There are a number of reasons why people choose to adopt a plant-based diet- environment and sustainability, animal welfare, or maybe personal health. I did it for all of the above. The amount of pollution caused by meat and dairy farming and processing is enormous, and conventional farming practices are very inhumane. Lastly, I have been lactose-intolerant for quite a while now, so it was pretty easy to make the leap from flexitarian to flexi-vegan.
I really admire those who are strict vegans and the barriers they have crossed in order to adopt that kind of lifestyle. However, when I first started this journey, I decided to sit down and really take a look at why I am doing this and what my goals were. To make a long explanation short, I decided to call myself a “flexi-vegan”, meaning that I eat mostly vegan (especially when making my own meals), but have some flexibility when it comes to family gatherings, vacations, and eating out with my friends. I will also try to eat food that is going to go to waste, whether it is vegan or not.
The biggest role player in the decision to be flexible was my family. My family is Chinese, and a lot of our traditions revolve around food. My mom is pretty old-fashioned and not really supportive of not eating meat. Family reunions also often involve relatives serving meat and putting it on my plate before I can say “no”. I have always been taught to eat what my relatives serve as a sign of politeness and respect.
Regardless of all this, I do try my very best to follow a vegan diet no matter what the situation. Most recently, I went on a few trips where I was able to find a vegan option for myself about 95% of the time. These are a few examples of things I ate when I visited San Diego in early January:
And these are pictures of a few vegan dim sum choices that I had when I was back in Salt Lake this past weekend visiting family for Chinese New Year. This definitely took some research beforehand. Dim sum is probably one of the hardest situations for vegans, as most dim sum choices contain meat or seafood. Asian desserts and breads also contain egg and dairy most of the time. Lastly, every chef and restaurant varies in the ingredients they use for some dishes, as well as the cooking method used. In my case, the dishes I chose were vegan based on some dim sum guides I read through on the internet. There is a chance there may have been some cross-contamination, but since I am not a strict vegan, I decided not to fret over it too much and just enjoy spending the time with my family. Strict vegans may want to call ahead and ask for the details of how these foods are cooked.
All these dishes are from Red Maple in Salt Lake City, UT. This is pretty much one of two places my family goes for dim sum, so I was already pretty familiar with which dishes were made with no meat.
Oh yes, you’ve probably noticed that some of those dishes are fried and not particularly healthy. A dietitian eating fried foods? What?!!!! It’s all about moderation! I actually only had half of a sesame ball and one of the deep-fried taro root.
While I was home, I also met up with a friend at Ugurt, a frozen yogurt shop frequented my students at my alma mater, the University of Utah. In my experience, most yogurt and ice cream shops carry one flavor of non-dairy sorbet. I only had one choice, but it was delicious!
One final note: Whether you are vegetarian, a flexi-vegan like myself, a strict vegan, or on any sort of special diet, vacations and social gatherings will be hard. Depending on how strict your diet is, do your best to plan ahead for special accommodations. The way you eat is very important, but participating in family gatherings and outings with friends is also important! Look at your individual goals and reasons for being vegan, and balance it out with other aspects of your life. Being flexi-vegan works best for my individual situation, but your situation is going to be different.
In other news, I made these amazing blueberry sweet rolls from Amy’s Healthy Baking a few days ago! I ate these for breakfast five days in a row, and never got sick of them!