I'm lucky to call the super vegan-friendly city of Austin, Texas my home. I wasn't born here (and I only became a vegan in February 2012), but my transition was smooth in a town of this size and with so many options. I consider myself lucky to have vast resources everywhere I turn, but that doesn't mean that being plant-based is only possible in a large town!
Here are five tips for transitioning to a plant-based diet in a small town (or anywhere else!):
1. Don't rule out frozen foods. Skip the frozen TV dinners, but be sure to check out the grocery store's variety of frozen fruits and vegetables! Frozen veggies and fruits are believed to have more nutrients that even fresh produce. Why? They are frozen at the peak of harvest to preserve these nutrients rather than sitting on a truck for days to reach your store and then sitting a while longer waiting for you to purchase them.
2. Buy local when possible. When people think local and organic, they instantly believe it means more money. In some cases, depending on what you're buying, that may be partially true. However, I take comfort in knowing that the food I purchase there has been freshly plucked from the fields before the sun came up that morning. Even in my hometown of Wharton, Texas they have a farmer's market one day a week. Support your local farmers by visiting them at the market and you'll be more at ease once you've built that relationship.
3. Have the staples ready to go. When I went plant-based, I tried to make sure that I always had something quick to toss together. Especially in the last couple of months, I've been super busy balancing several projects and it's great to know I always have a dish I can whip up easily. Here are some staples we keep around our house: brown rice, lentils, beans (canned and dry), frozen stir-fry veggies, frozen mixed veggies, frozen whole wheat tortillas and a variety of frozen fruits. I can quickly make a stir-fry, veggie tacos, soups and even fruit ice cream or a smoothie for dessert.
4. Buy in season and be creative. I know this one sounds like a no-brainer, but I have two confessions to make: I started out my lifestyle change as a terrible cook in February 2012 and I remember standing in the produce section feeling completely clueless. My first few meals were not super creative (veggie tacos!) but over time, I learned to buy what's in season not only for cost, but for quality. When I'm cooking, I just start tossing in vegetables and experimenting with spices. For some ideas, check out my pinterest board full of plant-based recipes! Or, check out my recipes here.
5. Don't be discouraged—by anyone. Even in the big ole' town of Austin, I received at least a little teasing from people I knew. In a small town, I have found this to be especially painful. My family and friends were not super supportive with my decision to go plant-based. Among many of their concerns were my need for protein, the thought that I would be deficient in nutrients and that this lifestyle was dangerous for me. What did I do? Studied many hours of research, watched several documentaries, surrounded myself with a support system and found a plant-based doctor. You're in charge of your own health, and no one else will suffer the repercussions (or extreme benefits) of your diet other than you. You'll also be inspiring others without even knowing it! If you need any support, give me a shout.