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Meatless Monday: Transitioning from vegan to vegetarian, again

You are what you eat. 

Or rather, you’re often defined by what you eat. And for almost two years, I’ve been the resident vegan. And it was a good run. 

I ended that run a few weeks ago as I transitioned back to vegetarianism. I was vegetarian more than 10 years before I switched to veganism, so introducing dairy back into my system slowly but surely has been relatively smooth. 

To recap, a vegan is someone who abstains from all meat and dairy products: no honey, no milk, no eggs, nothing derived from an animal. A vegetarian doesn’t eat meat, but will have dairy or eggs or both, depending on personal choices. 

It wasn’t an easy choice to make, but I made the change back because: 

  • I was tired. I knew I wasn’t getting the nutrients I needed after trying a lot of different things. I was grouchy and often felt lethargic. It was time to listen to my body and what it needed. 
  • I wasn’t eating balanced. I’ve had my own issues with food in the past. As a vegan, I was finding it too easy to skip a meal, or eat the same thing for dinner for a week. I didn’t have much variety in my diet and that’ll catch up with you. We need a variety of nutrients in our diet and a diverse selection of foods so we don’t burn out. 
  • I felt like I was often eating a science project. Vegetarian and vegan meat and cheese replacements are good for those who miss the real thing, but in moderation. I love eating natural foods and with the replacements I was eating, I’d often look at the ingredients and not know what I was putting in my body. 

A few weeks in, it’s still weird picking up eggs at the grocery store or getting a carton of milk. I made the switch after a lot of research, finding new recipes to slowly incorporate dairy into my diet and with a lot of support from friends and family. If you’re thinking about making the switch or are veg-curious, here’s my advice: 

  • Go slow. After staying away from certain foods for a prolonged period of time, your body falls into a rhythm. Breaking that rhythm can be a shock to the system. Try a serving of food at one meal and slowly work your way up to what is right for your diet. 
  • Do your homework. Find recipes to help with the transition before you make the switch and research how other people made the switch. Anticipating any issues before they happen is a good way to make the switch in a healthy way. 
  • It’s all about balance. Don’t go overboard with certain foods to get your nutrients. Everything is OK, but in moderation. 
  • You can still eat responsibly. Making the switch has made me fall back in love with cooking and finding new food items. When I was a child, I went vegetarian for personal reasons and now that I’m older and have experience with being a vegan under my belt, I feel more confident making responsible choices before I eat. That is, it’s exciting to find locally produced, sustainably farmed food from our own community. This goes for meat eaters, vegetarians and vegans. 

Each time we eat, we make a statement about who we are and what we believe in. Beyond being the token “vegetarian,” “vegan” or however you eat, find a balance of what works for you even if it doesn’t fit neatly into one label. 

Follow digital producer Danielle Waldron on Twitter @DanielleWaldron

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