Going Vegan Guide
Lately, more and more people have been asking me for advice on going vegan. What to eat? Where to shop? How to cook? At some point, I promised to write a list of restaurants I love (that’s going to be very local to Colorado) and then I thought about a grocery list. A recipe list. A list of great protein sources and a list of my favorite junk food.
In these last few months, the only list I’ve actually made is the one of names of people who are waiting for me to get this done. It’s a very sad situation, so I’ve decided to remedy it and publish this guide.
And I know… I know there are a million guides like this out there, but this one is filled with my personal favorites and some Colorado-specific things. I’ll also point to original sources and further reference throughout the guide.
We will cover:
- The Usual
- Grocery Shopping
- Eating Out (Mostly Colorado)
- A few brief points about Nutrition
- Junk food
1. The Usual: What do we eat most of the time?
While vegan food options are vast and, if you wanted, you could find new recipes with diverse ingredients to make for every meal, I don’t really love cooking. I like simple, tasty food and, like most people, I fall into habits. So here are my go-to meals.
(Some of these things, I learned from recipes, but I make them differently every time. There are so many variations and so many are good. Just google the names to find your own recipes.)
- Tofu Scramble — Honestly, this is what I eat most of the time. Why? It’s easy, full of protein, and you can make it taste dramatically different by using different veggies and spices. And you can eat it with potatoes, rice, quinoa, etc.
- Oatmeal or Overnight Oatmeal —Nothing fancy. Also, fast and filled with protein. Add some berries, non-dairy milk and chia seeds. Change up the toppings to keep it interesting.
Lunch + Dinner:
- Sandwiches — A lot of bread is vegan and your options here are many: Tofurkey and Chao cheese (with veggies and vegan mayo), PBJ, veggies (grilled or raw), hummus and cucumber, faux egg salad, grilled tofu, grilled portabellas, tomato and avocado, etc.
- Salads — You know how to make a salad! For added protein, add chickpeas, baked tofu, seeds, nuts, or broccoli.
- Faux egg salad — I mentioned this for sandwiches, but also good as a standalone dish. Just swap firm tofu for the eggs and use vegan mayo in a non-vegan egg salad recipe
- Potato salad — Just swap out the mayo.
- Burgers — Beyond Burgers are my favorite, but currently only available at Whole Foods. There is such a huge variety of veggie burgers out there and a lot of good recipes for making your own.
- Thai Curry Soup — This is another one that you can vary based on which ingredients you add.
- Curried Cauliflower — We learned this one fairly recently, but it’s become a staple in our house. It is literally cauliflower sauteed with Indian spices. Sometimes we eat it with rice.
- Standard Stir Fry — Fry a bunch of veggies, put some store bought sauce on there. Serve with rice. Make a sauce from scratch if you’re fancy.
- Vegan Mac and Cheese — Daiya boxed mac and cheese are awesome and easy. Try this recipe for an even better (though not quite as easy) homemade version.
- Grilled cheese- Use Chao cheese and vegan butter. Dip in tomato soup. It’s delicious.
- Fajitas — Fry veggies, black beans and rice. Sauteed tofu is optional but tasty.
- Veggies and Grains (and sometimes a veggie bratwurst)— This one really is my standard fallback plan. It’s something I always have in the house. Try: Rice + veggies, quinoa + veggies, buckwheat + veggies, etc.
- Baked tofu —Bake the tofu. It’s really that simple. A little seasoning and nutritional yeast helps a lot.
- BBQ Jackfruit — Buy a big bag of jackfruit and a good bottle of BBQ sauce. Mix, heat and eat. Really good with cole slaw (just use vegan mayo).
- Pastas, Gnocchi, Polenta —Tomato sauces are, more often than not, vegan. There are also specialty vegan alfredo sauces and so many recipes to make your own sauces for these staples.
- Mushroom Barley Risotto — I should make this one more often, because it’s good.
- Ratatouille — Chop up veggies (tomatoes, squash, zucchini, onions, etc.), pour a tomato sauce over it and bake.
You may have noticed that there aren’t too many processed meat substitutes on the list. They taste good and we eat them now and then, but it’s more of a treat. We eat a lot of tofu, but I wouldn’t call that a meat substitute. It’s literally compact soybeans. We also have our staple substitutes for dairy (because the vegan versions are really good), but most of the stuff we eat is either the same food everyone else eats sans meat and dairy or very veggie focused.
The key to keeping things interesting is to use a lot of different veggies and the right spices. We’ll cover that next.
2. Shopping List:
Find these things at almost any store:
- Extra firm tofu — I usually go for the type that has been pressed and is not in water. Wildwood is a good brand
- Veggies: Potatoes, carrots, onions, mushrooms, peppers, zucchini, broccoli… but find your own. Seriously start your trip in the vegetable aisle. Try new things.
- Pasta, Gnocchi, Polenta
- Dry foods: Rice, quinoa, barley, oatmeal, chia seeds, etc.
- Canned foods: black beans, chickpeas, any other beans you like, corn, peas, coconut milk, olives, Amy’s soups
- “Vegan” food: tofurkey, Chao cheese, Diaya cream cheese, Tofutti or Sour Supreme sour cream, Hampton Creek Mayo (These are the brands I prefer, but there are many options.)
- Carbs: most breads are fine, but read the labels. Tortillas, for example, can have lard and lactic enzymes in them.
- Spices: turmeric, cumin, coriander, cayenne pepper, italian seasonings, all the seasonings!
- The produce is great.
- Donna Mae Veggie burgers — not as awesome as Beyond Burgers (see below), but pretty good and a bit cheaper than Beyond Burgers
From any Health Food Store:
- Nutritional Yeast — this is a must. It is a yellow flakey powder that is a complete protein, a source of b12, and it makes everything better. I add it to scramble, pasta, put on sandwiches, etc.
- Egg Substitute (if you bake)
- Large selection of “vegan” meat substitutes
- Miyoko’s cheese and butter — BEST VEGAN CHEESE AND BUTTER EVER.
- Beyond Burgers (Safeway will carry these soon) — if you don’t know what these are, they are amazing meaty, delicious veggie burgers.
Nooch (All vegan grocery store in Colorado)
- Pretty much all the things you would want as a vegan
- Big packages of jackfruit
3. Out to Eat
Before I jump into my personal list of local spots, let me point out for anyone who has stumbled upon this article and may or may not live where I live, that there is an amazing app call Happy Cow. It is a global, community-driven directory of vegan and veg-friendly places. Install it and never worry about what’s for lunch again.
Also note that this is not a complete list of vegan friendly places in Colorado. These are just some recommendations.
- Watercourse — all vegan all the time
- City O’ City — vegetarian — my favorite — Waffles are delicious! Good for breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks
- True Foods — vegan friendly — Cherry Creek — kind of high-end casual — make a reservation if you go at a busy time
- Sputnik — vegan friendly — dive bar
- Native Foods — fast food — pretty good
- Vital Root — vegetarian — beautiful patio
- The Goods — vegan friendly — great mac and cheese — attached to Tattered Cover!
- Whole Foods — Beyond Burger bar, vegan pizza, vegan sushi, salad bar, etc.
- Maria Empanada — vegan empanadas
- Chipotle — veggie or sofritas option
- Hops and Pie
- Lala’s Wine Bar and Pizzeria
- Marquis Pizza
- Sexy Pizza
- And many others. More and more places offer vegan cheese (I always prefer if they make their own over Diaya). Also, if they don’t offer vegan cheese, try pizza without cheese. Just add tons of veggies.
4. Some Notes about Nutrition
Are you getting enough protein?
If you’ve let anyone know about your recent decision to go vegan, you may have been surprised to find how many of your friends have suddenly become concerned with your protein levels.
You’ll be happy to know that you’re going to be okay! There is plenty of protein in most whole grains and veggies. Here are some foods that you’re probably going to be eating anyway that are packed with protein.
- Wild Rice
- Nutritional Yeast
What about soy?
Everyone is suddenly scared of soy, because of estrogen or hormones or something. It’s a myth.
Get your Health on:
- Take a B12 supplement — b12 is something that comes from dirt. In theory, animals eat it and people get it indirectly, from consuming animals. In reality, the animal products that people eat come from animals that don’t get to go outside or eat natural food so we’re all probably lacking b12. As a vegan, you’re only possible sources of b12 are nutritional yeast and a supplement. Since b12 is really important, you should take a supplement.
- That’s it. Really. Just by eating a varied diet of vegetables and grains, you’re going to get everything else your body needs and way less of the stuff that it doesn’t.
5. Junk Food
Just because you’re vegan doesn’t mean you have to be healthy. There is so much good junk food out there and you can totally justify eating because even if it’s not healthy it’s waaay healthier than the animal-derived alternative. These are my favorites:
- So Delicious Cashew Ice Cream (BEST!)
- Ben and Jerry’s has 6 or 7 vegan options now, and they’re good but I don’t think as good as So Delicious
- Avoid rice milk ice cream — it’s just not good
Cinnamon Rolls (Immaculate Baking Company — available at most grocery stores)
Hampton Creek cookie dough (Don’t buy the already made cookies. They’re fine, but they’re not as amazing as the cookie dough, so you should just buy the cookie dough and make the cookies.)
- Shoes: Novacas, Keep, Olsenhaus
- Designer coats and clothing: Vaute Couture
Look for Leaping Bunny or PETA bunny logos on cosmetics and household products.
Some good brands:
- Meyers for household cleaning
- Clear Conscience for contact solution
Other Going Vegan Guides
- Watch Earthlings, Cowspiracy, Ghost in the Machine, What the Health
- Check out Mercy for Animals, Humane League, Vegan Outreach