Real Food Daily. I discovered that vegan food wasn't actually the boring, bland, overly veggie, non filling food that I had imagined it to be. It could actually be flavorful and hearty, and I could come away with a meal feeling satisfied and happy, not missing the meat. As a food lover who is always thinking about my next meal, I could never imagine sacrificing taste or a meal for any reason, so I was happy to find that I could come away from a meal at a vegan restaurant just as happily as a regular meal. I think of it as a different cuisine, as opposed to an imitation of food that I'm used to. I judge the food similarly; is the dish well-balanced, layered, interesting with complementary flavors and textures? Over the year, I started seeking out more vegetarian and vegan options at both restaurants and at home, mostly just for the variety. Some of my favorite menu items, at places like Umami Burger and R+D Kitchen are actually the veggie burgers, which I prefer over the burgers and sandwiches with meat for the taste. Veggie Grill is a good option for fast food vegan food and conveniently opened a restaurant up in Santa Monica a few blocks from my house a couple of months ago. I have even tried raw at places like Euphoria Loves Rawvolution, which I liked so much that I've been looking out for raw products at grocery stores. Living in Santa Monica makes it really easy to experiment as we have tons of vegetarian, vegan and raw restaurants, and also local markets like Co-opportunity, with lots of vegan products. A farm box and access to great farmer's markets is also helpful. I will never become fully vegetarian or vegan as I love meat and cheese too much, but I do enjoy the transition to a less animal protein heavy diet for balance, variety and health reasons. It's still important to keep in mind though, just because something is vegan, it's not necessarily healthy; vegan food can be quite heavily processed and can still be very high in calories and fat. It's nice in theory, but I'm not really trying vegan for animal rights reasons, I'm still perfectly comfortable eating a turkey and vegan cheese panini for lunch and I will continue to wear leather.
This transition in diet was in part reinforced by T. Colin Campbell's "The China Study" which I just finished reading a couple of weeks ago, where a PhD professor links animal protein heavy diets with all sorts of bad stuff like cancer and heart disease through animal and population studies over long periods of time. I'm not sure I am wholeheartedly a believer, but I figured it doesn't hurt to start becoming more plant protein heavy and less animal protein heavy in our diets.
I've found quite a few vegan friendly products that I like and have been transitioning into our diets in place of more animal protein centric products. K. drinks a lot of milk with his cereal in the morning, so we've been starting to alternate his milk with almond milk, which is vegan. I like the taste of almond milk and actually prefer the taste of it over the watery nonfat regular milk he drinks everyday. I also noticed Daiya cheese at a lot of vegan restaurants. It's a nice gooey melty cheese and is really good as a component of dishes, like as the melted cheese in a tuna melt or on top of pizza. It doesn't really work as the star of a dish as it most resembles highly processed American cheese to me, but is really good as an ingredient in a dish. They now sell Daiya at Whole Foods. I've also liked various vegan desserts; Earth Cafe makes really good raw and vegan cheesecakes and I've tried lots of vegan cookies that I've liked. The caveat is that I'm not a huge dessert person or expert, so I'm not sure how people who are really into desserts will feel about the vegan counterpart, but it's worth a shot. I also had really good (but expensive, $7.99 for a 2oz bag!!) raw dehydrated kale chips. I'm even considering investing in a dehydrator (any recommendations?). Eating a little more raw / vegan at home is definitely not cheap, my grocery bills lately have been higher than usual, but I think it's a worthwhile investment.