Recently I celebrated three glorious years of being a healthy, energetic vegan. My idea was to post something on fb or Instagram to share the benefits I have experienced first hand and to encourage others to try it out. I had thought about the caption and the photo, the hashtags and the glitter. However, I didn’t do any of it. The fact is that most of the people in my life are omnivores, some are vegetarians and flexitarians and less than a handful, vegan.
Fear of not having an impact stopped me. This is usually the case whenever I experience self-doubt. On the other hand, I also want to share my vegan journey and help others who might be going through similar challenges.
So here are 5 ongoing challenges that I face after being vegan for three years:
1- Airline meals and eating at airports - The options I find at airports are usually very limited, even in big ones across the United States. Available vegan-friendly snacks are usually trail mixes and granola bars, but when you’re in need of a warm meal, the choices are slim. As for flying, getting a good and satiating meal is a hit or miss sometimes and, there are many airlines that don’t offer vegan meals (VGML) at all.
2- Holiday gatherings and potlucks - For some time now, the holidays are for me a beautiful season to celebrate. I start planning fun get togethers way in advance, order my special ingredients for the season, light candles around the house and wear my favorite sweater and thick socks for a hygge time. However, when it is time to go to someone’s home, I feel anxious and a bit awkward. The reason? Food. Most of the food we consume during the holidays is heavy on dairy and meat products. Being usually the only vegan in the room is uncomfortable. Depending on the hosts, they might also feel that way if they are not aware of your dietary restrictions or cannot offer a plant-based meal.
3- Skepticism and Confrontation - There have been a few times in which I’ve had to keep quiet and pretend to find “funny” the silly jokes people are saying about vegans and the way we eat. It is hard not to react or defend your values when you’re with a large group of people. An exercise on patience and self-control is what it is at the end of the day. The less I take those and any comments seriously, the less bothered I am, but that’s not how I feel all the time.
4- Finding cruelty-free and vegan everyday beauty products - Depending on where you live, finding essential toiletries like shampoo, body lotion, skincare, toothpaste and make up that are not made with animal products or derivatives can be a challenge. And if you do find them, they’re usually sold at exorbitant prices. I have seen small vegan organic shampoos sold at $20.
5- Limited Time for Food Prep - A quick bite for omnivores and vegetarians is easy: bread, cheese, another slice of bread and in it goes. When I have not prepared any snacks or food in advance, it takes me longer to come up with something quick to eat. Meanwhile I’m hungry and cranky. Some people would choose nuts, but I don’t always feel satiated or in the mood for nuts. Chips are an option, but I’d rather eat healthier even if it means I have to wait longer (poor husband!).
With these challenges, I have also found some coping tools that help when I find myself in the those situations. I hope they help you too!
These are 5 tools I have found along the way to the challenges of being a vegan
1- When traveling - Order your meals in advance and bring vegan-friendly snacks with you on the flight - Qatar Airways is an airline that has a very agreeable menu. Turkish Airlines also offers VGMLs. In my latest flights I have brought energy balls, seed crackers, chocolate. Here’s a useful video on vegan travel snacks ideas for your next trip.
2-When socializing - Bring your favorite dishes to parties and gatherings. We’ve all heard this, right? But I can't tell you how much this has helped me when I’ve been to gatherings where everything contains milk (even the crackers!). There might not be another option available, so having something you know its vegan will help you enjoy your time.
3- When encountering antagonistic views - Share how positive the shift has been for you without trying to convince anyone. Speak only from your own experience. Have you learned new recipes or ways to cook? Talk about what you have discovered. If it gets too uncomfortable, change the topic if you feel people are not getting the hint. The same goes for when you. I can tell you I have been preachy several times and people start looking away. Yikes! I’m still learning!
4- When needing vegan personal items - Stock up on your favorite products before travelling or recolating. To me, the best solution is to buy those products when I travel or when I spend some time in the US. Recently I tried this fantastic brand called CoZi Skincare , completely vegan and cruelty-free and made without additional fragrances. Some of the luscious ingredients they use are: blueberry oil, papaya, chamomile, açaí berry and white and green tea extracts. My skin was having a feast (and so was my nose!) If you’re able to order them online, try getting them in bulk. If unable, research what options you have in the local market.
5- When hangry - This is still a difficult one for me, but here are two quick and simple ideas with ingredients you already have in your pantry. This apple bites recipe was created by my favorite vegan nutritionist, Sadia Badei from Pick Up Limes. Simply spread nut butter on a sliced apple and top it with granola. Another option is preparing this super easy Sweet Sustenance Smoothie by the fabulous Kris Carr. Tip: Add chia seeds and pecans when you blend it and you’ll be delighted (and full) ! You can also keep store bought goodies like protein balls, crunchy chickpeas, roasted edamame and nori chips to help you grab something on the go.
I hope you find these tools useful and that realizing that having a plan for your meals and for those awkward situations can help us cope with whatever presents itself in a better way. We can’t change how others live and feel, but we can certainly lead by example and try to be as kind and smart as we can.
What about you? What are some challenges you have found since starting your vegan journey? Are you someone who would like to switch to this lifestyle and can relate to the situations we’ve talked about today? Would love to hear your thoughts.
Thank you for being here.