So, you’ve read something online about the benefits of vegetarianism, or maybe your weird hippie friend just made you an amazing vego meal and you thought to yourself, ‘I could do this’, or maybe you just watched the most terrifying documentary of all time, EARTHLINGS, and can’t imagine eating a steak ever again.
No need to panic. Once you get the hang of it, vegetarianism, and even veganism*, is actually really easy!
*yes, even that crazy extreme lifestyle previously reserved for tree-hugging, hairy-arm-pitted, anarchist, acid-taking hippies
So here’s the lowdown.
What you can’t Eat
Vegetarians (technically called lacto-ovo vegetarians) do not eat animals/things made from animals:
- Meat (including beef, chicken, pork, kangaroo, crocodile, dog, cat – you get the gist)
- Seafood (including fish, lobster, prawn, shark, whale – again, quite simple, no animal that lives in the sea)
- Things made from animals are a little more confusing and sneakily hidden. These include things like:
Vegetarians do eat animal by-products such as dairy (milk, cheese, yoghurt, ice cream, etc.), eggs and honey.
Vegans do not eat animals/things made from animals OR their by-products. Vegans do not eat dairy, eggs or honey. Sometimes these ingredients are sneakily added to products so vegans become very good at reading the ingredients labels on processed foods!
What you can Eat
Now I’ve written all that down and scared you off, here’s a loooooong (but not all-inclusive) list of what you can eat!
- Fruit – how damn good are mangos, strawberries, blueberries, nectarines, passionfruit, peaches, papaya, omgg
- Vegetables – I loooove zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms, green beans, spinach, corn, sweet potato, pumpkin, onion
- Herbs & spices – ahhh basil, coriander, rosemary, parsley, dill, lemongrass, cumin, paprika, turmeric, GARLIC
- Grains – pasta is life, rice, noodles, rice noodles, couscous (the grain so good they named it twice), quinoa, bread (nearly every bread is vegan but some brands of Turkish bread have milk solids so always read the label. Turkish bread is the best thing ever though, amiright?)
- Legumes – the glorious chickpea, black beans, kidney beans, butter beans, soybeans, lentils
- Nuts & seeds – cashews are a vegan’s best friend, walnuts, pine nuts, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, macadamias, pecans, almonds
- Non-dairy milks – rice, almond, soy, coconut, oat, hemp
- Vegan alternatives – what a time to be alive! You can find a vegan version of nearly everything! Cheese, yoghurt, cream cheese, sour cream, chicken, beef, fish, chicken nuggets, pork, chocolate, biscuits, lollies, patties, sausages, ice cream, you bloody name it mate!
Sooo what do I do with these Strange Ingredients?
Some of you may know and already use a lot of the foods I listed above. Others might be thinking wtf is quinoa and how the hell do I pronounce it?? (Keen-wah, fyi). Basically, I find the main difference between making a vegetarian or vegan meal and a meat meal is that you chuck everything into the one dish instead of having three or four separate food items (steak, peas, broccoli, potato mash, for example – is that what meat eaters eat? I don’t even know anymore…) and you season the sh***t out of it to make it tasty! Add aaall the onion, garlic, herbs and spices and you won’t feel flavour deprived at all, promise! The main dishes I like to make for lunches or dinners are:
- Curries (Thai green, massaman, dahl, masala, vindaloo, korma, etc.)
- Stir-fries (I prefer noodle stir-fries but rice is also an option)
- Salads (pasta, falafel, green, chickpea)
- Pizzas (with either garlic, herb & olive oil base or Napoli base)
- Pastas (pesto, Napoli, bolognese, cannelloni, lasagne)
- Mexican (enchiladas, burritos, nachos, fajitas, tacos – I literally make the best vegan Mexican EVER)
- Pies, savoury pastries and quiches
Sounds pretty similar to non-vegan meals, right? Told you it was easy!!
Okay, so lunches and dinners sound all right, but you can’t make dairy and egg-free breakfasts sound good, right? WRONG! Breakfast might be my favourite meal of the day (that’s probably a lie, all meals are my favourite meal of the day), so let me get those salivary breakfast juices flowing.
- Avo on toast (I bet some of you already eat this daily without even thinking about it being vegan! If not, try my Smashed Lime Avocado on Sourdough)
- PANCAKES/CREPES of aaannyyy flavour – blueberry, banana, strawberry, lemon and sugar, protein, chocolate, caramel, vanilla, the sky is the limit!
- Smoothies and juices – you can make these as healthy or as naughty as you like. Here are a few suggestions: Healthy
And my personal favourite (plus variations of it):
- Scrambled Tofu – this is a game changer! Don’t get caught up in the fact that you’re eating tofu for breakfast. I’ve made this for many a tofu basher, and without fail they LOVE it! We like to make big brekkie cook-ups with scrambled tofu and whatever vegies we have in the fridge. Serve with toast and hummus, YUM!
Okay, you’ve Convinced Me (Damn I’m Good), but Should I Transition Slowly or Fast?
Personally, I found it easier to slowly progress into veganism – I was vegetarian for a year before I went vegan (although had no intention of going vegan at the time) and when I decided to go vegan, I slowly cut down on my cheese and milk-chocolate intake (these were my two hardest things to give up, but you guessed it, you can get vegan cheese and vegan chocolate from supermarkets nowadays!). There are also a lot of people out there who go straight from meat and dairy eaters to 100% vegans overnight. You just have to decide which strategy suits you best.
Struggling to Keep it Up?
Read, research and watch documentaries that reinforce the reason you decided to go vegan or vegetarian in the first place. If you’re doing it purely for health reasons, research the health benefits of a plant-based diet. If you’re doing it for environmental reasons, read up on the detrimental effects of the meat and dairy industry on the environment. If it’s all for animal welfare, go and watch those terrifying clips that are all over the internet on animal cruelty in the meat and dairy industries. A quick YouTube search will get you some scary results. If you love a good doco, check out this blog post for a list of my favourites (a lot of which are related to veganism). Another great way to keep yourself on track is to find some vego/vegan mates! Making friends with like-minded people is always fun, and you can share recipe ideas, talk about your struggles, or just meet up at an awesome vegan restaurant for a meal. And for those of you who find inspiration from the kitchen, my favourite way to keep veganism fun and interesting is to experiment with new and exciting recipes and foods. Be sure to check out some of my recipes!
Don’t beat yourself up! Fuck the vegan police! If you slip up a few times, who cares! Don’t fall off the bandwagon completely; keep going with what you’re doing. Every little bit helps! The environment, the animals, and your health will thank you for every bit of meat and dairy you remove from your plate.
Hopefully this article has made the oh so scary transition into vegetarianism/veganism seem a little easier, and if not at least now you know how to pronounce quinoa!