My Evolution as a Meatless Eater + the Eat Drink Vegan Festival

When I first became a vegetarian, I was 10 years old. I was raised in a family of meat eaters (my sister has since become a vegetarian and my mom is mostly one), but I knew from early on that eating animals wasn’t for me. I can remember so clearly sitting at my parents’ kitchen table for dinner, poking at a pork chop looking at the veiny colors, picturing the pig running around at a farm, and not feeling right about eating him. I was probably 7 at the time.

Once I went meat-free, I never went back. But I do remember feeling almost embarrassed if I was at a friends’ house or a BBQ and had to tell people that I wouldn’t be eating a hamburger. I think I mostly didn’t want to draw attention to the fact that I was different, or be a pain in the ass to have over for dinner for that matter. My brothers relentlessly teased me about my diet, and my grandma asked me how I would ever cook for a boyfriend one day (In her defense, as an old Italian lady who cooked for people every chance she got, I think this may have been a real concern of hers!). It felt like everyone else thought it was normal to eat the hamburger, but I just never did.

As I got older and learned more and more about factory farming and the environmental and health implications associated with mass producing and consuming meat, my convictions strengthened. Learning about the Blue Zones – the areas of the world where the people are living the longest – and that one commonality was that the people in those communities ate little to no meat made a big impression on me. I saw family members like my grandpa get quadruple bypass heart surgery due to clogged arteries – which is largely caused by too much cholesterol in the diet building up and blocking your arteries – and realized more and more the role that diet can play in living a long, healthy life.

And so, I became confident in my vegetarianism. I also became more conscious of where my meals and ingredients were coming from, and in the last few years, I’ve reduced my dairy intake a lot and eat vegan most of the time. I realized that I didn’t have to justify my plant-based lifestyle to anyone, and if people want to be judgmental about it, that’s on them, not me.

I focused my energy into turning my love for meat-free food into a passion, and I began this food blog. I got to meet other vegetarian food bloggers, who I drew inspiration and learned a lot from (still do!). I went to nutrition school and became a certified health coach, where I get to share my healthy living tips and tricks with clients and support them in their health challenges. These days, I also get paid to be a food writer, and sharing recipes is something that lets me be creative and makes me happy. I know in my heart that I’m eating a diet and leading a lifestyle that adheres to my values, and I feel good about that.

So while my belief in a meatless diet has never wavered, I feel like I’ve come a long way.

What else has come a long way is the popularity of plant-based eating and the prevalence of veg-friendly eateries. Not only are there more options for vegans and vegetarians at grocery stores and restaurants, veg-friendly events have become more popular in recent years too. It’s pretty amazing!

Last weekend marked a first for me: my very first vegan food festival! The event was called Eat Drink Vegan, and it took place at Rose Bowl in Los Angeles.

My husband came along for the trip and partook in eating all of the plant-based food and drinking all of the drinks with me. The festival had 250 kinds of beer to taste, so he got to try many different beers, while I stuck more with wine, kombucha, and matcha tea tastings. The festival also had vendors of all kinds of products, including apparel and protein powders.

Food-wise, it was overwhelming in the best way possible. As a vegetarian, I’ve gotten used to there being just a few menu options for me at most restaurants. At Eat Drink Vegan, it was great to know that I could any and every item being offered! From donuts and ice cream to pizza and “chicken” & waffles, there were so many vendors to choose from.

It was pretty inspiring to see so much food in one place that used ZERO dairy and meat. I think that events like this could be real eye-openers for people who are  hesitant and critical of plant-based eating. Hell, even just reducing your meat intake and eating meatless one day a week can make a difference in your health and the environment, so why not be open to the possibilities?

Here’s a look at what we ate at the festival:

Potachos: tater tots topped with carrot queso, pico de gallo, sunflower sour cream, cilantro & jalapeños via Beefsteak Co.

Chocolate hazelnut pudding with banana slices via The Pudding Truck

Chile verde tempeh taco

A “bronut” [brownie + donut] topped with coconut milk ice cream & a chocolate drizzle from Charlie’s Brownies

Macaroni & “cheese”

My hubby’s favorite eat of the day was buffalo chick’n grilled cheese. We also loved the cashew-based gourmet “cheezy parm” and croutons from a local company called Kelly’s Croutons. They’re sold at farmers’ markets near me, so I will certainly be buying them soon!

Overall, the festival was all kinds of awesome, and I had so much fun eating and drinking the entire afternoon there. It was great being around so many plant-based eaters and those who are open to eating vegan food like my hubby!

Tell me… Have you ever felt different because of your diet choices? Have you ever been to a food festival, or better yet a vegan food festival? 

11 thoughts on “My Evolution as a Meatless Eater + the Eat Drink Vegan Festival

  1. Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table

    I love how confident you are in your choices. I’ve known several people who always seemed to be apologizing for not eating meat or whatever. I love meant, but I don’t think anything needs to apologize for not wanting to eat it! When I was vegetarian (and then vegan) for a bit, I was always pleasantly surprised at how restaurants were willing to throw something special together for me. It was always delicious!

    Reply
  2. Sarah @ Making Thyme for Health

    I am so jealous that you go to go to Eat Drink Vegan! Brandon and I were contemplating traveling out to Cali but he had a conference that week so we couldn’t. UGH. It looks like it was amazing! That bronut…holy hell.

    I’m so glad you had a fun time. And you know I can totally relate to your journey as a vegetarian, although mine started about 10 years after yours. I can’t imagine being able to put that together all on your own as a child. I was clueless! But I still struggle with family members mocking our lifestyle. It frustrates me so much, especially considering they are all on prescription medications for their predetermined “genetic destiny”. They don’t realize that they have so much control over their own health and it also happens to benefit the animals and the planet as a result.

    Anyway, it makes me so happy to see festivals like this flourishing with vegan food. I wish every city had that many options for us!!

    Reply
  3. David @ Spiced

    What a fun event! And more importantly, I love hearing how confidant you are with your choices. I happen to eat meat, but that’s just my choice. I don’t look down on others who don’t eat meat…it’s just a choice! With that said, though, I do think it’s important to know and understand where all of our food comes from…meat or not. I truly do believe the US has some of the safest food industries in the world, but we also get a lot of food imported. Imported food isn’t necessarily bad…but it goes back to the whole understanding where your food comes from thing. Also, I chuckled at your grandma’s comment! 🙂 Great post, my friend!

    Reply
    1. foodielovesfitness Post author

      Very true, caring about where our food comes from is very important! It also establishes a deeper sense of connection to our food, and I think that a lot of people in America lack that connection – especially if they usually eat out at restaurants and don’t often prepare their own meals.

      Reply
  4. Dawn - Girl Heart Food

    I do eat meat, but eat a lot of vegetarian and vegan meals as well. I really enjoy vegetarian dishes actually! Sounds like such a fun festival and those tater totes look so good. But, wait one second…girl, I am LOVING that aqua color nail polish!!! What brand/colour is it? I have to get my hands on some; so pretty for summer 🙂

    Reply
    1. foodielovesfitness Post author

      Thanks! It’s really funny that you asked about my nail polish, because I hardly ever get my nails done… but I actually know the name of this one because the nail tech & I were laughing about the color. It’s called “Too Yacht to Handle’ and the tech didn’t understand what that meant. Ha!

      Reply
  5. Ashley@CookNourishBliss

    I always find it so interesting reading about other people’s food journeys. While I’m not totally a vegetarian / vegan, I do eat meatless pretty much 95% of the time (and at this point no dairy since my body just can’t handle it anymore!). The husband is the same way and I still struggle with dealing with criticism from family members / friends about how we choose to eat (and I firmly believe in me doing me and you doing you – so we never tell them how to eat!!). Frustrating!!

    Reply
    1. foodielovesfitness Post author

      Yeah, I think that people are just used to how they think things “should” be in their minds – and that includes diet, even though their diet probably isn’t even healthy. Truth be told, the standard American diet is NOT working for people. We are more overweight than ever with more cases of preventable diseases and conditions with every year. And as American “food” spreads more and more to other countries, the people in those countries are getting fatter and sicker as well. It’s pretty sad!

      Reply
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  7. Nikki

    I’m always the only vegetarian at work and end up never eating at potlucks, or if I bring something “healthy”, I’m the only one eating it, haha. But in my new job, there is another vegetarian! And she was excited b/c she was saying the same thing. So tomorrow, for our potluck, I’m making vegetarian buffalo “chicken” dip (with white beans) – her suggestion because I’ve never made this! – so I’m excited! I think we both are! lol

    Reply

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