Cheating on the Vegan Diet

Something most vegans have surely been guilty of, even if having done so unintentionally, is cheating on the vegan diet. Cheating on the vegan diet could range from eating a philly cheese steak to accidentally eating a piece of bread that has a dab of butter on it. Either way, how should one react to making this mistake?

Mistakes I have made: Since I became a vegetarian in May of 2015, eating meat is not a mistake I plan to ever make intentionally, and while in my mind, eating meat is the greatest sin a vegan can commit, I have made this mistake. The last time I accidentally consumed meat was over 6 months ago at work. My coworkers had ordered Chinese food, and despite fearing that this was not vegetarian, I had a bowl of soup and was then offered an egg roll. I bit into the egg roll, and to my unpleasant surprise, I immediately tasted chicken. I did not swallow the chicken bits, as when I pulled the egg roll away from my face, I could see the bits of chicken poking out of it. In my defense, this was a pure mistake, but I really shouldn’t have been indulging in Chinese food in the first place, as most Chinese food is not vegetarian or vegan.

A more recent instance of failing as a vegan occurred at a recent visit to Olive Garden. One of my favorite things about Olive Garden is that it offers several vegan options. For instance, at this particular visit I ordered the Cucina Mia, or more specifically, I ordered the whole wheat linguine with marinara sauce and salad without the traditional dressing (instead, I got a side of olive oil and vinaigrette). (On a fun side note, their bread-sticks are vegan.) After eating this delicious vegan meal, my husband, who is not vegan, ordered what used to be a regular favorite desert of mine: zeppolis. In a moment of weakness, I gave in and ate one. The worst part is that I didn’t feel particularly guilty about it.

The guilt I’ve felt: In some instances, I’ve experienced significantly more guilt than in other instances. For example, I felt fairly guilty about the chicken in the egg roll incident because I really shouldn’t have been eating the Chinese food in the first place. On other occasions, like the Olive Garden incident, I felt less guilty because the remainder of my meal was fully vegan. Not that I recommend vegans cheat on a regular basis, but the one thing I have learned is to not dwell on the mistakes I have made. The meat, dairy product, etc. was already consumed and beating myself up over it won’t do anything to improve the situation. So, how should we react instead?

What to do about it: First and foremost, as I have already stated, don’t dwell on your mistakes. There is nothing that can be done to change the past: You already consumed the animal product. It’s time to move on by continuing to choose to be vegan and purchasing products that do not contain animal products and are cruelty-free. You made one mistake, and you are bound to make another, but try your best to make your best effort to save the animals, reduce your carbon footprint, and spread the word for others. Veganism is about trying to make a difference, and with every vegan product you purchase or consume, you have made the choice to reduce at least one instance of animal cruelty. Keep fighting!

How do you react when you accidentally, or purposefully, consume or purchase something non-vegan? Do you feel like it makes you any less of a vegan? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below and will be more than happy to respond!

The featured photo was taken by Ben White. Find more of his work at


2 thoughts on “Cheating on the Vegan Diet

  1. I make mistakes a lot because I am really stupid. I always take a bite of the food to make sure it is vegan . . . kind of counterproductive . . . but the last time this happened, I ordered a vegan pizza and the servers gave me the wrong one 😐 and I couldn’t send it back because I ordered it to go and realized there was mozzarella on it at home! I was sad to have purchased the cheese, which in the big picture, is worse than actually eating it, but I learned from my mistake. Also once my father made me ravioli that were “vegan” but they were actually full of cheese. I felt really gross after a few bites of that haha.

  2. Such a bummer about the pizza! I ordered a salad the other day, without the cheese, and when it arrived at my table, it was COVERED in cheese! It was really difficult to pick out. 😒 I hope that more restaurants, like Olive Garden (who has a helpful vegan guide on their website), become more accommodating of plant-based diets and offer more safe options, so we won’t have to worry as much. 🙂

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