BY ARON DANIELS
Some life changes come at really big moments. You get that phone call from a family member, you get that promotion finally, you find out your family is about to get bigger. Other life changes look… less picturesque. There I was, sitting in my recliner working on the computer, iPad set up next to me with a show on and lunch about to be ready. I was looking for the next thing to watch when I scrolled onto a documentary about the American diet, how our food is impacting our bodies, the planet and the animal-impact it’s having. That was about the time I heard the microwave beep to let me know my chicken nuggets were done.
I finished off my lunch and headed for another round of design-time, and I hit ‘play.’ Who knew that I had just changed my life? By the time I was finished watching the documentary, I had decided that I needed to do some more research and see what was real and what had been hype to sell a good documentary. After diving into online research and watching a handful of follow-up documentaries, I knew that I had a seed of conviction about how I had contributed to these systems that were harmful to my body and disregarded the value of animal life. So, I decided to take a month and try this vegan thing.
Expecting the vegan life to be a variety of salads, I was not very excited about it. Once I went to the grocery store though, I was more excited. Did you know in 2017, vegan food can be almost anything? There were hamburgers, ice cream, Oreos, chicken nuggets, sloppy joes, pad Thai, burritos, cheese, and mostly all the same stuff I was already eating. After trying many of them, some were not completely convincing, but others were, and it made me so happy. After a couple of weeks into my month, I decided I was going to keep going. We got a handful of cookbooks based on Amazon recommendations, I got advice from that one vegan friend everybody has, and I started. My wife was a huge support for me and we ate some of the best meals I’d ever had. Turns out it was better in a lot of ways, not just tolerable.
Today, I am almost a-year-and-a-half vegan. I have not been perfect, but mostly when I slip up for lack of planning or something, I still eat vegetarian. A common perception about vegans is that we’re “judgy.” I wanted to take some time to show how easy and maintainable vegan can be for people like me who are just regular, not super-planty people. Here are some basics if you are considering veganism but it seems overwhelming.
- You can start just a little by trying to eat vegan a couple of meals a week or by trying a vegan week or month.
- Load up on vegan junk food so that the transition is easier. Go get the vegan sausage and cheese and French fries and chicken nuggets. It will be a manageable change and you’ll have just positively impacted the lives of animals.
- Buy nutritional yeast. It’s a little shaky bottle and you use it in all the same places as parmesan cheese. It is a slightly weird, very good thing that keeps your vitamin B12 levels balanced, which is one of the easier things to get off balance if you are starting out.
- You can “veganize” many recipes by making swaps. Milk can be swapped for almond milk or another non-dairy milk. Butter can be swapped with non-dairy butter like Earth Balance or Country Crock Original. Cheese can be swapped for non-dairy cheese like Follow Your Heart. The major mayonnaise producers all have vegan mayo now. Try tofu in place of chicken. Eggs can be swapped in most meals with flaxseed or applesauce depending on whether you are cooking or baking. That’s it. Easy vegan.
- Have a salad every now and then. You might enjoy those, too.
As I’ve continued to eat vegan, my taste has changed a little and I tend to like healthier food and opt out of dessert often. I love it and feel like I’ve come a long way. If you are interested in trying out veganism, and have questions or need some support, email me at AronEDaniels@gmail.com.