Ahimsa lights the way

Answers to Your Questions

FAQs from new vegans and vegan-curious

(click for response)

I don’t know what to eat.

If this is a nutritional question, check out books AVS recommends in that category. If this is a practical application question, try new vegan items each time you go shopping. Each week try one new fruit, one new whole grain, one new vegetable, one new legume, and even one new packaged food until you feel like you have found an abundance of vegan food you enjoy. Remember this is a good time to be social and adventurous with cuisine. Try a different restaurant. Exchange meals with another vegan. Form a potluck group or a dinner co-op that gathers at the suitable frequency for you. –Anne Dinshah, author of Healthy Hearty Helpings

What about ‘humanely raised’ animal products?

There are no truly humane ways to exploit animals for their flesh and secretions. As undercover operations have revealed, claims on the packaging that animal products are “compassionate” often bear little relation to reality. And even on the most “humane” farms, animals are slaughtered at only a fraction of their lifespans. In the rare case that an animal has lived a relatively good life prior to slaughter, there is “betrayal involved in raising an individual to feel loved and valued and then slaughtering her as a resource in the end.” Consuming dairy, eggs, and flesh, however marketed, supports violence against animals. –Sherry F. Colb, author of Mind If I Order the Cheeseburger? And Other Questions People Ask Vegans

I think my body does better with red meat.

Try getting your protein from concentrated satisfying sources such as beans and nuts. A good whole grain bread can be satisfying too. –Freya Dinshah, coauthor Apples, Bean Dip, and Carrot Cake

You might opt to try some vegan meat analogs if you miss the familiarity of burgers and dogs. There are more and more of them becoming available now in most supermarkets. It’s actually more often the seasonings and sauces on the meat that one misses. Meanwhile, develop your tastes for less processed options. Try using mushrooms, tofu, tempeh, eggplant, and other plant foods that have meaty textures. –Anne Dinshah, coauthor Apples, Bean Dip, and Carrot Cake.

What about the saying ‘real men eat meat’?

Eat plant meat. Real men are caring and compassionate. They are strong and take a stand to protect innocent animals. Increasingly I hear people say vegan is sexy. –Anne Dinshah, American Vegan magazine managing editor.

I miss cheese.

There are great vegan cheese recipes in The UnCheese Cookbook by Jo Stepaniak, Artisan Vegan Cheese by Miyoko Schinner, and The Cheesy Veganby John Schlimm, all available from AVS. Depending on the cheese usage you might try hummus for topping or mix a vegan mayo with nutritional yeast. There are many commercial processed vegan cheeses that provide a great transition options that look like real cheese. Many people enjoy brands such as: Daiya, Teese by Chicago Soydairy, and Vegan Gourmet by Follow Your Heart. An online search of vegan cheese provides plenty of options; if they aren’t available locally ask your store to carry them or order online. –Anne Dinshah, vice president of AVS

I like the taste of seafood.

Try the vegan “seafood” from Sophie’s Kitchen, which uses sea plants such as konjac to create a wide array of seafood such as calamari, fish, shrimp, crabcakes, tuna, and scallops. It’s better for you, and better for the ocean, and better for the fish. Put your dollars towards a company that is truly into sustainability. Or go the healthier way and learn to make things yourself using sea vegetables such as a kelp or dulse to lend a sea taste to savory dishes. Roll your own vegetable sushi, basically rice and vegetables wrapped in nori which is so easy kids can do it. –Anne Dinshah, coauthor Apples, Bean Dip, and Carrot Cake: Kids! Teach Yourself to Cook

What if I have a nut allergy? Aren’t nuts a staple in many vegan foods?

Nuts and beans are two of the most common sources of vegan protein. However, most people are overly concerned with protein, which we get abundantly if eating a good variety of plant foods. Nuts are important, but they are also a common allergen and it is quite easy to get vegan food without nuts. I’m personally allergic to peanuts and it used to be difficult, but nowadays products are marked to caution for nuts. Be in the habit of asking if anything has nuts when you dine socially, just like you would ask if something is vegan. It’s acceptable to do so these days. –Anne Dinshah, author Healthy Hearty Helpings

I missed sweet treats. Vegan desserts aren’t as satisfying.

It all depends on who makes them. There are many vegan bakeries offering desserts that you really can’t tell the taste difference. I actually find some are just too decadent for me. Be sure you aren’t confusing vegan with gluten-free which for many bakers are still experimental. Some vegan desserts are also planned to be healthier, not just nonanimal. Give it some time, you might find your taste buds begin to prefer lighter flavors that aren’t weighed down with all the eggs, milk, butter, and cream. Check out our cookbook section of the AVS book catalog. You may enjoy making desserts yourself and knowing they are made without harming animals can be more satisfying in other ways. –Anne Dinshah, AVS Speakers Bureau

I’m bored with vegan food.

What are your three favorite vegetables? Now ask a friend the same question. Then make a meal together that both of you will enjoy. Ask different people that question. That’s how I created recipes for most of my books. –Anne Dinshah, coauthor The 4-Ingredient Vegan

I went vegan for 30 days, but found I only ate one thing because I went to the same restaurant every day.

Try more restaurants: Ask the waitstaff questions in a pleasant way as they are not responsible for the menu but can help you. Ask if there are any vegan items on the menu. If there are not, ask if the chef has a dish for vegans that is not on the menu. If you still don’t get an acceptable response, ask politely if it is possible to speak with the chef. Or you might approach the menu as if it were your home pantry. Look at the sides first and ask about those. Also try ethnic restaurants: Asian (rice and vegetables), Middle Eastern (hummus, baba ghanouj, tabouli), Indian (ask for nonbutter and noncheese), Greek (great large beans in tomato sauce), Italian (pasta primavera), Mexican (bean burrito or tostada, checking that refried beans are animal-free) –Linda Long, author of Virgin Vegan 

It is important to learn about the bounty of plant foods before or simultaneous to eliminating all animal foods. That’s why the Vegan Generation3 campaign encourages learning about veganism from three different sources. If you picked three sources that provided the “why” now focus on “how” with a vegan friend who helps you go food shopping or share some meals. See the AVS VIP list. Choose a very easy vegan cookbook from the Recommended Reading for New Vegans. –Anne Dinshah VG3 Campaign Director

I don’t know how to cook, vegan or otherwise.

Adults are secretly learning to cook with the book Apples, Bean Dip, and Carrot Cake: Kids! Teach Yourself to Cook. (available from AVS) –Victoria Moran, author Main Street Vegan

I was overwhelmed by all the vegan issues.

We can reach the goal that in this imperfect world may not be complete perfection but doing the best we possibly can. We will not reach the goal if we say, “Veganism is a very nice ideal, but not very practical or profitable, so I won’t bother with it at all until…” And here we may insert, “the world is ready for it” or “next year/ month/ week/ lifetime/ world/ or you name it” or “I am better able to do so” or “the next fellow does it” or any other convenient and equally spurious excuse for sitting back and doing absolutely nothing. An intelligently planned, progressive program of nonanimal utilization is a very fine way to begin. –H. Jay Dinshah, coauthor Powerful Vegan Messages

I might be too old to change. It’s tough to change my habits.

There’s a great book Never Too Late to Go Vegan: The Over-50 Guide to Adopting and Thriving on a Plant-Based Diet by Carol J. Adams, Patti Breitman, and Virginia Messina available from AVS. –Carolyn Githens, American Vegan graphics manager and assistant editor

Now I have ethical dilemmas.

Dilemmas are the positive and negative sides of action and how we live our lives. Imagine that we jumped right to being vegan. Then we learn about some of these peripheral problem areas. If we say we’re going to eliminate all animal products from our diet, our clothes, cosmetics, and such. What about the leather belt on the machinery that made this all-manmade-material pair of shoes? Or you go to the supermarket and buy something in the produce department; with your support of the supermarket, you’re helping to pay the checkout clerk who buys some meat. Is that your fault, your exploitation and killing of animals? Do you withdraw from humanity? 

You might be practicing to the limit—or even to excess in effect—the negative, passive side of ahimsa (nonharming, the foundation of veganism) as only applied to the concept of “thou shalt not kill animals.” Wouldn’t you be completely giving up on what may be an even more important positive side? “Thou shalt help thy fellow human beings” to learn the ways of ahimsa and to do the best they can. 
–adapted from the writings of H. Jay Dinshah in Powerful Vegan Messages which includes an extensive discussion of ethical dilemmas

What do I do with all my nonvegan products?

Vegans refuse both food and clothing from animals because it all involves slavery, suffering, deprivation, exploitation, and killing of the animals. But what is the harm in using up some animal-based clothing or food you already have? We should consider the effects on the user, on others, and on the animals of various choices of actions. You can follow one of three plans:

  1. Continue to use the objectionable items until they wear out and are gradually replaced with non-animal items.
  2. Simply throw the offensive items away.
  3. Dispose of them by giving them to other individuals or needy charitable causes.

These options are discussed in detail in Powerful Vegan Messages. –H. Jay Dinshah, founder of American Vegan Society

I’m uncomfortable going to social events as the only vegan.

I didn’t like that feeling either because I didn’t want to have people go out of their way to do anything special for me. People feel uncomfortable when they don’t know what to serve that I can eat. Sometimes I would eat a little something before going to an event. Now I offer to bring a vegan dish and share it with everyone. –Carolyn Githens, American Vegan graphics manager and assistant editor

My family/friends/coworkers are unsupportive.

I’ve had people secretly hide animal products in my food and say it was vegan. You can choose to call them out on it or eat elsewhere. I would opt to be understanding. They feel threatened because you are doing something that is different from what they believe/ learned/ know. Have patience and know that you are now part of your chosen family, the vegan community who are available to be supportive. Contact an AVS Vegan Information Point for suggestions in your neighborhood. –Anne Dinshah, campaign director for Vegan Generation3 

Learn to make at least two good main dishes and two desserts so you have a choice of what to bring to impress people at social events. Veganize your favorites or try a new vegan recipe. When people taste how delicious vegan food can be, begin to ask you genuinely inquisitive questions. Depending on the event, people often don’t know it’s vegan until after they eat the vegan dish and rave about it. Perhaps you will generate positive curiosity about veganism and can encourage others to become Vegan Explorers. –Anne Dinshah, author Dating Vegans

My family is not supportive of my vegan lifestyle because it goes against our culture. What can I do to make them see that this is not a phase or fad?

Coming from a culture whose meals centered mainly around pork and chicken, I was ridiculed and had animal products hidden in my food by family . I decided to take my favorite traditional foods and veganize them. I found different recipes online and in books that helped satisfy my cravings for traditional Puerto Rican food and I even cooked my family some amazing vegan meals. While they may never become vegan, my family now accepts and enjoys my vegan lifestyle. Remember foods don’t have to be filled with animal products to be satisfying and delicious. –Elisha Letizia, AVS VIP

I was vegan. Then I moved in with someone who ate conventionally. So we both compromised and ate vegetarian together. I thought I was helping him change, but really I was just losing what I believed in. What else could I do?

Compromise on the color of paint on kitchen walls, the type of music to listen to while eating, or the type of plates, but NOT on your compassionate core values. You will learn what’s truly important and your veganism is probably one of the things the person admires in you.–Anne Dinshah, author Dating Vegans

What about going to a conference for work? I’m often stuck there with no way to get other food, and I’m expected to socialize at the meals.

Call ahead and talk with the catering personnel. Ask the chefs if they can offer vegan options. Email them the AVS catering guide from AmericanVegan.org. Be appreciative of their efforts and they will be helpful. Remember veganism is becoming more popular and you are helping them adjust to the increasing interest. –Freya Dinshah, AVS Speakers Bureau

How do I travel as a vegan?

My friend Inger Lonmo is a world traveler who suggests packing a travel kit with snack bags such as: raw vegetables, dried fruit, nuts, seeds, cereals, crackers, or sandwiches. –Linda Long, author of Virgin Vegan

What about eating out when I travel to other countries?

Inger created a chart that solves the problem. Not only does it bring a smile, but it clears any confusion. She drew all the animals, fish, milk, and eggs, then crossed them off with a red X. You may may copy her chart and laminate it from page 16 of my book Virgin Vegan. Have translated into the local language, “Kindly know that I do not eat any animals, juice of animals, fish, eggs, cheese, butter, or milk. Is it possible to have a meal with some of these ingredients: vegetables, fruits, grains, beans, soy products, or nuts? I am grateful.” –Linda Long, AVS Speakers Bureau

It’s tough to be different as a vegan kid.

You can still eat burgers, fries, and cookies. Just have the vegan ones from plants. Remember to eat your healthy veggies and bean wraps! And tell kids you are kind to animals. Animals deserve to have fun too! –Clint Dinshah, lifelong vegan kid

I’m a kid and my parents don’t know how to make vegan food.

Get the book Apples, Bean Dip, and Carrot Cake: Kids! Teach Yourself to Cook by Anne and Freya Dinshah available from AVS. Also watch my YouTube videos on the Kids! Teach Yourself to Cook channel. –Clint Dinshah, “The Clint Chronicles” columnist in American Vegan

Being vegan is expensive.

Many animal products are subsidized by the government so you are not paying the true cost. When you factor in the health costs of the diseases associated with animal products, think of plant-foods as purchasing true “health insurance.” 

If you buy a lot of processed plant foods, it may be expensive. Try buying whole grains and legumes from bulk bins. If organic produce is driving up the cost, then get to know the “dirty dozen” and focus on buying those organic even if you compromise and get some of the “clean fifteen” grown conventionally. Consider joining a CSA (community supported agriculture) for good local organic produce in season. –Anne Dinshah, lifelong vegan


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