Through Grok Nation, my YouTube channel and my social platforms, I get so many questions about a variety of topics: parenting, breastfeeding, veganism, Judaism, acting and more. That’s why I’ve decided to launch Ask Dr. Mayim, a new advice column on Grok Nation where you can ask me questions about things going on in your life and I’ll give you my best, honest opinion.
This week I answer a question from one of our Grok Nation writers who struggled with trying a vegan diet. Read her question and my advice below; at the bottom, you’ll also find out how you can submit your own questions for Dr. Mayim!
Hi Dr. Mayim,
I desperately need your help! I recently tried converting to a vegan diet and the first week went okay. Although, I was relying primarily on Ritz crackers, Oreos, potato chips, and French fries to supplement my diet in lieu of animal products—and I realize that’s not exactly healthy. This week I want to try and eat better, rather than filling my diet with junk foods. I often skip breakfast, because besides yogurt and eggs, I don’t have other ideas. For lunch I eat veggies, hummus, and olives along with some fruit. By the time I get home from work, I am starving and make bad non-vegan food decisions. Do you have any advice on meal ideas or places to look for vegan recipes? Any tips or tricks would be much appreciated!
Dear Striving Vegan,
I’m sending you a firm hug brought to you courtesy of all of the foods that keep me strong…and you guessed it: Ritz crackers, Oreos, potato chips and fries—while four of my favorite things—are not on that list!
I commend you for considering making changes to your diet. The planet thanks you, the animals thank you (aww, the animals!). Plus, you will be helping your health by avoiding the preventable diseases we get from eating animal products (heart disease, high cholesterol and blood pressure, diabetes…).
That being said, you named deliciously trashy snack foods, which are not vegan meals! Vegans tend to need to eat every two to three hours since we are not filling up on a hunk of flesh, which takes a long time to digest and thus keeps you full… so prepare to snack! You can eat your trashy foods in moderation if you must, but vegans need to snack on things that are high in protein and healthy fats such as a handful of almonds, hummus or other bean-y spreads with veggies, and good old-fashioned fruit with a spoonful of nut butter. Guacamole is also a great snack. Get your brain used to eating foods in their natural state since not only are they healthier no matter if you’re vegan or not, they tend to be a great foundation for vegan diets.
As for what to eat otherwise, crowd out animal products rather than denying yourself or trying to replace them. What foods do you like that can easily be vegan? Here’s my go-to list: pasta with marinara. Salads. You don’t need cheese on salad, I promise. Load it up with beans and nuts and a fun dressing that didn’t involve udders being squeezed, and it can be delicious and fun. Three bean chili. Asian food rarely can’t be yummy without meat. Explore the vegetables and soy section of menus at Thai and Chinese places. Avoid sushi restaurants unless avocado roll or vegetable tempura roll sounds amazing (it does to me, but if you’re an adventurous fish eater, stay away for now). Mexican food can be delicious without cheese if the beans are lard-free—just ask. Salsa makes veggie burritos a party if there’s rice in there along with the beans. Woo hoo! You can check out more of my go-tos and favorites in my book, Mayim’s Vegan Table, and some recipes I’ve published on Grok Nation.
Eat out if you want to open your pocketbook, but choose carefully. Your palate needs time to adjust so “substitute” meat may not be your thing yet and that’s fine. Plenty of vegans don’t like that stuff. (I do!) Vegan artisan cheese has transformed my life and it can yours, too, if you give your mouth two or three weeks off of any dairy. By Chloe is terrific. Veggie Grill is the largest vegan chain in the world for a reason; it’s delicious and it will satisfy your trashy comfort food needs, I promise. Falafel places are easily a great place to eat out if you’re vegan, and some of the vegan pizza places make pizza to rival the “real” deal.
Let’s keep this vegan party going! I’m proud of your striving!
Have a question for Dr. Mayim? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and she may answer it an upcoming column.