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Quarantine Support & The Imperfect Vegan Series

Imperfect Vegan: My Plate isn’t Always “Perfect”

diet & exercise on being vegan podcast Mar 26, 2020

 

 

Concerns about not eating “perfectly” as a vegan are so common, especially as there are so many options and ways to build your meals nowadays when it comes to plant based eating. In today's installment of the imperfect vegan, I wanted to share some resources when it come to meal building as a vegan and the fears we sometimes have when it comes to what our plate usually looks like.

The Imperfect Vegan Series: My Plate isn't Always Perfect | How to build balanced meals as a vegan plus a bit of Quarantine support | Brownble

The Misconception of a Perfect Plate

When you picture a “perfect” plate of vegan food, what filter are you seeing it through?

Are you thinking of how beautiful and colorful the plate looks?

How nutrient dense it is?

Whether you will be satisfied by it?

Whether it’s your favorite food?

Whether it’s comfort food or not?

Whether it’s whole foods based and no processed foods are present?

Whether it’s a bit more relaxed and fits both nutrient needs and satisfaction needs?

Whether it’s instagram worthy?

Whether your mom would approve?

Whether your doctor would approve?

Whether half of the plate is green?

Whether it’s low in calories or carbohydrates?

Whether it was inexpensive or easy to prepare?

We all have this idea in our minds of what a “perfect” plate of vegan food should look like. There are of course some basics of vegan nutrition we need to learn a bit about to make sure we’re meeting those basic nutrient needs met as vegans (and for this my favorite resource is The Vegan for Life Food Guide created by registered dietitian nutritionist Virgina Messina). We also need to be able to add nuance and flexibility to how we see our plates. It is a misconception that all meals for all vegans look the same or follow a formula each and every time. It is an even greater misconception to believe that there are “perfect vegans” out there who are eating in a perfect nutritiously balanced way, and that their plate is always perfectly gourmet, perfectly “clean” and unprocessed, perfectly home-made, perfectly colorful and worthy of going viral on the internet.

 



It’s allowed, normal, and actually very common, for you to be vegan and not eat the same way every day.
It’s normal for your plate to fit this idea of very nutritious and healthy one day, but another day the focus might be on simply using up leftovers or keeping it simple because you’re pressed for time, or ordering vegan takeout from a fast food restaurant because it’s what was available or affordable. 

The Imperfect Vegan Series: My Plate isn't Always Perfect | How to build balanced meals as a vegan plus a bit of Quarantine support | Brownble 

This idea that our meals have to follow a very strict “clean” pattern every day and at every meal, has caused a lot of disordered patterns with food among vegans, it adds to the stress of being vegan, it adds financial pressures on being vegan, and it has given us the idea that our most simple daily habits are being observed and judged at all times. It can then lead to other forms of personal suffering when this transforms itself into negative self talk, poor body image, an excessive focus on pure and perfect eating, and in extreme cases disordered eating or full blown eating disorders.

 



We talk a lot about the importance of both nourishment and satisfaction in our content, and this is also a factor that should have a place at the table. Still, during hard times, whether financial, time related, or due to a change in our access to food, this also needs to be taken out of the realm of perfection and shoulds.

So what does this mean? This means that we should of course learn the basics about vegan nutrition (for example making sure we’re eating 3+ servings of legumes per day, or eating calcium fortified or calcium rich foods, as just a couple of examples), but we don’t need to turn this into a source of overthinking or over worrying. We can learn how to build different types of meals, add lots of nuance and flexibility to this and from time to time check in with ourselves to see if we’re getting our nutrient bases covered.

We can get regular blood work done to check that everything is running smoothly. We can also give importance to the satisfaction, fun, enjoyment and social connection our meals also deserve to include, and make choices that pull this in together with our nutrient needs. We can also understand that practicality, access to food and our finances can also play a part in making food choices. We can visit a registered dietitian nutritionist, and have an outside qualified professional check up on us and see if there is a lack of anything in our diets and simple, gentle ways to include these foods.

The idea of perfection, or an ideal vegan plate that is the only one you should be eating, needs to be able to sit in the gray too, allowing all of the different aspects I’ve been mentioning play a part in your decision process when building meals. 

The Imperfect Vegan Series: My Plate isn't Always Perfect | How to build balanced meals as a vegan plus a bit of Quarantine support | Brownble 

We can make our food choices based on nutritional information and include nutrient dense foods, we can also make food choices based on pleasure and what we feel like eating, and we can also make food choices based on practicality, ease, time restraints and money restraints or a combination of all of the above. It’s when we only make choices based on one of these, over and over again ignoring all others, that we can begin to fall into an unhealthy relationship with food on either side of the spectrum, meaning an excessive concern for perfection in eating, or a total lack of concern for it. It’s such a helpful practice to begin to integrate all of these aspects that go into our lives as eaters, understanding that our meals and plates can look different, and that we have many moments of sitting down at the table to feed and nourish ourselves well, both physically and mentally. There are no perfect vegans and there is no perfect and absolute way to eat at every meal, every day. We can add nuance, live in the gray, and also feed ourselves well as vegans.

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