Want to learn how 11 sustainable and ethical bloggers eat in a day and why? Click through the links at the bottom of this post!
Almost three years ago, I decided to go vegan. At the time I was already a vegetarian, highly concerned about my footprint on this planet and I thought that going vegan would be the best way to decrease that footprint with just one simple decision. Of course, deciding to go vegan is a lot easier said than done. It is, in fact, three whole decisions a day - not including snacks, and let’s be honest, who doesn’t love snacks? In the years since I decided to make the switch, my veganism has waxed and waned depending on the seasons, my cycle, my stress levels, and how much time I spent at my French friend’s house. After desperately trying to find a replacement for the satisfaction that a fried egg brings, after seeking out every vegan pizza joint and ice cream scoop in NYC, and after bringing the world’s best vegan butter home on a plane with me from California, I’ve decided to give up the title. I’m not going to call myself vegan anymore, because what I really am is much more along the lines of “vegan-ish.” I eat a 90% vegan diet, with eggs and the occasional fancy cheese or dollar slice making up the remaining 10%. This 90/10 balance seems to be what works best for my body, my energy, my wallet and my personal code of ethics, so I’m ripping off the label and going with what works best for me in my life.
And that’s the rub right there, this is what works best for me. It doesn’t matter what anyone else’s ethics or passionate perceptions may be, they do not know what it is like to be me, in my body or in my life. We all have different dietary needs, whether they stem from the nutritional needs of our actual bodies, the realities of where we live, or the restrictions placed upon us by our budget. Personally, I cannot eat meat because of what it does to my digestive system and energy levels. I can eat a few choice forms of dairy, but many others wreak havoc on my digestion, skin, and respiratory systems. As someone with chronic eczema and general dryness, my body craves fats like those found in avocados, coconuts, and olive oil. In terms of protein, I love a good chickpea or lentil but my belly doesn’t always agree, and that’s where the eggs come in. I just can’t seem to beat the feeling of wholeness that a good egg gives me and I’ve come to terms with that. I’m a sucker for dark chocolate, do not respond well to soy products, and am obsessed with carbs. Oh, and probiotics are the answer to all of the world's problems.
We also all have different priorities when it comes to sustainability and ethics. I am someone who errs on the side of small, local, community owned or driven when it comes to anything in my life because I think that locality - or terroir - is a wonderful thing. When it comes to the environment, I prioritize foods that are carbon positive or low carbon footprint, and require little to no packaging.
Eating sustainably is not about perfection, it’s about balance. For me, that balance looks like supporting locally grown or manufactured foods, looking for organic and palm-oil free, and avoiding plastic wherever possible. All the while, feeding myself a healthy-ish diet that prioritizes vegetables, fatty foods, carbohydrates, eggs for protein, a daily dose of dark chocolate, and lots and lots of water. I’m sure it looks totally different for you, and for the person sitting next to you, and that’s OK. We all lead different lives and were born into different bodies with different needs, and so we all must eat a little bit differently from each other.
It’s true, the decisions we make around what we eat ripple outwards to impact every corner of the world, but they also affect us, quite literally, from the inside-out. It’s important to me that I uphold as many of my ethical and sustainable values in my dietary choices as possible, but I recognize that there must also be room for exception. Similarly, I teach sustainable ways of eating - like veganism, vegetarianism, and no palm-oil - but am flexible enough to understand when others cannot adhere to those rules. It’s much more sustainable and productive to do the best that I can and encourage others to do the same rather than to preach and portray perfection. Perfection is not what life is like and sustainability is never just black or white.
Below is a list of what I eat during a normal day and why, I hope you notice that there are trade-offs and compromises that I make in order to best serve the needs of my body and lifestyle while still upholding my sustainable values as much as possible.
BREAKFAST: A cup of kombucha, avocado toast, and a soft-boiled egg (with homemade hot sauce on top).
Avocado toast with a soft-boiled egg is pretty much my daily desayuno. A base layer of carbs, fats, and protein are the best way to start my day since I find that this trendy trifecta gives me physical energy and mental clarity throughout the morning. Yes, I feel guilty about the fact that my avocados probably came from cartel-controlled areas of Mexico and yes, I feel guilty about the baby boy chicks who may have been destroyed by the industry that gave me my morning egg. I try to alleviate this guilt by purchasing eggs solely from local farmers who give their chickens free range in the fields. With the avocados, it’s a bit harder to find an ethical alternative and so I cut down on my consumption (I used to put avocado on everything, during all of the meals) and pay attention to initiatives like Equal Exchange.
As for the kombucha and hot sauce - man does my gut need these good bacteria! After two rounds of antibiotics in college, my gut was in disrepair for years, never able to properly process my food and constantly feeling bloated or out of sorts. Adding in daily probiotics from kombucha, kimchi, and this kickass homemade fermented hot sauce has helped my digestive tract get back on track.
LUNCH: Leftover golden vegetable soup.
Potatoes, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, oh my! It’s deep winter in the Northeast so my veggie options are pretty limited right now, but never fear, turmeric and miso are here to save the day. When it’s frigid outside and the soil is frozen, I stock up on root vegetables and other hearty fare at my local farmers market and make the most of them with spices and sauces.
SNACK: An orange and a piece of toast with peanut butter on top.
While they do not grow in the Northeast, oranges are native to California and so am I. Therefore my guilt about purchasing fruit that has been shipped across the country is only slightly assuaged by my undeniable love for their golden, juicy insides. Because they are coming from so far away, I try to resist buying them as much as possible, but some days you just have to eat what you love. The peanut butter is a lot easier to justify as this Once Again Nut Butter is made from sustainably farmed peanuts and sold by an employee-owned cooperative business. I purchase bread from the farmers market or we make it ourselves using King Arthur Flour.
DINNER: Cauliflower, chickpea, kale, and coconut curry on rice + a side of arugula.
Cauliflower and kale are (thankfully) grown in the Northeast throughout the winter and therefore make an appearance in many of my cold-weather dishes. Slow cooking the both of them in spices makes for soft textures and sumptuous flavors. I am not terribly picky about where I buy my beans but prefer Eden Organics because they work with family farmers in the US and do not line their cans in BPA. Coconut oil and coconut milk both come from brands that claim to be sustainably sourced and are fair trade certified - I’d love to dig deeper and find out more about where these come from but just haven’t gone there yet. Normally I get lettuce at the farmers market, too but they were out last week so I picked up this arugula. It comes in a plastic clamshell which always irks me, but I continue to buy it because it is grown at a local farm on Long Island that practices crop rotation and sustainable farming techniques.
DESSERT: Dark chocolate, of course.
Dark chocolate has always been my weakness. I crave it after every meal that takes place past 12pm and will indulge in it until the cows come home. Raaka chocolate is just one of many delicious options available out there, especially if you live in NYC. This bar was made right here in Red Hook, Brooklyn from beans that are sourced from small farms around the world. The farms that Raaka works with sell their crop at a much higher price than those that might sell to Hershey because they pay fair wages, practice sustainable agroforestry, and cultivate their cacao for flavor.
As you can see, my daily food decisions are a hodge-podge mix of sustainable, ethical, and compromise. I’ve gone through phases of seeking perfection and phases of letting things go and I’ve found that somewhere in the middle is the right spot for me. Food is a common denominator among all of us humans, it’s something that we encounter multiple times a day and that we all need in order to survive - therefore it is naturally a controversial and personal topic. Even those entrenched in the world of sustainability and ethics make compromises and less-than-perfect decisions, especially when it comes to food. Click through the posts below to find out what my fellow Ethical Writers & Creatives members eat in a day and why: