Plant Proud!

Just five years ago, I was mocking vegetarians and calling them stupid and pompous. So how did I get to this point?

After moving into my own apartment for the first time (and having my own personal kitchen!) going into my junior year of college, I began cooking and buying my own groceries. Because I was broke and didn’t know how to cook, meat rarely made it on my plate. For the first time in my life, meatless was my norm, and it didn’t bother me.

At Blossom in NYC for my 23rd birthday

Around the same time, I read Food Rules by Michael Pollan, who echoed those same environmental issues, but added another aspect to the equation: he provided compelling evidence that the American diet of daily and excessive meat consumption was contributing to our country’s health epidemic. So in January 2011, I decided to adopt the now infamous “flexitarian” diet, which I was going to enforce by allowing myself no more than one meal of meat a day.  I generally saved meat for social occasions, and I actually only had it a few times a week. This diet has been mocked recently and criticized, especially by true veg*ns, but I praise it. It was a beautiful gateway for me and helped me recognize the consequences of eating meat. After several days of being purely meatless, and often vegan, having a pulled pork sandwich or a slice of lasagna sent my body into torment. I realized the flexitarian lifestyle was pushing me forward and setting me up for a better life; it was up to me to make the commitment now.Interestingly, at the start of my junior year of college, I began dating a vegetarian. It freaked me out at first, but I was willing to work with it. After all, I hadn’t been eating much meat all summer! He told me he made the switch because Americans’ extreme rates of meat consumption made us reliable on CAFOs. Had he said that he did it simply for animal rights, I might have balked, but he appealed to the environmentalist and food activist in me: he pointed out the connection between meat consumption and the environment (read more here). How had I not seen the connection before?? What he said struck me at the very core of my being. Even though our relationship was short-lived, he left a huge impression; my interest in vegetarianism was piqued.

In less than a year, I made the full switch. It began as a month-long trial, but it felt so “right” that I decided to stick with it. I spent two years as a vegetarian (no beef, pork, chicken, or fish!) and almost vegan. I would eat vegan at home (with the exception of honey), but go vegetarian when eating out. In September of 2013, I finally committed to being plant-based. This switch has proven to be far more difficult than just going vegetarian, even in the open-minded city of NYC. I find myself accidentally eating traces of dairy and egg far too often for my liking, but I’m not giving up! I have absolutely no desire to eat cheese or scrambled eggs again (the smell is atrocious to me); now, I just need to convince my favorite restaurants to stop putting butter in everything.

I love animals, but my choice to go plant-based was more about being healthy and taking care of the environment.

Why honey?

I know I’ll receive some complaints for this, but that’s okay; I’ve put a lot of thought into it. I source my honey from local farmers and buy them directly from the farmer’s markets. Although sugar is sugar, I do think honey carries health benefits. For example, I have not suffered any seasonal allergies since incorporating *local* honey into my diet.

So what do you eat?!

First of all, no, I don’t ONLY eat oatmeal (but I do eat a lot of it).

Common meals:

Common snacks:

  • Hummus. Lots of hummus. My favorites are Trader Joe’s Mediterranean Hummus and Sabra’s Basil Pesto or Roasted Pine Nut Hummus and Tribe’s Lemon Rosemary Focaccia. I love hummus with pretzel thins/crisps/chips/whatever you prefer to call them.
  • My homemade & dairy-free mint chocolate chip ice cream (my secret recipe)
  • Banana & nut butter
  • Dark chocolate
  • Oranges
  • So much hummus…

How I eat out:

I live in NYC, so eating out is really easy. I’m also blessed with some GREAT friends who love (and sometimes prefer) to eat at vegan restaurants with me. I eat out pretty frequently, and at least 60% of the time, I’m at a vegan restaurant, so I can pretty much eat anything. Vegan New Yorkers have access to “chicken and waffles,” spicy “tuna” rolls, and BBQ “pork chops.” And they’re all crazy good.

All vegan:

Black Forest cupcake from Peacefood Cafe

Vegan burger from Cafe Ghia

Soy Buttermilk Biscuits Po’Boy from Sacred Chow

Southwest Chicken Salad from Champs

Fish fillet, mac and cheese, and sauteed broccoli from Seasoned Vegan

When I’m at an omni restaurant, this is what I do:

  • SUSHI. This is one of my favorite foods. Although I love sweet potato rolls and peanut-avocado rolls, most places will at least have an avocado roll, and I love those, too.
  • Veggie burger, as long as the waiter can confirm it’s not made with egg. I usually order it sans bun, just in case the bread has milk/egg in it.
  • Check out the salads. It’s easy to order salad “without cheese,” and salads in New York are dope. I’ve eaten so many incredible salads here.
  • Check out the appetizers. Most places have HUMMUS.
  • Check out the sides. One of my favorite dishes at a pub we frequent is roasted brussels sprouts. BRUSSELS SPROUTS, you guys!
  • Brunch is the hardest. I look for fruit cups, bagels, or home fries. Sometimes the granola is vegan. Many places will also serve lunch items like salads or veggie burgers that work, too.

Any questions? Don’t be afraid to ask! 🙂

About Lauren Smith

Lauren is a herbivore, Slytherin, and connoisseur of oats. She is a former teacher who is currently studying to earn a master's degree in curriculum development. You can follow her on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook.

3 Responses to Plant Proud!

  1. daisy says:

    how about fielding guests recipes for savoury oatmeal?

  2. janelle says:

    go Lauren!

    i love stories about happy vegans-flexitarians-vegetarians-pescatarians!!

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