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The Great Fast Survival Guide for New Converts

By Kristen Hoggatt-Abader

When I first converted to Coptic Christian Orthodoxy in 2010, the Great Fast was really hard for me.  Each day I seriously doubted whether or not I could keep it up.  During the Great Fast, we adopt a vegan diet as well as abstain from eating entirely for long periods of time, to be determined by our father of confession.  The goal is to focus on the spirit by reducing the flesh.  Over the years though, it’s gotten much easier, and I find myself looking forward to the fast, a time when we not only eliminate the things that detract from our spirit, but also add the things that enhance it, such as prayer, Bible study, and extra church services.  I’ve come up with a list of advice for new converts who may be just like I was.

  1.  Eat lots of nuts.  Nuts are filling with a lot of protein and healthy fats.  They are an easy addition to soups and salads.  I make a vegan ricotta cheese made with tofu and the most important ingredient: cashews!  Pine nuts can make a simple salad gourmet.  Don’t believe me?  Try it!

  2. Add avocado.   When I was a poor college student, I used to carry an avocado with me to eat during lunch because it was so filling (and cheap, and already in its own serving bowl). It’s delicious, too.

  3. Pick up a tub of vegan margarine like Earth Balance.  This could be added to a baked potato with a bit of salt and chives.  If you need a sweet pick-me-up, you could spread it on toast sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar.

  4. Order pizza!  Papa John’s pizza dough is vegan-friendly, so order a pie without cheese and loads of veggies.  Their garlic dipping sauce is vegan, too, so you can dip your crust and enjoy like all the other pizza-lovers who have forgotten to plan dinner on a Friday night.

  5. Drink a high-protein vegan shake before bed.  This will help you fast the morning hours until you and your father of confession have determined you can eat.  I use a brand called Isagenix (which requires a subscription), but there are others available in a nutrition store like GNC. 

  6. S.P.S. Sweet potato sandwiches. Bake them in foil in the oven, or even zap them in the microwave.  Slice them up on some whole wheat bread with hummus, tomatoes, onion, and sprouts.  Enough said, right?

  7. Serve fresh fruit for dessert.  If you have kids, this is a great way to get them to appreciate the simple things in life.  Make it a special project for them:  Instead of baking cookies, hollow out a watermelon and make a fun design like the ones pictured here.

  8. Unlike many vegan alternatives, vegan mayonnaise is actually better tasting than its non-vegan counterpart.  Looking for something to elevate that veggie burger?  Veganaise does just that.

  9. Don’t stop dining out.  You may have to do a little research ahead of time, but most restaurants offer vegan dishes, or dishes that can be made vegan with a little modification.  Want a veggie burrito?  Skip the cheese and sour cream and load up on guacamole and black beans.  Pasta marinara without parmesan, or the ubiquitous veggie burger without mayo and cheese.

  10. Go on a search for vegan restaurants.  If you live in a big metropolis, you are lucky to have plenty of award-winning vegan restaurants.  But even if you live in a smaller city like Tucson, there are vegan options such as Tumerico and Lovin’ Spoonfuls.  If there’s an Indian restaurant in your town, you can bet that they have vegan entrees.

  11. Invest in a good vegan cookbook.  I like Veganomicon the best, but many others are out there.

  12. Read the Bible—good books always make time go fast!  I find that the Bible’s message really sinks in when I’m fasting.


That’s it!  Well, actually, I do have more tips, but I wanted to keep my list brief.  Feel free to contact me if you have any questions:  Keep it up, and keep me in your prayers.

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