Becoming a vegan is a huge step for most people and the transition often isn’t straightforwards. Whilst there are some people who wake up one morning, think “I’m going to be vegan” and then never touch a cheese sandwich again, for most people, it’s not that easy.
Do you love the idea of becoming a vegan, but worry that it’s too big of a leap to take? What if you want to become ‘mostly vegan’? Is there such a thing as a part-time vegan? This post discusses whether or not it’s okay to say that you’re a ‘part-time vegan’.
If you’re struggling with your vegan transition, take a look at the One Month Vegan Challenge for some inspiration.
Can you be a part-time vegan?
It’s entirely possible to follow a vegan diet part of the time, this is known an ‘flexitarianism’. You could be a part-time vegan on certain days of the week, at certain times of the day, or just when it’s most convenient to do so.
Semantics are important some people so you may wish to say ‘eating a vegan diet’ rather than ‘being vegan’. This is because some vegans have a strong belief that being vegan is a lifestyle rather than a diet and it should extend to apreventing animal cruelty in more ways than just food.
You could follow a vegan diet 99% of the time, or just 10% of the time. Any time you choose to avoid harming an animal, you’re doing a good thing.
Militant vegans would say no
Some vegans would argue that it’s not possible to be a part-time vegan. They would say that being a part-time vegan is akin to being against domestic violence and only beating your wife at the weekend.
Militant and abolitionist vegans would say that veganism is a way of life, not a trendy diet that you can pick up and put down when you want to.
However, there are problems with this purist, all-or-nothing approach in that it can put people off even trying to become vegan in the first place.
The problem with pushy vegans
There are some vegans, you might have met one or two, who believe that any type of animal consumption by anybody is completely unacceptable. They have the end goal of a 100% vegan world and may try to convert others to become vegan buy using guilt as a tool.
These people are what give vegans a bad name. They’re the ones who’ll shame you for ordering the cheesecake, rather than praising you for ordering the vegan starter and main.
By spreading the message that veganism is ‘all or nothing’, super-strict pushy vegans make people more likely to abandon the philosophy altogether, rather than to gradually reduce the animal products that they consume.
Veganism is a spectrum
What you need to understand is, even lifelong vegans don’t always agree with whether some things are vegan or not.
Take sugar, for example. In the UK, sugar is vegan. But in the US, sugar is sometimes made using animal bones. Unfortunately, Americans have no way of knowing whether the sugar they’re buying contains animal remains or not. Whilst some vegans will avoid sugar altogether, this is incredibly difficult, so others make the decision to eat it. And guess what, both people are still vegan!
Suggested read: Is food that ‘may contain milk’ vegan?
You do you
The key point to this is that you should do whatever you feel comfortable with. Want to go the whole hog? Fine. Want to be vegan except for honey and wool? Fine. Want to eat vegan only on Mondays? Fine! You can be whatever you want to be, it’s your life.
The issue with semantics
Labels suck. I find it’s best to stay away from them wherever possible.
If I ate some milk chocolate last week, do I have to now say I’m a part-time vegan rather than a vegan? Do I have to explain how I’m vegan for the most part, but if someone has a rather delicious-looking box of chocolates in the office then I might occasionally indulge? Do I have to go into the fact that if my vegetarian kid doesn’t finish their cheese sandwich then I might eat the end of it rather than throw it away?
Those who eat a vegan diet most of the time can often feel that they have to explain their choices and stick a label on themselves. You don’t.
Can you be half vegan?
Being ‘half vegan’ may involve eating a plant-based diet on alternate days, alternate weeks, or just when most convenient. It would be better to say ‘eating plant-based food half of the time’ than being ‘half vegan’. This is because some vegans would argue that veganism should be a long-term commitment rather than something that you can do part of the time.
Vegan v plant-based v flexitarian v reducetarian
There are various words that people may use to describe their diet:
- Vegan: a person who does not eat or use animal products
- Plant-based: a person whose diet consists mostly or entirely of food derived from plants
- Flexitarian: a person who has a primarily vegetarian diet but occasionally eats meat or fish
- Reducetarian: a person who actively reduces the amount of meat and/or dairy products they consume
You may find that one of these matches you perfectly. Or perhaps you have tendencies from two or more categories. Perhaps your dietary preferences switch between these over time. This can make it very difficult to label your diet, and another reason why you probably shouldn’t try to.
How to be a part-time vegan
There are many different ways follow a vegan diet part of the time. These include:
- Meat-free Mondays – Following a vegan diet only on Mondays
- Vegan on weekdays – Relaxing your vegan diet at the weekends
- No meat after 2pm – Eating a vegan breakfast and lunch
- Be vegan only at home – Relaxing your vegan diet when you eat out
- Vegan except for trace ingredients – Eating vegan except for foods that contain small amounts of eggs or milk
- Be vegan only when vegan food is available – Eating vegan when you can be eating vegetarian when you can’t
The benefits of a part-time vegan diet
The benefits of a part-time vegan diet are very much the same benefits as going completely vegan, just at a lower level. If you eat vegan 90% of the time, you’ll see 90% of these benefits:
- Save animal lives – by keeping them out of the food chain
- Alleviate world hunger – by feeding grain to people instead of cattle
- Help our planet – by reducing toxic emissions caused by animal agriculture
- Stop the extinction of species – by reducing the loss of rainforests and other areas
- Health benefits – such as weight loss, lower cholesterol and increased energy
- Save money – as fresh fruit and vegetables are cheaper than animal products
- Reduce side effects – going vegan cold turkey can be a shock to your body
A part-time vegan diet will also be easier to stick to than a full-time vegan diet. If you can be a part-time vegan forever or a full-time vegan for only a few weeks, then it’s a no-brainer that will have the greatest benefits for your health, the animals and our planet.
And if you are ready to be more vegan, take a look at the One Month Vegan Challenge.
Is it healthy to be a part-time vegan?
Vegan diets can be very healthy or very unhealthy, and the same applies to following a vegan diet part of the time. If you eat a lot of processed, high-fat, high-sugar vegan junk food, then you will be much less healthy than if you follow a whole-foods plant-based diet.
Veganism and health do not always go hand in hand. There are many vegans who are overweight and lacking in nutrients. That said, switching to a vegan diet part-time is generally a good move for most people.
If you’re replacing meat and cheese with fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains and pulses, then that can only be a good thing for your health. And some would argue that eating fish and lean white meat once or twice a week could also be beneficial for you.