First Year On Plant – Why I No Longer Call Myself a Vegan

Last year, on May 16th, I decided to become a vegan or switch to an all plant-based diet. You can find the reason and how I did it in my other blog post, How I Quit Chicken To Become A Vegan. To be honest, I doubted I’d be able to write this given my history of trying every diet known to mankind but not sticking with them long-term, let alone a year. But I did it guys (well, sort of, but I’ll expound on that later) and I thought I should provide an update.

It was very challenging for me, especially in the first few months. I thought keto was hard, then I tried becoming vegan and realized the word hard is not enough to adequately describe the experience. Never before had I ever been this conscious of what I put in my mouth.  My food choices had dramatically reduced, and I had to be very careful about what I bought so I wouldn’t accidentally consume animal products.

Because it isn’t just about avoiding eating meat or seafood, vegans don’t consume dairy and eggs too. It didn’t help that unlike Vietnamese food [Forced Healthy Eating in Vietnam], the Filipino cuisine is not exactly what I’d call “vegan-friendly”; we like meat and put eggs, milk, and animal seasonings (bbq flavor) in most of our foods.

For this reason, I stopped buying bread as most were made with eggs and milk, and some even had cheese. I couldn’t buy chips because when you read the labels, even when they didn’t have animal products in the ingredients, they were still prepared in factories that also process other products with eggs or dairy. When you’re a vegan, that’s a no-no; at least, that’s what I found out from joining a vegan Facebook group. Those vegans are so religious that they’d be upset if the food were cooked using the same oil where animal products had been cooked, e.g., french fries cooked in the same oil where they made fried chicken.

From May up until October, I was a faithful vegan. Before purchasing from groceries and stores, I always checked the label. Most of the time, I bought my supplies from vegan-friendly shops and I cook at home. I also made an effort to buy cruelty-free products, such as shampoo, face serums, cosmetics, etc.

The streak was broken when I went to Baguio in November [Baguio Travel Requirements]. It was my first real travel after becoming vegan. Only a few establishments were offering plant-based options in Baguio so going on a food trip—one of the best activities to do when traveling—became stressful for me. Moreover, I felt embarrassed as my travel companions always had to make adjustments for my sake whenever we went out to eat.

When we had a lunch at Oh My Gulay and the pasta I ordered was served with loads of parmesan cheese on top, I had no choice but to just eat it. I could have sent it back to the kitchen and have it remade, but then it was an oversight on my end when I failed to inform them to not put cheese in it.

Since that trip, I stopped being a strict vegan. It means I no longer stop myself from eating food with eggs and dairy, but I still eat mostly vegetarian/vegan-friendly food. I don’t eat meat and seafood, and I stick to it. But because I don’t eat meat and rarely consume dairy, I take Vitamin B12 for my protein needs. 

I still refuse to take dairy and eggs directly; I consume them after they’ve been processed or if they happen to be part of the ingredients of a food, such as cake, pizza, and pastry. When visiting cafes, I always ask for plant-based milk like soy, almond, or oat for my lattes.

I buy vegan frozen food from Vegan Treats Manila for my daily meals. They have an array of yummy and cheap vegan versions of food that I grew up eating, like sausage, corned beef, and sisig, so I don’t feel like I’m missing out or depriving myself of delicious food.

Sometimes, when I travel, I bring my food. My favorites are the Swift Unmeat products; tapa, tocino, sausage, and chicken nuggets.

Vegan/Vegetarian Recommendations

I often Google about vegan restaurants and cafes so when I go out or travel, I know where to go for nourishment. Some of the vegan/vegetarian-friendly places that I discovered and could recommend are the following:

Wabi-Sabi Noodle HouseIt’s a noodle house and vegetarian grocery so if you’re missing ramen (as I did), this is where you go.

Recommendation: Tantamen ramen and Siopao
Makati Central Square, Makati
The Sexy Kitchen by BWho says vegans can’t enjoy Korean grill-style dining anymore? If you’re missing “samgyeopsal” this is where you go.

Recommendation: Plant-based samgyupsal (P799)
Makati Central Square, Makati
Green BarThe food here is on the pricey side.

Recommendation: Barbacoa street tacos, Cupcakes, Doughnuts
Legaspi Village, Makati
Capri Island Vegan CafeThis cafe is owned by a friend. It has the perfect ambiance and you can find it on the roof deck of a building.

Recommendation: Binagoongan with lechon kawali, Organic salad mix, Brownie
San Pedro, Laguna
Heaven on EarthThe only vegetarian/vegan carinderia that I know is in Baguio City. The dishes here are delicious and cheap.

Recommendation: Kangkong chips, Bopis
Ili-likha Artists’ Village and Abanao Square, Baguio City
Shaka CafesThe popular smoothie and juice bar in Siargao opened a branch in BGC. The food here is pricey.

Recommendation: Latte with oat milk, Pad Thai
Burgos Circle, BGC
Clean Cafe by Soul KitchenIt has a nice ambiance and accommodating staff. Coffee leaves much to be desired though.

Recommendation: Spirulina pesto pasta
The Compound, Matina, Davao
CosmicThe first vegan restaurant I’ve ever tried remains to be one of my favorites. The food is cheaper than most vegan restos in Metro Manila.

Recommendation: Kare-kare with bagnet, Sisig, Pancit hab-hab
Poblacion, Makati and Kapitolyo, Pasig

And here are the establishments that offer a few vegan options:

  • Starbucks – try the plant-based lasagna and mince roll
  • Burger King – try the plant-based x-tra long chicken
  • Glasshouse Coffee – try the caramel latte with oat milk (Davao)

Final Thoughts

So why I no longer call myself vegan? It’s because I’m not. Vegans don’t consume dairy and eggs, but I do albeit indirectly. Even so, I still don’t eat meat and seafood as I mentioned above. Thus, the more appropriate label for me is vegetarian or a person who is on a plant-based diet.

I also met some “vegan gatekeepers” and I don’t want to be associated with them. These are the vegans who would make you question your every purchasing decision and make wonder if you’re a vegan at all. They like to call out people who are trying to live this lifestyle but have made purchases or done something that in their opinion, violated veganism. I wish I’m kidding but I swear they exist.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that they’re doing this out of passion of protecting animals, but they also make the attempt of doing this lifestyle quite stressful. Instead of encouraging, some of them can be quite condescending. Since my health is the primary reason I turned vegan, not the animals, some people in this community may think that I don’t have a good enough advocacy to do this lifestyle. One can argue that we all have different reasons to be vegan and they are all acceptable, but some people just don’t have similar beliefs. So instead of having to tiptoe around their sensitivities or engage them in tiring debates, I’d rather just call myself a vegetarian.

But I also met kind-hearted vegans and I love them. They are very encouraging and welcoming and they won’t shame you for choices should you fall off the wagon. This is how I want to be seen; I want to inspire instead of guilt people into switching to this diet. When people are interested to know more, I gladly provide them the information. Whether they want to be vegan or not is their decision. I just want them to know that should they ever want to take this path, I’m here to help them.

I’d be a hypocrite if I said that I don’t miss chicken or fish anymore; I still do. And I cannot predict the future; I can’t tell for sure if I’d be a vegetarian forever and I don’t want to eat my words in the end. But now, I can honestly say that I like being a vegetarian, especially when it hasn’t negatively affected my health. Physically, I feel good; I have a lot of stamina, do workouts regularly, and never feel like I don’t have enough energy to complete a routine. I even do HIIT and weight training most of the time.

Who knows what will happen in the future but for now, I don’t plan on going back to consuming meat, at least not in the near future. Let’s see if I’m still singing the same tune next year. I hope I still do.

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