Now that we’ve passed the 4th of July there won’t be another big family holiday that revolves around meat until Labor Day weekend at the earliest (do other cities go all out on Labor Day weekend or is that just Pittsburgh?) With grocery stores stocked with lots of fresh, often local and sometimes even on sale produce now is really the best time to go vegan. If you’re unfamiliar with veganism please check out this short film called Making the Connection and this YouTube playlist I created here. Here’s three tips for getting started:

Make a list

At first eating vegan food may seem unfamiliar and overwhelming. To most people the words “vegan food” bring up mental images of soggy tofu or plates of grass. However, you’ve probably been eating vegan or near vegan meals your entire life without even realizing it. Make a list of your favorite vegan meals or meals that could easily be made vegan by adding in some mock meat or cheeses. Some examples that were on my list: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, instant oatmeal, spaghetti, vegetable sushi, vegetable stir-fry, ramen noodles. Here’s an accidentally vegan food list that might be really helpful, especially if you’re used to eating a standard American diet with lots of processed foods:

Plan, plan, plan…

One of the biggest challenges of going vegan is finding yourself in a situation where you get invited to a restaurant or out for coffee but there are no vegan options! Or you’re out and about, realize you need eat something but have no idea where or how to find vegan options where you’re located. It can be really useful to look up the menu at a restaurant online before meeting someone to check and see if they have a vegan option. If they don’t have a menu posted online and/or they don’t appear to have any vegan options, you can also always call ahead. Most restaurants are not busy early in the afternoon so that’s a good time to call. It’s also sometimes easier to call ahead, speak to a manager or a chef than asking a waitress who may be less knowledgeable about ingredients and allergens.

Two websites that might be really helpful are Happy Cow which has a list of vegan, vegetarian and veg friendly restaurants and this list of accidentally vegan menu items at fast food restaurants (this list needs updated but its one of the more comprehensive ones out there)

Get cook’n

After a week of cooking your favorite accidentally vegan meals or eating lots of accidentally vegan junk and fast food, you may find yourself getting a little bored. Before I went vegan I wouldn’t say I was a bad cook, but my abilities were pretty limited to what was in the Joy of Cooking (someday I’d love to make a vegan version of that cookbook) so very meat, dairy and egg heavy. Thankfully there are now thousands if not millions of vegan cookbooks and recipe videos. I recommend getting a couple that focus on your favorite cuisines. I personally really love Anypy Singla’s Vegan Indian Cooking (link above) because her recipes are flavorful, easy to make and very affordable. I particularly love her goan soup recipe.

My brother’s girlfriend who recently went vegan loves Bryant Terry’s books. I love soul food (especially Land of Kush in Baltimore) so I really need to try out some of his recipes. Whatever kind of food you like, from standard American fare, to Japanese or Italian there is at least one, if not many vegan cookbooks on that style of cooking. Be sure to check your local library to see if they have any vegan cookbooks.

Hopefully these three steps will make going vegan a little easier. Feel free to leave a comment on this post with any questions you have about veganism, I’d be happy to help. If you already are vegan, please leave your favorite tips for starting out down below.