Going vegan in New York or LA is easy. You have an endless amount of food options at your fingertips, from aisles upon aisles of vegan goodies at grocery stores to some of the best vegan restaurants in the country. But what if you’re in an area where veganism isn’t a thing and no one really gets why you want to switch your diet in first place?
When Nicole Vranjican — who you know as NikkiVegan on YouTube — first went vegan, she was living in New York and admits she got a little lazy with cooking during that winter. (Aka not go grocery shopping because it’s freezing.) Because of that, she started eating less meat. After heading back to LA and moving in with her mom to save money, all the meals they ate were focused around animal products and she instantly noticed a major difference in how she felt. It didn’t take long for her to limit animal protein to the point of getting it out of her diet completely, and because of that she not only felt healthier and more energized, but her perspective on food totally shifted as well.
“It wasn’t that different than how I already ate because I’ve always eaten pretty healthy. The difference for me was understanding that I didn’t have to worry about what was on my plate. If you eat a whole food, plant-based diet, everything you need — from protein to fats — are already there,” Nikki says. “All I had to focus on was anchoring my meals with a starch, or something I was a little afraid of. My past eating disorder made it difficult because I would get really hung up on the nutrition and being afraid to eat too many carbs, but that dissipated really quickly because I was seeing such great results; I felt so good.”
Immerse Yourself in the Online Vegan Community
Although it was easy for Nikki to go completely vegan in LA, that’s not the case for many women in other areas — especially when you’re the only one. Veganism is spreading like wildfire, but until it’s the norm, there are some easy ways you can make it work everywhere from the Midwest to the South.
“It’s hard being the only vegan you know, so becoming part of the online vegan community is a great place to start; it’ll make you feel like you’re not the only one,” Nikki says. “There are so many good role models who not only show what they eat, but also talk about documentaries and books they’ve read.”
Nikki says she met some of her best friends online, and you’ve probably noticed them in some of her videos.
“There is a mean vegan community online, too, but my vegan girl gang — it’s a group of 4 girls — met through social media,” she says. “We’re really good friends and we film videos together all the time. I’m lucky that I got close to them, but I still found them online.”
Stay Informed (and Answer Questions Like a Boss!)
In addition to becoming part of the online community and making new vegan friends on social media, do some research so you can explain why you’re doing what you’re doing to everyone you know in real life.
“People who don’t understand veganism give you a really hard time — especially in the beginning when you don’t know as much. I didn’t necessarily have the right answers, or I would know the right answer but wouldn’t think of it at the time and would go crazy thinking about what I should have said to that person,” Nikki says. “Watch as much as you can and educate yourself, then keep that going. When I first went vegan, I watched tons of documentaries and read a lot, then I kind of got into the groove of it and didn’t watch as much. Now I’ve been keeping up with the new documentaries that are out, reading more, and trying to surround myself with more information. It keeps me motivated from the ethical standpoint of why I do what I do.”
What to Eat in Non-Vegan Areas
When it comes to eating vegan in a non-vegan area, things can get tricky. But there are an endless amount of fun new recipes to try online, as well as hacks for your next trip to a restaurant that has animal products in every dish.
“I think it’s really fun to be creative and look at a menu and try to figure out what you can eat,” Nikki says. “Sometimes I create something totally different, and other times I create a whole meal out of side dishes and various condiments and it ends up being a really good, really random meal. If you approach it with a positive attitude knowing you’re going to make it work, that helps a lot.”
Try Some of Nikki’s Favorite Foods
- A big, vibrantly-colored bowl of oatmeal with things like fruit, nuts, jam, chocolate, spices, or whatever else you want to incorporate
- Massive vegan burritos with beans, rice, guacamole, salsa, corn, and hot sauce
- Lasagna Soup with vegan cheese, a tomato-based broth, and lentils