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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

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