersory - Matrix


  1. Wow! Great post with plenty of useful info, Marsha! I was going to tweet this halfway through even before seeing my mention - just so you know! ;) But, I do thank you for those generous words, and I'm enjoying being referred to as 'the cool kid' when in my house I'm quite 'the embarrassing mom'. ha!

    Congratulations on your successful journey, I think you will help others grow into eating vegan and living more healthful, vibrant, compassionate lives.

    1. Thank you, Dreena! Your kind words mean so much!

      Ha! My little one is still too young to refer to me as the embarrassing mom! It will happen some day!