Things I wish I knew Before Becoming Vegan

1. Be Confident

No matter how hard you try, when people find out you’re vegan, you’ll be pegged the “vegan”. Most people won’t understand and won’t hesitate in in telling you. If I saved a nickel for how many times I heard, “I could never give up meat!”, I’d have a lot of nickels. But get used to it and don’t be discouraged. Never, ever be embarrassed.

2. Be prepared mentally

Because people don’t understand, they will ask you why you are vegan. Be ready to answer. This answer will vary for everyone, but be ready to tell people why you choose the lifestyle you choose. And don’t back down.

3. Plan ahead

Unfortunately, the world isn’t vegan, so you must adjust to the standard american lifestyle. That doesn’t mean you have to be a part of it, but you must be aware that just because you have decided to become vegan, the rest of the world hasn’t changed. When you go to restaurants, look at the menu beforehand. Call ahead. Many nice restaurants will prepare something for you if you give them advance notice. Traveling? Pack something! Fresh fruit, such as apples, oranges, or bananas, hold very well. Depending on the type of vegan you are, crackers, nuts, or pretzels have the potential to sustain you as well. When there are work lunches or any type of free food is available, assume that nothing will be vegan, ever. Fortunately, even though most people aren’t lucky enough to have vegan restaurants in their cities, every town has a grocery store. And every grocery store has fresh fruits, vegetables, and vegan products galore.

4. Be nice.

It will get frustrating when you hear the same questions. It will be tiring when you have to give your vegan elevator speech each time you have a meal with a new person. It may be hurtful when close friends or family will try to lecture you. But never, ever be mean, rude, or arrogant. It will only make the lack of understanding worse.

5. Be open.

I have exactly one friend that has implemented any dietary restrictions, and she is only vegetarian. Everyone else that I have met naturally is an omnivore. It might feel like I am the only one sometimes, which can get lonely. How do I cope best? Meet ups. I love going to gatherings that I find on meetup.com, where I can find people with similar beliefs. Potlucks are great opportunities to discover new vegan dishes and try some damn tasty food. I have been introduced to tons of green or veggie festivals that I would never have heard of had I not done a bit of research and been open to exploring on my own. When I went couch surfing to Europe, I sought out a vegan host, who showed me amazing vegan restaurants, ice cream shops, and grocery stores in Vienna. Be willing to try new things, even if it means going solo. Had I waited for someone to accompany me to any of the things I have gone to, I doubt I would have had 1/10th of the vegan experiences or friends.


Spreading Veganism

When it comes up that I am vegan, a lot of people ask why I suddenly changed. I give more-or-less the same answer to everyone, but some are more interested than others. One of my co-workers the other day took a particular interest. Having worked on a beef ranch growing up, he is familiar with many of the unappetizing details (i.e. giving the cows antibiotic shots twice a year.) He too had begun to take an interest in alternative diets and living healthier, and when he found out what I was doing, wanted to know more and asked me to send him a few links.

After my extensive research, filled with lots of new knowledge, I still struggled in finding him links.There are so many resources that it is hard to provide a person with some since it truly depends on what he is interested in – animal rights, environmentalism, health consciousness? I hate to say ‘Google it’, but sometimes it really is the best answer; you can alter your search to your interests. You’ll be surprised at what you find and how much information is out there that is not publicized and you were never aware of before.

Two of my favorite websites are below. They give facts about the entire spectrum of why its great to be vegan, and the second one specifically talks about being organic, as well. The information is well layed out and not painful to the eyes.

I have also viewed a lot of youtube videos; since I can do some other task while listening to someone in the background, it’s nice to kill two birds with one stone. Some are quite boring, but I think this guy touches on a lot of great points with a good sense of humor: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-F8whzJfJY

I got together the following facts when looking for links for my co-worker. All of the information was shocking to me. Vegan or omnivore, the truth behind food labeling is something I hope everyone becomes more aware of.


Labels are deceiving…

Cage free?

This is supposed to imply cruelty free, but cage-free animals live no better lives than caged ones. As food is power notes, ” With regard to eggs that carry these labels, the hens still experience the stress and fear associated with handling, transport and slaughter.” In travel, they are confined to tiny spaces, and when they reach their destination, these ‘caged-free’ environments are essentially the same as caged ones, minus the cages.The animals are just as crowded. Additionally, male chicks, being ‘useless’ as they do not produce eggs, are suffocated or ground alive after birth. (From a non-ethical and environmental standpoint, think of the waste of resources that went into the production of that egg, only to be destroyed.) Additionally, these ‘cage-free’ animals experience the same slaughter as a non-cage free animal.

Free Range?

Food is power writes: “With the exception of birds raised for “meat,” the terms “Free-range” and “Free-roaming” have no official definition. The USDA only defines these terms for “poultry” products, stating: “Producers must demonstrate to the agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.” * There are no requirements for the time spent outside or the space allowed.”

Tasty bit of knowledge: The USDA Food label fact sheet defines “MEAT” DERIVED BY ADVANCED MEAT/BONE SEPARATION AND MEAT RECOVERY SYSTEMS as

The definition of “meat” was amended in December 1994 to include as “meat” product derived from advanced meat/bone separation machinery which is comparable in appearance, texture and composition to meat trimmings and similar meat products derived by hand. Product produced by advanced meat recovery (AMR) machinery can be labeled using terms associated with hand-deboned product, e.g., “beef” or “pork” trimmings and ground “beef” or “pork.” The AMR machinery cannot grind, crush or pulverize bones to remove edible meat tissue and bones must emerge essentially intact. The meat produced in this manner can contain no more than 150 milligrams of calcium per 100 grams product. Product that exceeds the calcium content limit must be labeled “mechanically separated beef or pork.”

In a similarly heartwarming light, MECHANICALLY SEPARATED MEAT is defined as:

…a paste-like and batter-like meat product produced by forcing bones with attached edible meat under high pressure through a sieve or similar device to separate the bone from the edible meat tissue. In 1982, a final rule published by FSIS on mechanically separated meat said it was safe and established a standard of identity for the food product. Some restrictions were made on how much can be used and the type of products in which it can be used. These restrictions were based on concerns for limited intake of certain components in MSM, like calcium. Due to FSIS regulations enacted in 2004 to protect consumers against Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, mechanically separated beef is considered inedible and is prohibited for use as human food. However, mechanically separated pork is permitted and must be labeled as “mechanically separated pork” in the ingredients statement

How does one define “a manner that does not fundamentally alter the product” as seen in the term NATURAL?

A product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed. Minimal processing means that the product was processed in a manner that does not fundamentally alter the product. The label must include a statement explaining the meaning of the term natural (such as “no artificial ingredients; minimally processed”).

USDA Organic?

Implements no welfare of animal requirements. Additionally, no hormone or antibiotics labels require documentation that the animals were raised without such items.



Accurate documentation?

Even with documentation, one should assess the reality of how many producers are actually truthful with documentation their processes.

The number of recalls happening daily without our knowledge is scary: http://www.foodsafety.gov/recalls/recent/index.html

We should not only be conscious of the food that is put into our bodies, but also, if an animal product, what that animal consumed. Cargill provided their lambs with food that contained wrong sodium molybdate levels. Luckily, the FDA writes, “Undue levels of molybdenum in lamb diets may lead to adverse animal health effects, which are transitory in nature.”  http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm350957.htm

Countless instances of food inspection corruption have been reordered. Diane Smith comments on bribery in a corrupt food grading scheme in a USDA document, “The eight graders and 13 wholesalers were the only beneficiaries of their villainous actions, to the detriment of the American farmer and consumer, who were the true losers.” The number of undetected corruption instances is an indeterminable figure.

The Maple Lodge Farms states that it “has never forgotten its humble beginnings – family is what got us started, and family keeps us going.” http://www.maplelodgefarms.com/company.php It is interesting, then, to find out that the Canadian Food Inspection identified violations to federal animal health regulations. An entire website is dedicated to such violations in Canadian food inspection: http://www.primetimecrime.com/Recent/Investigative/Canadian%20food.htm


My co-worker and I have communicated a few times via email on the topic. One of his recent emails was shocking to me.


What makes me feel great, is (1) I didn’t have to do any convincing! I simply introduced him to the facts, and he tried it out on his own. (2) He feels great after trying out veganism! Changing his diet has given him a whole new energy level. After a few weeks, he tells me that he’ll indulge in animal products once in a while with his kids, and every time he does, he body is wrecked afterward. To put it not-so-nicely, after having pizza for dinner, he was kept up in the bathroom all night. The way our body reacts happily to these diet changes really makes you wonder.

Whether people elect to try veganism or not, I think the most important thing is to become aware. Learn about the truth behind the food industry and make a decision for yourself. Try it out and see how your body reacts. I am wary of coming off like a preacher or evangelical vegan, but it truly has been the best decision I’ve made all year. 🙂


Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie Bar

If a person has to eat dessert everyday, would you say that he or she has a sweet tooth? If the answer is yes, then my teeth should be rotten. I literally eat sweets everyday, so I try to make them healthier. This time, I using chick peas! Not my first endeavor into using beans in baked goods but definitely my best. I have never shared a recipe before, so I am nervous to post this. Don’t hate me if you hate it! But please let me know what you think if you do make it. 🙂 What I used…

  • 1 cup garbanzo beans / chick peas
  • 2 tablespoons applesauce
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 packets Stevia
  • 1/4 cup semisweet vegan chocolate chips
  • Touch of salt

I used dried chickpeas and soaked them overnight but canned work as well. The amount I save on using dried beans is incredible. Plus, I can soak exactly how much I need, since recipes often use different size cans, and I personally dislike recipes that call for ‘1 tablespoon of tomato paste’ – so what do I do with the rest of the can?? I prefer the extra flavor that brown sugar adds in cookies but also tried to reduce some of the calories by adding Stevia. I’m the kind of girl that likes the ‘cookie-part’ more than the chocolate chips in a chocolate chip cookie, so the amount that I used is probably low for most. Of course, your favorite sugar substitute (syrup, agave, raw sugar, etc.) or type of chocolate chip can be substituted. If you’re vegan, make sure they are dairy free! Seriously, all you do is combine in a food processor, adding the chips at the end. The worst part is waiting for it to bake.

cookie batter

Pour in a baking dish and bake for 30 minutes or until the top begins to brown and a knife comes out clean.

The finish product!

The finished product!

Some things to consider: I have tried recipes with chick peas without using a food processor (simply mashed by hand), however, I think a processor is essential when using beans in recipes in order to get the right texture. When I did not have a food processor, I think you can tell that there are beans in the dish; first, the batter is lumpier, second, the beans weren’t able to distribute their flavor evenly with the other ingredients. I also didn’t use oil, which may bother some people, but I don’t like the oily outcome of baked goods. I always cook for myself, so I bake small batches of everything. Please be warned that this doesn’t produce a typical batch of cookies that can feed an army!

So simple, and no crazy vegan ingredients. 🙂 Happy eating!

Nom Nom 1 Nom Nom 2

Mm…so dense. Where are the beans?!


EDIT: I forgot the applesauce in the recipe! I just tried to make it without, and the batter was extremely dry, and I was ridiculously confused….Don’t forget the applesauce! I have also found out recently that adding salt to baked good really enhances the flavor, so add a bit and you’ll be surprised!



“I stood at a crossroads and fate came to meet me.” – Liz Greene

Today marks the twenty-second day that I have been vegan; as of April 1, 2013, I have decided to be meat and dairy free. It began on a whim after a gluttonous binge on Easter following lent (where I had given up my favorite things, including all sweets). I figured I would try to clean out my system and be healthier. To ensure that I was getting the proper vitamins, though, I performed a lot of research online. The findings shocked me. Having been a pescatarian for over 2 years, I was fully aware of the environmental consequences of eating meat. The ethical and health reasons, however, were completely new.

My response: Why haven’t I been eating a vegan diet my entire life? Why have I been unaware of this information for so long? I am disgusted that I spent the first twenty-two years of my life consuming products that I know now to be full of toxins. When I became pescatarian, the concept of eating meat did not bother me. In fact, I would still eat meat once in a while. When I traveled to and lived in Japan for four months, I ate food items with meat that I felt were famous or special to engage better with the culture. I was not going to pass up trying fugu (pufferfish), tonkatsu (pork-bone based) ramen, or sushi from Tokyo. I felt that my diet should not affect my experience with the Japanese culture; I had wanted to go to Japan since before I can remember, so you bet I was going to experience everything. By contrast, when I simply think about consuming milk now, I am disgusted. By no surprise, I have yet to travel internationally in my twenty-two vegan days, but unlike my previous beliefs, I do not think that maintaining a vegan diet limits one’s cultural experience in any way.

Native Foods Cafe in Wicker Park is a block from my apartment and has quickly become my favorite restaurant as it makes some of the most delicious, healthy (and surprisingly all-vegan) food that I have tasted in a long while. Last Saturday, I went to a cooking demo and specifically brought my concerns to the chef following the demonstration. From her recent travels to Mexico, she was able to work with the chefs there to create unique, personal dishes while still maintaining Mexican flavors. As I love traveling, this has been a big thought in the back of my mind. What would I do in that scenario? With a fresh set of beliefs, now aware of the repercussions for eating meat, I would be a true fool to put another animal product in my mouth. Becoming a vegan doesn’t mean that I and other vegans are limiting ourselves. We still eat delicious food and eat exactly what we want. The only difference between vegans and non-vegans is that our food choices are a lot healthier for our bodies, less harmful to the environmental, and friendlier to all the livestock in the world (in addition to the countless other reasons…). Do I look like I am limiting myself from experiencing the culture?

Itsukushima Shrine: Shinto Shrine and UNESCO World Heritage Site near Hiroshima, Japan.

Itsukushima Shrine: Shinto Shrine and UNESCO World Heritage Site near Hiroshima, Japan.

Koh Phi Phi Islands: Relaxing during high tide on an island near Phuket, Thailand.

Koh Phi Phi Islands: Relaxing during high tide on an island near Phuket, Thailand.

Getting up-close and personal in Taipei, Taiwan

Getting up-close and personal in Taipei, Taiwan

Climbing Mount Fuji

Climbing Mount Fuji

Walking along the Great Wall of China

Walking along the Great Wall of China

Although I was still eating the rotting flesh of pigs, chickens, and cows, drinking growth hormone milk, and chowing down on some nice chicken periods in the time frame that those photos were taken, when I look back, truly how affected would my experiences have been with a vegan diet? Veganism has opened my eyes to so many foods that I never knew could taste so good (and be so good for you!).

The fact that the big industries of the world are concealing data from people is absurd. I was a kid who believed the milk mustache campaign. When I finished a glass of milk, I excitedly showed my grandpa. The problem is that we are unaware of the truth. But the reality of the food industry should not be hidden like the Galleons at Gringott’s bank (Harry Potter reference for all you Muggles). It is difficult to change something that is so culturally deep in our veins; that fact is undeniable. One of the easier ways to realize the absurdities of our food culture is evidenced by pets. Would most Americans eat a dog? A cat? Absolutely not. Yet, this may be normal in other countries. We thrive on beef, yet certain religious say cows are sacred. Why aren’t all animals sacred? Why is one animal too cute to eat, but a pig, who is more intelligent than a 3 year old child, is tomorrow’s greasy breakfast? Just because it is legal, approved by the FDA, and done by everyone, does not mean it is right. Americans used to think slavery and tobacco were okay…

Veganism isn’t a diet; it’s a lifestyle.  April 1st was tough; I admit it. But all it took was a brand new outlook in order to have the healthiest feeling twenty one days of my life. Right now, I do not think I could ever go back. I can only hope you make the change too. 🙂