I went to a yoga retreat and turned vegetarian. This is my story
by Daniela Minervini
Daniella and her friend enjoying a vegetarian Chefpost experience with Chef Anna
I never thought I would be a vegetarian. I mean, who does? But after attending a yoga retreat where most of the food was vegan or vegetarian, I decided to give it a try when I got home. Surprisingly, it wasn’t as hard as I thought and now, years later, I’m still meat-free. If you’re curious about what made me switch over or if you’re thinking of going vegetarian yourself, read on for my story…
A few years ago, I walked into my first yoga retreat. I was finally understanding many of the twists and turns that had recently happened to me, and yoga was there as a steady friend to back me up. When I first registered, I knew little about how the three-day weekend would develop and even less so how we would be nourishing our bodies.
Vegetarian dish by Chef Anna
We arrived very early on a Saturday morning, the sun shyly showing its first rays through the Andean mountains. As we entered the house and explored its different rooms, I began yearning for my morning cup of coffee. A few minutes later, I was served tea instead. I wasn’t sure if yogis drank coffee, so I grabbed my cup of colored water and said nothing more. Fast-forward a few minutes, and my yawns kept coming and coming like massive waves resisting stopping. And then, in that precise moment, I began thinking what the bleep would I be eating for the rest of the day, or even worse, days! When I dared ask a few questions, I learned it was a raw and vegan nutrition-based weekend. OMG! Really? Why? Whose terrible ideas were these? Can’t I become a Yogi and still enjoy real food? If my thoughts could speak, I might have been asked to leave and come when I was better prepared for spiritual awakening!
Truth be told, my thoughts demonstrated much worse than reality, and the food we ate didn’t prove disastrous. Frankly, I actually enjoyed most of it, and the avocado chocolate pudding I tried, is one of my all-time favorite comfort foods.
Monday soon arrived, my yoga retreat came to an end, and as soon as I got home I went back to my old school cappuccino. And “Oh god, it tasted like heaven”: frothy, creamy, “normal”. And yet… I never went back to eating animal protein in its main form. As a matter of fact, our yoga teacher didn’t really talk about vegetarianism, veganism, or the love and respect for animals and the planet, but for some reason, I made the conscious decision a few weeks after my return, that I had in fact become “vegetarian”. I stopped consuming all animal products except for those which contained milk, eggs, or its derivatives. And here, my friends is the main difference between being vegetarian (and including these in your diet) and being vegan (and avoiding doing so).
To be honest, I did stray a few times after self-proclaiming myself as a vegetarian; I still ate some of my girl “nonvegetarian” leftovers from time to time or some special dishes that reminded me of my childhood when visiting my family. In some other cases, politeness conquered me, and I struggled to say no at dinner events. Yet, little by little, I began inadvertently encountering information that distressed me, especially the hardship undergone by animals in factory farming; suffering that is inevitable regardless of how “humane” their way of becoming part of our food chain is.
Eventually, I stopped completely. I became a wholehearted “vegetarian” and new, distressing information began following me again. How can that be? Information can’t follow you. Oh yes, it can! I am not a sensationalist. I am also very bad at handling pain, especially suffering by other beings, and I for sure was not looking to read about animals’ hardships. Yet, I came upon a myriad of studies about cows’ distress in the dairy industry and the pain they experienced when separated from their calves. I had recently stopped breastfeeding my baby after doing so for a year. Not an easy task yet wholly fulfilling and essential to me, I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that I was part of an industry that forced cows and their calves apart. For me, it meant that something was not right.
I was not prepared to stop consuming dairy immediately. Almost four decades of normalcy require a few months or maybe years of auto-convincing. And so, little by little, step by step, I have begun questioning myself if I want to become vegan and if I can in fact do it. This is my current journey and challenge.
My Biggest Challenges
- Knowing if I am truly nourishing myself and meeting my protein needs.
- What about my daughters? Should I prepare only vegetarian meals for them as well?
- Explaining my decision to family and friends. There are a lot of myths and beliefs around vegetarianism, especially the belief that we in fact need animal protein.
How I handle it
- Regular doctor check-ups & reading about vegetarian nourishment guidelines.
- I believe now it is their own decision to make once they are ready, if they do decide to follow my lead.
- Being gentle with both myself and others. I am entitled to my opinion and decisions, and so are they.
My Tips and Tricks
Ask, ask, ask
Becoming vegetarian is a change of lifestyle and at first, it might be scary. Ask as many questions as you might have, no matter how silly they might seem; to your doctor, to fellow vegetarian friends, to a waiter at a restaurant regarding your chosen menu.
It’s a learning curve
At first, it might seem this new world is so hard to understand, but trust me, eventually, you will know how to make it fit into your current life. You will know how to mix and match foods so that you are nourishing your body, you will know how to answer awkward questions by vegetarian foes, and you will find and set your intention as to why you’ve chosen this lifestyle.
Don’t be hard on yourself
You may stray here, and now, you might decide to become flexitarian, or you might go back to your previous diet. Please remember this is your journey, and you are entitled to work on it continuously, make changes and follow what feels right to you.
A few protein ideas:
One of the biggest myths about vegetarian diets is protein intake. We have been led to believe that we need animal protein, yet we can meet our protein requirements by consuming only vegetarian and plant-based proteins. Here are some easy options that you can add to your everyday meals. These are my favorite to keep on hand:
- Crunchy or stewed lentils, peas, beans, and chickpeas
- Edamame beans
- Plant-based cheeses
- Tofu squares
- Chia and hemp seeds
- Nut butter (my favorites are cashew and almond)
Get in the kitchen
Fortunately, vegetarian food is so easy to make; lots of veggies and grains, many many spices and a few add-ons. Even if you have never set foot in your kitchen and are a takeout genie, I encourage you to try a few easy recipes at first and then experiment a bit more. This way you will know what in fact you’re eating and will realize how easy (and by the way, also cheap) it is to eat delicious homemade meals at home.
Vegetarian food tends to stay fresh a little longer in the fridge and somehow is extremely easy to mix and match since most of it pairs together. So how about trying an amazing Chef near you for a Vegetarian Meal Prep that will guarantee delicious and nutritious meals for you and your family?
At Chefpost, you can try some of our top Chefs’ Vegetarian Dishes:
- Fall harvest quinoa bowl, roasted pumpkin, pecans, cranberries, roasted broccoli, and quinoa (Chef Gabi)
- Thai vegetable curry with pad thai and cubed tofu (Chef Anna)
- Ratatouille pappardelle, onions, zucchini, eggplants, peppers, and shredded parmesan cheese with garlic bread (Chef Hazal)
- Falafel with baba ganoush, tabbouleh and pita chips (Chef Gina)
- Classic Mac and Cheese with homemade cheese sauce topped with breadcrumbs and served with roasted broccoli and sautéed spinach (Chef Nicole)
- Stuffed peppers with quinoa, lentils, and vegetables (Chef Brittany)
Chef Anna specializes in International Plant-based cuisine, vegan, vegetarian, and healthy fine dining experiences.
If you’re curious about giving vegetarianism a try, or are looking for ways to make your meat-free meals even more delicious and special, look no further. Our list of chefs specializing in vegetarian cuisine will inspire you, and we can promise that you won’t be disappointed with the tasty results. Try how it feels to have a sumptuous vegetarian meal cooked just for you – so what are you waiting for? Indulge in some plant-based goodness today!