Vegan, Pregnant and Craving Cheese: How To Fight the Urges
By Caity McCardell
Unlike many of my vegan pregnant peers, no one gave me negative feedback about being vegan and pregnant. Everyone knew that I was giving my unborn babies the nutrition they needed, my midwives were supportive, my family never talked about it.
No, outside pressure to eat animal products wasn’t my problem. My problem was the cravings I had, my own internal pull to eat dairy products, specifically. It was a daily pull, like an intense itch. Eat this cheese and you’ll feel better, it said. I was nauseated, I was miserable, I craved bicycle tires. I craved Big Macs – but not the actual burger – I craved the photos. Photos of chocolates also soothed my cravings.
I tell people all the time how great being pregnant was, but in the thick of it, it was hell. I remember screaming at my husband because we were in Walnut Creek, California on a Sunday evening and I was starving and there was nothing nothing NOTHING to eat that was vegan. It’s like looking in your closet full of clothes and declaring, “I have NOTHING to wear!” We went to a grocery store and they didn’t have the right bean salad. I was livid and frothing at the mouth and pregnant and vegan and hating it all. “How am I supposed to eat this?” I cried, shaking a bag full of fruit and vegetables. But I didn’t fold… I didn’t eat the herring and cream, comfort food from my youth.
I went nine months, twice, sticking with my vegan guns. Being pregnant challenged my commitment to veganism, but I made it through to the other side. It’s proven that a healthy vegan diet produces healthy babies, and, though many will say otherwise, there’s no evidence that cravings actually correspond with nutritional needs. I believe veganism can be more than a trend, like the high heels we used to wear. It can be a lifestyle that actually lasts a lifetime.
I hear women say, “I was vegetarian until I got pregnant. I craved meat and just went with it and now I’m not veggie anymore.” If you are pregnant and want to stick with your commitment, it’s important to ask yourself a few questions. What does the original commitment to health, animal welfare, the environment mean? Does the decision to be vegan disappear if a speed bump gets in our way? Do we abandon our principles when our hormones are so wacked out? What support do you need to stay the course? Beyond asking yourself those questions, following are seven tips that might help you stick to your vegan ways:
- Explore all your food options – things that might fake-out (so to speak) your dairy/meat cravings… fake meat, Goddess dressing, fake cheese, fake this, fake that. I know you’ve spent all your money on fake crap that doesn’t work… but I want you to keep looking.
- Dealing with cravings is like sex: if you experiment, eventually something really great happens. Maybe eating pickles while looking at photos of Big Macs will help. Maybe standing at a bike store, inhaling the bike tire smell, will help. Try sniffing your favorite flower between sips of a powerful, green smoothie. Maybe one of these strange-sounding rituals will get you through your cravings without compromising your commitment to animal welfare.
- Do you have an animal companion? If you do, look carefully at them when you’re having a non-vegan craving. They can represent for you the animals trapped in the business of factory farming, reminding you of the reality, the truth, of the industry. Your cat is all bones, blood, heart and soul – and so are those animals you’re craving. This simple step helped me the most of all the tactics I used!
- Keep good old, tried-and-true animals rights propaganda around. A pamphlet from Vegan Outreach will do. Does going back to eating meat really attract you now?
- Get out in nature. Breathe. Shout, Scream, Laugh. Swim. Eat fresh vegan food, even if you think you will surely die. Mother Nature wants you to succeed… Mother Nature hates factory farms as much as you do.
- Remember that this will pass. It might be nine months of joy or nine months of hell, but either way it’s going to pass. And if your cravings for meat and dairy pull you like a freight train, just think of it as training for parenting. Once that baby comes, you might be screaming the Serenity Prayer, pulling your hair out, falling in love, and falling in love again every single day. And if you think you’re nauseated now, just wait ’til your teenager takes the car out for the first time.
- If you end up eating some non-vegan food during your pregnancy, please don’t get down on yourself. You can always jump right back up on the wagon and eliminate the animal bits again. Your self-confidence and happiness are important to your baby, your family, and the animals.
If you’re vegan and pregnant and craving crap, you have all my sympathy. I understand the pain and frustration and discomfort, and I encourage you to focus on your compassion, your commitment and the larger picture. Talk to a friend who won’t invite you out to Denny’s. Seek out people who will help you be strong. Have a happy, healthy baby. This is only the beginning.