Are you vegan? How did you decide to eat however you actually eat?
I get this question a lot. The short answer is no — by definition, I’m not vegan.
Ethically, I align with nearly all of the vegan principles. I only purchase cruelty-free products, I’ve rescued + rehabbed 4 dogs + donate to shelters monthly, I’ve taken in 2 pigs slated for the slaughterhouse, and I consume a plant-based diet mostly.
That mostly is what separates me from true veganism.
I don’t love labels when it comes to nutrition because I strongly believe diet needs to be individually-tailored + individually-adjusted over our lifetimes.
My husband, Kevin, and I have had an eventful 10 years of investigating health together. That’s a story for another post, but, in general, we’ve committed to being open-minded, to reading both sides of any argument, and trying what works for us individually + then as a family.
After lots of trial and error, we’ve both realized that we actually don’t function best on a 100% vegan diet.
I consume mostly organic fruits + vegetables. At first, I thought that meant straight-up salads all the time. That sounded aggressive, but I was up for the challenge so that I could fit the vegan definition. I remember feeling like a dinosaur maw-ing on leafy greens + having a sore mouth from so much chewing.
Then, I heard about green smoothies. That sounded gentler, but the color still weirded me out.
I remember my first green smoothie. I thought I could wing it and just throw stuff in a blender until it turned the right color. Turns out, that tastes absolutely terrible. Don’t wing it.
My gateway green smoothie was the Dan’s Apple Pie smoothie from Simple Green Smoothies + I’ve created a few of my own favorites since then. Smoothies are my mom hack for nutrition: jam-packed with more fruits + veggies than you can reasonably chew in a sitting. Win-win!
Next, I went onto creating quinoa-based salads. My first one was quinoa with sweet potatoes, pomegranate seeds, kale, and other ingredients. I’ll try to remember to put the full recipe in a blog post soon!
I was able to use quinoa, pasta + potatoes to help me feel as full as I was used to feeling when I had been consuming red meats. I couldn’t deny that those quinoa/pasta/potato dishes were so much easier on my stomach. I didn’t get the meat sweats after dinner. It was a satisfying, gentle fullness.
Listening to Your Body’s Cues
That satisfying, gentle fullness led me to pay more attention to how I was feeling before/after meat vs. plant consumption week-by-week. Not all food symptoms can be felt right away — some have delayed onsets — but this gave me a general idea of what felt right + what still felt off.
This is where I think veganism can get a bad rep. You can 100% get all of your daily necessary protein from plants easily — you do not need to get your protein from meat + dairy — but if you’re not getting the right daily nutrients + listening to your body’s cues, then you’re becoming deficient + have to deal with the consequences of that.
I stuck with eating mostly plant-based, but when I’d add a “treat” of a real burger into my meal plan for the week, I’d polish it off + immediately regret it. I started to naturally hate how my body felt after consuming red meat. Then, add in a couple of Netflix documentaries about meat consumption + dairy production + that was an easy cut for us. No deli meats, no red meats, and nearly no dairy.
Your gut will reset itself when it’s given the optimal nutrients — and when it does, it gives you much clearer messages about what it wants to have + what it doesn’t want. After a few particularly devastating bathroom visits post-burgers, my husband actually made the no-red-meat + limited-dairy decision first.
If you’re considering a plant-based diet, commit to listening to your body during the transition. Be ruthlessly honest with yourself.
There’s a difference between an indulgent craving and a nutritional need.
Here’s a deeper look at what makes me not vegan.
We eat out.
Go ahead and shoot me dead — I am not above going through the Wendy’s drive-thru and getting a spicy chicken sandwich with fries and a Coke.
I try to only do this if I’m without any other readily available healthy + fresh plant-based options, and when I do, I will savor every bite + slurp of that crap without guilt.
Side note: If we’re going for real specifics here — I’d actually go to Wendy’s for the spicy chicken sandwich, then to Burger King for the fries, and then I’d go to Taco Bell for the fountain Coke because that Coke freestyle machine tastes like watered-down sludge and if I’m gonna indulge, I want the real sludge.
I try to find dairy-free ice cream + pizza options if we’re going out socially, but I don’t go as far as refusing to eat or leaving a place because they don’t offer those options.
Maybe someday I will, but life isn’t just about me right now and I’ve made my peace with that. When I have a hungry toddler with a very sensitive feeding window, I don’t get the option of being highly selective and that’s okay.
We don’t eat soy products.
Not all plant-based people/vegans consume soy products, but many do choose to.
More than 90% of soybeans in the US are genetically modified, but even the organically-grown soybeans have their challenges.
I won’t get into the specifics here, but choosing to consume the soy-based products — like tofu — that are readily available in the US (as opposed to what’s available like in Asia) comes with what I would consider health dangers. Your source matters.
We use local honey.
I choose to use local honey as natural medicine for our devastating seasonal allergies. Nothing else besides over-the-counter medicines work for us, and we don’t want the synthetic ingredients in our bodies. Neither of us are in a time in our lives where we can sleep off the associated migraines + go without any intervention, so using honey is our best organic solution right now.
We consume fish oil + eggs.
I choose to take fish oil supplements daily + consume eggs a few times per week for the omega-3 fatty acid benefits. I find that I’m more focused + happier when I consume omega-3’s than when I don’t.
Most Americans are actually omega-3 deficient, which could partially explain our higher rates of depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders.
I choose to consume a piece of small fish — like salmon — every other week because I believe in variability of vitamin sources.
I know that there can be too much of a good thing, so I diversify my vitamin sources just like I do financial investments.
How do you identify your nutrition choices?
What else would you want to know about nutrition from me? How can I support you best? Share with me below!