February 19, 2023

One Year Vegan, Part 1: Tips for Vegan-Curious and What I Wish I Knew Before Becoming Vegan

It was really hard to title this. I wanted to wrap up a full year of all sorts of things that I learned since becoming vegan in January 2022, but there is SO MUCH. I've learned more than I could have imagined about animals, the environment, health, food, cooking, ingredients, and more. I learned a ton about MYSELF, even.

I have said from the beginning that I don't want to be one of the vegans that tries to push it on other people, share horrifying videos of factory farms, and guilt-tripping people as they eat a burger. Becoming vegan was a personal decision that I made for ethical reasons. If anyone wants to know anything about it they can always ask me, but I don't like to bring it up myself.

Occasionally, though, I may write a post like this one--this post is NOT those guilt-tripping things I mentioned, but rather a list of random "stuff" about being vegan for over a year now: what I wish I knew beforehand, unusual-to-me food I started eating, tips for other new vegans that I probably would have found helpful, etc.

I'll try not to make this *too* long, but you know me... ;)

(Edit: It was too long, hahaha. So I'm dividing it into two parts.)

What I Wish I Knew Before Becoming Vegan

It's so much easier than I thought it would be! I used to dismiss the idea immediately because I thought there was no way I could ever cut that many foods out of my life. I especially thought it would be difficult to eat a vegan diet in an omnivore family. If I had known it would be this easy, I would have done it decades ago. (It's crazy to me that I'm old enough to say "decades" ago when referring to my lifetime, haha.)

My digestive system would feel a million times better. I never knew my digestive system wasn't really feeling okay until I started eating a vegan diet--the difference was very noticeable. No bloating or stomachaches, very "regular", and just generally a feeling of well-being.

My chronic pain (which had been diagnosed as fibromyalgia) would completely go away. This is what is the most stunning to me out of everything. The chronic fibromyalgia pain started in (I think) 2018, and it was horrible. About a month or so--I can't remember exactly--after I started eating vegan, I realized that I was able to get out of bed easily. Then I realized it had been a while since I felt the pain. It hasn't come back! (I do still have chronic back pain, but it's confined to one vertebra that is messed up. I also still have occasional knee pain from when I knelt on a screwdriver--I think that will be a lifelong injury.)

That most of the "weird" foods I said I wasn't interested in trying have become staples in my house, haha. I'll write more about this later but, basically, a HUGE world of food was opened to me after I'd been vegan for a couple of months and was interested in experimenting with new recipes. I had NO IDEA the amount of dishes you can make with tofu, for example. I started to really enjoy cooking again!

My first attempt at cashew cheese. It's under the toppings, I promise!

A high-powered blender is pretty much a necessity. I had absolutely no idea just how often I would use my blender (I use the blender probably 6-10 times a week--prior to becoming vegan, I probably used the blender 20 times in a decade). On Cyber Monday, I managed to get a Vitamix for a GREAT deal--$225, when it's regularly $300. It's the least expensive model; I didn't need bells or whistles, just a blender that would completely pulverize things like cashews until it's so smooth you would have no idea that cashews were even in there. I still use my previous blender for making seitan because it has a dough blade, but I use the Vitamix for everything else. If I had known how much I'd use my blender, I would have gotten a Vitamix from the very beginning.

You don't have to eat "weird" or unfamiliar foods on a vegan diet. When I first became vegan, I was just trying to figure out how to swap things out for already-familiar ingredients. I cut out animal products cold-turkey without any sort of planning, so I just had to wing it for a little while before I started experimenting with new recipes and ingredients. 

Something I ate very frequently in the beginning was some sort of grain (rice is simple and familiar to everybody), some sort of bean (chick peas work well when replacing meat because they don't get soft like other beans do), whatever veggie(s) I may have on hand, and a sauce (I make sauces by putting the ingredients in a mason jar and shaking well, then heating on the stove until it thickens (I use cornstarch as a thickener in sauces). These are all things that can be made ahead of time, so I could just grab them from the fridge and assemble a bowl. It wasn't until I was in a good routine with familiar foods that I decided to try things like nutritional yeast and tofu.

Tips for new vegans or vegan-curious (from a new vegan myself):

Have a short list of go-to meals you can make that you always have the ingredients for. It may not be an ideal balanced meal, but it's nice to have a few recipes up your sleeve that you don't have to put much thought into when you're in a pinch. When you're having a busy day and are stressing about dinner, just pick a go-to. My favorite is Truffle Mac & Cheese--I always have the stuff on hand and it's DELICIOUS. It's not very healthy, so I try not to rely on it *too* much ;)

Don't get intimidated to try the "weird" vegan foods, but introduce them slowly. I would start with things you're used to eating, only "veganized"--swap out meat for beans, for example. Plant-based milk instead of cow's milk. Vegan butter instead of regular.

When you come across unfamiliar ingredients in recipes you want to try, find a few recipes with one unusual ingredient they have in common so that you're not buying a (potentially pricey) ingredient for just one dish. I buy most unusual ingredients (like vital wheat gluten, nutritional yeast, spices that I can't find at the grocery store, etc) on Amazon. It's almost always cheaper, especially when I buy a larger container of it. (Rather than continuing to buy the small jars of turmeric, for example, I bought a bag of it that will refill my turmeric jar probably 6-8 times. It was only a few dollars more than a single jar.)

If you have an omnivore family, there are lots of ways to make mealtime easier. I listed several tips on my post called "Meal Compromises to Please Everybody". And for more food ideas, I have a huge post full of photos, called "What I've Been Eating Since Becoming Vegan".

Don't expect vegan foods to taste the same as the animal products you are replacing. There are very few foods that I would say taste almost *exactly* the same as the animal product it may be trying to replicate. You will be disappointed if you expect tofu to taste and feel just like chicken! That's why I don't like it when recipes are titled "Vegan Chicken Nuggets" or something similar--yes, maybe it sounds better than "Tofu Nuggets", but it sets unrealistic expectations for omnivores or new vegetarians/vegans. Instead, I look at vegan animal product-alternatives as entirely different foods. I can make the vegan and non-vegan version look and/or taste very similar to each other, but there are few vegan dishes that I think would actually fool omnivores into thinking they are eating a familiar meat.

I asked Jerry if he had any ideas for this post, and he echoed everything I just wrote about about replacing meat. It's not going to taste exactly the same, but why does it have to if it tastes just as good? He also said that it drives him crazy when people add the word "vegan" in front of everything--"vegan bean dip", "vegan chili", etc. For someone who isn't vegan, hearing that word can automatically be a turn-off to even tasting something. I would never try to trick someone by lying, but I don't add the word "vegan" in front of things, either. I make "bean dip" and "chili". I do add "vegan" in front of something that just can't be avoided--"vegan cheese", for example. If I just called it "cheese", then I feel like it would be too misleading. This was a big tangent, so let's move on...

As time goes by, your tastebuds change. You realize that you don't miss the foods you thought you would because you are perfectly happy having similar plant-based foods. I'll use the Truffle Mac & Cheese as an example. I call it Creamy Truffle Mac or just Truffle Mac (macaroni noodles with a creamy truffle sauce). I used to make homemade macaroni and cheese frequently--it was one of my go-to's--and now I make the Truffle Mac. They don't taste alike, but for me, the Truffle Mac is absolutely an acceptable replacement for mac and cheese. I don't miss the cheese at all when there is an amazing creamy sauce to stir into the noodles.

Homemade vegan food tastes so much better than the prepared vegan food you can buy at the store. There are a lot of vegan convenience foods available, and I've tried a few that were pretty good, but I 100% prefer to make my own stuff. And most of the time when I look at the ingredients list on the package, I already have most, if not all, of the stuff at home already. Sometimes I'll even take a picture of the package and ingredients, then try to replicate it at home. Also, there are a million different recipes for the same dishes--so if I try one and don't like it, I can always just pick another. There are recipes for vegan versions of everything you can think of.

Just for fun: What is odd about this picture?

August 2022

A. Katie is wearing a dress.
B. Katie is drinking a mocktail.
C. Katie has salad on her plate.
D. All of the above.

Hahaha! Answer is D, of course. But seriously, who even am I?!

Okay, I'm going to end this post here and continue on Part 2 (which I hope to post tomorrow)!


  1. I'm curious, though, do you have moral objections to making non-vegan foods for family members? When I when vegetarian as a teenager, I still cooked with meat when my family asked me to (I usually cooked dinner for the whole family). Later, when I went vegan, I never minded making something non-vegan for those who weren't used to the lifestyle, or who had no interest in trying vegan versions of their favorite foods.

    1. I do still make things for the kids when they ask, but being 17 and 18, they go out with their friends a lot. They both also work at a restaurant and they like to eat there. I told them from the beginning, though, that I'm not going to make them be vegetarian/vegan just because I am. Noah chooses to eat vegan a lot of the time because it helped clear IBS symptoms, but that's entirely his choice. And Eli has no interest in changing his diet, which is fine, too! ;)

    2. I don't mean to speak for sam but I think they're asking more because of the vegan cake for your brother, or the vegan pecan pie for your dad.

    3. Yes, I asked because I was curious why you'd try so hard to make a vegan pecan pie for someone who has no interest in being vegan. Especially if it's their favorite dessert. Never mess with someone's favorite dessert, is my motto! ;)

  2. I love watching your transformation. I'm not the cook at home and have not (yet) convinced Ed (the cook) to try going full-on vegan. But it's creeping in.

    1. It sounds like he's a great sport about trying new foods, though, which is awesome! I'm so grateful that my family is cool about tasting things--whether they end up liking it or not, I'm happy that they try.

  3. This is a different topic, but a lot of us started reading your blog because of the running. I LOVE seeing running pictures and hope you and Jerry are doing the 5k. I will be 64 years old in May. I am stubborn, and challenged myself to do a 30 days in a row run. Pretty crazy since I hadn't run in a year. This morning was the 30th day straight. No matter what, I didn't not run. The first run was 20 minutes, and the longest was 94 minutes. I averaged it out over the 30 day span, and came up with 66.9 minutes! I've never run 30 days in a row ever. I think in the morning, I'll get up and run. My pace is slow, I take absolutely no walk breaks, EVER, and I don't know my distance, but I'm thinking about doing a half marathon again. I just don't know where to do the 13.1? I sure am open to suggestions..


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