How to Be a (Badass) Vegan at Work

Whether you're a long time vegan, a recent one, or trying to go vegan, you may find yourself in somewhat challenging and awkward situations at work. These range from ordering food for meetings, picking a restaurant for an event, finding vegan options at the cafeteria, or just explaining to your co-workers where you get your protein. Let's go over some of these and see how we can push through!

Disclaimer: Every work environment is different, every interaction unique, and each one of us has a way of handling it.

When ordering food for a group...

When someone has been tasked to order food for 7, 10, or even 20 people, it can seem daunting to be an exception. There are a few ways to navigate this. Firstly, if you're one of the lucky ones who is not the only vegan in your team or department, then the obvious strategy is to join forces with the fellow-vegan. Two emails, two conversations, and two requests for vegan items makes it way less intimidating than going it alone. If you're the only vegan in the group, it's important to speak up and request vegan food. I promise, it's way more awkward for the person organizing the lunch to see you sitting there not eating. Worst case, an exception cannot be made (and that's very rare). Best case, you end up with your very own meal while everyone else is sharing. My office once ordered two large vegan pizzas and I got to take them both home after work!

When a client, boss, or vendor invites you for a meal...

Not only is it beneficial professionally to network with your co-workers, clients, and vendors outside of work, but it's a chance to help raise awareness about living a vegan lifestyle. If you're inviting clients or vendors to a meal, don't be afraid to pick a place with fabulous vegan options and show off just how easy and delicious living plant-based can be. If you're the one being invited out and you don't see any veggie options on the menu, try calling the restaurants directly. Corporate dinners and other events are usually at upscale restaurants, and the staff are eager to make sure you have a good experience. They might even customize items to make them vegan for you. I've had incredible vegan meals at traditional steak houses!

When co-workers ask what you eat...

It could be a friendly "what do you eat?" or "where do you get your protein from?", but I personally find these questions a bit taxing. I have really never worried about where I get different nutrients in my diet. Growing up in India I thrived on carbs and veggies. It was only after I moved to the US that I was bombarded with this obsession with protein (for the record: I love America!). When you come up against these questions, I find it helpful to politely list a short summary of what I eat, surprising my coworker with the variety. Preparing a standard response is highly recommended, with a couple of nutritional facts (especially around proteins) thrown in.

When traveling with co-workers...

Though traveling for work is a great opportunity for camaraderie with your co-workers, your personal space can sometimes feel (a little) invaded. From hailing rides, to waiting at the airport, to checking into the hotel, traveling with coworkers often becomes a communal experience. It's a good idea to scout the city or get recommendations ahead of time for vegan-friendly places (try HappyCow). That way, you'll be ready to suggest a good spot at the drop of a hat. Deciding together by Yelping or Googling cuisine is also a good way to compromise and let your preferences be known, and most people are happy to eat at a Thai restaurant or grab Indian food. In the end, I've found that such experiences are more about our personalities than anything else. So have fun and make sure to save those receipts!

When your co-workers wants to share their vegan experience...

It could be a chia pudding they tried at a party, a vegan person they met, or that they are trying to eat less meat. Whatever it is, there's a strange feeling of redemption when they come up and share these stories with you. You can't help but feel proud of them! I'm all ears for their stories because I want them to come back to me with more questions and maybe explore a vegan lifestyle themselves one day.

We continue to learn and get better with each interaction. Initially, it might be easier to avoid drawing any attention or inadvertently finding yourself rambling about the benefits of going vegan. Just be confident, be yourself, and be proud of the incredible decision you've made for your body, animals, and the planet. Sometimes, that is all it takes to inspire others.

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