My Plantcentric Journey

Archive for August, 2012

Being Vegan in a Non-Vegan Workplace

Being Vegan in a Non-Vegan Workplace

I’ve been eating meatless for a very long time now. So long in fact, that I sometimes forget that there are non-vegans out there. Until I go to work, where I am reminded how very unvegan the world can be. Until recently, I worked in an office environment and I know all to well that the workplace can be a strange place for vegans. I have navigated through it for so long that I think now that I’m working at home, I may actually have a handle on it.

Depending on the maturity and sensitivity levels of your coworkers, you may not have any problems being vegan at work at all, but chances are that you will. Years ago, I had a job where I was constantly harassed about my food choices. I regularly heard, “There’s Dianne eating her bean sprouts” when someone saw me eating lunch (that got old quickly), and once I got “Ewww… what are you eating?” while I was snacking on chips and hummus. Yet whenever there was a company catered meal, I would have to rush over to the food that was specially ordered for me, because if I didn’t it would be gobbled up by everyone else, probably because it looked more interesting than everything else.

A few years later I started a new job, and since I was wiser and more experienced, I was determined to squash any of that bad workplace behavior before it started. I first won my new coworkers over with cupcakes (Thank you Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero!).  After that I started making healthier raw desserts, and even worked my way up to kale slaw and quinoa salad. I gained a reputation as a good cook through my cupcake baking, so they all figured if I had made the dish, it must be good!

Here are a few things that have worked for me in the unvegan workplace:

Be a shining advertisement for veganism

It’s very possible you are the only vegan some of your coworkers know, so try to set the best example for veganism that you can. You want to make sure that if it comes up in conversation when they’re not at work they say something like “There’s a vegan girl at work and she’s really sweet,” not “There’s a vegan girl at work and she’s pretty angry and sick all the time.” Try to look good and keep yourself healthy and cheerful.

Have a sense of humor

It’s inevitable that people will joke and make comments about your food. As difficult as it might be at first, try to take it lightheartedly and join in on the joke. This will make things easier on yourself, because fighting back takes a lot of effort and who wants to be angry all the time? Of course, if it gets offensive or turns to harassment, you need to talk to the person. Be firm, but don’t get angry, and tell them that they’ve gone to far and it needs to stop.

Share your food

People used to always tell me that my food smelled really good when I was heating it in the office microwave, so I often let them taste a bite of it. It was inevitable that they would ask for the recipe. I often brought in extras of what I was eating for coworkers to try too. I was able to get my whole office hooked on my chili and cornbread pretty easily.

Be the office baker

Offer to be the baker for office birthdays and celebrations. Use your most decadent recipes, because it’s very possible you will be serving your coworkers their very first vegan cupcake or cookie. I earned the title of Cupcake Queen at my old office, and I once saw my boss eat one of my cupcakes in just two bites. By baking, you’ll not only make yourself popular, you’ll be showing people that vegan food actually does taste good!

Join in the celebration anyway

If you were not the baker for a particular celebration and the cake isn’t vegan, don’t hide in your office. Be social and either bring your own treat, or just join your coworkers for a cup of coffee or tea.

Help plan events

At the first Christmas luncheon at my last job, the only dishes I could eat were the side salad and bread, even though I had planned ahead by talking to the person who was ordering food and requesting some vegan items. She requested food for me, but the caterer didn’t understand what vegan was and put cheese on everything anyway. After that, I volunteered myself to be the person who ordered the food. If you don’t want to be an organizer, ask the person who’s in charge to see a menu and suggest something that you can eat. Make sure you let people know that eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt and cheese are not vegan, because believe it or not, there are still a lot of people out there who don’t know what vegans do and don’t eat.

Call ahead when eating out

If you have to go to a meeting or event outside of the office, try to suggest where to go. If you are not able to suggest the restaurant, call ahead and tell them that you’re vegan and will be eating in their establishment. Restaurants want their customers to enjoy their meal, so most will be happy to make something special for you, if they don’t already have vegan items on the menu.

Keep vegan literature on hand

Your veganism will probably create curiosity in your coworkers, and some might decide to delve in veganism themselves. I always kept a folder with vegan brochures in my desk, because people often asked for information, not only for themselves, but for family and friends too. People decide to go vegan every day, and you may very well be influencing the people who work with you to join you on your vegan journey!


Image courtesy of Flickr


About the author: DianneView all posts by 
Dianne Wenz, VLC, HHC, AADP is a Holistic Health Counselor, Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Plant-Based Nutrition Specialist. Dianne coaches people from across the country to help them improve their health and wellbeing, and she helps people make the dietary and lifestyle changes needed to go vegan. Dianne lives in New Jersey, where she runs the busy MeetUp group Montclair Vegans. Through the group she hosts monthly potlucks, runs charity bake sales and organizers guest speaker events. An avid cook and baker, Dianne also teaches cooking classes to local clients. In addition to food and nutrition, Dianne loves crafts and cats. To learn more, visit Dianne’s website and blog at

Oprah Conscious Eating: What I Learned on the 21-Day Cleanse What I Know for Sure

Oprah's vegan cleanse
The amount of time and energy I’ve spent thinking about what my next meal will be is incalculable: what to eat, what I just ate, how many calories or grams of fat it contains, how much exercise I’ll need to do to burn it off, what if I don’t work out, how long will it take to manifest as extra pounds, and on and on. Food has been on my mind a lot the past 30 years.

What I’m only now realizing, though, is that while I think about food so much and have used and abused it as a substitute for contentment, I’ve never been a conscious eater.

Oh, I’ve flirted with the idea of conscious eating—which for me, until recently, meant taking smaller portions, putting down the fork after every bite, not eating to fill emotional voids. But that is just one level of consciousness. Kathy Freston, in her book Quantum Wellness, struck a nerve for me by speaking of a higher level of awareness, what she calls “spiritual integrity.”

The question she raises: How can we say we’re striving to spiritually evolve without a thought about how the food we consume every day got to be on our plates?

I learned a lot about how animals are treated and mistreated before they get to our tables. It is appalling and beneath our humanity to allow the torture of animals for the sake of our gluttony. We’ve neglected basic human decency on such a large scale, and it really does bleed over into every other aspect of life.

So I spent 21 days on a vegan cleanse, as Kathy’s book suggests, removing all sugar, alcohol, caffeine, gluten, and animal products from my diet. The goal is to allow the body to rid itself of toxins, but Kathy’s thoughts on the “health, environmental, and spiritual implications of the foods we choose to eat” got my attention too. (Had I not done the cleanse, I probably wouldn’t have noticed Nicholas Kristof’s July 31 column in The New York Times about the rights of livestock. That, too, hit a nerve; please take the time, if you can, to read it.)

For three weeks, I—a person who seldom eats eggs—obsessed over not being able to have an omelet. I craved cheese daily. But I also had some surprisingly delicious meals without a trace of flesh. Or dairy. I knew it was a new day when I heard myself asking for seconds on a jicama salad.

At the end of the 21 days, I could not declare myself vegan or even vegetarian. But I am, for sure, more mindful of my choices. I’m eating a far more plant-based diet. Less processed food. Thinking about sugar and fat consumption not in terms of calories but in terms of what happens to my well-being.

Kathy cautions that the way to full consciousness isn’t to give up every poor choice at once. She says “Lean into it.” Don’t try to break a lifetime of bad habits overnight. I’m leaning.

From the October 2008 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine

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Kathy Freston’s Wellness Tips

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Week Two: Three Weeks of Meals

Try Kathy Freston’s week two vegan menu plan from her book Veganist: Lose Weight, Get Healthy, Change the World.

Oprah’s Blog

Read along as Oprah blogs for three weeks about the highs and lows of her experience following The 21-Day Cleanse.

About Kathy Freston

Best-selling author Kathy Freston is the author of Quantum Wellness and is helping Oprah through the 21-day cleanse.

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6 Types of Seeds to Add to Your Diet

Nuts get lots of attention when we talk about foods that pack a big nutritional punch. However, seeds bring equally big nutritional benefits to the table. Take a look at the list below and you’ll see what I mean. Try adding a handful of these seeds to your oatmeal or yogurt, or just eat ’em on their own to tap into the benefits!

  • hemp-seeds-foar296.jpgSunflower seeds: Sunflower seeds are the food with the highest natural content of vitamin E. Not only is vitamin E an important antioxidant for your skin and keeping you looking young, it is also important for a healthy heart. Sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of sunflower seeds over your slaw or salad for instant crunch and flavor.
  • Flax seeds: Flax seeds contain important omega-3 fatty acids, which promote heart and brain health. However, the seeds need to be ground in order for you to get these benefits. Buy them pre-ground or run them through a coffee grinder and add two tablespoons of the ground seeds to your morning smoothie or yogurt.
  • Hemp seeds: Hemp seeds are a great source of protein and they contain omega-3 fatty acids. You can enjoy hemp seeds whole. Try them sprinkled over fresh fruit to add some crunchy texture.
  • Chia seeds: These small seeds (pictured above) provide fiber and omega-3, 6 and 9 fatty acids. In addition to that, they provide iron and calcium. The best way to add them to your diet is by stirring 1-2 tablespoons into water or your favorite beverage for 3-5 minutes, then enjoying.
  • Pumpkin seeds: Enjoy roasted pumpkin seeds on their own to get in a good source of iron and zinc, nutrients important for maintaining energy levels and supporting the immune system.
  • Sesame seeds: You may have only thought of these seeds as a garnish for a hamburger bun in the past, but sesame seeds are actually a good source of calcium, copper and manganese. The last two are important for regulating your body’s functions and helping with nutrient absorption. Toast a couple of tablespoons in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant and add to your favorite stir-fry to get these benefits.

posted by Sarah-Jane Bedwell

All Red Meat is Bad For You Study

A recent study came to the alarming conclusion that all red meat is bad for you—as in, any amount, any kind, will increase your risk of dying. The study conducted over 20 years, found that eating just three ounces of meat a day increases your risk of dying by 13 percent—and that number increases to 20 percent if that meat is processed, like hot dogs or bacon.


Meatless Mondays

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Ways to Make Your Child’s Lunch Fun!

Some Back-to-School Fun! 🙂 Have it waiting for them when they get home 🙂

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Genetics is Only Part of the Story…

You can’t change your genetics, but can you change your health? Learn more from Kathryn Teng, MD:

After Chemo or Radiation for Cancer

Many patients who undergo chemotherapy or radiation for cancer, particularly women with breast cancer, end up with damaged hearts as a result.  It’s a good news, bad news story.  Cancer patients are living longer, long enough that they can die from heart disease brought on by the cancer treatment.

Plain Dealer, 8/19/12

After a Heart Attack

After a heart attack, as much as half of the heart is so damaged it stops working.  And the rest of the heart has to work harder.  It’s like having two people on a bicycle built for two with only one of them pedaling, says Dr. Marco Costa, an interventional cardiologist with University Hospitals Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute.   The person left pedaling has to pull more weight and becomes weaker and weaker over time.    


Plain Dealer 8/19/12

Heart Facts

Today, 2,541 people in the US will have a heart attack.

About 2,200 will die of cardiovascular disease.

Diane Suchetka/ Plain Dealer 8/19/2012

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