A close friend of mine recently asked me this question, “if the whole point of veganism is to stop eating animal based foods, why would you even want to eat, for example, vegan sour cream?”. My friend was curious about vegan food alternatives to meat, egg, and dairy and their place in a vegan diet. I took no offense to her question because, I’ll be honest, this was a question I once asked myself when I first started on my vegan journey. There was a sense of hypocrisy in admitting that I still loved the taste of animal based foods, even after having made the connection between the inherent cruelty behind these foods and my consumption of them. It’s true that I often thought I should stop eating foods that remotely resembled animal based products in order to feel more aligned with my newly rediscovered values. However, then I realized that without these alternatives I may have never successfully transitioned to veganism in the first place and most importantly eating these “mock” animal foods was more aligned with my values than any of my past food choices had ever been. Wasn’t that the point?
When I first decided to change my eating habits, I found that discovering vegan cheeses and vegan meats made the transition less daunting and offered me comfort. Yes, I no longer wanted to contribute to the deaths of millions of animals daily, but I could admit that I still enjoyed cheese on a pizza and fried eggs for breakfast on Sunday mornings. So, when I found cruelty free alternatives to these once loved flavors and textures I realized that changing my food choices away from the status quo was totally doable and, hello, enjoyable! I also realized that in reality there wasn’t any inherent hypocrisy in the creation of these alternatives. Vegan dairy, egg products, and meats are not a bastardized version of their animal based counterparts, they are simply the same products using a different base, plants. Vegan cheeses, for example, are created using the same bacterial culturing process as dairy cheese, only at their base is plant based milks. Vegan meats, the word meat actually just meaning the part of something that can be eaten, simply recreates a foodstuff that’s full of textures and flavors reminiscent of cooked animal flesh without the need to actually kill any animals. In essence, these vegan products are by no means necessary to a vegan or plant-based lifestyle; but they are simply welcomed additions that make it easier to abstain from food choices that cause much harm in a society that’s still very reliant on these animal based products.
I have always loved this saying, “progress, not perfection”. I think that it’s so appropriate when we talk about the vegan movement and how we go about making changes in ourselves and promoting changes in others. If I would have drawn a hard line in the sand and stopped using vegan meats, cheeses, and egg products when I initially transitioned, I probably would have given up my first month. Seriously, finding vegan parmesan cheese to add to my spaghetti that first week was like a little sign from the heavens that I’d be ok and I could make this change. It may seem overly dramatic, I know, but it’s those little things that can help you make a big change in your life and, more importantly, help you stick with it. Now a days, I use less of these vegan products and I simply cook more whole plant foods, but it took me a while to get there. So, the takeaway is, YOU’RE NOT A HYPOCRITE BECAUSE YOU EAT ANIMAL PRODUCT ALTERNATIVES! You’re just human. As a mental health therapist, I can tell you that one of the steps of making any change is finding a positive alternative to the habit or behavior you’re trying to change. So, if you ask me, I’m grateful to the vegan gods for giving me a cruelty free alternative to cheese #LoL. It made all of the difference in my change process.
What vegan product, if any, made the difference for you? Let me know in the comments section below!