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Lisa: Maria Niles pointed me to your post.

I became a vegetarian in 1989, and then last September,after many years of failing and giving up, I converted to being a vegan.

I actually blog my daily menu here...from the fast food to the cooked meals:

Although I cook occasionally, and wish I cooked more, the truth is that I mostly live on convenience foods and sometimes even fast food.I believe it's easiest to make such a major shift if you do it full stop, cold turkey, so to speak. But I also believe that if you have a slip-up, you forgive yourself, pick yourself up and get back on the path without deciding to chuck the whole idea.

I am happy to help in any way I can. To start, here are some specific answers to your questions:

As a vegetarian (non-vegan) I used to prefer the Boca All-American Flame-Grilled veggie burger, and I really loved the Morningstar Farms Chik Patty.

As a vegan, I still go for the Boca Vegan Burger.

I do care about lard in beans or things being fried in fat from meat, but Taco Bell is good about that...and their site has a very thorough nutrition guide.

I also find that Safeway is chock full of veggie frozen food alternatives, including Amy's brand burritos and their own organic brand of enchiladas, quesadillas, etc.

I shop regularly at Trader Joes and occasionally at Whole Foods, and there are always interesting things to eat that are easily and quickly prepared.

Major pitfalls:

Gelatin is not vegetarian. It is a slaughterhouse by-product. And it is in lots of stuff, particularly low-fat versions of things like yogurt and sour cream etc. Not to mention marshmallows!

Sometimes Asian restaurants use oyster sauce, even in dishes they say are vegetarian.

Sometimes Italian restaurants saute even vegetarian pastas with chicken broth.

I do take the time to ask a few questions before ordering anywhere, and I'm very explicit about what I do and do not eat. And after about 60 seconds of annoyance for all involved, you're done, and you get a meal you can feel good about eating.

Congratulations on following your head and your heart and making a change. Even back in 1989, when veggie food options were far from plentiful, I found switching to vegetarianism quite easy. The transition to veganism is a little tougher outside the home, but even that is going OK.

And the benefits outweigh the hassles, no question about it!

Hope this helps.

Elisa - Wow, this is very helpful. Thanks so much and I will check in at your blog.

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