Over the last couple of months, I’ve been on and off thinking about going vegan. I’ve been a vegetarian for about five years now, and a pescetarian for four years before that, and it seemed only right that my dietary choices would eventually progress to veganism.
However, for all those months that I was considering transitioning to veganism, I continued to have wine and cheese nights with my friends, get pizza more frequently than I would like to admit, and regularly purchase dairy at the grocery store. If veganism really was on my mind to the extent that I claim, why weren’t my dietary habits actually changing?
Eventually, it became clear to me that, while cutting out all dairy all at once felt a bit daunting, the only way I could start changing my dietary habits was to take it day by day. No, meal by meal. When I realized I could simply start by cutting out dairy here and there without committing to going vegan overnight, my end goal seemed much less impossible.
So, my first step was to start experimenting with different vegan dairy alternatives to see if there were any that I genuinely preferred over the dairy versions. I had already been regularly purchasing almond milk instead of cow’s milk for years because I preferred the taste (and because the thought of drinking such a large quantity of the breast milk of a cow straight started to gross me out.) I bought a number of vegan dairy alternatives at the grocery store to try for a week (including Veganaise, Tofutti cream cheese, Daiya cheddar cheese) which I documented in this video on my YouTube channel, dated October 4th, 2016.
The results? I discovered that Tofuitti cream cheese was at least better than Daiya cream cheese, Veganaise smelled like paste, but was ok in sandwiches, and that I will never eat Daiya cheddar again. Despite my lack of enthusiasm for any of the foods that I tried, there were two benefits to my little experiment:
- Although I didn’t love some of these dairy alternatives, I discovered that I could still live without having the dairy product in my house.
Even though I didn’t love the Veganaise, it still worked for the things I would normally use regular mayonnaise in, and I haven’t really used real mayo since. Plus, how often do you really use mayo anyway? I also figured out pretty quickly that, if I was to cut out cheese, I would rather just cut it out altogether than replace it with some product’s failed attempt at mimicking a cheesy taste the texture.
2. Sharing my vegan exploration publicly allowed me to connect with people online that were able to provide me with advice to help me along my journey.
As it turned out, I didn’t like Tofutti cream cheese. Bummer. However, after posting this video, someone commented telling me about Go Veggie cream cheese, which I now purchase regularly and actually prefer to real cream cheese. Before giving up cream cheese, I wasn’t willing to fully admit to myself how sick and disgusting eating such a large amount of dairy all at once made me feel, because I loved cream cheese way too much to let that stop me. Go Veggie cream cheese provided me the perfect solution because it really does taste just like cream cheese (I think there must be magic involved..) AND I don’t have to feel disgusting after eating it. (If you’re interested, I believe they make 3 flavors: chive & garlic, strawberry, and plain. I always have 1-2 tubs of the chive & garlic flavor in my fridge at all times.)
At this point in what I like to call my “vegan journey,” I’ve stopped purchasing any dairy products when I go to the grocery store. I cut out eggs altogether. Before, I’d only ever used cheddar cheese for my sandwiches and burritos, and I quickly figured out that these two foods could still taste great without cheese, or any weird cheese alternative. Now that I no longer keep any dairy in my house, it’s easy to prepare vegan meals because using dairy while cooking isn’t even an option when I’m home.
It’s still occasionally difficult for me to stick with veganism outside my home: when my boyfriend prepares a meal for me, or when I’m out with my friends and someone suggests grabbing a slice of pizza (which is my weakness.) I realize that the most difficult part about going vegan for me is the social aspect of food. In the past, I’ve made great memories going out and having pizza with friends, or staying in and having a wine and cheese night. When I think about giving up cheese, do I have to give up experiences like this as well?
When I stress myself out thinking about these things, I remind myself to take it case by case, meal by meal. Three weeks ago, my friend suggested we make a pizza together. I agreed, because I thought it would be a fun thing to do, (and hell, because I love pizza.) I can’t lie, it was fun, and it did taste great. Since then, however, I’ve started experimenting with making vegan pizza. First, this Daiya frozen pizza that I reviewed in this video:
(Spoiler alert: it was actually amazing.)
And a week after that, I made pizza with my boyfriend. But this time, we split the dough into two pieces; he made his with dairy mozzarella, and I made mine with Daiya mozzarella. (It wasn’t bad.. I’ll have another video and blog post coming up about that soon.)
If you’re interested in hearing more of my thoughts on going vegan at my own pace, you can check out this video I made on my vlog channel a few weeks ago. (I warn you, it’s a bit all over the place!)
I’ll also be checking in with my blog every once in a while to share my journey towards veganism as I go. If you have any tips you want to share with me, I’m always open to advice from other vegans/vegetarians!