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From: Ryan (
Subject:         Re: Converting to being a Vegan
Date: August 5, 2009 at 1:46 am PST

In Reply to: Converting to being a Vegan posted by Nathan Cameron on August 2, 2009 at 12:51 pm:

Hey Nathan,
I was checking in with this discussion board and saw your post- I felt compelled to reply to it.
I wanted to congratulate you on your decision and give you a brief synopsis of what my experience as a new vegetarian was like.
It sounds like your families eating habits are very similar to that of mine. Personally, I became a lacto-ovo vegetarian my first year of college. I lived with my family at the time (I was 16 at the time so not old enough to have moved out yet). We had steak dinner every single night at my house up until the day that I decided to go vegetarian cold turkey (no pun intended).
To say the least, the announcement of my decision created a rather big stir in my family. The first year was very difficult, I had family members expressing their concern with my decision almost every day for the first month or so(Some were very assertive about this...), I craved the taste of meat constantly, but I stuck with it. I can tell you now (10 years later) that it was worth it and one of the best decisions that I had ever made for myself. Now, I do not ever crave meat (I honestly don't even remember what it tastes like), my family never brings it up any more- they are even supportive and a few members have even become vegetarians themselves as a result of seeing what it has done for me!
So, my point in all of this is that I believe you have made a very good decision and that if you are having a hard time at all now, there is a "getting used to it" period but it will pass!

Now, on to actually answer your questions and offer some advice.

First off, I strongly recommend that you get a good book on vegan/vegetarian nutrition and diet(Actually, I would get at least 2 just to get alternative perspectives). Make sure that at least one author to the book(s) you choose is a registered dietitian(R.D.) that has an active practice and avoid books that are super sensational (I.E. avoid fad diets, they exists even within vegetarianism- I bring this up because there are so dang many books out there on health that are NOT backed by any real science or medicine).
This sounds like major overkill but it is not- I have known many would be vegetarians who gave up because they did not feel well as vegetarians due to poor dietary planning.
Getting all of your proper nutrients is NOT hard as a vegetarian, but our nutritional education growing up as children in America assumes that you eat meat. Vegetarians have special dietary considerations that meat eaters do not have and visa versa (Example, vegetarians- and vegans especially- need be cognizant of their vitamin B-12 intake- meat eaters don't really need to pay it much mind. Conversely, hardcore meat eaters sometimes do not get appropriate amounts of fiber in their diet, vegetarians have it made in this department and almost never need to think about it!) I consider this to be the most important of my suggestions.

My favorite such book is "Becoming Vegan: The Complete Guide to Adopting a Healthy Plant-Based Diet " by Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina. Pay particular attention to the chapter on the Vegan food guide pyramid.

Next, as far as meat substitutes. It seems to me that your question can mean one of 2 things
1) Substituting meat nutritionally
2) Substituting meat flavor and texture

For #1, I suggest you read the book I recommended to you above. Most vegetarians get protein in particular from 2 different sources concurrently- grains and legumes (beans), that book will give you more information on this issue and the reason behind it.

For #2, I believe most grocery stores (Depending on where you live) carry Boca products which I like from time to time. They taste good, most are vegan and they are easy to prepare. Personally, I would not center my whole diet around Boca burgers though. Boca makes substitutes for beef, chicken, buffalo wings meat balls and ground burger, etc...
Boca and garden buger products are quick and easy, if you want something more versatile (and much lower cost) you can do some amazing things with Wheat Gluten, Soy, and TVP. I will refer you to a good book on how to use these ingredients below.
Other vegan alternative foods such as Veganese can usually be purchased at health food stores (Although they generally charge more for these things in my local town). If you have a Trader Joes locally, vegetarian food is very cheap there!!

As a last suggestion, choosing to be a vegetarian is much more than simply eating breakfast, lunch and dinner- minus the meat(and thankfully so!). You are talking about a paradigm shift here. When I went vegetarian my family refused to accommodate me at dinner time, so I had to learn how to cook for myself.
I thought about the types of foods I liked and learned how to make vegetarian foods in their spirit. Personally, I love Asian food, so I eat Chinese, Thai, Indian and Japanese style food almost every night because that is what I decided to learn how to cook.
There are good vegetarian cookbooks on almost every style of cooking out there (I even have a Western Style Tofu cookbook in my collection!), spend a day on and see what you can find.

Not to butter anyone's corn here, but the moderator of this Discussion Board-Bryanna Clark Grogan, has some excellent vegan cookbooks- they are generally among the first in my recommendations to new vegans and she writes cookbooks based on many different styles of cooking. Her book "Authentic Chinese Cuisine: For the Contemporary Kitchen" is hands down my all time favorite cookbook. One of the first chapters (Off the top of my head I think its the second chapter) is devoted to making vegan meat alternatives completely from scratch- this is the book that I mentioned to you above. I also like Jo Stepanik's cookbooks. Donna Klien has some good Italian/Mediterranean style cookbooks-I could go on and on...
To recommend a good publisher that sells good cookbooks at a very reasonable price- try "Book Publishing Company" I have probably 10 of their cookbooks and have very few complaints. As a bonus, they are a Vegan/Vegetarian run publisher(Well, the organization that runs them, "The Farm", is primarily composed of Vegans and Vegetarians)- so you are getting it from the source.

Oh, another thought, have you looked at Vegetarian Times magazine?

Again, congratulations on a very exciting and rewarding decision and I hope you find my thoughts useful. Be sure to check back in if you have any more questions.

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