When you’re first transitioning to a vegan diet, shopping can be a little intimidating, especially if you’re making a drastic change in your diet and lifestyle. But treat shopping as a new vegan as an adventure! There is a whole new world of delicious foods to enjoy! Often, when people make the switch, they discover a new interest in food and cooking – and there are plenty of resources out there to help you get excited too. Here are 3 tips that will make your grocery shopping experience as a new vegan a little easier (and they may help you avoid some of the pitfalls that new vegans sometimes experience too):
1) Fill your cart with whole foods. There are almost as many processed, unhealthy vegan foods out there as there are processed, unhealthy non-vegan foods (well, probably not, but you get the point). Just because something is labelled vegan, or contains no animal products does not mean it is healthy for you and your family to eat! As you transition to this wonderful, compassionate, healthy lifestyle, try to incorporate as many whole fresh fruits and vegetables, and other whole foods (like beans and un- or lightly processed grains) as you can. As you’re starting out, be gentle on yourself, and your family, and eat simply. Leave the complicated, fabulous recipes til later (unless you REALLY want to delve right in) – and just focus on eating lots of fresh foods – salads (and there are LOTS of different kinds of salads), smoothies, wraps, stirfrys on rice – the possibilities are endless!
2) Don’t be afraid to try. When looking for alternatives for things like milk, for example, you will find a WHOLE SLEW of choices. I have seen people standing in front of the milk alternatives shelf with anxious looks on their faces, trying to decide between almond, soy, hemp, quinoa, rice, coconut – and varieties of each of those too! My advice is…try them all! Buy the smallest size available and do a taste test with your family. If you find one you hate, don’t let it scare you off the others! They are all different, and they have different textures, so rather than choosing soy because it’s the most common, give a few different ones a try (and if you don’t want to buy them all at once, try a couple of small containers a week, and drag your test out over a few weeks). I fell into this trap myself, only drinking soy milk for years – because it was the only thing readily available when I became vegan. But a year or so ago I tried almond milk at a friend’s place, and loved it, and now that’s my main go-to milk. Same goes for cheese, butter and veg meat replacements (although go lightly since these are all heavily processed foods).
3) Read your labels…no matter what! I know this is a pretty obvious one, but don’t assume that just because something LOOKS vegan it is. For example, there are some soy cheeses that contain casein, an animal protein, and MANY processed foods that contain modified milk ingredients. And lots of animal ingredients have names that don’t immediately shout “animal!” to most of us; albumen or caprylic acid, anyone? This is another great reason for eating simply! If you make it a rule to buy things only with ingredients you can identify, that’s a big step in the right direction. If you want to investigate further what some of these mystery ingredients might be PETA’s animal ingredients list and the Vegan Society’s hidden ingredient list are good resources to check out. Since we’re talking about labelling, I have to refer you to another Vegan Mainstream article about transparency in food labelling…an interesting read.
What have your shopping experiences been as a new vegan? Stepped into any pitfalls you’d like to warn others about? What have you found the best ways to cope? Share your thoughts and ideas here.