How to Go Vegan - Tips From My Vegan Peeps at DC VegFest ~

I went to DC VegFest a couple of weeks ago!

Vegan festivals are the best way to connect with like-minded peeps. 

You can eat all the vegan food you want and learn more about vegan life overall from speakers, vendors, and other attendees.

It's always a good time!

While I was there, I had to bring out my camera and do some quick interviews with some of my favorite vegan peeps.

Folks like: Tracye McQuirter, Bad Ass Vegan, Vegan Cooking with Love and Torre Washington shared their best tips on how to get started on a vegan lifestyle.

Watch it here...

What was the common theme from these interviews?

It's okay to make gradual changes to your diet to get started on a vegan journey. You can do this!

Here are all the vegan peeps from the video:

See what vegan festivals are near you here

How to Order Pizza As A Vegan + Make It At Home

One of the biggest myths about being on a vegan journey is that you have to "give up" all of your favorite meals.

This simply isn't true.  Pizza is a perfect example of this!

It will probably take you a few times of eating pizza without cheese (or eating it with vegan cheese) to get used to the difference. 

But vegan pizza is different in a great way. You will learn to appreciate pizza more for amazing crust, sauce, and simple fresh vegetables.  

In this post, I will break down:

  • What ingredients to avoid to make your pizza vegan
  • How you can enjoy vegan pizza while dining out
  • How to make your own homemade pizza
  • How to baby step your way to vegan pizza - It doesn't have to be all or nothing to get started!

  

 Pizza from &Pizza in DC-Toppings: mushrooms, olives, vegan crumble, vegan cheese, artichoke hearts, basil, garlic oil

Pizza from &Pizza in DC-Toppings: mushrooms, olives, vegan crumble, vegan cheese, artichoke hearts, basil, garlic oil

 

What ingredients to look out for

Just to be clear, vegans don't consume any animals or animal byproducts (dairy, eggs, honey, etc.), so most of these ingredients are already on a conventional slice of pizza.

Cheese is the most obvious ingredient that we want to avoid, but there's also a chance that your favorite pizza sauce contains milk and that the pizza crust contains eggs and/or dairy. 

The good is news is, a lot of pizza dough/crust is naturally vegan since it's usually just made from flour, yeast and water.

Pizza sauce is also usually vegan - made from pureed tomatoes, onion, garlic and spices.

You just want to always look at the list of ingredients and/or ask your server for assistance.

 

How to order vegan pizza while dining out

Since so many people have dairy and egg allergies, most places do a great job of labeling all the ingredients in each dish.

Even if you don't see any obvious vegan options on the menu, you can easily make a few simple requests with your server to ensure that your pizza is vegan. Ask him/her to skip the cheese entirely and ask specific questions like, "Is there dairy/milk in the pizza sauce?" "Is there eggs or dairy in the pizza dough?" Don't say, "Is the pizza sauce vegan?" because your server may not be sure what a vegan is. Afterwards, ask for extra sauce and additional vegetables of your choice.

 

Major pizza chains with vegan options

If you're eating at a place not mentioned below, check the company's website or call ahead to find out how you can order your pizza vegan.

  • Papa John's - Their original hand tossed pizza and sauce is vegan and so is their garlic dipping sauce.
  • Pizza Hut - Their "Thin N Crispy" & "Hand Tossed" crusts are vegan and so is the pizza sauce.
  • Dominos - Their thin crust pizza (not the other ones) is vegan and so is their sauce. Also, their Garlic Dipping Sauce, BBQ Sauce, Kicker Hot Sauce, and Sweet Mango Habanero Sauce are all vegan.
  • Little Caesars - Their regular crust and sauce are both vegan
  • Cici's Pizza - Both the crust and sauce are vegan 

 

How to make your own vegan pizza right at home

Make your pizza as normal, but be sure to check ingredients for store-bought items to ensure there's no dairy, meat, eggs, etc.

Vegan cheese has come a long way since I started my own vegan journey in 2010. Don't go into this expecting it to taste exactly like dairy cheese but there are some great substitutes out there.  Also, a little bit of vegan cheese goes a long way, so don't feel like you have to pile it up like traditional cheese.  

Vegan cheese brands: Daiya, Follow Your Heart, Miyoko's Kitchen & Field Roast chao slices

Pizza sauce (so many options out there-this is just a few): Rustic Crust pizza sauce, Classico tomato and basil spaghetti sauce and Ragú Homemade Style Pizza Sauce

Major brands of pizza dough/crust: (you can also use pita bread or tortilla) Trader Joe's pizza dough (in the refrigerated section), Rustic Crust Organic Pizza Originale (towards the bottom of the list on that link) and check out your store-brand option.

Recipes to make your own dough at home: Basic homemade pizza dough recipe here & gluten-free homemade pizza recipe here

Possible toppings: Red onion, bell peppers, jalepeno peppers, fresh basil, Beyond Meat crumbles (replaces ground beef), vegan cheese (several options are listed above), olives, fresh basil, vegan pepperoni (this brand or this one), spinach, etc.

 

 

Here's a video where I show you how I make a super simple vegan pizza right at home for the family using a pre-made crust, sauce in a jar, vegan cheese and fresh vegetables.

The pizza making part starts at 1:10

Store-bought vegan frozen pizza

I haven't tried any of these brands of frozen pizza yet.  I just wanted to let you know there are vegan option for frozen pizza out there...

 

Baby step your way to vegan pizza

It doesn't have to be all of nothing to get started on this lifestyle.

Here are some quick tips to slowly transition to vegan pizza....

  • The next time you order pizza, continue to use dairy cheese but instead of sausage or pepperoni, replace it with olives, sautéed mushrooms and/or spinach and other vegetables.
  • For the following pizza, ask for a lot less cheese and continue to pile on the vegetables.
  • Finally, get rid of the cheese and see if your favorite pizza place has a garlic oil sauce to put on top of your pizza. In my experience, garlic oil (usually vegan, but check the ingredients to be sure) or a drizzle of olive oil, etc. will give your pizza that greasiness that cheese captures. 

Be open to experimenting and enjoy this new (and better) way to eat pizza.

I hope this was helpful!

Is the Popcorn At Regal Theaters Vegan?

A fear of the unknown when embracing this vegan lifestyle is real!  

This is why I do whatever I can to teach vegan life in a way that is easy and accessible for families.

In my experience, when life feels like a bunch of sacrifices, it's harder to make long-term changes.

A few weeks ago Eric and I went to the movies, and for the first time in a long time, I wanted movie theater popcorn.

We usually eat before the movies, so I wasn't even sure if the theater popcorn was vegan.

My first thought was "no" since it looks so buttery.

I did a quick Google search and came across this article from PETA that confirmed popcorn at Regal theaters is vegan. Yass!!

I have to say that I wasn't expecting that at all.

Instead of using butter, they use an oil concoction to make their butter.

This concoction probably isn't the healthiest, but I'm all about letting you know your options.

Here are more tips on how to enjoy vegan life at the theater:

  • Sneak in some snacks  - I'm not above bringing in a Larabar, trail mix, nuts, carrot sticks or a baggie of Earth Balance vegan cheddar popcorn I'm all about that sneak snack life!
  • Eat before you head to the theater, so you don't even have to think about food.
  • The fancier movie theaters tend to have more options on the menu - We go to a theater has hummus and pita bread on the menu!
  • If you're in the mood for candy, you might as well skip all of the chocolate options at the theater because they contain milk. You can sneak in a bar of Endangered Species chocolate though (not all of their chocolate is vegan but they clearly mark the ones that are on the package).

Here's a quick list of common movie theater concession items that are actually vegan:

  • Sour Patch Kids
  • Skittles
  • JuJuBes

Check out more date night tips here 

 

 

A Few Tips to Make Vegan Travel Easier

 L.A. with my Eric May'14

Confession time: Nothing makes me question this vegan lifestyle more than when I travel. NOTHING. I love visiting new places and one of my favorite things is indulging in local food. Unfortunately most of that food contains meat, dairy and eggs. Boo! Sure, I can have them make changes but I'll be the first to admit that it just isn't the same.

I won't pretend that I've never had non-vegan food on vacation. 

I'm not perfect.

I will say that having a plan makes a world of difference as a vegan traveler.

Vegan Travel Tips:

*Bring snacks/meals on the flight

Pack wraps, a sandwich and/or salad for your flight meal with fresh fruit

Snacks: Pretzels, carrot sticks, celery and cucumber to eat with hummus

Whole fruit -grapes, orange slices, apples, and mango

Nut butter (almond or peanut butter) to serve with crackers, fruit or a vegetable

Larabars

Trail mix with nuts, seeds, raisins, etc.

I love how Virgin America has vegan options on their flights.

You should also check with with your airline ahead of time and ask them to prepare a vegan meal for longer flights.

 

*Happycow.net is an awesome resource

All you have to do in type in the zip code and it will populate vegan options near you.  I use this site to find vegan-friendly restaurants and health food stores when I travel.

  Bun Less Bowl from Sage Vegan Bistro, L.A.

 Bun Less Bowl from Sage Vegan Bistro, L.A.

 

*Consider staying in a house/condo or hotel that has a kitchenette to prepare your own food

When we took the kids to Disney World a few years ago, having a kitchen saved us tons of money. I wrote a grocery list and shopped at Publix when we landed in Orlando. Then we had a vegan breakfast at the condo (cold cereal, toast, smoothies, fresh fruit).  I packed a vegan lunch (sandwiches, wraps, salads, fresh fruit, etc.) daily and we used Happycow.net to eat dinner at vegan-friendly restaurants near us. There was even vegan-friendly options right in the Disney parks.

 

*Use your hotel appliances to cook your food 

If staying in a hotel is your only option and you want to eat more meals there, here are some tips from a video I saw a while ago:

  • Bring a small blender and blend fresh produce for smoothies
  • The coffee filter basket is an easy way to steam fresh vegetables
  • Use the coffee carafe to warm soups and beans (I really like this one!)
  • The ice bucket is handy for tossing salads
  • Bring along food grade peroxide to sanitize all the items

Watch the full video from Healthy Voyager here 

 Denver, 2012

Denver, 2012

Happy travels!