lifestyle, Personal, Recipes

I’m currently on another Vegan journey. I’ve been a vegetarian my entire life and have tried a few times to go vegan without long-term success. Ten times out of ten I fail because… You guessed it, CHEESE.

Did you know that a chemical in cheese, called casein, has been found to trigger the brain’s opioid receptors and trigger an addictive response? This makes total sense to me personally, but also makes sense when I hear others failed in going vegan due to cheese.

Vegan options have come a long way in a short time. Options for vegan cheese used to be limited to one or two brands at your local grocery store that did not melt and did not taste right. Now, you’ll likely see several brands and options at your favorite health food or modern grocery stores. Even Aldi has their own brand of vegan cheese and I actually really like it! I used it today on vegan pizza bagels and it actually got MELTY. A win, for sure.

If you’re thinking of going vegan, or trying to stay vegan, here are some tips I can give from personal experience:

  1. Find a vegan cheese you like

As I mentioned above – cheese is like kryptonite for so many people that try this path. Try different brands of vegan cheese and stock up on what you find you like, so you don’t find yourself in a cravings state of weakness. Also, get yourself some nutritional yeast to sprinkle on everything. Vegans use it like a parmesan cheese replacement, but you can put it on everything AND it’s good for you!

2. If you used to eat meat, start by making the same meals you used to make, but with vegan meat options

I feel like people generally have this idea that vegans eat lettuce and fresh veggies and that’s it. If you go from eating meat every day to eating raw veggies and salads, you’re not going to make it. There are SO many vegan meat options out there nowadays that there really is no reason to eat meat, and also no reason to just eat raw veggies (unless you’re into that). If your weekly recipes before going vegan included chicken salads for lunch and pasta w/ meatballs, and tacos, for dinners, then start your vegan journey by making those same meals but with vegan meat replacements. Making too big of a shift is where people get turned off or fail. Learn to make what you’re already comfortable with and you’ll thank me later.

3. Try a meal subscription

You may have read my previous post about Hungryroot. If you feel overwhelmed and don’t know how to start a vegan diet, or if you’re having trouble coming up with meal ideas, give Hungryroot a try. You can set your specific diet preferences (vegan, vegan & gluten-free, vegetarian, etc.) and shop by recipe. I currently pay about $60 a week. For the quality of product, the delivery to your doorstep, and the reduced stress of not having to plan meals-it is beyond worth it. Plus, you can cancel or pause any time you like.

4. Keep a list of “safe” restaurants in your phone notes

Doing some research is key here. Look at your local restaurants and look at their menus. Try to analyze what foods you could order vegan or with minor modifications to make it vegan. Have a Taco Bell problem like me? You can order vegan! Think, tacos with black beans or refried beans, lettuce, tomato, hot sauce, guac… Love getting Potbelly’s for lunch? Look at their salads, think “I could get this without chicken, without cheese, and add chickpeas for protein…” Make a list of your “safe” restaurants in your phone that you know you can eat at so you’re never caught in a situation where your friend or SO wants to go out to eat but now you have to 1. research for 20 mins or 2. cave and get McDonalds “just today.” As you find vegan options at restaurants that you like, add them to your notes so it’s easy to order for next time without analyzing every ingredient on the menu again.

5. Remember why you started

There are several different reasons you may have chosen to or want to go vegan for. It could be a humane/moral thing, an environmental basis, or even a health reason. When you feel like you want to cheat or give up, you need to pause and put yourself back into that mental space that made you want to start. Did you watch a documentary about the agriculture industry that made you want to save the animals? Did you feel inspired by Earth Day posts and wanted to lower your carbon footprint? Try to journal it out and take a few minutes to put yourself back into that headspace.