Hello sustainability superstars! Today’s post is for anyone who has ever said “I could be vegan except for bacon,” or cheese, sour cream, hamburgers, etc! Sound familiar? If you’ve ever said or felt that you only would be vegan if it didn’t entail giving up ______ food, then read on! This post is for you!
For me, it was orange chicken. I actually considered going vegetarian for nearly a full summer before taking the plunge and just doing it. The one thing holding me back? Orange chicken. It was my favorite meal. I figured I could give up steak, burgers, turkey, ham easily. But orange chicken? Forget it. I remember very clearly when I decided to go vegetarian because it was one of my last days working at the EPA. I was talking with a coworker about my vegetarian vs. orange chicken dilemma, and he said a really simple sentence that would change my life: “you know, you can just put orange sauce on tofu and it tastes pretty much the same.” DUH! Kind of silly that I didn’t recognize it before, but what I really liked about orange chicken was the sauce, not the actual chicken. So I decided to go vegetarian (and eventually vegan) and I’ve since had many delicious orange tempeh/tofu/cauliflower meals.
Many of us don’t realize that the staple in our favorite dishes is not actually the animals used to prepare them, but rather the spices and sauces we use to dress them up! I challenge you to make your favorite meat dish that you believe you simply can’t live without with tofu, tempeh, or any other legume or veggie combo!
Now some of you might be thinking “no but I actually do like the animal products in my favorite dish! They’re the star of the show!” I have another story for this one. Senior year of high school, I was having a conversation with a girl in my English class about vegetarianism. She told me that she had been vegetarian since sixth grade, except for bacon. I was really confused by this and asked her further about it, and she replied “I haven’t eaten any meat in six years except for bacon. I just can’t give it up.”
This got me thinking about the all-or-nothing approach we often take with food. So many people cite one particular food as the singular reason that they cannot go vegan, and then assume that because they can’t give up that one food, they might as well eat every other animal product with no moderation. Obviously, I am the hugest advocate of full throttle veganism. But if there is truly no chance of you abstaining from that one animal food right now, that doesn’t need to be a reason for you to completely throw in the towel on veganism. If you love bacon and feel that you cannot give it up right now, then try abstaining from every other animal product even if you keep bacon in your diet. Just because you love cheese, for instance, doesn’t mean you need to gorge on ice cream. Take it one step at a time.
People often wonder if it’s better to go vegan very abruptly or cut out animal products more slowly. I believe that you should choose whichever path will be most effective in getting you to stay vegan long term. I eliminated meat for two full years before going fully vegan, my little sister needed just a few months, and my boyfriend went vegan nearly immediately upon learning all about the lifestyle. All of us are now lifelong ethical vegans.
Another thing I should mention is that your tastes and desires will change while you are on this lifestyle. And that’s a good thing! After nearly four years of abstaining from meat, I can honestly say that I never miss it. Even though I used to love animal products, I no longer consider them food. We begin to crave what we eat the most, so if you eat McDonalds all the time, yes, you will crave McDonalds. After introducing more healthful plant foods into your diet, you will crave those instead.
I will write a whole other post on craving non-vegan foods as a vegan (feel free to leave me any questions you have!) but for now I will say that it is totally okay to want to have your favorite foods! I implore you to try out vegan substitutes for meat, ice cream, milk, cheese….there are so many out there these days that you are virtually guaranteed to find one that you like. A lot of them taste so similar to the real thing that even people who regularly eat meat can’t tell them apart! I’ve got a story to illustrate this too. When my youngest sister first went vegetarian, she told our mom but did not tell our middle sister right away. My mom served the Trader Joe’s vegan chicken tenders for dinner one night, not mentioning that they were vegan, and our non-vegetarian sister could not tell!! Just recently, this same sister had the Impossible Burger and admitted that she would not have been able to tell it was vegan had she not known. Vegan substitutes are only increasing in popularity and abundance, so definitely experiment with these! They can make the transition to veganism a lot easier, particularly if you were a person who ate an animal-heavy diet.
One final piece of advice when trying to cut animal products out of your diet is to remember why you desire to eat fewer animals. Educate yourself on what really goes on in the animal agriculture industry! When you realize that baby calves are taken away from their mothers within a day of birth to be killed as veal while their mothers are hooked up to milking machines, ice cream suddenly sounds a lot less enticing. Especially when there are so many cruelty-free brands of ice cream! I worked so hard on my why vegan post to provide as many resources and reasons to go vegan as possible; definitely give it a look to learn more about the ethical, environmental, and health reasons to go vegan!
If you’re a person who has ever dismissed veganism because of one particular food or dish (I’ve been there!) then I hope you found this post thought-provoking. To sum up:
- – Try to make your favorite dish with a meat substitute: tofu, tempeh, seitan…You might just love it.
- – Ditch the all-or-nothing approach. Try cutting animal products out slowly, and you can save your favorites for last.
- – Substitutes are amazing and can make the transition so much easier!! However, as you stop eating animal products your desires may also change and you won’t even be missing that cheesy pizza! Cut the animal products out, cook plenty of substitutes if you would like, and give it a shot.
- – Get in touch with why to eat vegan in the first place. Check out my why vegan page as well as these incredible documentaries: Earthlings (ethical, a must-see), Cowspiracy (environmental), and Forks Over Knives (health). Cowspiracy and Forks Over Knives are on Netflix, and Earthlings streams for free on the website!
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