Being Vegan in a Non-Vegan World
Life As An Involuntary-Vegan
Being vegan in a non-vegan world can be rough. Living in Los Angeles, I have been blessed with a wide variety of vegan foods due to up and coming health trends. That said, it is hard going to a restaurant and having any sort of restriction.
It’s much easier and better received to say, “I’ll have the BBQ chicken salad please” than it is to say, “I have an allergy to gluten and dairy so can I please have the BBQ chicken salad but with no chicken, no bacon, no eggs, and substitute ranch for balsamic vinaigrette.” See my point?
While this may be true, you should never feel ashamed of being vegan. People can be vegan for many reasons, and you do not have to feel that you need to justify to anyone why you are or inversely, why you aren’t vegan.
So, my first tip to being vegan in a non-vegan world is to never let anyone’s disapproving glance get the best of you. People make assumptions as to why one has dietary restrictions, and you cannot take those personally. You must keep your head held high and order exactly what you want and how you want it. This is your body that you are fueling and you do not need to sacrifice your health for an onlooker’s approval.
My second tip to being vegan in a non-vegan world is always specifying that you cannot eat dairy. I have found that waiters and waitresses take the request more seriously if you tell them that you have an allergy to dairy, even if being vegan is a personal choice for you. Although I believe this is not mean hearted, people sometimes have the tendency to overlook requests that alter foods because they don’t think there is a substantial reason for doing so. If you don’t have an allergy to something or are conscious about a certain type of food, it can be hard for someone else to see the severity of your request.
Going off this tip, I always make sure to specify what ingredient in the meal I order has dairy in it. If you aren’t allergic or cautious of a certain food, it can be hard to identify what ingredients are in it. For example, although not vegan, a lot of people think that mayonnaise has dairy in it, when, in reality, it is dairy free. Also, if you are ordering a salad, make sure there is no cheese as well as specifying that you have a dairy allergy. It can be easy for waiters or waitresses to overlook ingredients like this and it is a lot of pressure to put on them to figure out which ingredients have dairy in them when you could easily say no cheese.
My fourth tip is to look up the menu of the restaurant you are going to prior to going. This way, you know if and what you will be able to eat and, if you are going with non-vegan friends, you will know your order before going so it is not as much of a struggle to find something to eat. Also, if you look at the menu before and realize that there are not a lot of options for you, you can always go somewhere new. You will completely dodge the chaos of realizing you cannot eat.
My fifth tip is to never be afraid to mix and match foods at a restaurant. What I mean by this is that a lot of meals are easily arrange-able. For example, when I get Mexican food, I always order a side of rice, a side of beans and veggies, guacamole, and corn tortillas. I make my own fajitas and usually have some left over for another meal. Although this isn’t exactly on the menu, I made my own meal with no hassle and had food for another meal. As a vegan, I love having leftovers because they make for super easy school lunches.
My sixth tip is to always carry around a snack. You never know when you will get hungry and as vegans we cannot just get fast food. Our options are much more limited and often take longer to prepare. Therefore, I always carry a packet of nuts or a granola bar with me in case I get hungry. Trader Joe’s has great pre-packaged nuts that make for a good snack.
So, those are my top six tips for being vegan in a non-vegan world. Although there are endless tips, I figured we’d start with six for now. I promise, one you get the hang of it, being vegan is not as hard as it may seem.
**Gabriella Resnick is an eighteen year old senior at de Toledo High School, and author of www.involuntaryvegan.com, who has been a vegan "not by choice" since 2015. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.