You are not alone.
But it sure can feel like it when you first go vegetarian — especially if you live in a place where, when you tell people you don’t eat meat, they ask, “But you still eat chicken and fish, right?”
Look around, though, and you’ll find all kinds of resources out there to help you stick with your vegetarian diet and get the most out of this truly enjoyable lifestyle. Thanks to the internet, there’s now plenty of good advice, ideas, recipes, people — and even food — only a click away. You just need to know where to look.
And that’s where this list can help you. Here are the top 50 resources for new vegetarians that I know of (though most are useful to not-so-newbies as well). I’ve tried to include mostly stuff that’s free, but a few things that cost money, like foods and shopping places, made the list too.
1. Thrive in 30 — vegan pro Ironman Brendan Brazier’s e-course teaching the fundamentals of maximizing energy and vitality through plant-based nutrition in 30 days
2. PCRM’s 21-Day Vegan Kickstart — a useful starter kit from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, including a meal plan, a community forum, and lots of nutrition information. Check out PCRM’s homepage for lots more good stuff, some of which is surprisingly light-hearted and funny.
3. Primitive Nutrition — a series of videos (over 70!) arguing against the popular Paleo diet. I think it would have a greater impact if it were more balanced and not quite so overtly in favor of veganism, but there are a lot of interesting points in the few videos I’ve watched.
4. Protein in the Vegan Diet — the Vegetarian Resource Group’s explanation of how much we need, and a list of good sources of high-protein vegetarian foods
5. Iron in the Vegan Diet — another good article from the VRG, this one addressing the second-most popular question people ask about vegetarian nutrition
6. PaleoVeganology — the argument that we should look at the past and how are bodies have evolved to decide what’s good for us makes a lot of sense. PaleoVeganology does this, but draws conclusions that are often very different from those of the Paleo diet crowd.
Sports and Fitness
7. Vegan Bodybuilding and Fitness — Robert Cheeke’s passionate community of plant-based athletes, mostly bodybuilders. There’s an active forum community and lots of good articles on sports nutrition.
8. True Love Health’s “Day in the Life” series — in this video series, registered dietitician Matt Ruscigno hangs out with some amazing vegan athletes and has them share favorite recipes and nutrition and training advice on his blog.
9. Organic Athlete — a nonprofit dedicated to “creating a better world through sport.” The site highlights a lot of vegan athletes through videos, podcasts, and articles.
10. Vegan Muscle and Fitness — more nutrition and training articles, mainly from Derek Tresize and Marcella Torres, two competitive vegan bodybuilders.
11. 4-Hour Body — what? 4-Hour Body is for vegetarians? Well, not really. But the few chapters that focus on plant-based diets (including ultrarunner Scott Jurek’s) are totally worth it.
12. Brooks Running Shoes — while many of the major running shoe companies make animal-friendly shoes, Brooks is the only one I know of that advertises that all of their shoes (except walkers) are vegetarian- and vegan-friendly. Some, like the Green Silence, are eco-friendly as well. Bonus: the aforementioned Scott Jurek helps design lots of the shoes!
13. Sprout School — you don’t have to be vegetarian to sprout beans and seeds, but it’s one of those things nobody seems to try until they stop eating meat. Sprouts are healthy and very easy to grow at home, and probably fun for kids.
14. How to Cook Beans from Scratch — beans are so much better tasting, healthier, and cheaper when you cook them yourself instead of buying canned. Here’s how to do it.
15. Kitchen Fundamentals: Basic Knife Skills — one of the hidden perks of going vegetarian is that it forces you to cook your own food more often. Learning basic ways to chop food will save you hours upon hours in the kitchen, so check out this Art of Manliness post if you’ve never thought about your knife skills.
16. How Can I Spice Up Vegetarian Dishes? — Madhur Jaffrey is the author of one of the best vegetarian cookbooks I’ve seen, World Vegetarian. In this post she gives several simple guidelines for making your food more interesting.
17. YumUniverse — Heather Crosby offers tons of free, whole-food (and sometimes raw) vegan recipes at YU, including lots of innovative approaches to replacing dairy products. The site also offers several guides for getting started on a plant-based diet.
18. Peas and Thank You’s Reci”peas” Page — family-friendly recipes that are always delicious and usually quick and easy. Sarah’s cookbook is one of my wife’s favorites for finding vegan dishes (especially breakfast foods) that our 20-month old son will eat.
19. Post Punk Kitchen — when you want to spend just a little more time on dinner and know that the time will be worth it, Post Punk Kitchen is where to turn.
20. Choosing Raw — Gena Hamshaw’s approach to raw food isn’t the militant, complicated one so many people associate with raw. Instead, she creates lots of recipes to help readers incorporate more raw foods into their diet. She also writes lots of thought-provoking posts about vegan issues.
22. Foodily — a new and fast-growing recipe search engine that allows users to search for recipes that contain and, more importantly, do not contain certain ingredients. (For example: “French onion soup without beef stock.”)
23. Fat Free Vegan Kitchen — thanks to Forks Over Knives, everyone seems to be jumping on the “no added oil” bandwagon. If that’s you, you’ll like Fat Free Vegan Kitchen, which has hundreds of recipes that fit the bill.
24. The Blissful Chef — Chrisy Morgan’s food is what some might call macrobiotic. All I know is it’s good food that you feel great about eating. Lots of gluten-free, soy-free, and raw food, presented in a light and approachable way. And the best curried chicken-less salad that I know of.
25. 20 Plant-Strong Soups — a list of low-or-no fat soups from the Engine 2 Diet’s site.
26. 101 Cookbooks’ Vegetarian Thanksgiving Recipes — it’s funny how many people let the thought of a meatless Thanksgiving or Christmas prevent them from being vegetarian the rest of the year. Here’s the 101 Cookbooks (an amazing site for vegetarian recipes) approach to Thanksgiving without turkey.
28. The Dirty Dozen — one of the benefits of giving up meat is that it leaves you more dime to spend on better produce. This list explains which fruits and vegetables you absolutely should buy organic and the ones where it’s okay to skimp.
29. Field Roast — fake meats aren’t a health food, by any means. But they can be useful when you’re transitioning to vegetarian, or as an occasional treat later on. Field Roast sausages are just about the best meatless meats out there.
30. Gardein — more fake meat that isn’t disgusting (most of it, anyway).
31. Daiya Cheese — vegans love Daiya. While it’s better than other cheese alternatives I’ve tried, it took me a while to come around on the texture and taste of it, but I’ve learned that if you just use a little bit (on pizza, for example), it’s pretty close to the real thing.
32. Food Fight! Grocery — Food Fight! is a fun little mini-mart in Portland Oregon with vegan health food and vegan junk food alike. Check out their mail-order website next time you need your beef jerky fix.
33. The “Accidentally Vegan” List — a list of all the food in the grocery store that’s so bad it couldn’t possibly be vegan, but it is.
34. Vegan Proteins — an online store for vegan protein powders and other supplements.
36. The Most Veg-Friendly Cities in North America — while there are some notable absences (no Austin, TX?), it’s a good list. I like that they had a category for small cities as well as large.
37. Happy Cow — if you travel a lot, Happy Cow is essential. Just type in a city name or zip code, and you’ll soon be presented with a list of all the vegetarian-friendly restaurants and natural foods nearby. They have a mobile app too.
38. Stress Free Vegan Travel — one of my favorite posts on the now-defunct Ridiculously Extraordinary blog. Karol offers a Buddhist approach to vegan travel that won’t be for everyone, but I like it.
Entertainment and Education
39. Forks Over Knives — a documentary about the benefits of a whole-foods, plant-based diet that took off and found some mainstream success. Starring China Study author T. Colin Campbell along with Caldwell Esselstyn. You can get it on Netflix.
40. Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead — also on Netflix, a documentary about a guy who lost a crapload of weight when he started juicing. I haven’t seen it, but many people have told me it inspired them to go vegetarian.
41. Earthlings — an utterly gruesome film about the horrors that go on in food production and other industries in which animals are exploited. This isn’t a topic I like to write about No Meat Athlete, but if you’re looking for some motivation to stick with vegetarianism, this is it. It’s hard to watch, but if you’re up for it, the entire film is available for free on their website.
42. VegNews — of the vegetarian/vegan magazines, VegNews is my favorite, mainly for the recipes and lack of stuffiness. I’ve included it here mainly because there’s a bunch of free content on their website.
43. The Vegetarian Food for Thought podcast — for those who like to take their vegetarianism on the road. I don’t listen to many podcasts, but when I announced that No Meat Athlete was starting one, many people recommended that I check out this one from cookbook author Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.
43. How to Become a Vegetarian, the Easy Way — practical advice from Leo Babauta in typical, no-pressure Zen Habits style.
45. The Kind Life — actress Alicia Silverstone’s site, with tons of “plant-based lifestyle” information beyond just recipes, like environmentally-friendly products, what to feed your dog, and vegan pregnancy. Basically, girly stuff.
46. VegWeb — a site with tons of user-submitted recipes and a big forum community.
47. Vegan Drinks in your town — if you live within driving distance of a decent-sized city, chances are there’s a Vegan Drinks for you. I had fun when I went to DC’s version, where the bar ran several specials on vegan food for the night, and I met lots of great people who I’ve since run into all over the place.
48. Your local library — I didn’t include any cookbooks in this resource list, mainly because I’ve only tried about a dozen in a universe of hundreds. Cookbooks aren’t cheap, so I like to try them out from the library before I buy. A few favorites are CLEAN Food, 1,000 Vegan Recipes, Thrive Foods, Supermarket Vegan, Veganomicon, Vegetarian Cooking for Dummies, and Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian.
50. 8 Common Foods You Thought Were Vegetarian — I can include one of my own posts, right? 🙂 When you’re a new vegetarian, you’ll probably slip up here and there. Check out this list, though, and you’ll save yourself a few of those mistakes.
Got one to add? Feel free to leave it in the comments.
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