If you’ve decided to be vegan you know what you won’t eat – but what should you eat? Where to start with all those new foodstuffs? Well, actually, it’s not such a big deal.
Try not to be misled by the idea of ‘cooking vegan’. Vegan food is just like regular food, except without meat, dairy and eggs. It sounds obvious, but it really is that straightforward.
If you’re daunted, try to keep it simple. You don’t have to become a chef overnight in order to cook good vegan food, and when you’re a new vegan it’s more important to find recipes that you like and can make than being able to produce an extravagant meal. That said, ‘vegan cooking’ is not especially complex or hard.
Think about what you usually eat and how that could be vegan, that way you’ll just be making-over your current everyday cookery rather than learning stuff from scratch.
Cook in your usual style
Sure, we all have dreams of making seitan from scratch and preparing dry chickpeas instead of grabbing them from a can, but sometimes life just gets in the way. Or maybe spending a lot of time in the kitchen just isn’t your thing. Take notice of how you usually cook before you turn vegan.
If (like me) you get busy a lot and end up eating really quick-to-put-together meals, prepare to make those kinds of meals post-vegan too. Soups, pasta and stirfries are all good here.
If you’re a meat and three veg type, don’t start attempting to make lasagne from scratch the day you turn vegan. Instead, think about how you can cook in the style you do now, but without meat, dairy and eggs. A Fry’s burger with steamed veggies, or nut roast with roast veggies, will be just as easy to prepare as what you eat now, and no more difficult to source the ingredients.
It all comes down to your style of eating and cooking. If you already rely on fast food and quick, easy, processed meals, you can absolutely keep doing that as a vegan. If you’re into one-pot cooking (this is me!), then there are a world of soups, casseroles, pastas, stews and stirfries to keep you happy and well-fed. If you’re a great cook then you can go nuts and spend hours with recipes books learning new complicated dishes. Just don’t see turning vegan as the opportunity you’ve always wanted to start becoming an amazing, dedicated, make-it-from-scratch kind cook – it may happen, sure, but you’re more likely to be successful in transitioning to veganism if you keep things realistic and manageable.
Soup, salad and stirfries
Don’t worry, it’s not forever. But cooking soups, salads and stirfries can be a good starting point when you turn vegan, because they are easy to make without using meat, dairy and eggs. Plus they aren’t too taxing to prepare – the process of making them is probably already familiar to you. Just think about different ways to cook things – chickpeas instead of chicken in the stirfry, nuts instead of cheese in a salad, and veggies instead of meat in the soups… see? That’s not so weird!
Go for naturally vegan food
Rather than replace your omni dishes with the same-meal-but-without-the-meat, plan to make basic, naturally vegan food at first. Naturally vegan food is dishes that (usually) never require meat and dairy – like minestrone, dhal, roast veggies with garlic and herbs, felafel and tabouli, or pasta with tomato sauce. That way you won’t be comparing what you’re eating vegan to what you used to eat (and nor will the people around you), and you can start adding new recipes that you used to eat with meat to the rotation after a period of adjustment.
Think about what you’re going to eat over the first week that you’re vegan and then shop for the things you need so you’ve got it in the cupboard ready to go. Thinking in advance about what you’ll eat the next day also helps. In many ways, it’s easier to cook for yourself when you first turn veg, to remove the need to navigate menus at restaurants and cafes. Have a few things in the cupboard for emergencies, like if you get home really late from work and can’t be arsed making anything – a can of baked beans can be a wonderful saviour!
It’s not about deprivation
It can be easy to feel like you’re ‘missing out’ if you cut things out from your diet, but actually you’re opening up a whole new world of food. Think of it as a challenge, or a journey, or whatever, but if you start feeling cranky because you’re ‘missing out’, remind yourself why you didn’t want to eat those things in the first place. Or treat yourself to a tasty vegan snack, or try a new food, or go to a new restaurant, or do whatever you need to do to take your mind off those negative thoughts.
Even if you want to do it, ‘giving up’ is not easy. Although I don’t think veganism takes willpower or is hard, it can be difficult during the transitioning phase.
Vegans – what are your favourite naturally vegan or easy vegan recipes? Link in the comments and I’ll add them up here!
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