How to be Vegan (and have a Life.) ~Roger Williams.

Via elephantjournal dotcom
on Sep 28, 2009
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One of the things that I hear a lot from people (including elephant’s editor) is that they would love to be vegan, only it’s next to impossible to go out, eat and drink vegan, and be merry.

I agree—to an extent. Being vegan is a fairly radical diet approach. I have to cut out all meat, eggs, cheese and dairy.

But I am here to tell you that it is not the hardest thing to do, and it will have a profound effect on you.

The first step to veganism is to take the traditional view of dinner as the largest meal of the day…and reverse that. By making breakfast the largest meal, you resolve a few issues:

  1. You are breaking a 10 – 12 hour fast (depending on when you had dinner) when you wake up, and you need to refuel.
  2. Generally, you eat breakfast at home, which is the easiest place to be vegan,
  3. Eating small meals as a vegan is always easier, and #4 you will sleep easier on less food in your digestive system.


Start the day off with a large bowl of organic oatmeal that you buy in bulk (affordable, less packaging!); mix in a little fruit (I love dates, raisins, apricots, apples, peaches are good too) and soy milk. Then slice up some fruit (I like half a melon and banana). Eat slowly, reading a magazine, newspaper, or reviewing the latest post from and @halfacat (! ~ ed). This will allow you to eat a good, full meal as your stomach eases into having something in it, and will help you rise and shine more easily.

By making breakfast large, you will be less prone to the dreaded midday crash that leads to the kind of lunch where you eat way too much. Leading to the ever useless post-lunch food coma where you get next to nothing done except for some crappy games of solitaire.

At lunch you have options, either pack something simple like a mock meat sandwich, some almonds, a banana, and some applesauce, or you can go out. Eating out vegan for lunch and dinner are pretty similar. At a sports bar you can get a garden burger with a salad. At a Thai, or other ethnic restaurants, you can usually substitute meat for tofu.  At a pizza joint you can request no cheese and more places are making soy and rice cheese available as well.

The search engine Yelp is a great resource to search for vegetarian and vegan restaurants around your neighborhood. To make the transition from vegetarian to vegan, especially when eating out, request  to eliminate cheese and egg products from the dish. There are many reasons that people do not eat dairy; some are ethical and others are medical. You should never feel that you need to explain yourself to a business, and if they aren’t happy to remove an item from a dish that is their highest food cost while still charging you full rate then they don’t deserve your business.

In a lot of restaurants you can tell them that you are vegan and they will come up with something for you, especially a nice place. Just be nice about it and they will go out of their way to accomodate. Naturally you should tip at least 20% for such service.

Most breads are also vegan.

When out on the town remember a few simple tactics for sticking vegan: #1 drink more water, #2 think chips and salsa, #3 eat the fruit garnish from the cute girl’s drink next to you, and #4 keep smiling.

In the end remember to do your best to eat with a conscious mind, always being aware of what you are consuming. Being vegan doesn’t require a snobbish or religious attitude. It just requires that you care about what you are putting in your body and what it takes to get that food to your plate.


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20 Responses to “How to be Vegan (and have a Life.) ~Roger Williams.”

  1. Chris in Texas says:

    Right on Roger!

  2. sarah says:

    thanks for finally posting something positive about veganism– my vegan sisters and brothers STAND UP
    yeah elephant!

  3. Thanks Chris and Sarah! You two are rockers! Do you have any tips for newbie vegans?

  4. Chris says:

    I fully agree – being vegan is not as difficult as it may sound. I recommend trying many new recipes at home – you will realize that a vegan diet is actually not depriving you of anything, but rather makes your diet more interesting! (And there are so many great vegan cookbooks or food blogs out there – "Vegan with a Vengeance", for example, is great for simple, feel-good recipes). I would also recommend trying to always have some light snacks (fruit, nuts or vegan energy bars) in your bag – for that afternoon low or just in case that dinner with colleagues turns out to be more difficult than expected. Other than that – enjoy the new lifestyle (it WILL make you feel better!) and always keep smiling!

    You also might want to consider meeting up with some like-minded folks – Yelp or "Meet-up" are good resources for that, too – since one of the most difficult things about becoming vegan is not so much the diet, but rather the stupid comments and questions you might encounter from workmates, family, etc. Read "Vegan Freak" (it will help you counter stupid comments with a smile, and will make you feel less alien – the authors have a great and funny podcast, too!), and "Becoming Vegetarian" and "The China Study" – it is important to know about nutrition for your own well-being and so that you can explain to people that being vegan is not only ethically better, but also better for your health.

  5. Hey there! Nice article, I like it. Turning vegan has been the most rewarding thing I've ever done. And yes with a little effort we can live a perfectly sociable life. Hopefully in the future as more and more people become vegan, it should be easier to find more and more places catering for vegans. 🙂

  6. Brandon says:

    Great post! But I would recommend staying away from unfermented soy products, as they can disrupt many systems within your body, such as your thyroid gland and reproductive systems. I developed temporary problems to soy, and as soon as I switched to raw, homemade almond and coconut milk, these problems disappeared.

    I also wouldn't tell anyone to eat fried corn tortilla chips, but there are places who are using baked corn tortilla chips, which is a better version.

    Again, really good post!

  7. hey Chris, Lovliebutterfly, and Brandon! Thanks for the comments and encouragement!

    Brandon I totally agree with what you have said here. My focus for this article is just getting people to see how easy it is to get started. I highly suggest that they continue further and explore things like getting a food allergy test done to see what else they need to watch out for. I am working on additional posts to cover food allergies and getting even healthier.

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  10. Hey Timmy,
    Thanks for the feedback. I am glad that you are finding some use out of the post. I came to Veganism from the health aspect as well but the longer I am one the more the other issues begin to resonate. Keep it up and feel free to reach out to me anytime.

    @halfacat – on twitter

  11. Laurie says:

    I went off dairy for ethical reasons and quickly realised that so many food items have whey in them..The chips I used to buy, some nacho chips and a host of other items. it was great for keeping weight down but it restricted even eating out as most places offering food wouldn't know if there was whey in the chips, pizza etc. Let alone egg product, hidden as it is…

  12. Hi Laurie,

    Thanks for commenting. I agree it can really become a nightmare figuring out what you can and cannot eat, especially as you start investigating further about what it actually in our food. Personally I am not Vegan for ethical or religious reasons. It is primarily for health. If I unknowingly eat something with Whey in it I will not beat myself up over it.

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  14. Linda-Sama says:

    two comments (BTW, I am vegan):

    soy milk: some people have to be careful with too much soy. there are many people with thyroid conditions who require daily thyroid medication (I have Hashimoto's Disease, hypothyroidism). excess soy intake hinders the uptake of thyroid meds which is not good for people with hypothyroid, and soy is ubiquitous in many packaged veg foods. I use rice milk. and hemp milk is great!

    and while breads and other grains are vegan, I am also wheat and gluten free. sensitivities to wheat and gluten are very common even tho you might know you are sensitive. these sensitivities sometimes appear as symptoms of something else. I eat brown rice bread.

  15. Doug says:

    great article – thanks for writing this!

  16. Gary Smith says:

    Roger – Great article! I have been an ethical vegan for the past three plus years. I've been either a vegetarian or vegan for close to 19 years now. It is so much easier to be a be a vegan now than it was back in the day. There are so many choices in the super markets and so many vegan/vegetarian restaurants (at least in LA). I would like to suggest to people that they take their friends, co-workers and families to vegan restaurants. Most people are totally open to trying a new cuisine. It's really important to support vegan businesses and saves animals lives during that meal.

  17. Suasoria says:

    "If I unknowingly eat something with Whey in it I will not beat myself up over it." <— very sensibly put. Often people give up after a short time because they feel it's overwhelming, but the truth is, all vegans are doing the best they can in every circumstance. So to Laurie, don't throw out the baby with the bathwater. Be true to your ethics by consciously avoiding what you can, look for substitutes for those favorite products, and don't sweat what you cannot possibly control.

    Because of allergies, intolerances, and even autism, restaurants have to be more and more aware of ingredients. If you aren't satisfied with the answers you get to your questions – pick another restaurant!

  18. candicegarrett says:

    I have a really great recipe for vegan french toast! Mash up bananas and soy milk and use that instead of the traditional egg topping. Be careful when cooking though, it will tend to stick. But it is a family hit here in the Garrett house.

  19. Pamela says:

    "In the end remember to do your best to eat with a conscious mind, always being aware of what you are consuming. Being vegan doesn’t require a snobbish or religious attitude. It just requires that you care about what you are putting in your body and what it takes to get that food to your plate."

    THANK YOU! I am still a meat eater but have been phasing it out (I could go into all the excuses for not giving it up completely but that would only be buying in to what annoys me about the lables) and the more I learn about the ethical and health issues related to dairy I have nearly illiminated it from my diet (it helps that the husband is lactose intolerant). I get so frustrated when I am doing my research or looking for recipes on vegan/veg blogs/sites to see the hollier than thou comments…it really is off-putting! I personally don't see the point/need for all the labels except to insinuate superiority.

    Thanks again for such a level-headed article!

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