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question for newer vega*ns

    A neat thing happened to me yesterday, on long road trip I received two phone calls (one close friend, the other my mom) requesting help transitioning into a mostly vegetarian diet.  Hallelujah!

Both women have different reasons and different expectations, but I am happy thrilled to help.

    I have been a vegetarian for a long time and my tastes and expectations are vastly different now than when I first began this journey.  Vegweb has opened my eyes to a lot of new things, but I had already established a pallate for this. 

My question is this:  I don't want to freak either one of them out and watch them declare "I could never..." and I know (because I have cooked for them both on many occasions) that I have freaked them out with tasty treats such as tempeh, sea vegetables, quinoa, etc... in the past.  I have no intention of introducing them to soy cheese any time soon, for example.  I am trying not to inundate (my mom especially) with too much information, but I don't want to short change her experience, either.
    She mentioned last night that it was hard to justify too much fresh produce when it is the same price or more per pound than meat.  So we talked about how, exactly they are able to sell meat for price.  Anyway, we're kinda starting from scratch here.

Would anyone care to offer advice?  I have sent off for two "starter kits" and I am not worried about finding information; I am seeking guidance, especially from newer vegetarians as to where you started. 
    And I wouldn't be surprised to see mom join the board. Guess I better watch my posts, eh?  :o

I'd recommend ethnic-but-familiar, "accidentally" vegetarian dishes; beans and rice, bean soups, spaghetti marinara (tossed with some veggies, and garbanzos if they're feeling adventurous), veggie lasagna (might want to start with real ricotta and whatnot-- they can discover the wonders of tofucotta later :P), hummus and roasted veggie wraps, and that sort of thing. If they like Indian food, then there a whole plethora of great non-threatening options there. If they want to try tofu/tempeh/nutritional yeast/quinoa/etc, then definitely let them borrow some, but I don't know if I'd try to sneak it into their food or anything just yet. :P
Congratulations on being such a good recruiter! :P Have fun with your new veggie-ducklings.


Start where they are, that always helps. So far they've been omnivores, and want to try vegetarianism. So let's assume they want to at least start just getting rid of meat and fish. You can wean them off milk and eggs later, but let the new ideas come in gradually. I agree with MK, start with dishes that don't happen to have meat in them, esp. if it's something they know: pasta with mushroom sauce, for example, instead of meat.
Vegetables you know they like, prepared in new and delicious ways. Fruits ditto. New hot cereals, or new ways to prepare ones they know. I'd never tasted couscous until 2 yrs ago, it was on offer at LIDL and I saw it on a TV cooking show and thought, well OK, let's try it. It's good cold in salad, or hot for breakfast with fruit and such.
One way to recruit is if you have an old copy of The Vegetarian Epicure on hand...the presentation of good-food-without-meat is very gentle and appealing in her text. (I also love the illustrations as do many of my omnivore friends!) Be gentle and remember they're learning. A lot will go to the "why" of the change--health issues, economic concerns, or more philosophical ideas such as concern for the poor, etc. Find out what they're seeking and help them see how vegetaria can help them obtain it.


I agree with what's being said. The first time I went veggie. I did it cold turkey with no knowledge of what I was doing. Bad idea. Next time around, I spoke to a veggie co-worker and learned a lot here. Then I tried again. I gradually weaned myself off of one item at a time. Then I tried new dishes that were veggie. Plus some familiar dishes that I liked, I just took the meat out or replaced it with "fake meat" as my boyfriend calls it. Or tofu. I did the same thing when I became vegan (actually, I'm still working on it LOL).

So my advice would be, educate them first. Don't give them too much info, just enough to get them started, and fill in the rest later. Give them some of your favorite recipes to try or invite them over for dinner and make them a "buffet" type dinner with different things to try.


I agree with Mizzourkitten and Yabbitgirl.  It's similar to my approach to introducing the omnivores where I work to the good life.  I've been putting up a recipe of the week the past two weeks  on the bulletin board in the building's break room.  I've been careful not to scare the omnivores with "exotic" ingredients.  So far, I've used "Daves Oklahoma Style Red Beans n Rice" and "Polenta Scramble" with a note that my DH has suggested you could use cornbread instead of polenta.  The recipe I have in mind for next week is "Caribbean Curry".  I want use recipes that use ingredients that they could find easily in our HEB and after a while I'll introduce them to tofu.  I don't know if anyone's trying them but maybe I've sparked a thought in their minds.  


I don't know if it's because I found a really great grocery store just before going vegan or what, but I spend way less on groceries now that I buy lots of produce.  I did notice that some stores have outrageous prices on produce. 

Also, I shop what's in season, i.e. the lower priced stuff, which may not always be what I originally had in mind.  The longer I've been into vegetables, the more willing I've been to try new things.  I would definitely encourage your friend and mom to try new foods slowly.  Maybe, each week at the store, they can find one veggie or something that is a good price, and use the price as an excuse to try it.  I think one of the reasons I ended up at this site is because I would buy a vegetable because it looked interesting, but I had no idea what to do with it! 

And if there is a nearby farmer's market, you could take them to it.  I always feel at one with the fruits and veggies when I go to the farmer's market! 

I like the suggestions below about establishing a base of incidentally vegan dishes.  Once they have this foundation, they could start experimenting with meat and dairy analogues.


I spend WAY less on groceries now than when I bought meat!  I'm not sure why people try to use that as an arguement!  Meat is MUCH more expensive than veggies & produce.  Alot of stuff can be bought frozen, which saves alot of money.  I buy in season things fresh.  If you plan out your meals before shopping, that helps save too  :)


 I've been putting up a recipe of the week the past two weeks  on the bulletin board in the building's break room.  

That's a great idea, TinTexas!
I agree with taking things slow, and using familiar things at first...mexican dishes are usually a good option and familiar.  What about veggie stirfry?  And maybe add tofu or the fake chick'n strips?  Even if they are ovo-lacto at first, maybe teach them to become label readers, as many products contain gelatin or rennet .


 I've been putting up a recipe of the week the past two weeks  on the bulletin board in the building's break room.  

That's a great idea, TinTexas!
I agree with taking things slow, and using familiar things at first...mexican dishes are usually a good option and familiar.  What about veggie stirfry?  And maybe add tofu or the fake chick'n strips?  Even if they are ovo-lacto at first, maybe teach them to become label readers, as many products contain gelatin or rennet .

You have to take into account where I am.  I'm in the Middle Rio Grande area of Texas. It's 90% hispanic and I don't want to step on anybody's toes by implying that I (the white girl) knows how to fix Mexican food better than they do.  Also, the local economy is heavily based on the slaughter of animals.  The tourists come here in the thousands to hunt deer (in season) and next weekend a neighboring town has a wild (feral) hog torturing "festival".  Meat, meat and more meat is the norm here.  Even getting them to consider a meatless meal is very scary to most of them!  I have to go very slow with the introduction of things like tofu and seitan.  Eventually, I will post recipes using the commercial fake meats.  I posted the steps to vegetarianism that I posted a link to on this forum on the bulletin board also.  I'll eventually replace that with another that talks about avoiding foods with common animal "pollutants". 


Most of the food I eat is "normal food".  I think the biggest trick is to make sure they eat the right proportions of carbs, protein, and fat so they don't get food cravings.

Breakfast:   There's always oatmeal, bananas, etc.  There are a lot of high protein cereals out there.  If they eat cereal, I would start them off with rice milk or almond milk, because soy milk has a stronger flavor.  If they eat breakfast in a restaurant, they could order oatmeal and a side of hash browns or other potato.  If they like honey in tea, they could use agave syrup which is like a thinner honey.  If they like those prepackaged Starbucks drinks, there's a soy version.  What I really like for breakfast is Whole Soy & Co. yogurt topped with a protein cereal and banana slices.  That's good for lunch, too.

Lunch:   For quick, prepackaged meals (good for work) I go to Indian food markets and get the meals in the foil packets that I put over rice.  I get fava bean burritos from a Egyptian food place.  They can make a spring mix salad with veggies with a Herb Crusted Chicken Patty torn into parts.  If they like creamy dressings Follow Your Heart (in the refrigerator section) tastes pretty good.  I'd stay away from most vegan creamy dressings because of the poor taste.  I like the Delicious Pakistani Dhal recipe on salad.  If you toast almond slices  it will give depth to the salad and make it seem more substantial.  If they use walnuts, I wouldn't toast them because it's a very nutritious nut that's sensitive to heat and light.  If they're like me and don't like rice, the bean burrito works because there are grains in the tortilla.  It's not ideal, buy why force it?

Dinner:   This is when people are traditionally used to getting protein, so I'd start with good tasting vegan meat.  Gardenburger's Herb Crusted Chicken Patty has extra fat but would probably taste the best to an initiate.  I wouldn't call anything a "meat substitute" even if that's how it's packaged because nothing tastes like meat and they'll be disgusted.  You could have pizza bread.  Even though there are no animal products, the mind associates the flavors with meat, so they may feel more satisfied.  Half french rolls and add pizza sauce, bell peppers, canned or fresh chopped tomatoes, mushrooms... and toast in the toaster oven.

Dessert:  My absolute favorite summertime desert is honeydew melon chucks sprinkled with slivered fresh mint leaves.  The flavor is awesome!

I know that you are trying to help them eat better, but when people are transitioning they get cravings for "normal food" that they may otherwise not eat.  Here are some ideas in case they need to "cheat" during the transition:  Tofutti ice cream (except for chocolate) tastes authentic, most plain and barbeque potato chips, soda, a vegan patty like the Gardenburger's Herb Crusted Chicken or beef-substitute with onion rings and barbeque sauce on a french bread bun, french fries, vegan cookies and pudding, smores with ricemellow and dark chocolate (Weiss or Sjaak's have good vegan dark chocolate).

Things I'd stay away from (that you have already listed):  fake cheese, tempeh, most fake meats, most fake ice cream.  If they feel protein deficient and you want to load them up with fake meat protein, I recommend a strongly flavored sauce, like barbeque sauce or mustard to hide the flavor.

My biggest healthy eating advise is to learn how to can food.  I took a food preservation class through my county's extension office, so now I can healthy soups, sauces, etc. that don't have preservatives in them and I know are organic and vegan.  If you make beans, you can freeze them.  They get a little soft when they thaw, so if you put them in the freezer a bit undercooked they will be okay when you take them out.  That may help them streamline their food so they're less likely to "pick something up on the way home" because there's nothing ready to make.


I've went vegetarian in November and started transitioning to vegan a probably at the beginning of the year.  I basically agree with what everyone is saying.  I started out "veganizing" some of my old favorites and using meat substitutes.  It was spaghetti and marina sauce every week until I discovered VegWeb!  ;D  Then as I learn more from books and this board, my diet would change slightly.  I'm at the point now where I eat so many fruits, veggies and whole grains, I don't feel right if I don't get enough! 

It's definitely a journey and you should tell them that.  Start small and go with what you are comfortable with.  I think they would be surprised to find some of their cookbooks probably have meatless dishes in them. Good luck to them!!  :)


It might help to teach them how to shop. Veg*ism is usually cheaper than being an omnivore, but a lot of people see the price tags on veggie burgers and organic onions and don't realize that it's actually is the more economical choice (Funny anecdote - my college roommate got a ton of different meats from his mom - they liked to load him up with food. He was baking one of those processed chicken kiev things one night. He said to me, "If you ate meat, you would like these. They're expensive."  ::) )

Another thing that tends to prohibit some people from becoming veg is not know how to cook. It might be kind of fun to take your mom or your friend to a cooking class, if it's possible. Sometimes Seventh Day Adventist churches offer them for cheap or free.

One book that I like to recommend to new vegetarians is Vegetarianism for Dummies by Susan Havala (the dietitian that's on the editorial advisory board of Vegetarian Times). It's like a FAQ guide to vegetarianism, and it isn't too holier-than-thou.


If there is a veg*n potluck or buffet, it can be a great place to start. It is a lot less scary to try a tablespoon of each dish and figure out which ones you like, and which ones you don't, then go back for more of the ones you like.

I have seen such buffets (once a year) at a nearby Seventh-Day Adventist Church (they were a fundraiser, and therefore open to the public, tho the price was still very reasonable). They also sell the cookbook for the dishes that they make for the buffet.

I have noticed at the Lenten (veg*n) potlucks at our own Church that the desserts are hugely popular, and also, a variety of salads (grain, fruit, veggie) are popular among the omnis. The soups are also well-received. They also like some ethnic dishes, like oriental-seasoned noodles, and stuffed turnovers. (this week, the mushroom and onion turnovers in puff pastry were very popular).

I concur with the "start-from-what-they-know" opinions offered here - adding one or two new dishes a week. I find it hard to eat even a tasty meal of all new food - it takes me some time to adjust. After a few meals, then I'll go back for seconds of the new food.


Seventh Day Adventists are a great resource.  I live nearby a town founded by SDAs and there's a full-sized grocery store that's entirely vegetarian.


I used to live near Loma Linda, and I totally miss those grocery stores!  :'(


Thanks guys; this is EXACTLY what I was looking for.

Funny you mentioned the Severnth Day Adventists; I don't get full credit for "converting" my mom.  She is a travelling nurse and just got off contract with a Seventh Day Adventist hospital.  She called me about every 10 days with "guess what they had in the cafeteria."  Apparently first rate for hospital food, but that's not a hard standard to beat.  ::)

and shopping with them is a great idea.  Mom moved closer to me last year (12 hours to 1 hour away), so I've taken her to the co-op and farmers market.  What I ought to do is take her to Wal-mart.  I don't shop there and I haven't been in years, but she loves them (if I could only convert that, too).  I assume that these days the quality and choices may have improved?  I keep hearing about them and organic stuff.  I digress.

the two things she's mentioned as concerns for her are
1) TIME, she noted that I spend a lot of time on our meals (either planning or preparing).  I sent her links to the threads from some of our discussions on the board lately about the topic.
2) SNACKS, I don't snack much (except cookies and I can't make a healthful case for those) and I never thought much about what she snacks on (she is trained from nursing to graze when ever time allows, not to sit and eat a meal).  I'll find that out.

Thanks for the input.  If you think of anything else, please pipe up!



Loma Linda Market rocks!

I know that not everyone who reads the threads post, so if there are any of you out there in the Inland Empire and don't know about Loma Linda Market, here's the scoop:

LLM is associated with Loma Linda University and is located in, ta da, Loma Linda.  It's a vegetarian grocery store, but not a "health food store" so it doesn't have a lot of organic produce.  A few signals down the street there's Clark's, which is a health food store so they have more organic produce.  Between the two stores, I am a very well-fed vegan.

LLM:  11161 Anderson Street, Loma Linda, CA (closes early on Friday, closed on Saturday)
Clark's Nutrition:  11235 Mountain View Ave., Loma Linda, CA  (open 7 days a week)


Yeah, great advice about not trying to take on too many changes too quickly, the shopping with them, and the reminding them that foods they already eat are or can easily be made vegetarian: pasta w/ marinara, cheese lasagna, salads, baked potatoes, bean-based burritos, soups, chili, etc.  Just tell them than you can make almost any recipe vegetarian by leaving out the meat and/or substituting a legume (or a fake meat product, if that's your thing).  So, you don't have to leave everything you ever knew and loved behind, but just cook it without the meat.  With vegetarianism especially, you don't have to go too much outside your comfort zone, at first, if you don't want to.

As far as grazing, almonds and dried fruit are two totally low maintanence snacks.  Also, baby carrots or other veggie dipped in hummus.  That's all I can think of at the moment, but then again, what does she graze on now?  Surely not pork chops  ;), so maybe she can keep grazing on some of the things she always grazed on?

Also, the Vegan Lunchbox website always inspires me to pack better lunches, even though it's mostly about packing a lunch for a little one...  The food also, I think, seems kind of unintimidating, so maybe it would be helpful for a new vegan?

Actually, there are a lot of great vegan food blogs, but maybe that's another thread  :)


I've accumulated some questions I would have if I was trying to figure out where someone was foodwise so I could help them from there.  If you know the answers, rank them.  For me, the amount of time it takes to prepare food is my biggest concern.  If your mom is a nurse, time might be the biggest deal for her, also - so starting her out with 1/2 prepackaged/preprepared food and 1/2 fresh food might help.

What types of food do they eat right now?  Do they eat lots of super healthy food or do they mix in junk food?  Do you expect them to have more difficulty giving up: meat or dairy?  How much time do they spend preparing food?  You mentioned your mom snacks.  What types of snack foods has she been eating?  Do they pack their lunches or eat out?  If they pack their lunch, do they have access to a refrigerator or is it room temperature food?


Regarding mom's existing diet, the bigger deal I think is to get her calorie distribution closer to 60:30:10; right now it is probably around 25:50:25.  She starts out well (organic red potatoes) then ruins them (with 1 cup butter in the microwave!). 

I've teased her often about this recipe (which she eats often):
1 bag rotini pasta (not WW)
2-4 cans tuna
1 bag frozen snap peas or peas&carrots
1 bottle of ranch dressing

Over the last year, she has been asking questions about reading labels, what I look for and why.  She asked a lot of good questions about trans fats (when the Chicago ban hit the news).  So it's a process.  What I learned, I learned on my own, as an adult.  We can blame my grandmother (RIP at age 53 - my mother's current age) for all of this.  A quote from grandma "I like my meat so rare a skilled veterinarian could bring it back to life."

This goes a long way to explain how I ended up a veg, eh?


I'm going to give some thought to this.

In the meantime, your grandma made me laugh.  ;D

A quote from grandma "I like my meat so rare a skilled veterinarian could bring it back to life."



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