Veg-etiquette.

A little over a year ago I switched to a (mostly) vegan diet. But “diet” is a weird word with way too many negative, restrictive connotations. So, let’s call it…a vegan approach to eating. We’ll go with that.  After years of dabbling in vegetarianism, I realized that I felt better physically when I ate mostly plants. And I also realized that I felt better emotionally when I knew where my food was coming from, if possible, and that my spirit felt better when I knew I wasn’t eating animals.

So you see, this was a originally selfish decision: eating vegan made me feel better. It didn’t have much to with anything other than that. It also sparked a serious amount of creativity in the kitchen as I explored the literal rainbow of fruits, veggies, grains, legumes, beans, and spices we have available to us! It’s awesome!!

The only tricky part is that, in the past year, I’ve found that often it seems that my decision to eat what makes me feel great seems to be threatening to others. Although I don’t go out of my way to bring it up, veganism seems to hit a nerve with many people. I come across people who say things like: “OH, well, my Aunt Beatrice was vegan and she used to force us to weave handmade dreamcatchers whenever we visited her, and she thought she could cure her fibromyalgia with kale.” Or, “Yeah, but do you get protein?” or “Haha, I just could NEVER give up a burger and fries.”

Which is all okay. I’m not asking anyone to give up a burger, nor am I prepared to explain Aunt Beatrice’s decorating sense! Though I’m so happy to have a discussion about the pros and cons of various food choices. It’s a luxury, truly, to be able to inquire about food, educate ourselves, and then eat what we choose.

This is not a claim of perfection, either: I had to set veganism aside while I was teaching in my small town in central Thailand, where it was nearly impossible to do — and not wither away to a shell of my former self, anyway. But after yoga training, I was back at it, particularly after spending time studying one of the central tenets of yoga: ahimsa. Ahimsa is the principle of non-violence, of doing no harm. So as I strive to live more thoughtfully and make a positive ripple on this planet, ahimsa must come first before anything else.

But I’m still often caught off guard when what I eat somehow ends up putting me on the defensive.  It wouldn’t occur to me to provide unprompted negative commentary or observations to someone digging into an In N Out burger (a former love of mine!). But if you would like to have a balanced, inquisitive discussion about it, I’m game!

Do you hear what I’m saying?

It thrills me to chop like mad, roast vegetables, make my own hummus, and sit down in front of a meal like this:

Tonight's feast: quinoa, roasted chickpeas, sweet potatoes, and carrots, kale, hummus, red cabbage, and avocado.

Tonight’s feast: quinoa, roasted chickpeas, sweet potatoes, and carrots, kale, hummus, red cabbage, and avocado.

And I want you to do, and eat, what thrills you and fulfills you, too! So let’s be friends.

4 thoughts on “Veg-etiquette.

  1. This seems to happen with many things that are different from the norm. A good reminder to ask thoughtful questions instead of jumping straight to critique.

    Also, I’ve become the person that asks “yeah, but do you get protein?” but I ask out of interest in having a convo and not out of criticism. During my recent diet “exploration,” I realized 1/2 cup of cooked quinoa has less than 10% of the daily recommended protein intake and that I’d have to be very intentional to get enough protein on a plant-based diet. Totally doable but something that would require intention that I didn’t have in the last 2 years when I’ve essentially been veg.

    1. Thanks for the dialogue, sis! When it comes to protein, it seems that when many people transition to a vegetarian or vegan diet (myself included), at first the only thing we do is take out meat or dairy, leaving the rest of the diet essentially the same. This could certainly translate to a protein deficiency if you aren’t eating a lot of beans, legumes and nuts already! But here are a few ideas for protein sources that are plant-based, in a typical day. For reference, I need about 40 grams of protein per day. In truth, now I don’t often think about it because I tend to easily get enough to support my activity level and needs. And I’m also still learning, so I did some quick research. Here are a few ideas:

      1 cup of oatmeal for breakfast = 9 grams. Add some almond milk and you get a few more!

      A snack of whole grain bread with peanut butter = 10 grams

      1 cup of quinoa (perhaps in a salad) for lunch. Quinoa is the only complete plant-based protein, so it’s a good one! 1 cup quinoa = 8 grams of protein. Spinach in your salad will add a few more grams here, too.

      Afternoon snack of fruit or a natural nut-based energy bar = 3 grams

      For dinner, lentil soup with rice or veggies = 15 grams, or perhaps a veggie chili with tofu or beans. 1 cup of beans = 16 grams. A few ounces of tofu = 6 grams.

      So that adds up to 45 grams of protein, conservatively. Easily meeting my needs! Hope this is helpful!

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