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Going vegan? You can still have cheeseburgers

Did you know everyone’s favorite Girl Scout cookie, Thin Mints, are vegan? Now you do.

There’s also vegan doughnuts, dozens of vegan cheese options, vegan corned beef and chicken wings.

Being vegan is easier than ever, as more and more restaurants eschewing animal products open up and omnivorous eateries add vegan options to their menus.

Mikael Nielsen, national volunteer coordinator for Mercy for Animals, said he has seen a dramatic increase in public interest in veganism when he is out tabling and passing out fliers for his organization, which fights farm animal cruelty.

People from all walks of life approach him about plant-based diets, Nielsen said, mostly because they’ve heard about it through celebrities. They’re interested in eating healthier, he added.

Nielsen said some people start out as Vegan Before 6 or do Meatless Monday to test out the diet before they fully commit. These “reduce-atarians” are part of why so many restaurants have added vegan options and why vegan products are so widely available in grocery stores, Nielsen said.

Or take Veganuary, a monthlong challenge to avoid animal products of all kinds, co-founded by Matthew Glover and originally launched in the U.K. last year.

In Veganuary’s second year, the number of participants signed up on their website multiplied fourfold, to more than 12,000 around the world, Glover said.

According to Google Trends, interest in the search term “vegan” has steadily climbed since 2007.

While a bigger city like Chicago is guaranteed to have lots of options, the more popular veganism gets, the more restaurants will want to catch on, Glover said.

“It’s a supply and demand thing: The more people start requesting it, the more restaurants are going to have options,” he said.

A quick search of Happy Cow, a vegan restaurant listing site, shows nearly 200 eateries in Chicago. Here are some of the ones off the beaten path:

Quesadilla La Reina del Sur, 2235 N. Western

This all-vegetarian Mexican restaurant has tons of vegan options.

Fritz Pastry, 2233 N. Lincoln

This bakery makes vegan doughnuts and croissants and has a vegan brunch menu.

Kitchen 17, 613 W. Briar

Get all your vegan burger, nacho and pizza needs filled at this BYOB spot.

Pig Minds Brewing Co., 4080 Steele Dr., Machesney Park

This brewpub has a changing list of their beers on tap and an all-vegan bar food menu that includes tacos, burgers, wings and more.

All these vegan burgers, pizzas, chicken wings appeal to people who are curious about veganism because “we are creatures of habit,” Nielsen said.

In other words, we want to eat what we know.

The easier it is for people to live a normal life while vegan, the more likely they’ll stick with it, Glover adds.

In Mercy for Animals’ activism, “we always try to meet people where they’re at. Not vegan or nothing. We encourage people to do it at a pace that works for you,” Nielsen said.

“It’s all about that first step.”