My Vegan Month, and Why (for Now) I'm Happy Just Being a Vegetarian
First, to clear up any confusion for new readers: I’m vegetarian, not vegan. This post is about my one-month experiment with a vegan diet.
Second, I have tremendous respect for vegans. In my experience, they’re more passionate and vocal, as a group, than vegetarians are, and the result is that vegans are a huge force in changing the world’s eating habits. So if you’re a vegan, thank you. I admire what you do and I’m grateful that there are people like you in the world.
All of that said, here’s how my month went. And why, for now, I’m happy staying vegetarian.
Why didn’t you write about it more?
A lot of people have asked where all the posts about my vegan month were. The reason I didn’t write more about it: There wasn’t much to write!
Eating at home was nearly identical to the way we usually eat at home. In fact, eating vegan for 30 days made me realize just how close to vegan my diet already is: Until now, it had never occurred to me that almost every vegetarian cookbook I have is a vegan cookbook.
The only major changes I had to make were to stop eating foods that contain honey, and to be careful not to buy the loaves of bread from my grocery store’s bakery that are made with egg whites. (I actually don’t like eggs, but sometimes eat things made with them.) Oh yeah, and I switched out the Barilla Plus pasta that I usually buy for standard whole-grain pasta. While most dried pasta isn’t made with eggs, Barilla Plus is. Which is a damn shame, because its protein numbers are fantastic.
To be fair, if it were a normal month, I probably would have found occasion to use butter in a dish, or to make a homemade pizza with cheese. But substituting olive oil for butter, and buying Amy’s cheeseless Roasted Vegetable Pizza when the craving struck, made any slight changes in my diet at home barely perceptible.
Eating out was the real challenge
If I was in denial of the fact that I live in suburbia, I’m now over that denial. For the most part, I found nothing good to eat at restaurants. In the land of Applebee’s (and its Italian equivalents, Olive Garden and Bertucci’s), it’s pretty much salad and plain pasta for vegans. And even with those, you’d better double-check.
I did find some choices at the only Indian place in my town, but even then I wasn’t sure that I was eating vegan. I instituted a don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy regarding whether they used ghee (clarified butter) and ate chana masala and baigan bharta. I should have been a more diligent vegan here, but I didn’t want to lose the only place I could find good food outside my house.
Twice, I knowingly ate dairy. Both times were at weddings, when a dish had been specially prepared for me as a vegetarian. I’m simply not going to be the guy who refuses something like that, when someone has been nice enough to make something special for me (see my favorite Karol Gajda post again regarding this point). I didn’t feel badly about this, and if I were to decide to eat vegan for good, I’d still make these exceptions.
In short, eating out in my town sucked even more than it usually does. I try not to blame external circumstances much, but vegan sure would be easier if I lived in a more progressive place. (By the way, if you live somewhere that’s great for vegetarians and vegans, can you let me know about it?)
How I felt on the vegan diet
In a word, great. I ran a 50-mile race towards the end of the month, in addition to a 30-miler in training two weeks before that, and a 20-miler in the week before that. So I have no doubts that a vegan diet can support serious endurance training and even ultrarunning. (As if I had any to begin with. See Scott Jurek.)
I also found the energy to start waking up at 4:30 in the morning. Not every morning, but most of them. This was probably more due to a post I read on Zen Habits about waking up early than about having extra energy from eliminating the small amount of dairy that I normally eat, but who can say for sure? Either way, I’ve found that I absolutely love having that time to myself in the morning before everyone else is awake. This isn’t to say that I don’t love spending time with my wife and son, but I’ve been feeling really pinched for time recently, so it’s nice to have an extra two hours to get stuff done.
Why I’m not going to stay vegan
Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t like I was counting down the days until the month ended, and I didn’t celebrate with a pizza and a trip to Rita’s, the two things I thought I’d miss most. Even with the eating out issues, this wasn’t bad at all. If you’re in the situation I was, thinking about veganism but not sure if it’s for you, then I’d absolutely recommend you give it a try. You can always go back after 30 days, right?
What I learned during the month, though, was that vegan isn’t for me, right now. And I know why: I don’t have strong enough reasons, in my head, to make it work.
I heard a great talk once by a woman named Judy May Murphy. (In fact, it was on the day I decided to start this website.) She talked about having a range of acceptable behavior in anything you do. The example she gave was eating; she said she had a baseline she would not cross (eating animals) and an ideal she strove for (raw vegan). Within that range, anything was ok, but she said she did her best to stay close to the ideal.
That image made a lot of sense to me, and it still does. As much as I learn about the cruelty in the dairy industry, and as much as I believe that eating dairy is mostly unhealthy, my baseline is still at animal flesh, not animal products. It might move one day, but for now, that’s where it is.
I don’t know how many ounces of cheese I eat in a normal month, or how many actual eggs. But I know the amounts of both are very small, and I don’t believe that my cutting them out entirely (as opposed to striving to avoid them most of the time) would have a significant impact on anything.
True, if I did cut them out, I could call my diet “vegan.” Personally, I don’t think how it is labeled matters much. I guess one could argue that I could be a better example to the non-vegan readers of this site if they could identify me as “vegan” instead of “vegetarian.” But I honestly don’t think that’s true. I think “vegetarian” has the virtue of being very approachable to those who still eat meat. I believe that what I post on this site as a vegetarian can encourage just as many, maybe more, runners who currently eat meat to try cutting it out. Being vegan might somehow be more inspiring, or it might be intimidating.
Maybe this sounds like an excuse. And maybe it is. But either way, making a decision based on how I’ll be perceived by others rather than on what really feels like the right thing for me right now is surely a recipe for dissatisfaction.
And that’s why, at least for now, I’ll continue being a vegetarian. A vegetarian whose diet is closer to being vegan than it ever was before, but a vegetarian nonetheless.
And that, my friends, is how vegan month went. As I said above, I learned a lot from this experiment and I’m glad I tried it. If you’re thinking about it, stop thinking and just try it. You won’t know until you do.
For those who tried a vegan month along with me, how it did you like it? Are you going to stay vegan?
Most reasonably sized cities on the west coast are good for vegans – and we have the best mountain trails for running, so you should just pack up and move over here. Seattle is the best, of course. ;^)
I am glad you expressed how easy it is. I think many people feel it will just be too difficult and that hinders them from even trying.
I am vegan for ethical reasons.
Have you read The World Peace Diet by chance? or Eating Animals? I feel the reasons for being vegan are undeniable. I am happy that you seem open to change. Maybe one day your range of acceptable behabior will shift. Maybe one day you’ll even make that transition permanently. 🙂 Until then… you’re doing a fantastic job at promoting a meat-free diet.
Without a doubt, the best place to live for veg*n’s is Portland, OR.
Disclaimer: I’m a vegetarian and I don’t live there, never been there, but I’ve heard from several people who are on how it’s such a great place to visit/live if you have that diet restriction.
I do live near Chicago, which has a few veg*n only restaurants. That’s enough to keep me satisfied.
P.S. I went vegan for a month. It was a big failure mainly because the first 1.5 weeks I was on vacation in a totally new state & area. I gave up after that. Might try it again in December! (not Nov because I know that mashed potatoes at my family’s Thanksgiving dinner will have butter in it)
You probably already know this, but NYC is a great place to find vegan foods 🙂 Even vegan ice cream!!!
And my alma mater, Wesleyan U. in Middletown, CT has a vegan cafe (and a ton of veggie options!) for students. Something to consider if you ever decide you want to become a professor…
I’ve been waiting for this post!
Very interesting. First, you’re right about the Indian food. If you didn’t ask you were most likely not eating vegan. At one of my (formerly) favorite Indian places I learned that only two entrees and one appetizer were vegan. Sigh.
On to the reasons. I guess that’s what it comes down to. When I started eating vegan, it was for dietary reasons. I told myself I wouldn’t “freak out” if I had to eat egg or dairy. But it turns out I couldn’t do it. Probably because it didn’t take long in my vegan journey to turn to an ethical vegan. Now I don’t eat animal products because of the animals, not me.
You last sentence absolutely sums it up it’s “because of the animals”. Inconveniences of where to go out for a meal pale compared to the cruelty and exploitation they endure. So it’s a bit of a pain to eat out. So what. If the only restaurant near one’s house were one’s selling grilled human baby on a bed of rice….. One has to do what is consistent with one’s values.
Great follow up!making a decision based on how I’ll be perceived by others rather than on what really feels like the right thing for me right now is surely a recipe for dissatisfaction sums it up nicely, your reasons for going vegan or vegetarian are your own. The important thing is that you are trying and learning – sorta like running!
I live in the Sacramento area, we have a fully vegan cafe called Sugar Plum Vegan, another vietnamese restaurant called Au Lac, and we also have a new place called Loving Hut which is a chain-ish Vietnamese vegan restaurant. I’ll post a review for readers that are in Nor Cal!
We also are close to the SF bay area and there is tons of good eating there.
They have Maggie Mudd (ice cream shop that has tons of vegan items) Millennium Restaurant, Jay’s Cheesteaks (that offer vegan options) and Herbivore.
If you are ever on the west coast, let me know and we’ll feast!
Ah, yes. Eating out as a vegan is sometimes impossible, even in a liberal, veggie-friendly, west coast town like mine. It is almost as difficult as explaining it to my family and co-workers! I’m still trying to do my best but for now have to be okay with the fact that it isn’t going to be practical or possible to eat vegan at every meal. I just do what I can, when I can–every little bit helps. Good luck!!
Thanks for posting about this Matt! I eat an almost vegan diet a lot of the time as well. But I do enjoy milk, eggs, cheese & honey and I’m just not ready to give them up. Funny note on the word “vegan”. I made some vegan pumpkin muffins for an older friend….she is an old school southern woman. When I told her they were vegan, she wanted to know where she could buy vegan. hahahahha….
Today i’ve completed one month of being vegetarian, and I can’t imagine going back to eating meat. Your site was really the catalyst that got me to finally take the leap. Thank you for the motivation!
I totally agree that the label doesn’t matter. I eat a diet that is mostly plant-based, however I do occasionally eat meat and other animal products. I’m okay with that. (Non vegetarians are allowed here, right?!!)
I also, sadly, live in suburbia. Not only is it not very vegetarian/vegan friendly, but it’s not very health-friendly! (when it comes to eating out, anyway) Ugh.
I live in the Phoenix area and vegetarian food is easy to come by. There are zillions of “ethnic” restaurants that have vegetarian options. There are restaurants like Green and Loving Hut that are strictly vegetarian. I’ve found, for the most part, that as long as I avoid the chains, there is at least *something* for me everywhere; in most places I have options and can find something better than just “the only veg option.”
I had the same experience when I went vegan for a week earlier this year (after going vegan for a month 5 years ago). I don’t eat very many eggs and even less dairy, but I don’t think I can cut them out entirely. As you stated, it is really hard to do it in an environment that tucks these ingredients into seemingly everything, and you’re left eating plain salad and pasta because of it.
Thanks for the honest post.
I just hit my 30 days vegan mark today, and I have found that you are only “stuck” eating plain salad and pasta if you allow yourself to be. There are plenty of amazing vegan recipes out there that are anything but plain.
Thanks for your honest reflection on being vegan. I hope you will someday continue the journey.
I became a vegan at the beginning of the year. I finally decided that I didn’t want animals suffering for my momentary pleasure. That actually made it easier to give up some of the things that I used to love.
If you had a hard time finding vegan entrees et al in USA, I’d invite you to live in my country, Argentina, and try to eat not vegan (nearly impossible) but vegetarian every day… Unless you’re rich, that is.
I think most of my countrymen think chicken is vegetarian and veganism a branch of Buddhism or sth like that.
Really, Austin, TX might be one of the most vegetarian/vegan friendly places. Although, you step outside the city and you’re in cattle-raising BBQ land Texas. When I go back to Michigan to visit family, it’s almost like I forgot the whole world isn’t so open to it.
I like the idea of a spectrum of eating. I also eat mostly vegan just by virtue of being lactose intolerant. The one thing I don’t want is to become obsessive with food and constantly checking labels/asking cooks for ingredients. For some people that may work, but for me it’d be a bad obsession.
I’m vegan and my husband is vegetarian. We are lucky to live in San Francisco and have loads of great options to eat out. We do keep a vegan household. You may want to think about this..as you experienced, cooking vegan at home is not a big deal. It’s interesting when I visit my family in small town Ohio. Luckily, my mom has no problem cooking vegan when we’re at home.
the San Fran/Bay Area is getting to be one of my favorite places for vegan eating. My favorite all vegan restaurant Millennium(fancy shmancy) has been around for years but now they have a vegan cinnamon roll store, a few all vegan doughnut places, veg*n sushi restaurant, a vegan soul food restaurant, a new vegan Filipino restaurant and much more. In Sacramento we now have our first all vegan cafe/bakery so that’s pretty cool too.
Hi Matt! Not sure where life has taken you, but if you happen to be anywhere near Baltimore, there is a pretty neat place in Inner Harbor called Pizzaz that has a vegan menu complete with cupcakes and pizza, both of which were delicious if I remember correctly. Also, I had my goodbye party in Mango Grove in Catonsville. There was a full buffet of vegan food that I and about 40 omnivores loved. I was assured by the owner that everything that was labeled vegan was indeed prepared that way; they were even happy to veganize their other dishes for me and invited me into the kitchen to see for myself if I wanted to 🙂 Another great place in this area is Great Sage, it’s all kinds of friendly (gluten free, soy free, raw, vegan, etc). Also, I’m not sure if they’re still in business, but Liquid Earth in downtown Baltimore and Razorback in Towson were high raw or completely raw vegan places. Hope you’ll get a chance to check them out and maybe post a review if you feel like it 🙂 Congrats on completing the ultra and the 30-day challenge, you rock!
Great post! I know exactly how you feel. I was vegan for about a year, and it was very easy when I was cooking at home, but in social situations it was challenging. I quite often felt like I was either making it very difficult for people to accomodate me (like at a family dinner) or else I literally couldn’t find something to eat. So my solution is to eat mostly vegan, but if I go out and there is butter on some veggies or might be eggs in the pasta, I don’t get worried about it and just eat.
Excellent post! I’m currently addicted to “Food For Thought” podcast by Colleen Patrick Goudreau (compassionatecooks.com). She says “Just because you can’t do everything, doesn’t mean you should do nothing.” I identify as vegan because I would never knowingly eat an animal or animal secretion. But I am not a “perfect vegan” because no one is. I think your take away message of being vegetarian while being conscious of other animal consumption is a good one. Anything done to reduce the suffering of animals and increase compassion is important and ought be valued.
I visited Boulder Colorado earlier this summer, and aside from the fabulous mountain running, they have lots of vegan and vegetarian options. When you order coffee, they ask if you want soy milk!
And you wouldn’t think that Baltimore has much vegetarian/vegan, but there is a fair amount. Not in the suburbs, obvi. BOP in Fells Point has vegan pizza, and One World Cafe near Johns Hopkins U has lots of veg options. And great beer specials Wednesday nights!
Anyhow 2 weeks ago, I was someone who ate meat at least 2x per day. I tried Meatless Monday, and I felt so good, I just kept extending it. Vegetarian diet is great for running! Thanks for this blog.
Really interesting. I have been veggie for years, and have been looking into veganism a little bit. I am eating less yoghurt and dairy in general (I too dont like eggs but the ones I have for baking are from my mums happy hens)- I think I would still be vegetarian at other people’s houses as being a veggie is awkward enough (esp for grandparents and things). But for me the line is things from dead animals/ the flesh- as for you. And I am trying to move further away from the line, but am definately a happy vegetarian! (For now)
I live in Houston and it’s really easy to eat vegetarian. Eating vegan is a little bit more of a challenge, but doable. You have to stay close to the center of the city, though. In the far-off suburbs it becomes chain-restaurant land.
I’m from Boulder, and I agree with how vegan friendly everyone is here! That said, I haven’t had an (overly) difficult time eating vegan anywhere I go, even mexican restaurants! I don’t think that eating vegan is the absolute pinnacle of ethics or health (although I’m sure some people would disagree with me) but I think the more we focus on what we want to achieve (health, environmental consciousness, being kind to animals etc) the better off we are. I think listening to your intuition is the best way to eat. For me, it was really easy to go vegan, but that’s just because I love “weird” food anyway 🙂 For some people they might feel like they’re “depriving” themselves, and then they feel resentful about what they’re doing, and those kind of negative emotions don’t help anyone! I think it’s really cool you tried it out to see how it was; I admire your adventurous food spirit! 🙂
Amanda, I agree with you that being vegan isn’t the pinnacle of health!
I know and know of vegans who don’t exercise and feel that being vegan is in of itself – their one way ticket out of doing cardio, exercise etc. Wrong!
French fries and cola are vegan, but are they healthy? Nope.
After just a week or so, I decided I was going to stay vegan. It was much easier than I originally thought (I felt stifled at first just because I wasn’t able to eat as many desserts!) but it was successful for me because whenever I go to a new place, I look up as many veg-friendly options as possible, aaand I LOVE to cook! I feel like I’ve tried out many more new foods than I ever did when I continued to eat meat just because “I want to try everything once”. Plus, my reasons are strong– going vegan is the single biggest positive environmental impact an individual can make. Saving animals is just another bonus, as is health. And the whole desserts thing makes me more conscientious, so I become patient enough so I can make the dessert myself and thus know exactly what goes into it. Win-win. 🙂
I live in Toronto and it is FANTASTIC for a vegan. Fantastic. I’m constantly discovering more vegan restaurants (can name 8 off the top of my head, and I know there are more) and we even have an all-vegan supermarket.
As a result, being vegan is ridiculously easy here. That said, I still find navigating “regular” restaurants a bit tricky. But since I had been a vegetarian since I was 16 I got pretty used to not having many options.
Funny thing: I got SO used to not having any options that now when I go to vegan restaurants it takes me way too long to order. I’m used to just picking “the one thing I can have” off a menu, and picking based on preference? Paralyzing! (Hehe)
Also: for what it’s worth, it took me 3 tries (spaced out over 5 years) before veganism stuck. Food is a complicated issue, and while I was ethically 100% on the side of veganism it still took me some time to get the rest of me on board (not that I’m saying you should aim for that yourself).
It sounds to me like you’re heading toward being…Almost Vegan! 😛
The San Francisco Bay Area is a great place to be vegetarian/vegan as one of the other commenter noted. While there are a lot of really good vegetarian/vegan restaurants, what really makes the difference to me is the familiarity of other restaurants with different diets. Most places I am able negotiate a really good vegan mean with the server (only twice in the last decade have I had issues).
I live on Long Island, which is not very vegan friendly. But I work in Manhattan, and there are many, many different vegan places to eat at all different price ranges.
Like you, I eat pretty close to vegan when I cook at home. I like to say I am a vegetarian with “vegan tendencies”. And that is fine with me. 🙂
Matt, I think your vegan trial and your ultimate outcome is honorable and contributes to veganism. I believe if/when more of the population become conscious of what they eat, as you are, businesses will be forced to adapt to cater with vegan friendly options. At some odd locations, I’m beginning to see the vegan market influence. As I recently visited the corporate offices of St Barnabas Hospital in NJ, I was surprised to see the cafeteria mark off specific items as vegetarian and/or vegan, such as the vegan chili. On another note, like you Indian food has also become a major going out destination for me.
I too committed to being vegan during my 6 month training for the Portland Marathon. I followed Brendan Brazier’s nutrition plans in Thrive – and I have felt so much more energy and vitality than I’ve ever felt before. After the marathon 10-10-10 I too will go back to mostly vegetarian. But I think I’ll follow a regimen similar to yours – I’ll be closer to the vegan end of the spectrum – because of the health benefits I’ve felt during the past 6 months.
Just wanted to say good luck today!! I know you’re out there getting soaked right now!
Great post! I agree with ya’ 100%!
I love everything about this post! I am totally with you 🙂
I too am a vegetarian who is probably 99% vegan. But, there are always those times, like you said, with the Chana Masala and the Baingan.. (I’m actually going out for Indian tomorrow!). I rarely eat dairy at home or purchase it at the grocery store, but I do eat it once in a while when I eat out.
I just hate to have to label the way I eat in such a way. It would sound so weird if I told someone, oh I’m 99% vegan…haha. But if you round up and tell someone you ARE vegan…the next time they catch you eating something with butter, etc…they turn into the vegan police! Even if they themselves are meat eaters, it seems like a lot of people delight in “catching” you eat something you say you don’t.
Thanks so much for posting on this 🙂
PS- What is the site to your math blog?! I can’t find it..
I used to live in Ann Arbor MI and knew many vegetarians and a few vegans. I think AA is or at least used to be a supportive community for non meat eaters.
You didn’t mention vitamin supplements. I have read that vegans need to supplement b12 or one of the b vitamins…..but perhaps that is only a concern for long term veganism.
Toronto, ON, Canada is a GREAT place for vegetarians and vegans. I live there and recently switched to a pescatarian diet (on my way to vegetarian I hope) – there are tons of options for veggies and vegans, entire restaurant chains devoted to this dietary choice. Having grown up in the suburbs, it is amazing to see these kinds of options for people!
I’ve been mulling around my own thoughts on this. I was vegan up until about ten months ago when I found out I was pregnant and decided to add eggs and some dairy into my diet since I was so sick and losing weight and couldn’t seem to get enough of anything. Now that I’ve had my baby I’m wondering if I want to go back to vegan or stay vegetarian. I’m not sure what I want to do!
May I suggest two excellent podcasts on vegetarianism/veganism:
“Vegetarian Food for Thought”. And one that is a bit more academic: “Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach Commentary”
Both have some excellent health & other good information.
Also I highly recommend the movie “Earthlings”
I have been vegan for several years now and actually find it really easy. Sure eating out can be challenging sometimes but in the big scheme of things is that really such a big deal. Vegan Indian is quite easy (chana masala or dhal – I always ask for it without ghee and it’s seldom a problem).
I am also really into my health and fitness and would can say that I feel the healthiest and strongest I have ever felt.
Thanks for your blog, I enjoy reading it.
thank you for this post – it expresses exactly how i feel about my diet but was finding difficult to get straight in my mind. I love the idea of having a baseline and starting from that, a range of acceptable behavior. When I am at home and have control over my food, I eat vegan. When in other situations I consider myself a vegetarian.
I really like that notion of eating as a spectrum. I eat an almost 100% vegan diet, but if someone is to make something specially for me, i won’t refuse it. I very much dislike labeling, but find that it is necessary in some instances.
I don’t find it difficult to eat out being a vegan. I do live in Boston, while although being urban and pretty accepting, we have very few entirely vegetarian restaurants. When making a reservation I tell the hostess to make a note that I am vegan, and have found most chefs/waiters to be very open to creating an animal-free food. I do always check the menu online.
I live in Boone, NC and for being the tiny mountain town that it is (I’m at Appalachian State University), it’s pretty progressive and I don’t have much trouble being a vegan up here. I can definitely identify with your problems with eating out. Before moving up here I lived in a very small town outside of Charlotte that was not accommodating vegans at all. Yes, sometimes it sucks having to opt for the side salad instead of a magnificent dish, but I just remind myself that it’s one meal, you know?
I should also mention that Asheville, NC (about 2 hours from here) is known (within the vegan community) as one of the best places to be vegan/vegetarian.
To be honest, I commend your honesty and commitment you made for the month! I think it’s great that you attempted it and were honest with your decision. As a vegan, I tend to get people saying “I would be vegan but…” all the time, but it’s refreshing to hear sometime actually giving it a shot. Although there is one thing you said that I did disagree with: “…I don’t believe that my cutting them out entirely (as opposed to striving to avoid them most of the time) would have a significant impact on anything.”
I find it’s more of a “principle of the thing” then anything else. I was never a heavy diary consumer prior to my veganism, but the simple the act of buying even small amounts can make an impact if enough people think that way, you know? I don’t disagree that you’re consumption levels are probably very low, but that doesn’t mean that you’re not still buying it either (if that makes any sense at all [college kid with mid-terms approaching = scrambled brain].)
Also! Thank you for the link on early rising :).
I really admire your willingness to try vegan for 30 days. I did that back in October 2009 and it definitely stuck! I would agree that eating out has to be the hardest part, along with hidden dairy or eggs in food products.
I live in Louisville, KY and for the most part it is easy to be vegetarian here, but vegan is another story. Basically in the east end of town, where I live, all the chain restaurants like Applebee’s are there and they are boring (if not impossible) to eat at if you are vegan. But luckily we have some other neighborhoods with local restaurants offering many vegan options that are absolutely delicious. So for a 20 minute drive I could thoroughly enjoy eating out but when my family chooses, I just have to grin and bear it so I can enjoy their company which is the most important after all. Great post!
I’m a vegetarian who eats 95% vegan: I strive for it, I eat vegan at home, I do the best I can at restaurants.
Austin is the best place I’ve been for vegan restaurants. I live in Dallas about 2 blocks from Whole Foods so that is my go-to place for “restaurant” fare. And I’m lucky my eleven year old loves to bake vegan cupcakes.
Thanks for the post — as a vegan, I admit to “don’t ask, don’t tell” at Indian restaurants, and accepting a “veggie” dish that someone has lovingly made for me even with animal products (not animals).
I found it interesting that my taste buds changed. My friend raises happy, healthy, well fed chickens with room to roam and cluck and scratch and whatever chickens love to do. One is even named after me: ChickAnn. And her gift of eggs would be from a happy, non-oppressed hen. But it grosses me out now, so I just re-gift ChickAnn’s health eggs.
Your range of healthy eating is truly what it is all about — Not Labels. Love your blog. Thanks
i was having many stomach issues, heartburn,etc for a year and no dr could figure it out, although they all had drugs that i could take for the rest of my life. i spent the next 2 yrs reading on nutrition and how they process food in this country. it turns out i was lactose intolerant, but i decided that it was worth being healthy to give it all up and become vegan. when i think about what they do the animals, and how my stomach will feel when i eat, it is enough to keep me vegan.
I became vegan at the beginning of the year after reading “Eating Animals”. I realized that I was letting my desire to be accommodating to others overcome my values. If young males calves are going to be slaughtered and their moms kept continuously pregnant so that I can drink milk or eat cheese (both of which I love), it’s not worth it to me. And when I started to really think about milk and what it is and who it is for (the young of the same species), not drinking it made more sense. And then when I started thinking a little bit more about what are the best things to eat for my body and my health, things just seemed to come together. Now it seems like everywhere I look there is an article on the benefits of veganism. If you think you have it bad eating out, you should come to Richmond, Va where people claim to be vegetarian except that they still eat steak! Seriously there are 2 or 3 places to eat that rock.
Hey Matt! Thanks for the shout out.
I really like the baseline idea by Judy May Murphy.
Also, chana masala should never have any ghee. All the people I have ever asked never make it with ghee so I don’t even ask about it anymore. Roti is supposed to be vegan as well. I think naan (plain naan, of course) is hit/miss.
I really enjoyed reading this post. I love your attitude and approach towards food and what works for you. I believe everyone is different and need different things. And everyone changes, I have changed a lot since a few years ago, and I am still changing what I eat and believe in. And to me that is ok because life is a large classroom where I am always the student learning new things 🙂
Excellent post! I’ve thought about switching to vegan, but I’m simply not passionate enough about it and it would ultimately just be for the label. I like Karol’s approach since it’s true to the purpose and less aggressive. I hosted him in Berlin (I’ve been a veggie all my life and also wrote a post about stress-free veggie travel) and can confirm that he follows what he wrote about in that post to the letter. I actually feel like such an idiot since I ordered for him (in German) and didn’t make it clear enough for them not to include cheese not once, but twice. It wasn’t ideal but he didn’t waste the food – I know if food came with meat on it I’d simply have it thrown away or give it to someone else at the table. So it was interesting for me to see the ideal in action – other vegans I have hosted through Couchsurfing would never have accepted it and I know it can distance them from meat eaters. While it’s a very healthy and moral way to live, some societies (especially other countries) look at veganism as too extreme, even when vegetarianism is finally getting accepted.
Simply cutting back on the amount of cheese and eggs as much as possible is the best thing – I’ll try to move myself closer to the vegan side of the spectrum, while still not worrying about labels other than knowing I’m a vegetarian. As a traveller who likes to eat out a lot with locals it would be way too much work for me to go beyond that, but I can cut back a little when I’m cooking and choosing what I eat myself 🙂
So if a vegetarian from another country, say India, came to the U.S., Iowa, for instance, for a visit they should eat the beef or pork because they are in a new culture and should be respectful? That logic doesn’t work for me. When in Afghanistan, my hosts simply gave me more vegetables. In Bosnia, my hosts gave me more potatoes. They were not offended that I did not eat meat. They respected my conviction. And I respected their hospitality and generosity.
hi! I appreciate your honesty and enjoyed reading your post. I was wondering if you had ever listened to any of Colleen Patrick Goudreau’s (of The Vegan Table and the Joy of Vegan Baking & founder of compassionate cooks) podcasts?
They have been enormously helpful to me in defining where I “stand in my head” on veganism vs vegetarianism. Hands down, I’ve just learned a lot period from them, about cooking, veganism, etc!
Keep up the great work!
Hi Matt, I really enjoyed this post. I’m in Boulder, CO and I’m a vegetarian (ice cream is my biggest weakness in the pursuit of veganism). I’ve never encountered a problem eating out so I’d venture to say it’s really easy being veg here. I’m not as sure about vegan, but none of my vegan friends ever seem to have problems with it. Also, the emphasis on locally grown foods and supporting local farmers is excellent here. There’s a lot to be said about supporting humane food practices and talking to the farmers at the market about how their food is made — which I think is an important distinction to be made in the vegetarian/vegan discussion. 🙂 Come visit sometime!
I second that; you should come to Boulder! Maybe Run the Colder Bolder in December or the Bolder Boulder in May!
While your diet is your decision, so I’m not trying to pressure you in any way, I do have to say that you must try ice cream made from coconut milk! It’s really, really good – as opposed to some of those rice and soy based ones.
Just try it and be amazed, even if you continue to eat dairy ice cream as well. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised, and that way, if down the road, you do want to try veganism, you don’t have to live without ice cream!
– Melissa 🙂
I think you posted about wheatballs ? I emailed the recipe to myself but don’t know exactly where I saw it. If it was you, it was really good!
I have been trying to move to a Vegan diet for a very long time. However, in India virtually EVERYTHING has milk or its derivatives in it. Guess will take some time, but will get there eventually.
I have been reading about deficiencies of Iron, Calcium, B12, etc in Vegans esp. if they are physically active (I do long distance runs – about 30 km/ week). Any tips on how to include these essential nutrients into my regular diet??
Iron: lentils, soybeans, dark leafy greens, etc.
That’s a great source for a lot of vegan nutrition info.
Also, eating something with vitamin C in it when you eat an iron-rich item increases the absorption rate of the iron from that food, and not eating calcium-rich foods shortly before or after also helps.
B12 comes from a vitamin for me.
“Dark leafy green vegetables like kale, mustard and collard greens, broccoli, bok choy and chinese cabbage, and okra contain tons of calcium.” That’s according to this great site: http://www.vegan-nutritionista.com/vegan-calcium.html
Hope that I could be of some supplemental assistance.
Hi Matt, Ashley
Thank You for your helpful comments. I have started on B12 supplements as well & and now contemplating Iron, Calcium pills as well.
“Until now, it had never occurred to me that almost every vegetarian cookbook I have is a vegan cookbook.” That is so cute.
Well, I tried veganism last September for a month, and then I became “mostly-vegan” (which basically means I ate vegan at home, and mostly-vegetarian when I was out – but I’d eat meat on occasion) for about five months afterward.
Nowadays, I’m more listening to my body… the only meat I’m eating is pretty much all local and free-range, as are the eggs (nest-laid etc), so I feel better about it because I know something about what’s gone into the animals and their impact on the environment/economy.
I liked eating vegan. Eggs were tricky though – I believe that eggs are nature’s perfect food, so giving them up is hard!
This one really hit home and I have been toying with the idea of Vegan and I am currently reading Vegan Freak. I think in the end it is about consciousness and being aware. It also seems that the question comes down to understanding that it is about scale. I could completely give up all animal products and be vegan, but I take medication and most if all medications unfortunately are tested on animals. Or the Clif Shots that are made of gelatin? So for me it is about trying to be aware and educating myself and knowing that I am making conscious decisions towards being kinder. Maybe someday I will be completely Vegan? Maybe I won’t. Great thoughtful post though!
So happy I came across your site. 🙂
Thank you for this great post. I am going through a similar experience with moving from vegetarian to vegan. I love to eat vegan at home and whenever I can at restaurants, but I don’t think I’m going to make it an issue if there’s not something vegan available. I definitely draw the line at meat, so like you said, I have a “baseline” and an “ideal”. Sometimes I DO want a piece of that non-vegan birthday cake! For awhile I felt guilty about this, but your post made me realize it’s not something to feel bad about, and I’m not alone!
What a wonderful post and I can relate to it heavily. At home, I’m 100% vegan, but going out is another story. So many restaurants have vegetarian options, but the vegan selection just isn’t appealing at all. So I guess I’m a card-carrying member of the “mostly vegan” club too. 🙂
Great post! I did a cleanse diet for a month which was basically an extreme vegan diet… it was hard but I was also surprised at how easy / tasty the vegan meals were. You asked about vegan / vegetarian friendly places and I thought I’d pipe up with Portland OR. Portland is VERY progressive in this arena and I find that even your typical bar / stakehouse will have some veggie / vegan friendly dish. Moreover, they do have a range of vegan / vegetarian friendly restaurants and food carts (my favorite being DC Vegetarian, http://dcvegetarian.com/). Rumor has there’s even a vegan strip club (have yet to test that one out). On a side note, I recently ran my first marathon and I owe a lot in part to your helpful running pre-race tips… THANK YOU!!!
Matt, you know that your neighbor city Washington, DC was named most veg-friendly city in the States! DC has so many great options for both veg and vegan. Let me know if you (or anyone else) would like some suggestions of where to eat for the Marine Corps Marathon weekend! http://www.peta.org/b/thepetafiles/archive/2010/07/14/The-Most-VegFriendly-Cities-in-North-America.aspx
Sorry, typos in 1st post. Burlington,vt is like a small PDX. Also, veganism is like a spectrum. U cn chose to consume honey, or not. Some things r filtered thru charcoal derived from bones. Th most militant also don’t wear or own leather OR wool. I own some leather products, but I won’t buy more. I own & buy wool. But I’m a spinner & knitter. I buy local or regional. Reply
Thanks for your insightful post, which mirrors my own experiment with the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart. I enjoyed it, and I’m a closer-to-vegan vegetarian for having done it.
For me, being vegan might be easy – if it were just me. But the other two people in my family eat meat, eggs, and dairy, and I cook for them. We’re adventurous eaters, and enjoy a lot of Asian foods that are vegetarian or vegan. We’re not scared of a little tofu, and I’m learning what everyone will tolerate. I applaud my family for putting up with my meatless experiments.
I look at it this way — don’t do nothing just because you can’t do everything. For now, this is where I’m at. Sometime in the future, who knows?
Thanks for the post Matt. I am also a vegetarian who has been moving very close to veganism. I must be 90% vegan at this point. I can’t eat a lot of dairy products anyway since I am mildly allergic to them. I don’t know if I will ever cut them all out but I do feel that a vegetarian who eats too much cheese, eggs and other milk based products may not really be that healthy anyway. I’ve been enjoying reading your blog and your thoughts a lot. keep ’em coming! 🙂
I really liked this post. I am vegan. I tried going vegetarian a couple of years ago and just didnt have good enough reasons for myself to stick with it. It wasn’t until i read and read and read that I sort of developed my belief system into something that ended up not being able to support eating animal products. I love that you are very fair in your posts and present both sides.
Have you used happycow.net to find veg-friendly places to eat near you? has saved my life during travel many times! such a great resource
as far as veg-friendly places here in Colorado- fort collins, boulder, denver. sooo great. but even down here in ranching country/tiny town/SW CO i still find places to eat out. the freaking amazing yellow curry with tofu at the local thai place is vegan at the mexican joint we get black bean tostadas, no cheese- add guac. and if the italian place uses olive oil and not butter, pasta with marinara and steamed veggies does the trick. 🙂
Thanks for your blog. I recently found it and, as a vegan newbie, I appreciate the great tips and your insights. I appreciate the frustration of being vegan in suburbia and am grateful to live in Manhattan where vegan menu items and restaurant choices are abundant. (I mostly cook at home, but had a great vegan Indian meal tonight near my apartment).
Still, one thing that struck me about your post is that it seems to contradict your post written a few days later regarding the Hoax of Moderation. As I read that post, it seems irreconcilable with Judy May Murphy’s “range of acceptable behavior” philosophy. If moderation is truly mediocrity as you suggest, shouldn’t this commitment to animal-free eating include animal excretions as well as dead animals themselves? While my pre-vegan diet was mostly vegetarian, I feel and look better since going vegan for sure. What really feels great, though, is that my food choices are 100% aligned with my beliefs that I don’t want to exploit animals in any form to satisfy my own immediate, and wholly unnecessary, gratification and desires. As a lot of people say, 95% is a bitch, but 100% is a breeze!
Keep up the good work!
I love the post. I have been a vegetarian for at least 19 years. I can’t believe it’s been that long. It happened some time in college. Anyway, I tell people if it weren’t for the occasional piece of cake or piece of butter in my vegetables, I probably could be considered a vegan. I am basically lactose intolerant, so no direct eating of cheese or eggs for me. I am thankful for your website.
Great thoughts, Matt. I love your honesty and lack of bullshit. I’d say that it’s really hard to start feeling compassion and not ultimately want to dive full force into veganism. But it’s a transition, and you should and can take your time. It took me YEARS to be ok with the idea of not buying wool, for example, and I still struggle a lot. But I know that I evolve each day, and that’s my truest goal.
Hi there, just found your page through a vegan friend of mine who lives in the USA. I live in Brazil and I was vegetarian for awhile until living here; in my city (Rio de Janeiro) it’s impossible unless you have a ton of money to buy groceries, and a ton of time to find certain groceries and cook everything at home. I ended up sick and malnutritioned all the time. I was just visiting a beautiful city in the south of Brazil called Florianópolis; it’s a great place to be a vegan/vegetarian. There’s a huge abundance of shops/stores that specialize in meat-free foods and diets, at reasonable prices. Even the train stations have quick vegetarian bites (I’ve NEVER seen that in Brazil – in Rio if you ask which sandwich doesn’t have meat, they give you one with chicken). So after visiting Floripa I’ve decided to take another shot at improving my diet – I’m also a competition athlete. I’ll be following your page for sure.
I just wanted to let you know that I have this blog entry bookmarked and I read it almost everyday, as I am 8 days into my 30 days of ‘vegan tourism’ as I call it – thanks for the honesty and clear thoughts, it really does help. I am anxious to see how I will feel at the end of my month trial…
I’m thrilled that I’ve found your website. Although my husband and I aren’t runners, we became vegan about two years ago for religious purposes.
Sad to say, we just don’t eat out much, due to the lack of options in restaurants. Buying tacos at Chipotole, however, is a nice choice if you just opt out on the meat. We’re still dabbling in the Asian foods, although I know many of them offer superb dishes sans meat and dairy products.
What are a couple of your favorite vegan cookbooks? You said that most of your cookbooks aren’t only vegetarian, but vegan as well. I’d love some input on a couple good, easy ones. Most of my recipes are pulled from random online blogs, but I’d love to buy one or two great compilations.
hi rachel- i know you werent asking me.. but i wanted to chime in on my favorite vegan cookbooks. I grew up on meat and potatoes, casseroles and cookies with milk… and i’ve only been vegan since february… veganomicon, vegan yumyum and vegan with a vengeance were my live savers. i was (and am) able to eat all the foods i grew up- only now they are healthier and more compassionate. i recommend those 3 books- hands down
Way to go Matt!! Make Isa Chandra Moskowitz your new best friend …Appetite for Reduction was all I needed to take the plunge and not look back! Honestly surprised at how easy it was…but I had been wrestling with it for a while and was ready…GOOD LUCK!!! YOU CAN DO IT!!!!
I recently went vegan. It started because eggs and dairy make me sick, even though I liked them.
What really made up my mind (in addition to reading up on it, I recommend gentleworld.org)was the movie Earthlings. I think everyone should have to watch it if they eat meat (http://earthlings.com/). It’s a bit intense, but it’s the truth.
Matt…I am do glad I found your website & blog, etc. I wish I had found you before I did the vegan thing! I didn’t deal with the jokes well. my husband doesn’t eat that way (he’s very supportive…but didn’t quite get it). Some of my friends were really awful. After about 4 years of doing well…also didn’t eat sugar or white flour…I just got sick of all of it…and started adding in crazy stuff..before that I had stopped paying attention to protein intake, etc
I started getting shaky when I did my yoga, was exhausted all the time…etc. Nor I am testing meat, eggs, dairy…to get my protein level back up…it is helping.
After I feel back to normal, I want to try it again! Geez…thanks for SLM your effort on this site!
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