Why I am 90% Vegan

Shubhangini
6 min readMay 25, 2021
Photo by Mert Guller on Unsplash

I was a quintessential self-proclaimed “animal lover” — someone who had done nothing to deserve that title except aww at cute animal videos and feed strays in her free time. It was only a matter of time that I realized the hypocrisy of my lifestyle.

I have always been passionate about the environment and like most self-involved humans I was convinced I was doing my best to lead a minimum waste creation life, an idea I had borrowed from my simple mother. And like everyone else, I too was too afraid to pursue the truth that deep down I knew would annihilate my ostensible love for animals and the environment. It is easy to sit back and laud David Attenborough’s deeply calming narration of a vivid scene in the wild and then go back to eating ghee laden paneer parathas.

Fortunately, one of my friends turned Vegan. Oh how he did a 360 degree flip from being a die hard biryani lover to dissing ghee. His constant pursuit to convert everyone around him was an ordeal at first but a curious case nonetheless. What must be the enlightening truth that triggered such a switch in him in matters none of faith kept nagging me in the background. In my pursuit to quench that thirst I uncovered facts about my food that I couldn’t have imagined. I had been one to justify my meat eating by the common food chain argument but was appalled to know the amount of torture and cruelty involved in not just my food but other trivial parts of life I didn’t need made from innocent blood. Silk, natural paintbrushes, pearls, and leather were items of aesthetics and failed the food chain survival argument.

Dairy, for me was the most shocking and certainly the most challenging to imagine parting with. The thought of never having “real” cheese and cold coffee again was unnerving.

The thought of never being able eat the food you love is one of the biggest deterrents to people trying veganism despite the awareness.

Critical thinking and theories on habit building in particular helped me understand how a more sustainable solution to this: ‘something is better than nothing’. Since it is not a matter of faith but of mindful living so it made sense to build a more mutually comfortable relationship with Vegan food instead of forcing myself to jump in it head first and label food as good or bad which would in turn make it difficult to last. Every single step, no matter how small, is adding some positive value to the environment.

Labelling food as good and bad and following an All-Or-Nothing approach often than not leads to relapses

With this thought and determination I started my journey.

Having grown up in a quintessential Indian household with a vegetarian mother I knew that quite a few of my meals were unintentionally close to vegan. I began by categorizing my meals into 3:
1. Vegan: Beans, Lentils, Rice, Roti etc.
2. Almost Vegan which included otherwise vegetarian food with hints of non-vegan items such as ghee/butter on parathas
3. Strictly Non Vegan which included the obvious culprits such as cold coffee, mutton curry, paneer, cheese sandwich, omelet

I used this to roughly calculate the number of my meals that were currently vegan and it came out to be roughly 30%. (I understand it is not the most relevant metric but it was my way of measuring progress)

I devised a plan and here is my week wise journey:

Week 1: Go 50% Vegan

Picked up the low hanging fruits from the ‘Almost Vegan’ category and made them fully vegan:

These simple changes although not very valuable, gave me a sense of accomplishment and confidence to go stronger.

Week 2 & 3: The idea was to now move to the big ticket changes slowly

Reducing meat consumption frequency by 50% wasn’t too difficult for me, however dairy, dairy was my Achilles heel.

Anyone who knows me would know how I’d die for cheese and couldn’t last one Indian meal without curd. I also needed my morning cold coffee to start the day and loved gorging on homemade paneer dishes.

I started by replacing paneer with tofu but didn’t quite like the taste of the store bought one. So I looked around and discovered a local brand that delivers fresh Tofu in Delhi. This turned out to be one of my best decisions as even my friends and family tasted it and thought it was Paneer. What also helped me convert my parents was the realization that despite having lower protein content Tofu packs 0 cholesterol and half the calories in the same amount as paneer, is lower in fats and higher in essential vitamins and iron.

Note: Tofu packs 6–17gm of protein depending on the brand’s manufacturing process

Week 4: Mission milk and curd

I usually only had milk in my morning coffee so I decided to experiment with vegan milk. I tried quite a few but I liked almond milk the best. For people who like their milk flavoured, GoodMylk has a chocolate vegan milk so good that even my dairy loving boyfriend couldn’t tell it from the real one.

Having come such a long way, cutting back on curd was more of a natural transition as my body stopped craving dairy as much. But for those few times that it did, my vegan friend’s peanut curd recipe came in handy.

At this point I had managed to ensure roughly 80% vegan meals in the week. Now the goal was to see if I could cook delicious vegan fast food meals and replace cheese.

Week 5 & 6: Reduce cheat meals

Most of my infrequent cheat meals were usually cheeseburgers or pizza because those were ostensibly difficult to replicate in taste if made vegan. I took this as a challenge and found a game changing burger recipe online that passed the taste test with flying colours. Those scrumptious mushroom patties with Worcestershire sauce managed to fool even my father who could tell a meaty cheeseburger from a fake in a heartbeat.

For cheese alternatives, Live Yum’s mozzarella shreds are sufficiently tasty and I initially used to mix it with half “real” mozzarella until I gradually got accustomed to its taste. Nutritional yeast is another life saver that tastes umami and is highly vitamin rich.

2021 is an easy time to be vegan. There are fantastic cheese alternatives available online and I’ve recently spotted upcoming gourmet brands that promise superior taste and quality.

There is a very popular myth that vegans don’t get sufficient protein. That is far from reality as one can get 100% of RDA from plant based protein sources such as soya, beans, lentils, tofu, broccoli, cashews, peas.

The only difficult to replace vitamin is B12 which although found in nutritional yeast, mushrooms and spirulina can be difficult to maintain. That too has easy supplements these days. For other nutrients, a simple Google search will tell you its natural sources and supplements.
(Here’s a Healthline article on Vegan nutrients and supplements https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-supplements-for-vegans)

Tip: It is a good idea to get blood levels tested for deficiencies and mindfully include relevant plant based foods in your diet

Results and Tailwinds:

My journey started 3 months ago and I am still at a 90% vegan count as I allow myself a few cheat meals once in a while like my dad’s lip smacking mutton curry.

This gradual reduction of cow hormones or what is commonly called dairy has reduced day to day bloating, improved my energy levels and have also helped with hormonal breakouts and menstrual pain. My taste buds also keep encouraging me to experiment with food and try out new recipes.

I have become more mindful about my non-food choices as well pursuing minimal waste creation.

My mind feels more sound and my heart lighter from knowing I can advocate for the environment without feeling like a hypocrite. I hope to attain 100% on this someday but I am taking it one sustainable step at a time.

End Note: Again emphasizing that ‘% vegan’ is not the most relevant metric but it was my way of measuring progress and helped me throughout.

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