As a vegan, one of the most rewarding things that can happen... is for someone to tell us that we inspired them to, as well, adopt a vegan lifestyle. I can't explain how ecstatic it makes me everytime someone tells me "I got the vegan one this time" or "I checked to make sure it was cruelty free" or "I tried that _____ you were talking about." Anything like that is amazinggg. But recently something even better happened. Any convert to the "dark side" (which is actually the compassionate, loving side) is always exciting... but the most exciting to me are the extreme converts. Let me explain... When someone goes from phrases like "I could NEVER be vegan" "How do you live?! You must be starving!" "Eating vegan just sounds gross" to phrases like "I will never make fun of a vegan ever again. You're one of my hero's now" and "The more I learn, the more it upsets me that it never bothered me before." ... Seeing the light just completely switch on in someone's head. Watching their eyes be truly opened to something for the first time that they may have previously dismissed... is a beautiful, beautiful thing. People may brush off what we say when they don't understand it... but when they start doing their own research, the facts cannot be denied. And I couldn't be more pleased about the additions to this wonderful team of enlightened minds.
I often have people asking me for tips or for advice... what they can eat, where they can eat, what they should look out for... the usual questions of a new vegan. So I thought I'd make a little post just with a few basic helpful hints. Just answering some of the questions I've recently gotten. Hopefully it will help some baby born again vegans <3
First off, let me say that Search Engines and Happycow.net are your best friends! You can look almost anything up on your favorite search engine and find out if its vegan. As well as look up your area on Happycow.net and find somewhere to eat that serves vegan options no matter where you are.
Before I start talking about eating out (food! ...you dirty minded children) let me say that I refuse to eat from most fast food chains regardless of if they sell veg friendly options, for the sheer fact that they are one of the biggest reasons animal enterprise has become what it is today. I also fear cross contamination like it's going to kill me. If I can't watch you make my "fast food" I'm not going to eat it. God knows what you cooked in that oil you cooked my fries in. So they only "fast food" I will eat is...
1. Subway: The workers are usually really good about changing their gloves if you ask them politely and cleaning the knife before cutting your sub with all the last persons death meal on it. Get a veggie delight on Italian bread. (the Italian bread is the only vegan bread at subway) load that baby up with every veggie you can think of. Top it off with some Mustard, or oil and vinegar. Delish!
2. Chipotle: Believe it or not... the tortillas, black beans, rice, veggie fajitas, guacamole, and lettuce at Chipotle are ALL vegan. If that's not a satisfying meal... I don't know what is.
3. In N Out: If I'm REALLY craving fries... the only fast food place I will purchase them from is In N Out. They only use vegetable oil and they do not cook anything else in the oil so you're clear of cross contamination scares!
AND ACTUALLY I am happy to say that we have a couple Vegan "Fast Food" chains popping up all over the place.... if you come across a Veggie Grill, Native Foods, or Evolution... those are all fully vegan menus!
When going out to eat with friends or family at restaurants... a lot of new vegans fear for their stomachs due to not knowing what they're going to be able to eat or what they'll need to look out for. After a while... you become a pro at ordering out. I can find something to eat no matter where we go! What I usually look for first is a nice salad, fruits or veggies. Most places will have these sides, just make sure the salad doesn't have cheese or croutons on it. And your best bet for dressing is oil and vinegar. If you want fries or hash browns or anything like that... just nicely ask to waiter to check with the cook to see what kind of oil they are cooked in. Most places will tell you Vegetable or Canola... and you're golden! You may also want to request they use a fresh batch of oil... to ensure nothing once living was cooked in the same oil your fries were cooked in. A lot of places now have a veggie burger on the menu. Just double check and make sure it's a dairy free veggie patty and ask for a whole wheat bun (add some avocado, mustard and catchup to that bad boy and you've got yourself some tasty noms). Usually waiters will be able to work with you to find something that can be make vegan on their menu... just be polite and sweet when asking your questions and they won't get as annoyed with your dietary needs. Sometimes it actually sparks some good conversation. Make it clear that you don't eat meat, milk, butter, eggs, or honey when talking to them, because a lot of people don't understand the full extent of veganism.
We are lucky these days to have so many health food and nutrition stores popping up out of the woodworks so if you happen to have a Trader Joe's, Clark's, Mother's, Whole Foods, Spouts, Henry's... anything along those lines... those shelves are stocked with vegan options and are often labeled with a "V" to let you know it's friendly. (Or if you're lucky like we are where I am... there's a fully vegan grocery store called Viva La Vegan and that's the BEST place to shop, hands down.) But even regular grocery stores are starting to line their isles with option us compassionate folk can partake in the consumption of. Sometimes I shop at Vons and they have a fully Vegetarian/Vegan isle with faux meats, cheeses and condiments. I know that Ralphs has something similar, but I don't shop at many regular grocery stores so I don't know the extent of their selections. What I do know though is that every grocery store has a produce section, and that's a haven for vegans. Also, a lot more vegan friendly breads are becoming readily available. Start reading labels. if there's no milk, eggs. whey, casein, etc. in it... chances are it's good to go. (and for health purposes... when reading labels... one thing to always think about... if you don't know what an ingredient is... if you can't pronounce it... chances are it's not good for you... so just steer clear.)
Bathroom items such as soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, etc.... Lot's of companies are starting to label their products if they are vegan. They'll put a "Cruelty Free" or a "Certified Vegan" emblem in the back of their products (a cute little bunny or a V inside of a heart). Look for that first. Also check for a "Not Tested on Animals" disclaimer... just be weary is it says "This finished product is not tested on animals" because that usually means that an ingredient in the product was tested on animals sometimes down the line of production just not the finished product.
I'm going to make this simple. DO NOT WEAR LEATHER, FUR, WOOL, SILK, DOWN, CASHMERE.
There are quite a few other things to not wear... but those are the more common products on the market made from animal products. Try to buy Cotton, Polyester or Acrylic, etc.
The best piece of advice I can really offer of all though... is to purchase anything you possibly can from Vegan establishments and manufacturers. We are a small but mighty group of people and we have to be supportive of people who support us and stand beside us in this cause. So purchasing from strictly vegan places whenever possible is always a fantastic idea. Loyalty is key... if we keep these places thriving, we will never be out of reach from the food and products that we need to function in life as a happy and healthy vegan, and these options will stay available for other people to start opting to use in place of what they might be used to.
Alright... I think I'm going to take a rest now... I know I left a TON out... but there's some starter points. I mainly wrote this to help out a friend who just went vegan... so the more she asks... or other people ask... the more I'll answer. <3