Tips for going vegan in the new year

There are many reasons why people contemplate a vegan lifestyle. Some people want to do it for their health, while others want to do it for ethical reasons.  But what stops many people from actually going through with it, is a fear of what being vegan must entail.  For these people (and you might be one of them) they picture a dull and bleak culinary life. A life filled with bland salads, steamed vegetables and rice cakes. Well, I’m here to assure you that this is a myth.  Being vegan doesn’t mean you have to miss out.

So whether you’re serious about going vegan, or still in the contemplating stage, these 5 tips will definitely make things easier.

1. Make gradual changes.
Going from meat-eater to vegan without a transition period is a pretty jarring change and I believe doing it this way might set you up for failure. Before making the switch to vegan, I was a partial vegetarian for almost a decade. I avoided most meat but did eat seafood, dairy products and eggs. While you don’t have to wait as long as I did to make the switch, I would recommend a partial vegetarian phase for at least a few months. After that, you can eliminate foods, like dairy and eggs, one at a time.

2. Get to know vegan substitutes.
Ahh, this part makes all the difference because invariably there’ll be a dish you find is impossible to live without—vegan substitutes mean you don’t have to. For me, it was my mom’s mouth-watering spaghetti that she’d make with ground beef. She now makes a vegan version that tastes even better than the original.

Whole Foods has a pretty decent selection of vegan foods and many even offer vegan General Tso’s chicken and vegan pizza at their deli. Some of my favorite brands for vegan substitutes include Field Roast, Tofurky, Beyond Meat and Daiya for cheese.

3. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, go ahead and indulge it!
In the past, most vegans had to get their sweet fix from fruits since most desserts contain dairy or eggs. While this is certainly healthier than eating sugar-packed treats, it’s also no fun. Sticky FingersSweets & Eats is probably the most famous and beloved vegan bakery in the D.C. area. They offer a wide assortment of vegan desserts and meals at their cafe and you can even order decorative cakes for special events like weddings or birthdays. Georgetown Cupcake offers either a vegan apple cinnamon or vegan carrot cupcake, while Sprinkles Cupcakes offers a vegan red velvet cupcake daily. You can also indulge in sorbet during the summer when you want something both sweet and cool.

4. Try Indian or Ethiopian restaurants when dining out.
Most Indian and Ethiopian restaurants offer vegans-friendly dishes. As an added culinary bonus, Washington is famous for its Ethiopian food.

5. Learn which foods are “accidentally vegan.”
Did you know Nabisco Original Grahams and Lay’s Barbecue Potato Chips are vegan? Make sure you peruse PETA’s extensive “Accidentally Vegan Food List” before you assume a food item is off limits.

Cover photo courtesy Helen Alfvegren via Flickr 

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