Switching over to a Vegan diet is not an easy transition for most. Personally, I have always been able to switch back and forth between diets, food types etc, because of my background as a top tier athlete. I’m also not a lover of food per se.
I had a nutritionist at a very young age sculpting my diet so I can make it to the Junior Olympics yearly and have the energy and focus required to excel. That also meant being forced to eat when I was not hungry 90% of the time. Now, I eat more for sustenance than I do for pleasure unless we are talking about pastries, I truly love a good pastry.
I am going to show you what vegan diet beginners will need to get over that crutch of the “mainstream diet”
What exactly is a Vegan
A Vegan is a person who tells everyone they interact with that they are Vegan and tries to convert everyone over to their lifestyle. No, i’m playing. Although, this is a common conception and it does happen from time to time. It is not a requirement, so you need not worry.
Personally, I don’t discuss my dietary habits with strangers, so you wouldn’t know I was Vegan. Nor do I make a production out of ordering food when i’m out. But of course, that’s just me.
A Vegan in it’s purist form is a person who does not use animal products nor do they eat them. That means they do not wear clothes with fur (fox, mink, chinchilla etc) leather (goat, cow, alligator, ostrich, etc) wool (sheep) cashmere (goat) angora (rabbit) feathers (various fowl) silk (silkworm) etc. This includes, shoes, hats, gloves, furnishings (car seats, couches, etc).
A Vegan in most regards is someone who does not eat animal products. This will be our focus.
On a Vegan Diet what are you allowed to eat?
Navigating through the harsh current of a new diet is always difficult. Luckily, I will be your light house in that regard. This won’t change the fact that you are traveling over tumultuous waters but it will show you the path to success.
For vegan diet beginners the only thing more important than what you are allowed to eat is, say it with me… what you are not allowed to eat.
List of Foods you can no longer indulge in:
- Meat (Beef, Pork, Chicken, Turkey, Bison etc)
- Eggs (Not egg whites, not scrambled, not deviled etc)
- Fish (Shrimp, Tilapia, Salmon, Tuna, Chilean Sea Bass, Sword Fish, Squid, most sushi worth talking about etc)
- Shell Fish (oysters, clams, scallops, conch, snails etc)
- Products with Gelatin (most gummy candy, Jell-O, some of the planters peanuts, etc)
- Milk (Cow, Goat, Chocolate milk and Milk chocolate :(, pudding, most mouth watering pastries, cookies and muffins :(, some breads etc)
- Butter/ Animal Fats (Schmaltz, ghee, lard)
- Cheese (every cheese you can think of)
I know the list is hard to look at. But, if you want to be on a Vegan diet these foods have to go and don’t try to get cute; if it’s an animal product and I didn’t list it, it is still a No.
But there is always hope if you know where to look for it.
In a world with no meat
I know many of you have grown accustomed to mainstream meals and the taste and texture of many meats available. It’s hard to go cold turkey especially when your probably within a few miles of several fast food restaurants. Even more daunting you are likely to still be friends with many people who are not on a vegan diet which means. The smell of fresh french toast and crackling bacon will be in your future
Luckily for you, the vegan food industry has expanded as of late. Some quality research has been done and vegan burgers are no longer incredibly large fish flakes. There are many great alternatives out there and although I am not a fan of all of them I do feel very strongly about several.
Vegan Beef Alternatives
- Seitan (It has great texture and absorbs flavors well, I would slice it thinly. For me if it’s to large it tastes nothing like beef and I won’t party to eating it if that’s the case.
- Tofu (It absorbs flavors very well but it’s texture is interesting to say the least. I don’t like it the way most people prepare it, but if I make it (tofu crumble) it’s a game changer especially when seasoned appropriately
- Beyond Meat Burger Patties (These are absolutely magical, just delicious are great for a burger or chopped up and browned and mixed with veggies or pasta etc. I have not had a bad beyond meat burger patty experience yet.
- Tempeh (I’m going to be honest with you, I don’t like how it looks, I truly don’t. However, when seasoned well and chopped into manageable pieces it holds it’s own).
Vegan Pork Alternatives
- Soyrizo (I absolutely love it, it tastes just like chorizo. I’ve had a very diverse ethnic up bringing and chroizo is a staple in Latin households and this is a clone, if you like chorizo you will love this).
- Pulled Jack fruit (very similar to pulled pork, it absorbs the flavor just the same, I’ve only had it once but I did enjoy it immensely)
- Beyond Meat Sausage (It comes in many of the flavors standard sausage comes in, Italian, Hot Italian, Original. It cooks very well, the texture is perfect, I absolutely love their sausages)
Vegan Turkey Alternatives
- Tofurky Sausages (These are actually not bad they come a good array of flavors have good texture but are stiffer than actual sausage, they do have a great taste)
- Tofurky Deli Slices (I’ve never been big on cold cuts and basic sandwiches so I do eat these much but they are a great alternative for those who like a good sandwich)
Vegan Chicken Alternatives
- Beyond Meat Chicken Strips Grilled (I have never had them, I was never a big fan of chicken and the chicken and waffles I ordered at a vegan restaurant once turned me off of it’s vegan counterpart. However, if it is anything like their beef and pork substitutes it should be exquisite).
- Tofurky Chicken Strips (Another one I have not tried, but a good option for those who need a chicken alternative)
- Quorn (If minced and seasoned properly I believe it is delicious. It absorbs flavor well and is great with rice or noodles from my experience, however in large pieces I am not a fan).
- Cauliflower (It’s absolutely incredible if breaded and seasoned like chicken with a light pan fry. Almost like a General Tso’s rendition).
There are many options out there and many brands I just wanted to give you a take on the alternatives I have experienced (in some cases with chicken, brands I have experienced with other alternatives) so you know there is hope. With some of these items, if cooked and seasoned properly you wouldn’t even know you were eating the vegan alternative.
How to live without Dairy
Dairy is the big thing that hold a lot of vegan diet newbies back. How can you eat pizza in a world with no cheese? What about cereal, ice cream, milkshakes etc. What you have to understand are there ways around everything with the right set of tools.
Vegan Milk Alternatives
- Soy Milk
- Almond Milk
- Coconut Milk
- Other Obscure Mixed Nut Milks and Mixed Coconut Milks
What you need to understand about the milk alternatives right off the back is they don’t taste anything like milk but they are not bad. Personally I like the vanilla coconut almond milk because it’s a little thicker and I like coconuts. They all have their own taste that you will need to get accustomed to. They are great with cereal or in breakfast grains etc. You can’t really go wrong with anything in this category as long as you understand it is not conventional milk and will not taste similar in any fashion.
Vegan Yogurt Alternatives
- Noosa flavored yogurts
- So Delicious flavored yogurts
- Daiya flavored yogurts
- Silk Dairy free yogurt alternative
These are similar to yogurt except less creamy and more naturally flavored. In my opinion that is a good thing. I used to go through about 64 ounces of plain Greek yogurt a day and this yogurt alternative holds it’s own if your not expecting a replica. It’s also a good snack to carry around so hunger pangs don’t leave you disheveled in a chick-fil-a parking lot.
Vegan Butter Alternatives
- Earth Balance Buttery Spread (My favorite)
- Widely available assorted brands
- Unrefined Coconut Oil (Cooking)
There are so many vegan butter alternatives available that even places like Walmart and target stock them. I always use earth balance so I listed it because it is my favorite. But, you will probably find yourself using unrefined coconut oil more in cooking or baking unless it is solely the buttery taste you are looking for.
- Tofutti (Like a ricotta cheese)
- Daiya (Like a shredded mozzarella)
- Parma (Like a Parmesan)
- Green Vie (Gouda)
- Chao (Deli Cheese Slice)
I don’t like cheese, I didn’t like it on a conventional diet and I don’t like it now. I do know that they seem to have the same stringy melted effect when warmed up and that they share a similar texture. My favorite that I have tried is Chao in a quesadilla, its was magically delicious. The cheese has a bit different taste, and if you need to have cheese its your only option, but I can’t offer much more insight than that.
Be a Better you than you were Yesterday
I will say this to all Vegan diet Beginners, you want to experience as many new taste as possible. Don’t get set on the alternatives, try all the vegetables and fruits you didn’t know existed. Eat rainbow carrots and sour sop, fresh papaya with a coconut sauce. Try young Thai coconuts and white asparagus.
Don’t spend your time trying to construct the diet you are moving away from in a different form. Create a new diet for yourself. Make a vegan food list. Don’t be afraid to slip if that means you won’t jump.
Your only goal should be to get closer to the version of you, that you envision. If you want to be vegan this is the map, follow it and you will like what you find.
As always, It was a pleasure.
Stan- Founder of Asparagus Tips