Vegan 101: Tips, pantry staples, recipe sources, more…

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The most frequently asked questions I receive are about my vegan diet. I know not everyone agrees with the lifestyle and it’s been known to make people very defensive about their own nutrition and food choices, so please keep in mind I’m writing this for those who are interested and who have asked about it. I’m not trying to make any enemies, talk down to those who eat meat or win over any converts! Eat what you want, yo, and I’ll do the same.

(We’re annoying, I get it.)

With the disclaimer out of the way, let’s do this thang.

It’s not just about weight loss

I’ve been eating a plant-based diet for a little over a year now. You guys know I’ve had a lot of success with it as far as weight loss goes, and as much as that was a selling point for me back then, it has become way more about the nutrition. Having to eat more fruits and vegetables was a huge challenge at first. HUGE. I was never a big meal eater to begin with (I should belong to Snackaholics Anonymous) and all of a sudden I had to fit in all these servings of stuff I didn’t really enjoy eating. I was not diggin’ it. When I realized vegans eat more than just lettuce and carrot sticks, things changed big time.

Also, so much of what you eat and why you’re eating it is mental. I know I snack like crazy when I’m stressed out and I don’t eat at all when I’m depressed. I would go for comforting, heavy, fattening foods to satisfy myself and just keep eating and eating without even considering what damage it was doing to my body and mind. I’m not trying to be all hippy kale goddess, but it’s true! You’ll notice when you start filling yourself with whole foods, you will not only start dropping weight, but you’ll start breaking free of those mind games food was playing with you. You’re truly going to feel better in every way.

You won’t be deprived of the yummy stuff

Okay, If you’re going to do this, don’t go into it being all depressed that you’re depriving yourself of all the foods you love. You’re not going to die, I promise. There are SO many healthy alternatives and meat free/dairy free substitutions for your favorite dishes, it’s just going to take a little bit of thinking and effort on your part to learn what to eat and most importantly, WHY you’re eating it. That’s the key to sticking with this long term.

It’s not about dousing everything in ranch dressing or melted cheese anymore (though there are amazing recipes for non-dairy ranch dressing and cheese sauces, Google it)… it’s about making a serious effort to change your health and letting go of the hold unhealthy food has on you. I’m still working on that too, don’t get me wrong. When my period is coming, all I want is nasty gas station nachos with jalapenos.

It just takes time and dedication. And you have to want to do this.

You will be harassed about protein

Read about how vegans absolutely do get enough protein and read it from unbiased sources, please. It’s the most frequently asked question you will receive and you will be treated like you are an idiot for not considering the all-hailed “complete animal proteins”. Protein is in almost everything we eat, if we’re eating the right way. I am not withering away and neither will you, I promise! Sorry to be defensive about this.

But really, I should show you my muscles. I could win a fight with a cow right now.

Also important: B-12.

Do your nutritional research so you’re ready for these conversations! You don’t want to be caught with your pants down. Unless you’re into that sort of thing.

Okay, Dr. Phil wannabe over here is stepping down from the stage. On to the fun and much less boring stuff…

In My Pantry

These are staples I always have on hand. I didn’t know what half of these things were when I started, but now I can’t live without them and they’re essential in making those alternative dishes I was talking about.

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Note: I buy and eat plenty of other things as well. Be sure you’re eating a well-rounded and varied diet of fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes.

  • Raw almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds
  • Black beans and garbanzo beans
  • Nut butters – cashew butter, almond butter and sunflower seed butter… all fabulous
  • Coconut oil
  • Nutritional yeast – NOT Brewer’s Yeast. I know it sounds disgusto, but it’s great stuff
  • Agave nectar
  • Dates (for a natural sweetener)
  • Quinoa
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Whole wheat pita bread – great for veggie sandwiches and for dipping
  • Kale – for my favorite kale chips
  • Hummus & Pita chips/veggie sticks
  • Edamame – from the freezer section at Trader Joe’s
  • Olives
  • Avocado
  • Salsa
  • Frozen bananas – When bananas just start turning brown and I don’t have time to eat them, I break them in half, throw them in plastic baggies and freeze them. These are a great base for non-dairy ice cream and to toss in smoothies.

Oh She Glows – Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Blizzard (THE BEST. And made with frozen bananas!)

Non dairy alternatives:

  • Almond Breeze Almond Milk
  • Tofutti Better than Sour Cream (they have a cream cheese too)
  • Ghirardelli semi sweet chocolate chips are accidentally vegan
  • As are… OREOS!

Tips for eating in restaurants

Some of these might be “DUH” to you, but I’ve been stuck and confused in restaurants too many times to not include this.

  • Look up the menu online beforehand. It helps to be prepared before you walk in there.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask them to leave the chicken/shrimp/cheese off the salads.
  • Vinegar-based dressings are your BFF
  • Substitute! If you don’t want the side of mac and cheese or mashed potatoes and gravy, opt for steamed veggies or a baked potato.
  • Minestrone soup plus a side salad is perfect for lunch
  • Veggie sandwiches usually come with cream cheese, so just have them leave it off and use mustard, oil/vinegar or whatever condiment you prefer.
  • Pasta with marinara sauce, leave off the parmesan cheese
  • Get the veggie burger
  • If all else fails and you’re out of options, eat the stupid thing. No one’s perfect!

Sources for great recipes

Carrie On Vegan

Oh She Glows

Healthy Happy Life

Amy’s Nutritarian Kitchen

FatFree Vegan Kitchen

Healthy Bitch Daily

Search Pinterest as well!

Hopefully I answered some questions for you in this novel of a post. If you all have anything else to ask or add, feel free to do so in the comments.

26 thoughts on “Vegan 101: Tips, pantry staples, recipe sources, more…

  1. It’s so sad how aggressive and judgmental people get about dieting choices! Clearly it’s workin’ for ya! Thanks for the info, i’m not vegan but I don’t eat much meat and try to eat a lot more natural food so there’s a lot I can learn and take from a Vegan diet! Plus I’m all dorky and like to know about people’s diet and exercise routines.

    p.s. I love how hilarious honest you are about how you eat!

  2. Oh heyyyyy. Remember me? Geeze. Been awhile, eh? Anyway, just wanted to pop in here and say WHADUP and that I’m happy for you in all of your vegan/healthy/looking good ways. Though I’m not vegan, I eat Paleo, I can totally relate to the reactions from all the Judgy McJudgersons out there (“What? No sugar? No yogurt? No toast? WHAT DO YOU EAT, YOU NEED CARBZZZZ”). And just like you, I try to maintain a dude, you eat your stuff and I’ll eat my stuff attitude. But man, never knew before going Paleo that food could cause such a damn ruckus with people! Anyway, go you, you look fab and I’m glad you’re doing great!

  3. Have you seen the blog, dailygarnish.com? She cooks mostly vegetarian but has a lot of vegan recipes on her site too. I am in the process of trying to convince my husband that a meal does not have to include MEAT in it to be considered an actual meal. Men. Kudos to you, and thanks for all the tips!

  4. This is awesome! So cool that this is working for you and definitely seems like a very healthy lifestyle. My husband has the appetite and tastebuds of a cowboy so it’s super difficult for me to cook or eat vegan but I have wayyy amped up our fruit and veggie intake since becoming pregnant and really try to eat meatless when possible. Suddenly I’m getting the whole eat better = feel better thing as watching what I eat very carefully has made this pregnancy WAY easier with WAY less weight gain.

  5. Dear Mrs. Priss, please send me a detailed meal plan with your favorite meals because I have no idea how to eat healthily.

    Sincerely, Clueless

    Lol, thanks for the info and resources, I’ll definitely be checking out those recipe websites. I don’t plan on going vegan but I know I need to make healthier food choices. If you’re so inclined, you should document some of your recipes here. I can’t speak for everyone else but I know I’d be interested.

  6. I’m INCREDIBLY proud of you!! I know it’d be WAY hard for me to kick meat, not planning on it. I am starting a diet quite the opposite of you in fact. Paleo. Both are tough but both are VERY plant focused. Go Morgan! you are an inspiration!!
    And all while having TWO children?! You rock.

  7. Thanks for posting this! My family is considering on going vegan. The reason being is after I had my son Judah (a year and a half ago) I was still having severe stomach pains (this coming from a girl who has a high pain tolerance) I kept going to my Drs and they ran every single test on me, gave me an internal sonogram to make sure I don’t have cancer, ran all kinds of blood tests, gave me a sonogram of my organs to make sure my kidney, gallstone ect were okay. Everything came back great! But still I was getting really sick after eating sometimes, to the point of throwing up (and no Im not pregnant) and having severe stomach pain, also it was hard to lose weight. Finally about a week ago my Dr on a whim asked me to stop using dairy for a bit and with in a day…a day I felt almost 100% better! Its now a week later and I have been dairy free and not only do I no longer have the stomach pain, but I’ve been finally losing my pregnancy weight, I feel better and I don’t feel bloated. I don’t think our bodies are meant to really process dairy. So since then I’ve been thinking of going the plant based route.

  8. This is a really good and to the point post about trying veganism. I’ve been an imperfect vegan for about 4 years, imperfect because of the holidays and people’s birthday parties primarily. I think the hardest part is explaining to people that they don’t NEED to accommodate you, no vegan has ever gone to an event expecting that they would be served something special or different but then every holiday, some aunt calls “I don’t know what YOU PEOPLE are going to eat…” Hence, I avoid the cheese sauce and gravy but don’t ask any questions about the creaminess of my mashed potatoes. When I was on weight watchers no one cared about serving me fried chicken or white pasta. Something about veganism makes people feel like they have to care about what you eat. It’s bizarre.

  9. I’m thinkin’ the answer to this is “no”, but I’ll ask anyway. Did you lose weight by just going vegan? Or are you counting “vegan calories” as well? (I know, I know … it’s not about losing weight. However …)

  10. i got so excited when i was reading the ENTIRE label of my new jar of biscoff spread (it’s the same stuff as thye cookies they give you on delta flights…only peanut butter texture, not cookie texture), and it said it was vegan! i’m not vegan, but i have several friends who are vegan or vegetarian, so biscoff for everyone!!

  11. All good tips! :) We have a similarly stocked pantry and do the smoothies, etc, and eat a ton of veggies and leafy greens. We are dairy-free and gluten-free so we don’t do cheese or pasta…but we do eat meat: local & free range.

  12. First, hot mama pic below, love the hairs. Second, I really really love that you posted this. It is really easy once you build the staples to live this way. I fell off the wagon, because I think it’s easier to do that when you do it for health reasons vs. moral, and you don’t keep the right supplies around, but I am getting it back together soon. Thanks for the motivation as always! :)

  13. Hi Morgan.
    I’m not vegan but I do have a wheat/gluten intolerance . I think with any diet {referring to what we eat on a daily basis} should be something tailor made. We are all so different . Food reacts differently in everybody. Just take one food as an example, that same food could give someone gas, stomach pain, a rash, for others nothing happens except what is common to all!
    It’s so important to listen to your body and be aware of how food makes you feel. Your body tells you all the time in different ways if something is not agreeing with it.

    I suffered as a child and right up until I was about 20 with severe constipation, bloating, general tiredness and lethargy. One day I went completely off wheat and gluten and also cut down on my dairy intake. Now I know in an instant if something doesn’t agree with me and next time to try a substitute. Of course every now and then I crave a croissant or a muffin or a slice of toast and I will have it- there are no “rules” just listen to your own body.

    I think it’s great that you have done this-it obviously works for you and that is what counts and if you can help others in the process, that is also great!

  14. I would honesty love if you posted a typical day or just a day of what you eat! Also, second the question above, was the weight loss also due to calorie restriction and exercise? Does Your family eat this way as well? How do you make sure you’re getting enough calcium?

    You look awesome and beautiful!

  15. Why do people get so defensive about this kind of stuff (also: parenting choices)? It makes it hard to talk about without worrying you’ll offend someone!

    Anyway, great post. Have you ever heard of someone with a protein deficiency? NO. ;)

    I sort of have a rant against paleo eating, too, but I’ll restrain myself. (Hunter-gathers ate way, way less meat and also moved way, way more.) (Okay, didn’t restrain myself.)

  16. Great post! I am vegan too. I completely understand why you kept it on the hush. Being vegan leaves you open to be the topic of conversation for the most basic things. Simple questions like, “Can I have some water?” Are responded to like, “It’s not vegan (in my douche bag voice)! Ha.ha.ha.ha.” It’s even more annoying when people hound me about how I get my protein. My response, “Can you tell me about ONE person in the history of your life, that died from a protein definciency? EXACTLY!” Conversation over everytime! : )

  17. I think it’s awesome you’re doing this Morgan. I don’t know if I could. Let me be honest I don’t know if I would want to. That being said I have been trying to do more and more vegetarian based meals for my lunches, breakfast and sometimes dinner if I can swing the idea past my husband.

    Is your husband eating vegan as well? I’d love to hear your thoughts on that. If you have already addressed it just forward me the link and I’ll shut my cake hole. :)

    I do agree clean eating makes me feel so much better. We’ve been eating 80% clean between my hubby and I and I feel a lot better. If we have fast food my body is wrecked for the rest of the day…. like thanksgiving dinner, take a nap and waste 2 hours of my life kind of day. HORRIBLE.

    Keep up the great posts and let us know more! P.S. How is insanity treating you?

  18. Aisha: hahaha, good point!

    Micaela: Thank you, m’dear! I’m trying to come up with a good list to email to a few friends who are looking for recipes. I’ll send them to you if you’d like!

    Kelly: hahaha, I didn’t think I could do it either! It’s probably easy for me because I wasn’t a meat eater. Good for you guys for getting more veggies in and eating clean! Justin eats whatever I cook and doesn’t complain (much, haha), but I do make him meaty things from time to time. He’s a good sport though! And Insanity? Umm, how do I put this? I want to die every time I do a workout, but also love it and feel strong enough to beat up a large beastly man. It’s awesome and my body is looking so much tighter/toned/better!

  19. I am so jelly of your vegan success, but the thought of a bikini wax is more appealing than the thought of a life without cheese! I’m gradually transitioning toward a decent diet before I go full hippie, though, because at this moment I can’t remember the last vegetable I’ve consumed. I’m definitely taking a copy of your pantry list to Trader Joe’s for my next trip, though! -Veralynn

    PS I’ve never tried Insanity, but I have tried P90X with my husband and I don’t know which part killed my abs more- the workout or laughing at each other like idiots!

  20. Thanks for the mention! Great post on answering questions about what it’s like being vegan! I get the protein question more times than I will ever want to answer! I also seemed to get asked the calcium question quite a bunch, which takes a bit more time to explain. I had no idea the Ghirardelli choc chips were vegan… this could get me in trouble ;)

    Amy

  21. Oh, please please send me your recipes! Just started the eat to live diet 2 days ago and while I’m not hungry I’m having a hard time eating the food…this is coming from a girl that thought she loved her veggies. Yeah, drenched in dressing, butter or oil. None of which you can have on this diet! I’m having to force myself to eat this stuff all the while trying not to regurgitate lol & the vinegar just ain’t cutting it! If I don’t come up with something quick I’m afraid I will loose what little motivation I have left. Especially since I’ve been feeling irritable and lethargic. I only heard u speak of excess energy does that come w/ time or did u experience that from the start…ugh…please help!

  22. I have been changing my family’s diet over the last year or so. Lessening my husbands dependence on meat and plastic wrapper food. It hasn’t been a fast change but things are moving steady. I am wondering how have you handled your family’s meals and food. How do you make it work with for everyone? I have two kids that are similar in age to yours and I think that is the biggest part of what is holding me back from plunging into a vegan lifestyle… that and cheese.

  23. Go you for eating for health!

    We’re all on the hypoglycemic diet due to some seriously scary blood sugar plummets and just because it’s better all around for prevention considering family histories of diabeties and heart disease. I’m still trying to work up the courage to try Insanity.

    I’m crazy jealous of the frozen banana ice cream substitute. I’ve seen it all over Pinterest and want to try it so bad, but I do enjoy breathing too.

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