Young Professionals Sarah Day Owen.

Sarah Day Owen.

Sarah Day Owen: Eating vegan can be a challenge

Published on January 21st, 2014 | by Sarah Day Owen

It was midnight on a recent Saturday, and I wanted pizza. Specifically, the cheddar on spicy at Fong’s. So I ordered a couple of slices with a friend for our last stop of the night.

And it was delicious. But its cheesy goodness was a bit out of line with my goal to try to eat vegan in January. There were some logical exceptions I set in advance, like when family visited or eating food in my fridge that would go to waste otherwise. Not on the list: Late night snacks. Oops.

Particularly toward the beginning of the year, it seems, we talk a lot about food preferences: Vegetarian, Paleo, eating “clean.” Sometimes it’s used as a descriptor in an Instagram bio box for fun or sometimes that preference declaration is how someone identifies who they are.

Perhaps it shows the level it has reached with social media saturation, but I’ve spotted a few backlash posts, essentially frustrated with others using social media for food preference posts like a badge of honor.

I’m certainly guilty of Instagramming a lot of vegan food (but it’s so multi-colored and pretty!), and now I’m writing about it. But so far it’s been a learning experience.

Food is complicated. When addressing food from a thoughtful standpoint, I should mention the most important issue: There are those in our state who don’t have the luxury of preferential food choices. Even in Iowa, the Food Research and Action Center estimates 14.4 percent of Iowa households are food insecure. I appreciate that I’m privileged to afford more expensive and fresher foods.

Food is also the fuel for your body. I decided to try to challenge myself to eat mostly vegan as part of my strategy to create some good habits. I’ve eaten pescatarian since 2009 to be healthier, but I still eat more fried and cheesy foods than I should.

As I write this about 20 days into my attempt, here’s some of what I’ve learned:

First: According to PETA’s “accidentally vegan” list, Pillsbury Crescent Rolls are vegan. So are plain Lay’s potato chips. Up to you if that’s defeating the purpose.

It’s much more difficult to eat vegan than vegetarian. I find it’s pretty easy to not eat meat at most of the restaurants in Des Moines. When eating vegan, there are a few delicious vegan meals I’ve had at Centro, Tacopocalypse, New World Cafe and Gusto Pizza, but it’s vastly more limited when omitting dairy or eggs.

Read 5 vegan-friendly places I’ve found here

Food, and the pleasurable creations you can find on local menus, is good. But simplifying and making healthier choices is good, too. As I explore some of the connections with faith and spirituality with food, it’s interesting how many religions link fasting or omitting certain foods to gain spiritual rewards.

Discipline is exponential. As I became more thoughtful about food, other good habits like getting up early or exercising became easier.

With less than 10 days left, I probably won’t eat as much only-vegan food when the calendar turns to February. But I’ve found some new easy ways to get veggies in my diet and feel a little more zen by simplifying that part of my life. And cut the vegans some slack on social media. It’s not easy, especially when those late-night slices are calling your name.

About the Author

Sarah is Editor of Juice Magazine. E-mail her at or follow her updates on Twitter @SarahDayOwen.

Back to Top ↑

buy local essay