This article was originally posted on Medium, and I’m leaving it there, with some small edits. However, because there has been such a tremendous interest (everyone is going vegan), I felt like I should improve it and add a few more helpful details. And since I’ve just started yet another new blog, I decided to post it here.
What is this? Realistic shopping, cooking and nutrition advice for a new vegan in Colorado.
As more and more people realize the horrors of consuming animals, the environmental impact of the gargantuan animal agriculture industry, the health benefits of veganism, or all of the above, I am being approached quite often with, “I’m going vegan. What should I eat? What should I buy? How do I cook?”
For those of you who don’t know me, as a teenager, I learned about the animal industry and went vegan. Over the years, my resolve softened and I went through being a vegetarian, pescatarian, then vegetarian and vegan again. I live with my husband, who has also gone through various stages of veganism and carnism and joined me in the return to veganism. It’s been about five years of consistent veganism for both of us at this point
As you read this, note that I am not a chef, a nutritionist, a bodybuilder, a foodie, or a hippie. I don’t love cooking. I don’t worry about my macros (I don’t actually know what that means). I don’t have the patience for fancy sauces. I am very critical about nutrition articles without serious sources. I am an average person who likes tasty, fairly healthy, easy-to-make food. If you’re like me in that regard, I think I can help you.
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
- Eating Out
- Nutrition (very briefly)
- Junk food
The Usual: What do we eat most of the time?
While one could find new and interesting recipes to make for every meal, I’ve weighed the cost/benefit of that situation and decided that I don’t want to try that hard. I like simple, tasty food and, like most people, I fall into habits. Here are my go-to meals. Note that I’m including basic to no preparation instructions here. I’ve started a food blog that I’ll add these to over time, but for now, google recipes or reach out to me for specifics. As far as ingredients, keep reading through the grocery section, if you’re feeling lost.
Tofu Scramble – This is my number one breakfast. Why? It’s easy, hearty, full of protein, easy to make, and you can make it taste dramatically different by using different veggies and spices. And you can eat it with potatoes, rice, quinoa, etc.
Basic instructions: Sauté vegetables (mushrooms, onions, broccoli, etc.) for a few minutes. Crumble firm tofu into pan. Add tahini, cumin, turmeric, salt, pepper, and nutritional yeast, to taste.
Polenta Scramble – Just like the tofu scramble but crumble polenta instead of tofu.
English/Scottish Breakfast – Not exactly the traditional version, but I’ve been thoroughly enjoying our variation.
Consists of: veggie breakfast sausages, vegetarian baked bean, a small portion of either of the above scrambles, sauteed tomatoes, sauteed mushrooms, and toast.
Save this one for Sunday… it requires more dishes than you want to deal with on a weekday morning.
Toast/Bagels with Toppings – An easy choice. Some ideas for topping your bread product:
- Vegan cream cheese (plain or with with veggies)
- Sautéed mushrooms and Onions
- Hummus and cucumbers
- Grilled tofu
- Baked Beans
Oatmeal or Overnight Oatmeal – Another fast and filling meal, packed with protein. Add some berries, non-dairy milk and chia seeds for even more nutritional value. Change up the toppings to keep it interesting.
Lunch + Dinner:
Sandwiches — A lot of bread is vegan and the options here are many.
- Tofurkey, (vegan) cheese, with veggies and (vegan) mayo
- Veggies (grilled or raw)
- Hummus and cucumber
- Faux egg salad
- Grilled tofu
- Grilled portabellas
- Tomato and avocado
- Grilled (vegan) cheese
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. Here is a recipe!
Potato salad – Really, just swap out the mayo on this one too. Here is another recipe!
Burgers – Beyond Burgers are my favorite (and they are available in nearly every grocery store)! 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. Google for some mouthwatering pictures and unique ideas.
Curried Cauliflower – We learned this one fairly recently, but it’s become a staple in our house. It is just cauliflower, sautéed with turmeric, cumin, coriander, garam masala, mustard seed, and cumin seed, ground red pepper, and salt. We usually 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.
Fajitas – Fry veggies, black beans and rice. Sautéed 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 – Season and bake the tofu. There are many recipes. Here is one!
BBQ Jackfruit – Buy a big bag of jackfruit and a good bottle of BBQ sauce. Mix, heat, and eat. This is really good with coleslaw (just use vegan mayo).
Pastas, Gnocchi, Polenta – Tomato sauces are often vegan. There are also specialty vegan alfredo sauces and so many recipes to make your own sauces for these staples.
Mushroom Barley Risotto – I don’t make this one enough. It’s delicious. Here is a recipe!
Ratatouille – Chop up veggies (tomatoes, squash, zucchini, onions, etc.), pour a tomato sauce over it and bake.
Find these things at almost any store:
- Extra Firm Tofu - I usually buy the type that has been pressed – not in water. If you get the in-water version, you have to press it, and that’s a topic for a whole other article. Safeway carries the Nasoya brand (pictured below), and Whole Foods carries a similar looking item from Wildwood, but you should be good with anything that looks similar and says ‘extra firm’.
- Beyond Burgers – I actually did not immediately like these because they tasted too “meaty” to me, but now, I’m hooked. Sometimes we indulge ourselves with the whole grill for dinner extravaganza, with mayo, mustard, pickles, and cheese on a pretzel bun, but most of the time, I’m more than happy with a plain burger (no bun or toppings) and a side of broccoli.
- Vegetables – Hopefully, you find yourself eating more of these. Don’t feel like you have to have a recipe to buy something. Buy what you know, but also buy random things and figure out how to cook them. The basics, of course, are potatoes, carrots, onions, mushrooms, peppers, zucchini, broccoli, asparagus, artichokes, cauliflower, corn, lettuce, kale, chard, etc.
- Pasta – Gnocchi, polenta, maceroni, etc.
- Dry Food: Rice, quinoa, barley, oatmeal, chia seeds, etc.
- Canned Food: Black beans, baked beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, any other beans, corn, peas, coconut milk, olives, Amy’s soups, etc.
- “Vegan” Food – Tofurkey slices and sausages, Chao cheese, Diaya cheese slices, Diaya or Tofutti cream cheese, Tofutti sour cream, Just Mayo (not at Safeway for some reason – but King Soopers has it), Field Roast sausages and breakfast links, Daiya Mac and Cheese (also seen at King Soopers, not Safeway), Sweet Earth frozen burritos, … (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!
- Good produce selection
- Donna Mae Veggie Burgers – not as awesome as Beyond Burgers, but pretty good and a bit cheaper than Beyond Burgers
- Basic Tofu
- Snacks – chips, pretzels, salsas, hummus, nuts,
From any health food store:
- Nutritional Yeast – This is a must. It is a yellow flakey yeast 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 – I mention this as an option if you bake. I don’t include anything in my suggestions about baking, and there are many options for baking, so I suggest further research on vegan baking.
- Larger selection of “vegan” substitutes like Miyoko’s cheeses and butter, Kite Hill Cheese, more deli slice options
From Nooch Vegan Market (Ellsworth & Broadway)
- Pretty much all the things you would want as a vegan
- Big packages of jackfruit – it’s a much better deal than what they sell at the health food stores.
Out to Eat
Before I jump into my personal list of local spots, let me remind 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 . The waffles are delicious and it’s a good place for breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks
- True Foods ( vegan friendly ) – This place is in Cherry Creek and it’s kind of high-end casual . Make a reservation if you go at a busy time
- Sputnik ( vegan friendly ) – Dive bar with a full menu
- Native Foods (all vegan) – Fast food
- Vital Root ( vegetarian ) – In the Berkeley neighborhood – beautiful patio
- The Goods ( vegan friendly ) – great mac and cheese — attached to Tattered Cover!
- Whole Foods (vegan friendly) – Beyond Burger bar, vegan pizza, vegan sushi, salad bar, etc.
- Novo Coffee (vegan treats and sometimes burritos) – All the locations carry vegan Popsters from the Sugar Bakeshop, but I just discovered that the Cedar and Holly location (at least) carries vegan breakfast burritos.
- Maria Empanada ( vegan empanadas)
- Chipotle (veggie or sofritas option)
- Pho OK
- Pho Thuy
- Masalaa (all vegetarian)
- Swing Thai
- Thai Pot
- Ethiopian is almost always okay
- Hops and Pie
- Lala’s Wine Bar and Pizzeria
- Marquis Pizza
- Sexy Pizza
- Many others pizza 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 a lot of veggies.
- Make Believe Bakery ( all vegan)
- Beet Box Cafe (all vegan)
- Voodoo Donuts (vegan selection)
- Glazed and Confuzed (vegan selection on M, W, F)
- Sugar Bake Shop
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: tofu, tempeh, broccoli, beans, nuts, needs, lentils, wild rice, oatmeal, potatoes, spinach, avocado, and nutritional yeast.
I have had people approach me and say they can’t go vegan because they don’t like beans and therefore will not get enough protein. Beans are not that important to a vegan diet. I mean they’re good, but you have many options. If you eat a balanced diet of real food and you aren’t specifically trying to bulk of for a fight (which is absolutely doable on a vegan diet), you don’t even have to think about your protein.
What about soy?
Some people are suddenly scared of soy, because of estrogen or hormones or some other nonsense. It’s a myth.
Just because you’re vegan doesn’t mean you have to be health conscious. There is so much delicious 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 has 6 or 7 vegan options now, and they’re good but I don’t think as good as So Delicious
- Häagen-Dazs – Also came out with four vegan ice cream flavors this year. I haven’t tried them yet, but I hear good things.
- Avoid rice milk ice cream . It’s just not good and it gives the good vegan ice cream a bad name.
- Immaculate Baking Company Cinnamon Rolls ( available at most grocery stores)
- Hampton Creek Cookie Dough – Don’t buy the baked cookies. They’re fine, but they’re not as amazing as the cookie dough, so you should just buy the cookie dough and bake the cookies.
- Shoes: Wills, Novacas, Keep, Olsenhaus are all high-end, quality shoe companies, that are also economically ethical and environmentally conscious. You can also find a lot of lower cost (not so ethical, but at least vegan) options at any store.
- Vaute – Designer coats and clothing (alternative for wool coats)
- Just avoid down. It’s horrifying.
- Look for cork as a leather alternative
Some Good Household Brands: