Q: Hey Erika, I often wondered about becoming a vegetarian. In college I tried it but I still consumed dairy products. Anyway to make things short I’m actually thinking of trying the PETA 30-day challenge. Just wondering if you know of Black vegetarians?
A: Not only do they exist, but they write books about being Black vegetarians (or, in this case, vegans.)
I have long stretches of time where I desire absolutely no meat or dairy, and spend my days eating like a vegan. I have stretches of time where I spend my days eating like a raw vegan, where I don’t cook diddly squat. I just.. don’t want meat in my system. And, because protein (the primary thing most people whine about when it comes to vegetarians and vegans) is plentiful outside of animal by-product (regardless of what anyone else may tell you), I do just fine. (I also have random days where I require – yes, require – buffalo wings, and hell hath rain down upon he who denies me them.)
The choice to become vegetarian is a personal one and while we could talk about the pleasures of a vegetable-based diet, the benefits of having a diet that’s infused with veggies in place of meats and (not to mention) the animal rights aspect, I’m personally not going to do so. I don’t think that’s something that should be sold to you by a person with an agenda, and I don’t think it should be anyone’s task to sell you on something you need conviction to pursue. What I do think, however, is that you should do a lot of researching regarding how to make a meat-light or meat-free lifestyle one that works for you.
I also think that it should be noted that it is okay to eat meals that don’t include meat. I’m not sure where this “if there’s no meat, then its not a meal” mentality came from, but there are plenty of damned good meals out there that don’t include meat and will leave you feeling beyond satisfied. The meatless/meat-free lifestyle, when pursued with intent and effort, can be just as satisfying as any other, and it is backed by the fact that you not only know your stuff but you are fully comfortable with your decision… not just doing it to lose weight only to go back to eating meat once you’ve gotten the body you wanted. The more I read about my ancestors and their eating habits, the more I realize that, no, every meal didn’t have to have meat… partially because they couldn’t afford it back then but also because it was unnecessarily excessive. Meat at every meal nowadays is simply another form of excess we participate in in this country, and it should be made clear that we don’t have to eat like that.
I don’t say these things to frighten you or scare you off of vegetarianism, but I do say them so that anyone who wants to dabble in veggie-based lifestyles can make a choice that they’re comfortable living with. I shared my story of giving up red meat (for no other reason than that I simply didn’t want to eat it anymore) as a teen, and while it’s all jokes now, it was definitely war back then. Not just with my Mom, but with myself. It’s hard going against what you’ve always known – be it a meat-heavy lifestyle or a lifestyle that contributed to weight gain – but you absolutely can make it happen with intent and effort.
If you decide to do the PETA 30-Day Vegan Challenge, be sure to check out Bryant Terry’s Vegan Soul, which is a pretty dope cookbook. This way, if you get stuck, you’ll have a stash of flavorful recipes on hand to try. Best of luck to you in your endeavors, and remember that there’s tons of resources out there (and here!) if you need ’em.
Let her know, y’all – are you a Black vegetarian, vegan, pescetarian, pollotarian, non-omnivorous something, anything? If so, why? How’d you make the change? How has it affected you?
I also know a wonderful writer, Arielle Loren, has been doing an interview series with Black vegetarians and vegans at Frugivore Magazine:
I was a vegetarian for about 4 years about a decade ago. When I was told I was anemic and needed to get iron in my system as of yesterday, I went back to eating meat. I loved the discipline of the diet because it made me conscientious about what I ate and why. And, like you, Erika, my moms gave me a hard time about it, even though I was a young adult when I made the diet change. For Moms, she saw the diet as (yet another) rebuke to her ideas about Blackness.What somewhat softened her stance was that 1) she was a nurse and knew that a vegetarian diet was better relative to a meat-laden diet and 2) she knew my family’s medical history and eating habits and knew a vegetarian diet might be a way to stave off some of the nasty effects of both.
Nowadays, I find myself veering towards a mostly lacto-pescetarian diet. ::shrug::
I’m not a vegatarian/vegan at this point in my life. However, I have gradually went from eating all meats (including pork) as much as I want and when I wanted, to drastically reducing my pork intake (although it is not in my home, I may buy a sausage buscuit while I’m out or if someone has pork for dinner, I may or may not turn it down – I will be strong enough soon to not intake pork outside of my home either). When I buy meats, I make sure to include fish, chicken, and some beef. I appreciate salmon and talapia now. My son even likes talapia (and he doesn’t even know it’s not catfish! LOL – I guess my cooking has improved too!). There are times, not many right now, where we’ll cook bean and cheese tacos and they are very yummy. I’ve made an all veggie stir fry and if I just need protein, I’ll add black beans. Tasty. It’s not a lifestyle that I’m ready to fully incorporate on a daily basis; but I think it’s great to have a better diet. I hope you decide to do it. A lot of us black girls really do want to take better care of our bodies!!!
I am working on changing my diet/lifestyle to a more ovo/lacto- vegetarian/pescetarian one. Right now I am working on the logistic, what I’m going to replace meat with, how much processed soy do I want in my new diet, etc. For now I’m just sticking to a few meat free meals a day (usually breakfast and dinner). I have Bryant Terry’s cookbook and its wonderful. I think like any other lifestyle doing your research and having a contingency plan in key.
I go through periods in my life when I don’t feel like eating meat. This usually happens every summer when just thinking about it will get me sick (prob cause it’s too heavy for me).
I would like to cut down on the meat concumption in my family but I can only change myself, not them (even though I cook).
I totally understand that a meal doesn’t have to have meat in it. Meat is expensive these days, but if a person decides to give up all forms of animal products, it has to be for reasons they can live with.
Personally though, I don’t really see it as a big deal, just a person’s eating preference.
I’m not a vegan or vegetarian but one of my best friends has been a vegetarian for about 15 years now and my brother is a vegan/rawist, which he’s been for about 4 1/2 years now. So there are plenty of black vegans/vegetarians etc. Me personally I like fish/seafood too much and I can’t really do soy. It’s worse for me than milk based products.
I agree with Erika, the cookbook she recommended has been recommended to me on several occasions. One of my goals is to learn to cook more vegan/vegetarian meals, if nothing else for my brother and friend. I agree you don’t need meat at every meal. My only concern with vegan/vegetarian is/was the lack of flavor some places/people cook.
If you’re in LA try Real Food Daily’s, it’s a very popular vegan restaurant which is excellent. I LOVE it and as I’ve said I’m not vegan. They have a cook book too so those two cook books should be able to get you started. :O)
Good luck with whatever choice you make. And remember it is YOUR CHOICE. Don’t let anyone bully or push their agenda on you. (one reason I’m not a fan of PETA)
There’s also a wonderful social media site, SoulVegFolk.com, for black vegans, vegetarians, raw foodists, etc., that is definitely worth investigating.
Unfortunately that site doesn’t seem to exist anymore – what’s in its place is some sort of place holder that has nothing to do with vegetarianism. There use to be blackvegetarians.com but that too has gone away. There are some groups to be found on Facebook, ‘black vegans’ is one such community on FB.
I’m a black vegetarian and so is my best friend. We plan on becoming vegans when we are older. I became a vegetarian because I don’t like the processing in meats. I dont like the amount of water, people food (corn, soy,etc), and greenhouse gases that meat production requires/emits. I think the solution to hunger in the us and the world starts with reducing or eliminating meat comsumption. I also don’t like the acres of rainforest we lose everyday for meat production. And I’m a body builder so I need more protein and less fat. Meat has too much fat and cholesterol in relation to its protein content. I also like to eat a large quanity of food and the calories and fat in meat restrict me.
Having become more environmentally conscious these past several years, I love to see how eco-consciousness and some sort of vegetarianism are usually tied together. I have been a pescetarian for about 16 years. Last year I decided to take a nutrition class and even though I was obviously aware that there are a lot of starving people in this world, and I knew a lot of the methane pollution has been linked to livestock, I was surprised to learn just how much land is devoted to feeding these animals on factory farms.
The crazy part is that this is food that these animals shouldn’t really be eating anyway AND, as you said, this land would be of much better use feeding HUMAN BEINGS!!! This is so disturbing to me that on one hand there is such a HUGE epidemic of obesity and morbid obesity, and on the other there are still so many people in the world that don’t have enough food! It’s just crazy!!!
I also would like to suggest that anyone that is becoming more eco-conscious &/or dipping into less meat consumption/vegetarianism check out GreenFestivals.org. I have been going every year for the last several years and it’s a great way to learn more about both subjects as well as try out some local vegetarian fare small plates, and natural products!
First let me say Erika, I LOVE your blog and I wish I had found it when I started my Journey back in February. I had ups and downs but I’ve lost 40 pounds so far. ^_^ Anyways back to the topic at hand. I notice that I can go days eating like a Veggie or Vegan. They have this Vegan Restaurant by Campus. I love to go by their some days since I’m a grad student on the go and it much better alternative than the other junk they have around campus. (I’m trying to make habit of bringing my own food I made at home now) They offer cooking classes that I would like to try out as well. Also like you I do have my random meat cravings but mostly the meat I eat is chicken or seafood I’ve all but done away with Red meat except when I really want some bacon.
I am a semi-vegetarian (the only meats I eat are seafood and poultry) and I am slowly working my way towards vegetarianism. I have wanted to be for a while and have tried numerous times to go “cold turkey” but it never really worked. I find now that if I allow myself to eat the meat products that I like, or go on a meal by meal basis, it’s less pressure on me if i do eat meat. My partner is a vegetarian and he helps me out a good deal too by giving suggestions for plant based protein when I need some in my life. There ARE Black vegetarians and don’t let anyone stop you from becoming one if that’s what you want to do. Just know your reasons, because you will probably get some backlash if your family is anything like mine 🙂
*Raises hand* I’m vegetarian! And I agree completely with you Erika, it is a personal decision. As I tell people, what’s more important than being vegetarian is being healthy. If your reader does decide to do that challenge, I would encourage her to stay away from the “prepackaged vegan meals,” but then again, if she follows your blog that probably goes without saying…..
And I just bought Vegan Soul (my last purchase from Borders). I haven’t cooked any of the recipes yet, but I’m looking forward to trying a few soon, they all sound so good
I’m a vegetarian, almost vegan but I cannot give up the greek yogurt. I seriously feel like i will die without it lbvvs lol! I joined weight watchers earlier this year and with most of their fruits and veggies being zero points, it started me on my way to eating healthier. However, I still loved the meat and ate way more than I needed to. I’ve always dreamed of living a natural, healthy, green, bohemian lifestyle and decided that I would be living my dream by the time I turned 40 (Nov of this yr). I also live in the country and am now surrounded by, and actually own, most the animals I consumed. Giving up the meat was just a natural progression for me. How did I do it? I gave myself a finish/start date. Until that time, I ate as much meat as I wanted, when and how I wanted. I actually had big ole steaks and super loaded potatoes two days in a row, which is really crazy as steak was never my favorite anyway lol. And on that start date, I was done. I have not craved it, nor have I eaten it since. I’ve also recently done that with alcohol. My quit date was the 5th, I had me vodka and lemonades all day, and I was done. I’ve learned that method works best for me. But it is hard and I wish luck and success to anyone attempting this. I had to do it though, my life depended on it. I have a lot more living to do and I COULD NOT see continuing on the way I was with the food.
I’m a black vegetarian and I love it. It’s been a year since I’ve eaten meat and although I sometimes miss the taste, especially when I smell bacon or I make chicken for the kids, I’m able to resist the urge to eat it because there are so many other delicious non-meat foods that I can eat. When I first started out as a vegetarian, it was only suppose to be for a month and then one month turn to two and then three and so on. It was a pretty easy adjustment. Although I do miss lobster and chitterlings, I’m sure I will survive without them.
black vegan of almost six years here. i was on-again-off-again vegetarian (ate meat on and off) for 5 years before that. i love sistah vegan, they also have a yahoo group that you can find that’s a really great resource; especially if you live in cities with big black veg communities like the bay area, dc, nyc, or atlanta.
Erika, i’d love to hear your thoughts on soy– how much is too much? which products are “ok” in your book and not? i’m working to cut a lot of the soy in my diet out- drinking soy milk in my coffee everyday, and two servings of soy a day, I’m realizing, is a little bit out of hand. i rarely eat anything other than soy milk, soy yogurt, tofu & tempeh (all minimally processed) but i’m still worried about phytoestrogens and possible endocromatic (?) effects.
IMO, miso and tempeh are one thing. The rest of that, though? I can’t hang. Is your soy organic? I mean, soy in your coffee sounds strange as all get out, lol – what kind of coffee do you drink?
I too am a black vegetarian who dabbles occasionally with a vegan diet. The only challenges I find are people trying to give you processed meat substitutes and eating too many carbs in the form of rice and pasta.
Hello everyone, I’m so glad that this question was posted. I have been TREMENDOUSLY interested in going to a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle, but it is seriously hard. The hardest thing to me is that I don’t know how to make a lot of things and my husband isn’t interested. Does anyone have any good tips for me to start, or would you say just get a vegan cookbook and try something?
Cooking tips, you say? *smiles innocently*
Seriously, Lauren. Try some of Erika’s vegetarian recipes. I tried her watermelon gazpacho this summer, and it is the truth!
I bought a vegetarian cookbook and considered doing so…but…I love chicken. LOL! so…I think I need to slow walk this thing…
I too loved chicken. Honestly watching an animal slaughter video made me make the plunge. Ironically I was not that moved by the fish so I am a vegetarian transitioning through flexitarian w/ fish only.
Growing up my best friends aunt was a vegan. She was the only person i know that not only didn’t eat meat but eat anything. oh and did i mention she’s Jamaican!! Now she’s a vegetarian, never got a chance to ask what happened.
Currently I only eat two legged animals (chicken, turkey and fish). never been a fan of pork or beef my whole life and anything else is to exotic for me lol. i will eventually like to become a pescatarian but I have to stop being lazy and cook more often
Flexatarian is what you describe here in your blog. This is the lifestyle that we should gravitate towards. Google it!
…or just read here:
What is a Flexitarian? It’s a typical vegetarian diet, that relies on the occasional meat dish. It means that meat isn’t the premier item in the diet – it’s a luxury, so to speak. It’s used for an occasion.. not a regular occurrence.
The pros here are that since you’re relying less on meat, you get much more creative with your dishes. You get to save a little money buying less meat, you get to indulge a little… you also don’t have to shut yourself off eternally from the things you enjoy. You just get to realistically cut back from them in an accepted fashion.
Are there cons to Flexitarianism? Seriously? Outside of the initial pain of sacrifice, I don’t think there is one. Lots of us are flexitarians and never even knew it. The joke is that flexitarians are vegetarians with commitment issues. I won’t tell you that you have to commit.. ’cause this is one instance where it might benefit you.
Excerpted from Changing Your Daily Diet? Vegetarian Isn’t The Only Option | A Black Girl’s Guide To Weight Loss
http://frugivoremag.com/ is a great resource for black vegans, vegetarians, & pescatarians. I recently make the switch to vegetarian and very happy with my choice. I would recommend starting off by fasting off meat for like 14-30 days experimenting w/ different veggy meals, etc then make your decision from there.
I’ve been a vegan since last year and was a vegetarian before then starting in 2008. According to some research that I did earlier this year, only about 2% of Americans are recorded as being vegans, so the number of black vegans is quite low. People assume that I only eat salads but there are some amazing recipes all over the internet that accommodate my greedy appetite. lol I eat macaroni and cheese (not like my grandma’s but still satisfying), sloppy joes, tacos, etc.
Eating out can sometimes be quite difficult but fortunately a lot of restaurants have a few vegan options on their menus.
I HIGHLY recommend reading Breeze’s book…she is one of the reasons I decided to change my diet for the better. 🙂
Hi Erika! i’m a black girl who has been vegan for a year and a half now. when i decided to become vegan, i was overweight. now that i am vegan, i’m still overweight. i know that one of my problems is lack of exercise, which i’m working on. but it’s hard to find vegan recipes for weight loss. i absolutely LOVE the way i eat, but i’d also like to see some of the weight loss benefits that’s supposed to go with it. do you know of or can you recommend any vegan weight loss recipes that may work? if so, please let me know.
Hi! I’m a new vegan and I love it. I researched it a lot this past year. I weened myself off of fish and went from there. I haven’t felt like I miss anything.
I just wish people weren’t so negative because I want to be healthy.
A lot of people around me are slowly exercising and watching their portions.
Thanks for all you do!
Breeze rocks and so does her book 🙂
I am newly vegetarian and I can honestly say I love it!!! I no longer have that heavy, burdensome feeling after I eat as if the meat was just sitting there, rotting in my stomach. I have tried many delicious vegan and vegetarian recipes. (Mock chicken salad tastes JUST LIKE the real thing! Don’t get me started on spicy black bean burgers…mmmm)! I mean, when I make these creations I am baffled at how good they taste. I am going to buy Terry Bryant’s book real soon. I did it because 1. I’m a FT college student. And I cut down on my bill by eliminating processed “quick meals” and meat, which forces me to cook more and exercise time management which I needed to do anyway and 2. I was feeling sluggish all the time. But boy do I feel great now! I’m still running my campus organization AND I’m working a great FT job. I don’t go home or take time out to take naps and I have energy from 6 am until 11 pm. I am on it, honey! *3 snaps in a Z-formation*. I’ve always wondered, Erika, why do people think that if there’s no meat, you’re not eating a real meal? Hmm…I mean, you’re actually giving me a great idea for my philosophy paper. Anywhoo, most of all: I’m not one of those people who acts all brand new because I made a new decision to not eat meat. To each his own and I hope whatever you decide, it works out! 🙂
I am not vegetarian but have many Black ovo-lacto vegetarian friends (and a few vegan friends and family members). I’m currently doing a 21 day wellness cleanse with some friends, which is a vegan lifestyle and a few other restrictions. After the first few days, I found that I really enjoy the creative dishes and the conscious eating I’m doing. I’m not sure if I’d want to be vegan (I too love greek yogurt, as someone mentioned), but the experience has been great to introduce me to how good and filling regular veg meals can be. Once this is done I’ll strive to be more of a flexitarian and a clean eater than I have been to date.
Good luck everyone! We can do it.
I am a flexitarian and I don’t intend to give up fish or poultry. They are my “side dish” whenever I decide to eat meat. I go through periods when I don’t desire meat and then there are times, especially during a NYC winter, when I make my turkey vegetable soup and I love it! I don’t like seitan and I refuse to eat fake chicken and meat patties/”veggie” burgers that are just as processed and full of sodium/fat/sugar as non vegetarian food choices. The irony is that tofu/soy products made my fibroids worse. I am also anemic and found that eating holistically and attempting to eat more iron based vegetables instead of meat did not improve my blood iron levels. After 6 months of letting me try the holistic route and pounds of spinach, my mother’s collard greens, kale, green smoothies, etc. (lol) my gynecologist put me on slow acting iron pills and encouraged me to eat a little “traditional protein”. I feel better and have more energy. Fibroids AND perimenopause is no joke. I pity the fool who dare attempt to sermonize me about my food choices. Just do you – let me breathe. As I continue on my life journey, maybe one day I will cross the vegetarian bridge, maybe not. I bought the Sistah Vegan book immediately upon its release last year. Breeze has a fantastic book exploring each individual ‘s journey to becoming a vegan or vegetarian. Her blog is great as well .
There are black vegetarians and vegans and they’re getting easier to find every day. Here is a great resource I found at afrodaddy.com on great websites for black vegetarians and vegans:
Most definately! Not just existing but thriving.
(RE: Anemia issues I read above) It is important to supplement our diets for that and other minerals, It can be difficult to get 100% of all daily requirements (even eating meat) for most people. In this age of constant challenges to nutritional value via processing, environmental influences, and general stressors in life, make it important to suppliment anyway… iron-yes, but also multivitamins, minerals, Omegas, etc… Happy to learn of this resource! I’ll visit again.
hello! im black and vegan and i also have other friends thats, vegetarian!.. i love it!.. if u gals need some cooking ideas, watch my youtube channel rate, and sub!. also happy national vegetarian week!
I have gone from vegetarian to vegan to raw vegan to pescotarian over the years and now I’m finding my balance. For me that is being flexible not being bound by what I ea and don’t. Life is too short “Bless your food and keep it moving”. Moderation in all things but do what’s right for you and health. ~ Peace & Love ~
I am a vegetarian that eats honey and milk but no eggs and any type of other flesh. I have been vegetarian for about 3.5 years and I love it. The cook book I live by are Carribean Vegan, Indian vegetarian cook book, Urban Vegan and my key to staying healthy is eating lots of greens, nuts, legumes, quinoa, purple rice, barley and fruits. The nut gourmet. Then the rasta/ ital recipes online. I like to make lentil patties or aloo pie carribean style. My only issue is loving vegan ice cream the one made with cashew/ coconut but I do that in moderation.
There are lots of AfAm vegetarians in the Seventh Day Adventist church. On various Sabbath days we would have meals after church and they were meatless. And delicious!
“I don’t think it should be anyone’s task to sell you on something you need conviction to pursue”
Wow…you sound like an excerpt from Michael Pollan’s ‘In Defense of Food’. Astute and sensitively objective!
My weight loss journey has taken me from pescatarian to vegetarian to temporary raw vegan and back to omnivorous.
I think the best way to describe it is what I call ‘veggie-centric’
Two things I’m most grateful for related to this topic:
1) a greater appreciation for the diversity of a plant based diet has made me more well rounded in the kitchen and in life!
2) discovering various world cultures via food by trying international produce/spices, cooking methods and recipes. We are the worrrrrllllld! haha!
move up here to canada to meet some black vegetarians! lol. a very large portion of the black people around the cities near where I live are from the carribbean. many of which are christian seventh day adventists. this church is often filled with vegetarians, and if its a predominantly black one, black vegetarians. lol if youre looking for black vegetarian support at all maybe theres some of those churches around your area 🙂
also a few things to watch out for (not that they will necessarily be a problem to you, but just sharing things ive either experienced or had told to me by vegetarian experimenting friends):
1) be very mindful of WHY you are doing it, and WHAT youre replacing that meat with – for example if you’re doing it thinking it will help you lose weight, that may not be the case if you, for example load cheese on every veggie you eat, or eat more refined carbs (if you eat those) or more whole wheat/grain carbs and treats than you normally would etc.
2) if you are attempting to eat clean, a lot of the meat substitutes are anything but, and many are much higher in calories than you’d expect. you cant just eat a crapload of tofu bec its tofu lol.
3) you may want to be leery of your soy intake as well. im not fully knowledgable on the subject, but from my limitied readings on it, my understanding so far is soy in its various forms is fine, but consuming it in large quantities and on a consistent basis (ESPECIALLY for developing kids/teens) can increase the possibility of experienceing some negative effects. how correlated those things are with soy intake is where im a little fuzzy and perhaps erika can correct me if ive gone wrong in my explanation somewhere but maybe looking into it if you plan on consuming a shit ton of soy lol so you dont accidentally do damage.
Becoming a vegetarian or vegan can be made smoother for us black folks if we take into consideration just how important food is to who we are – and go slowly and methodically. We want to be successful, and not have too many episodes of “backsliding” because of the expense or simply because we miss our soul food. I talk alot about making the transition at my Youtube site. I’m glad to find this site and will be linking you at my blog, Anna Renee Is Still Talking, as well. Check out this quick video about vegetarian cooking on the economical tip!
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