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Veganism/Vegan Diet Transition


I have some questions on how to easily transition to a vegan diet going from a meat-based diet.
I have the most problems when it comes to eliminating dairy and desserts. Soy/almond/rice/coconut milk all taste OK, but they still don't taste as good as regular milk. I also am a huge dessert fan, but where I live vegan desserts are far and few to find. The one good thing is that I was never really into meat itself, so I don't miss beef/pork/chicken/fish at all.
However, my biggest problem with trying to eat vegan is social. I find since this is been more of a recent change for me that people are less accepting. All of my friends are big meat eaters and I find eating out vegetarian hard enough, let alone vegan. It is also hard for my parents and my bf's parents, who have cooked with meat/meat products since we were born.
So I'm not sure what to do. I've been trying really to eat vegan when I can, and if I can't then at least vegetarian, but it gets pretty hard at times, especially when I love eating out and we have a lack of vegan/vegetarian restaurants where I live.
Any tips?
Thank you very much.

Hi Stephanie,

Thanks for reaching out.

I've been a vegan for a little over twenty-five years now so I've pretty much seen it all. Your situation is not uncommon when a person makes the attempt to transition from a meat and dairy diet to one that's vegan. Problems arise with food choices and awkward social situations. Trust me, I've been there. It's part of the package when you're considered an "other" in our global society.

Okay, I'll do my best to address your concerns, point-by-point:

Alternatives to milk: You have many choices to choose from but they are not going to taste like  dairy milk. I'm not saying it's never going to happen, but food scientist haven't been working too hard at it from the looks of things. We'll have to wait and see.

Soy is the closest to milk chemically speaking but it does have an odd "bean-y" taste depending on the brand you get. Then you have oat, rice, hemp, almond, sunflower, coconut, and combinations like rice and quinoa. Raw foodists make delicious "cashew milk" which you may find more to your liking. Also, there is a health aspect you should consider. Sugar is not your friend and most of these milks are sweetened with it. Sugar nourishes cancer cells, raises triglycerides, feeds yeast, and can make you a "pre-diabetic" depending on your genes. So, always get the "unsweetened" variety when you buy a vegan milk.

Next, I love all kinds of desserts, too. And if you're a decent cook, you'll be making some amazing vegan desserts in no time. The easiest being "Wacky Cake". You'll find tons of recipes for it online. VegWeb is a great place to try out user-submitted recipes:
Also, The Post Punk Kitchen is pretty good as well:  By the way, try to use "coconut sugar" instead of regular sugar. It doesn't mess with your blood sugar as much and it measure out the same cup for cup.

Okay, now on to the biggest problem of all---the social problem. This is a very important moment in your life as a potential vegan. You've reached a crossroads of sorts. On the one hand, the people you care about are less accepting of your new choices. They don't understand it; it's weird and they don't want to make the effort to understand it. And, the whole situation makes you uncomfortable. However, you're a person with uncommon beliefs, and those beliefs may rub people the wrong way. It happens. They're adults. They'll either get over it or not. You have to do what's right for "you".

Life is testing you right now. But the fact that you want to change and help animals puts you above them. I'm not preaching about some vegan elitist philosophy here, although you may be called a know-it-all now and then. Again, part of the package. You've made a decision to evolve on different levels and that's hard work. Give yourself some credit.

Tell me, do you think those you love have the fortitude to do the same thing? How many times have you heard: "I could never stop eating meat. It tastes so good". Think about that. These people would rather get a degree in medicine, with all the studying they'd have to do, than become vegan or even vegetarian. Seriously, what you're contemplating takes real effort and courage, which is why there are so many carnivores out there. They outnumber us. But your ability to make profound changes greatly outnumbers those who can't or won't.

In the end, your parents and your boyfriend's parents, even your friends, will have to accept or not accept "YOU" as you are at this point in your life. If you truly believe what you're doing is right, then don't ever change for them. Don't give in. I haven't for a quarter of a century. Sure, I've taken crap along the way, but I got real good at giving it back.

Always be polite in these social situations. Answer their questions accurately without getting them irritated, and above all, don't "preach" to them. They don't want to hear it. If they want you to educate them on veganism, feel free to do so. Another thing is, you will be the topic of conversation at these gatherings when you sit down at the table. It's as if there's nothing else to talk about except the vegan eating vegan food at the family table. Just bear it with a grin. Some may want to provoke you. Again, just find a diplomatic way out of it. You can't expect them all to like you. Remember, they're taking the easy, cruel, and toxic way out.

As for going out to restaurants, there's a great site that'll list all the vegan, vegan friendly, or vegetarian eateries in your area. Just type in your zip code and see what comes up:  They also have an Android app for your phone or tablet, although I'm not sure if there's one for Apple's iOS. Another one to try:  

If you have to go to a restaurant that's not vegan friendly, you can always ask for vegetables, pasta (no egg), and beans. Call ahead and ask if you can bring your own protein to add to your dish. Who cares what anyone says. Think as if you are training them. You are teaching them a better way. Let them stare, make comments, or ask questions. Your feelings of uneasiness will eventually go away. You just have to laugh in the end.

Good luck and if you have any follow up questions, feel free to ask them.  


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E. Barrios


I can answer any question you may have about the vegan diet and culture. Specifically, how to make a successful transition from a meat-based or vegetarian diet. How to maintain your health while on a vegan diet. The foods you should consume and the ones you should avoid. Also, how to deal with difficult people who just won't accept your new lifestyle.


I've been a vegan for over twenty years and bring a wealth of knowledge. Over this long period of time, I have experienced all the pit falls the come about from adopting a vegan way of life. This includes diet, activism, verbal attacks, and ethics.

I have a Bachelor of Arts degree (cum laude) from Hunter College.

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