What Should I Do If I Accidentally Eat Meat as a Vegan?

When you become vegan, it may feel like you’re adopting an all-or-nothing lifestyle. In certain regards, that’s true! By definition, veganism involves zero consumption or use of animal products or byproducts. It’s not always abundantly clear, however, which foods and products are truly vegan and which are not. Many vegans can recount times in which they have accidentally eaten meat or a meal that involved animal byproducts whether it was in a restaurant, at a friend’s house, or simply because the label on a product wasn’t easy to understand.

What should you do if you accidentally eat meat? Here are a few tips to mitigate the potential distress brought on by a lapse in your vegan diet.

Don’t Panic

More acute than any other effect may be the feeling of psychological distress after unintentionally eating animal flesh or an animal byproduct. Panic may be the first thing you want to do, especially if you don’t feel like the lapse was your choice. Understand that a momentary slip doesn’t mean that you aren’t vegan anymore. Give yourself some grace and try to think positively about the ways you can get back on track moving forward.

Manage Any Sensitivity

Very few people are allergic to meat, but many vegans do report symptoms of food sensitivity when meat is accidentally introduced into their diets. Sensitivity can include symptoms as mild as headaches and irritability and as inconvenient as bloating, gassiness, or heartburn. If you do experience sensitivity, drink plenty of water, and typically, any symptoms usually subside within a few hours. Taking a digestive aid or doing something lightly active like taking a walk may also help alleviate discomfort sooner rather than later. In most cases, your body will process the animal product appropriately, even if you’re experiencing mild discomfort. If you find that you are one of the rare people who does experience an allergic reaction, take appropriate measures to consult a physician or emergency doctor to manage your symptoms.

Keep Nutrition Top of Mind

If intense cravings and subsequent lapses are frequent occurrences for you, you may need to look to your overall nutrition for answers. When all of your nutritional needs are met, cravings for “forbidden” foods are often less severe and less frequent. Make sure that you’re aware of the nutrients that are harder to come by for vegans, and take extra measures to include them in your diet on a regular basis, whether by finding new recipes or by making a supplement part of your routine. Maintaining a state of optimum nutrition through nutrient-dense plant-based foods and supplements will keep your body strong and capable despite any setbacks in your diet. 

Pick Up Where You Left Off

Above all else, know that your momentary detour from veganism doesn’t mean that you can’t jump right back into that lifestyle with dedication and excitement. In the grand scheme of things, an accident or two will not negatively impact the benefits of a plant-based diet. Remind yourself of the reasons you started. Remain consistent and feel confident that your choice to maintain a plant-based lifestyle will keep you healthy and happy in the long run regardless of a mishap or two.