There’s no right or wrong way to go veg: just YOUR way! Have a relaxed vegan lifestyle, quit obsessing about “clean eating”, and enjoy your family & food.
The Lie I Let Myself Believe
I first started exploring being vegan/vegetarian in 2013. The web had just exploded with quinoa, kale, biking to farmers markets, militant vegans, meal prepping a whole week of food, and clean eating. (Oh, how I hate this phrase now.)
This was me: I knew I wanted to eat more plants and stop eating meat. I focus on nutritious food… I also love delicious food. I love cooking, recipes and tinkering around in the kitchen. I wander lazily around the grocery store, dreaming about what I’d make with a new ingredient (like other people window shop at the mall). I love fluffy pancakes, tacos, complicated technical recipes, spicy curries, and Thai noodles. I used to love Southern barbecued meat (and still miss it sometimes). I drive through Taco Bell when my family is hangry.
But, I didn’t see anyone like me online. There were vegan bloggers who seemed to legitimately adore kale. There were seemingly perfect, all-vegan families with kids who had never tasted refined sugar. They make pancakes out of almond flour or buckwheat or xantham gum (whatever that is). They cooked without oil. Their kids drank kombucha. They never drove through Wendy’s. They never had Chinese delivered. I never saw them Instagram a moment sitting in the grocery store parking lot on a hard day, debating whether to go in and get a donut. None of them seemed to have a steak-loving partner or kid who ate school lunches.
I was just a regular mom. I was striving to be someone else’s vision of “clean-eating” vegan.
I believed that I was a bad vegan because I loved tacos… real tacos… not kale wraps with toasted nuts that you CALL a “taco”.
So I tried to enjoy the nutritionally dense, “clean eating” vegan & vegetarian for several long years. My poor husband suffered through months of awful pancake experiments. There were endless nights that I cooked my family a delicious meat meal, and just microwaved a frozen bean burrito for myself in resignation.
Last summer, I was told by a Facebook group to quit chemo for my leukemia and eat a strictly raw vegan diet (only uncooked fruits and vegetables, nothing else) and drink a half gallon of carrot juice a day to cure my leukemia.*
That was the straw that broke the camels back, ladies & gents.
Where Were MY People?
As a parent, I believe: “You can’t be what you can’t see.” For my daughter to consider different paths in her life, she has to see those different jobs, places, ideas and do-ers now. She has to see people like her doing them.
I knew there had to be other parents like me out there.
… Other parents who were also struggling to feed a mixed-diet family.
… Other people who ate lots of plant-based meals, but wanted to feel normal for driving through a Taco Bell with hangry kids.
… Other parents dishing out bowls of cereal for dinner sometimes.
… Other parents who didn’t want to be passive-aggressively told ways to make their pancakes healthier.
So I acknowledged all of this. I stepped back. I decided what I want to eat & how I want to feed my family. I decided to stop paying attention to media that makes me feel “less than” because of my food.
I Believe in Balance & Individuality
So I staked my claim in the world of veg bloggers. I started Sweet VegTable.
I certainly root for and support my friends who feel satisfied, satiated and truly happy eating lots of kale, never miss pulled pork and have eliminated all sugar from their food.
But as Amy Poehler says, “Good for her, not for me”.
I’m here for us regular parents who pack lunches, get hangry, have to create dinner with frozen veggies, love tacos, and are doing our best.
How To Have a Relaxed Vegan Lifestyle (or Vegetarian, or Pescatarian, or Tacotarian)
1. Own Your Herbivore. Name it. Own it. Be ok with it. Don’t apologize for it, and don’t be defensive when other people don’t understand it. If you have that friend who always tries to debate about scallops with you, just laugh it off. A casual shrug and “eh, it works for me!” usually works fine.
2. Love Your Food. Don’t spend years eating something you don’t like: not a salad person? Who cares! Don’t spend years eating a fake version of something you love: If you want a taco, make or order a damn good taco! For me, Torchy’s in Denver makes a fried avocado taco that is everything. You deserve to dig into a savory bowl of Indian curry, or throw something saucy & spicy on the grill sometimes. Life is too short to never make yummy noises when you take a bite. Maybe not every meal is that good, but you should be on the hunt for foods that are!
3. Accept Your Family. If your spouse is not open to going veg, be ok with it. Prioritize your relationship with them over the food they choose. If they are working on a health issue, begin vegan isn’t the only solution. There are ways to eat more plants and reduce meat, without going veg. As parents, we can make choices for our kids in their best interests. But I personally didn’t decide for my child to be “veg”. Sometimes she eats tofu & beans, sometimes she likes having some of daddy’s grilled steak. She sees me talk about and enjoy veg food. She helps me cook and we talk about nutrition, health, plants, life, and unicorns. I love my family and want them to be their best, so forcing and judging won’t accomplish that.
4. Representation Matters. If the image you see of vegans and vegetarians makes you feel left out, find some new folks to follow! There are Black vegans, Mexican vegans, LGBTQ vegans, vegan moms with littles tummies to feed, and so many more.
5. Find Your Sweet Spot. Your physical health and nutrition are important. Keep experimenting to find the veggies, fruits, proteins, whole grains and nutritious meals that you genuinely enjoy. BUT, do not sacrifice your mental and emotional health in pursuit of nutrition.
6. Does A System Work For You? If tracking steps and meals and calories makes you feel motivated, confident and happy: do that! If tracking steps and meals and calories makes you feel restricted, judged or like eating something without tracking it: stop doing that!
7. Trust Your Gut: At present, we’ve had lots of impromptu dinner parties with friends… with lots of burger buns, adult beverages and sweets. I can tell the difference in how my body feels. So rather than shaming myself as I used to, I’m just steering myself back towards green smoothies for breakfast, a veggie-based lunch without bread, and a fast afternoon walk.
You can be your own kind of herbivore, in a way that works best for your real life, your unique body, your awesome family and your tastebuds!
Let me know in the comments below what helps you let go of comparison and find contentment with YOUR food? I’d love to chat!
Listen to my podcast interview at Corporate School Dropout to learn more about the vision I have for Sweet VegTable & being of service to YOU!
* I’m in remission now! Turns out, chemo – not carrot juice – wins at beating cancer. 🤷🏼♀️