Turning… Vegetarian?

Uh oh. I feel like a bit of a fraud. I’ve been eating a lot of cheese lately. It’s just so easy. And cheesy!

My first step in turning vegan was to quit dairy. This was not difficult at all, especially when I saw non-dairy on the label of my coffee creamer. I was never a big fan of milk or sour cream, I could live without cream cheese, and dropping butter wasn’t so hard. Since I was still eating meat, it was easy to avoid cheese options.

As I transitioned into dropping meat from my diet, I still found it easy. I started drinking my coffee with just a bit of sweetener, I frequented the salad bar at work, and the worst thing I ate was a french fry to satisfy my craving for something deep-fried. I did let myself have two non-vegan food items, guilt-free: a slice of pizza once a week, and a Snickers bar.

The blog has helped me be an honest vegan in that it has motivated me to cook, veganize my favorites, and try out new foods. But, sometimes, being a vegan really sucks. Don’t get me wrong: I feel great and I don’t miss meat. It can just be really frustrating when I go to a restaurant (even a vegetarian restaurant) where my only options are steamed broccoli or a plain baked potato. Even Red Robin is more vegan-friendly than some other “healthy” spots I have visited.

The kicker came this past weekend when I was out of town. I was lucky. My hosts graciously accommodated me by making sure there were tofu and veggies for me to eat. But when we went out… there’s nothing worse than craving pho or Chinese noodle soup and knowing that, even if I get it without meat, it won’t be vegan. It also sucks to go to a really expansive buffet and have no vegan options besides raw veggies, fruit, and olives. I ended up having some very delicious and cheesy tortellini instead. I could say I felt guilty, but I honestly felt like somewhat of a rebel. Also, I was fricken hungry.

I’ve always been casual about being vegan in that I will still eat white bread or any breads that contain eggs, I won’t give myself too much of a hard time about something that’s in a meat-based broth, and I’ll let myself have ice cream or frozen yogurt when I’m out and about and want a treat. My behavior seems to raise the eyebrows of both vegans and non-vegans: I’m either vegan or I’m not. I don’t think that’s entirely fair. I just don’t want to ever feel like I’m depriving myself. And I especially don’t want to starve myself or eat something gross when I’m in a tight spot and have little to no vegan options.

So, what’s the solution? I can label myself as a vegetarian instead of a vegan. But I don’t want to do that, either. I guess all I can say is that I’m still turning veganese. I’m not totally there yet, I’m trying to figure it out. Should I bring vegan snacks with me at all times? Should I assign someone to play the role of my food conscience and stop me from cheating? Do I need to step up and declare my vegan-ness every time I step into a restaurant? I don’t know. In the end, I may decide that I’ll never be 100% vegan, and that has to be OK. Anyone who isn’t OK with that is just not cool. Oh, dairy cheese… why can’t I quit you?!

What’s your one non-vegan food that you can’t seem to quit? Anything? I’d love it if you would confess your non-vegan cravings and share how you overcame them. –Melissa

Melissa

23 Comments

  1. You are IN MY HEAD. This is exactly how I feel and where I am at. Am going away this weekend and have no idea what to eat off the menu so figure either bread, or accept vegetarian and not vegan is ‘okay’ – someone said ‘who are you doing it for?’ which i thought was interesting too. So long as I am okay with my choices, what does it matter?? I like that you give yourself a break and ease yourself into it. Probably more likely to hit longevity in the vegan-ness eventually this way.

    And for me, its fetta cheese. I effing love that salty goodness.

  2. Great post! I agree with Kelly above that if your happy with your choices then it shouldn’t matter. I think it depends on your reasons for going vegan and how you will feel by not sticking to them. I try not to take life too seriously and so I wouldn’t be bothered by the people that make you define yourself so strongly. Just stick to your own personal morals and you can’t go too wrong :) I’m vegetarian but I sometimes forget to check the labels of everything to check for gelatin….so sometimes a cheeky jelly baby gets eaten :D

    • Thank you! Oh, man. How disappointing it is sometimes to read the labels of something that, in theory, should/could be vegan or vegetarian only to find out that they use some sort of milk or animal product?

  3. I am vegetarian, not vegan but I do have similar issues when I eat out. I would never, ever eat meat but sometimes, I have to accept that I’m eating in a restaurant and can’t see the kitchen so I can’t guarantee that the chef hasn’t cooked my mushroom burger on the same hot plate as the meat or used the same knife (both things that make me feel ill and refuse to eat my food if I can see that) or that the cheese in my ravioli doesn’t contain animal rennant.

    I agree that it depends on your reasons for being vegan and how YOU feel about your choices. Being vegan 90% of time (or 80% or 70%…) is still better than being vegan 0% of the time. ;-)

    • Thanks and I’m glad you can relate. I sometimes get annoyed when vegans/vegetarians aren’t taken into consideration at restaurants, etc., but then I remember that so many people have serious food allergies — and those are rarely taken into consideration. It may not be entirely cool of me, but as long as I don’t know and it won’t kill me, I won’t worry too much about traces of dairy or animal in my food.

  4. Great and honest post! I can completely relate. I’ve been on the verge of vegan for a least 5 years now. It is not that it is impossible but it can be very restraining in situations you have not planned for or you cannot control…. eating out, traveling, social events etc. Sure there are ways around the non-vegan slip ups, but I’ve honestly found it takes such a considerable amount of planning that it can be stressful and takes some of the fun out of life. I’m all for stress reduction… :) I’ve come to terms with eating vegan as a goal in the same way that eating healthy is a goal. Sometimes you just want to eat a french fry and sometimes a slice of cheese pizza is your only option.

    • Thank you! I’m glad I’m not alone. The planning really can be stressful, especially since I’m basically the only vegan in a three person household. I do think I need to be more mindful and make time to plan and prepare. It’s really not that difficult, but it shouldn’t be an annoying or frustrating task, either. That said, I’m confident that I will eventually have it as part of my daily routine. :) Good luck to us both!

  5. Whenever I miss a particular product, I go to YouTube and look up videos about the cruelty and filth that’s associated with it. It will kill your appetite for hours. Bringing snacks prevents a lot of slip-ups for me and it’s become a habit. There’s always something in my bag. I miss cheese the most but there are a few really good substitutes and I always remind myself that I’ll have a week of squeezing zits and waiting for them to heal if I ‘cheat’. Cheese does not taste as good as clear skin feels. Not even manchego…

    • Ewww, I don’t want to see those YouTube videos. Great strategy, though. It really sucks that you break out when you eat dairy cheese, and it kind of sucks that I don’t. I don’t feel well after eating meat so that keeps me away, but cheese doesn’t have any effect. Cheese has become this really weird hurdle for me… I went a long time without it and have a lot of alternatives, but I suddenly have found myself having it all the time. The best solution is to prepare all my meals!

  6. Don’t beat yourself up. Take the process as it comes. It took me several years to move from being vegetarian to commit to being vegan. Cheese and eggs were the hold-up. The good news is that now I do not miss either one of those things. At all.

  7. I think if you are hungry and there aren’t any other options, then you don’t have much choice. But the beauty of the marketplace today is that there are vegan options for EVERYTHING! I eat most of my meals at home where I can control what goes into them, but when I am out at a restaurant with friends or family, I sometimes have to be a bit more easy going about my best laid vegan eating plans. Sometimes it’s easy to avoid meat, but not always dairy, particularly in a restaurant situation.

    As for cheese, it really does seem to be everywhere, doesn’t it? ;) Have you tried Daiya yet? I use it in moderation (like on nachos or pizza). You can also make a great cheese sauce using nutritional yeast, and my latest favourite is an alternative to feta: ground almond pulp leftover from making homemade almond milk!

    • I love Daiya! :) Awesome feta alternative. I’ll have to try that. I just need to get on track in terms of making my meals as much as I can and bringing snacks so I don’t starve if I end up in a situation where there are little vegan options.

  8. I am nowhere near being vegan. I’ll eat an occasional vegan dish and even invented a vegan corn soup. The stumbling block between me and vegetarianism is chicken stock. I know how to make vegetarian stocks and often do, but chicken stock is a building block for a quick, nutritious meal of pasta or soup when I’m tired, busy or uninspired. So I eat a variety of foods, remaining an omnivore who rarely eats beef.

    • That’s so interesting that your stumbling block is chicken stock. I suppose that besides cheese, chicken or beef stock are my other cheat foods. When my parents make traditional Filipino dishes, I’ll mix the sauce or broth into some rice and eat the veggies. Then I’ll joke that the vegan police might come and get me for doing so…

  9. Your honesty is refreshing! I went plant-based cold turkey in January for health reasons http://goodcleanfood.wordpress.com/2012/02/19/sick-of-being-sick/

    I have only had dairy a couple times by accident since then, but I totally get your frustration with defining your lifestyle/diet. In the beginning, I didn’t want to call myself a vegan, I was the opposite of you, I wasn’t doing this for animal rights, I was doing it for health. I own leather couches, I use honey, I have leather shoes. I wasn’t going to get rid of those things just because I was eating a plant based diet. I have however started to become an animal advocate and can’t believe how insensitive and uneducated I used to be regarding animal suffering in the meat industry. As a result, I will obviously keep my furniture, and shoes, but I may reconsider buying the same things in the future. I’m turning veganese too!!! (best blog name ever BTW)

    In the book “Eat to Live” by Dr. Fuhrman, he calls himself a nutritarian. He eats almost entirely plant based but about 5% of the time he will have cheese, eggs or other dairy on a special occasion. Even plant-based leader and guru Dr. Esselstyn from Forks over Knives says in his book “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease” that he eats multiple Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups (milk chocolate variety) on new years eve. We’re not perfect. Neither are they? They are HUMAN. Are they vegan? I think so! And best of luck in your endeavors!

    Oh and I’m to the point now where I don’t miss dairy at all, I tried Daiya the other day and thought it was disgusting, so I just do without ;)

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