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Here’s How I Learned To Adapt To Being Vegetarian Despite Living In A Family That Craves Carne

I grew up eating a lot of red meat in my family. As a Cubana, it was not unusual for all of our meals to consist of the basics: rice, beans, fried sweet plantains, and some kind of carn. Of course, sometimes there was pollo or lechon or pescado, but mostly bistec. As I grew up, however, I began to explore my options. I started eating salad and, slowly, decided to drop a lot of my meat consumption to become a flexitarian (a flexible vegetarian, meaning I only ate meat a few days a week). Eventually, though, I took it a step further and became a  vegetarian. And that’s where the weirdness with my family began.

There’s no doubt about the fact that many Latinx families come with a lot of meat in their diets. We grow up on the stuff, whether you’re from Cuba or Mexico or Argentina or Colombia. Meat is a staple and, in fact, meat is the basis of our diet. My family always focused on eating meat, so when I went vegetarian, they simply weren’t sure what to do with me. It made for a lot of awkward conversations and many, many months of weird dinners… But, eventually, they came around. Still, I learned a thing or two about what it is like to be a Latina and a vegetarian, so here are 20 things that happen when you stop eating meat in a Latinx family.

Still, I learned a thing or two about what it is like to be a Latina and a vegetarian, so here are 20 things that happen when you stop eating meat in a Latinx family.

1. You have to tell to your entire family.

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It may sound silly, but telling your Latino family that you’re a vegetarian can be tough. It’s a weird thing and they will most definitely be confused at first.

2. You have to explain to your family what a vegetarian actually is.

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For one thing, your family might not know what a vegetarian actually is. “You don’t eat meat?” they will ask. They will ask more, too, like what it is you’re actually eating… and how you plan to get your protein.

3. You have to say, “No, abuela, I don’t eat pork either” several times.

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Abuela, and all of your other older relatives, simply won’t understand the difference between meat and, um, not meat. They will ask you whether you still eat fish or pork or chicken. No, grandma, those all count as meat. They won’t get it, though.

4. You explain to your mami that you can now eat all the frijoles she will make.

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Luckily, you can tell your mami some good news: Frijoles! Beans of any and every kind are definitely on the menu when you’re Latinx and vegetarian, so go ahead and indulge.

5. You tell your family the differences between a vegetarian and a vegan.

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Whether you’re a vegetarian or a vegan, your family will ask you what each term mean. In fact, if you’re anything like my papi, they will ask you over and over again. “So you still eat cheese?” he says. Yes, dad, I still eat cheese. And eggs. “I’m not a vegan,” I remind him.

6. You show up to your first post-vegetarian fiesta and realize there’s nothing vegetarian to eat.

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After all of your months of explaining what a vegetarian is, you show up to your first family party only to find out that nobody was actually paying attention. It’s kind of sad, honestly, and you’re not sure what to do. This happens to all of us, trust me.

7. You get redirected to the chips and salsa at this fiesta, but seriously. Nothing. Else. At. All.

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The chips and salsa are pretty safe, thank goodness. But that’s pretty much it. There isn’t much else you can be having at the party, since even your tia’s special beans are made with bacon and lard. Whoops.


8. You have to smile politely when tia asks you why you aren’t eating.

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Why are you not eating? Gee, what can I say? It’s impossible to not feel a little annoyed when, at this first fiesta as a vegetarian, your family continuously questions why your plate is empty. Do you really have to explain… again?

9. You stuff your face with dessert.

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So, since you can’t eat much, you decide to go for dessert. Don’t mind me, tio, if I have a third and fourth serving of flan. Seriously, it’s basically the only safe thing on the table so indulging is quite okay.

10. You tell your family, again, what a vegetarian is.

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After this disappointing party, more questions arise. You have to tell your family once more what a vegetarian is. You remind them that they don’t have to put bacon in the beans and that they can leave the chicken off of the salad so that you have some options too. They listen. Sorta?

11. You promise yourself that you will just bring a dish next time.

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You realize that the best way for you to ensure that you have a good time at the next party is to just bring your own dish. It sounds challenging, sure, and you don’t think you can ever top abuelita’s pernil, but you vow to try.

12. You spend hours scouring Pinterest for the perfect vegetarian Latin dish.

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Thanks to the power of the internet, being Latina and a vegetarian is much easier these days. I can spend hours on Pinterest (and often have) looking for the perfect recipe. It’s a difficult and delicious job, but somebody has to do it.

13. You spend hours making the food. You even do a practice run first.

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One sure-fire way to make sure that you bring a good dish to the best party is to do a dry run with it. I spend however long I need to spend mastering a recipe, then bring it to friends for a try. If they like it, I make it a few more times to make sure I have it perfect. After all, it needs to be perfect before introducing la familia to it.

14. You show up with your fantastic dish… that nobody eats.

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You finally did it! Your dish is the best, and you’re sure that your family is going to enthusiastically try your Latin-inspired vegetarian dish. It’s delicious and you know it, so you bring it to the party… only to find out that it’s not really as well-received as you thought. In fact, other than your cousin/BFF, nobody else tries it. Whomp whomp.

15. You spend several months doing this, over and over again.

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But you know that you can’t give up. Your family won’t accept your vegetarianism in one go, so you have to just keep going. Instead of moping around, you continue to eat vegetarian and continue to cook Latin vegetarian dishes. You learn more, you cook more, and you master a few more recipes to have in your back pocket.

16. You delight when some family members slowly begin to try your vegetarian dishes and do NOT hate them.

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At some point, realizing that you aren’t going to easily give up this whole vegetarian thing, your family starts coming around. Mami finally tries your deliciously weird vegan dish and papi even promises to give it a try next time. I mean, okay, not this time… but that’s still progress, amirite?

17. You get nervous about the holidays.

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However, the holidays are around the corner, and you know that this spells trouble. It’s not going to be easy to be a vegetarian in a Latino household over the holidays. Between the pork and the pork and the pork, you aren’y sure what the meal will bring. You brace yourself to starve all night.

18.  You plot out how to say “no” again. And again. And again.

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But before you even get there, you have to get ready for the emotional warfare that is going to go on as you gather around the holiday dinner table with your non-vegetarian family. It’s going to be tough and you are going to have to really put your foot down here. It won’t be easy.

19. You get ready to disappoint your family because, yes, you’re still a vegetarian.

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You know that the holidays aren’t going to be easy. Not only are you going to have to say “no” a lot, but you might even be disappointing your family because you can’t eat your abuelita’s specialty or your mami’s famous dish. How do you overcome that? Well, you just have to try.

20. You are shocked to find out that they finally have accepted it. Sort of, anyway.

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Thankfully, though, after months and months of trying, some of your family actually comes around. Your mom admits to liking some of your vegetarian food and your dad even says he’s dropped a few pounds since he started eating salads. It might take a while before they’re full into it but, well, they’re finally ready to support you. Most of the time, anyway.


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Let Us Shed A Tear For The Non-Floridians Who Have Never Experienced Publix

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Let Us Shed A Tear For The Non-Floridians Who Have Never Experienced Publix

Hi, hello, thank you for taking a moment to take a seat at my Ted Talk!

I’d like to take the time we have together today to talk about the wonder that is Publix.

As many of you fortunate enough to live in the Southeast know, Publix is a Florida-based grocery store with all of the class.

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They’re a place known for their remarkable customer service and clean aisles. At Publix, shopping is literally a pleasure.

That’s right folks, this is a place of impeccable cleanliness and organization.

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At Publix, no corner is left unswept and no aisle left without the item you needed.

And their subs have been bringing people to tears circa 1930.

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If you haven’t had an Italian sub from Publix what what WHAT are you doing?

Guys! This place is so good that schools literally send students there for field trips.

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At Publix there’s so much to learn.

And their employees actually love working there!

And it’s probably because of their amazing benefits and vacation set up.

Recently a wave of Publix enthusiasts went viral for their devotion to the store’s key lime pie.

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An article by Buzzfeed boasted about the desserts greatness. And they were right.null

But KEY to the Publix experience has been the grocery chain’s dedication to Latino satisfaction.

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They literally have a STORE that focuses on Latinos called Sabor.

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New vest #publixsabor#nowisgreen#ilikeit ????

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The Southeastern-based store has run a line of Publix Sabor stores for years geared toward Florida’s Cuban, Puerto Rican, and other Latino shoppers. Recently they started to expand its offerings in heavily populated Latino populations with a Publix store called Sabor.

This place is the diggs guys! And they have all kinds of amazing foods to offer.

Like their commitment to the Cubano.

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????????????#winning #publixcuban #yesss

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Which for real will NEVER be good as your mother’s, but will always for real do everything to be top notch.

And their Tres Leches cake which is qualiT

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And this is a fact that FOR REAL any Latino in the Southeast knows to be true.

No but for real.

It’s a taste like no other.

And beyond Tres Leche you can count on Publix to STAY stocked on your mama’s favorites.

Literally feels like home at the Publix in Little Havana guys.

And they for real have the hookup.

Yes they do.

Now go forth into the world my people and enjoy your limp meals at Whole Foods and Safeway!


Read: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Calls The Lack Of Black And Latinx Diversity At NYC’s Specialized Schools An “Injustice”

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We Talked to Latina Bloggers About Their Healthiest Food Tricks

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We Talked to Latina Bloggers About Their Healthiest Food Tricks

By: Lola Méndez

The first dishes that come to mind when we think of the diverse delicacies of Latina food aren’t exactly healthy staples. Sometimes, I just can’t resist the Uruguayan dishes of churros with dulce de leche, fried empanadas, and ñoquis doused in a creamy white sauce–not exactly nutrient-rich foods. Many of our most beloved Latino dishes are full of fat, salt, and sugar.

By folding in some of these healthy eating tips from our favorite Latina food bloggers you can have a more balanced diet. Cultivate a healthier meal plan so that you won’t feel guilty when you splurge on some of your favorite rich Latino foods. These Latina food bloggers prove that you don’t have to sacrifice taste in order to eat healthily.

Whenever I’m at a loss for how to make traditionally hearty Latino foods with a healthy twist I turn to Afro-Latina Dominican Cecilia Flores of Coco Verde, Latino Vegan Kitchen.

This mama can seriously make the most lack-luster veggies transform into drool-worthy dishes that will make you forget you ever enjoyed fried milanesa. Becoming a mother motivated her to clean up her diet. “It was really after the birth of our daughter that I started to seriously think about exactly what I was eating because I was determined to give her a good start and get her loving good foods,” says Flores.

This mama can seriously make the most lack-luster veggies transform into drool-worthy dishes that will make you forget you ever enjoyed fried milanesa. Becoming a mother motivated her to clean up her diet. “It was really after the birth of our daughter that I started to seriously think about exactly what I was eating because I was determined to give her a good start and get her loving good foods,” says Flores.

Flores had the same concerns that many of us feel when trying to think about incorporating more plants into our diets. “I started learning about plant-based eating and its benefits. The only issue was the food! I didn’t want healthier and plant-based eating to mean that I was leaving my culture and traditional foods behind,” says Flores. She began to get creative as she prepared and transformed the Dominican foods she loves with healthier ingredients.

Another Latina food blogger we turn to for healthy recipes is Mexican Ana Frias of Muy Delish.

The fondest memories from her childhood are helping her mother prepare meals for their family of nine kids in Mexico. But, it wasn’t until Frias started weight lifting that she got serious about sticking to a healthy diet. She believes that balance and moderation is the key to staying healthy. “Healthy eating is about moderation, not about being restrictive with the foods you eat. If you eat a balanced healthy diet and have a treat here and there, you’ll be less inclined to binge or stop eating healthy altogether. Extreme diets never work,” says Frias.

The founder of Muy Bueno Cookbook and author of “Muy Bueno” and “Latin Twist” is healthyish Tejana Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack. “I’m obsessed with my Mexican culture and sharing my family traditions. I create recipes with a healthy Mexican twist, which means less frying, less fat, high protein, and more fresh and seasonal fruits and vegetables,” she says. She goes on to explain that she loves Mexican flavors, spicy food, and fresh ingredients, especially avocados. Avocados are an excellent source of healthy fat and a staple in many ethnic cuisines from Latin America.

Her key to successful healthy eating as a Latina is dining at home often. “It’s easy to overboard when a never-ending basket of tortilla chips and salsa is placed on your table at a Mexican restaurant.” Chips and salsa are her weakness. “I know myself too well. If I open a bag of tortilla chips I will eat them all,” says Marquez-Sharpnack and honestly, we can relate! She continues to say that “If you know your weaknesses, try not to buy those items.”

Healthy Eating Tips from Latina Food Bloggers

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Tomato jam! A delicious (and relatively easy) experiment. So great for toast or as an appetizer for parties! Crackers with vegan cream cheese and tomato jam are my new favorite. One note: next time I’ll peel the tomatoes by blanching them because I didn’t like the pieces of skin left behind in the jam. Have you ever had tomato jam? What’s your favorite way to eat it?! 2 lbs of tomatoes (peeled and chopped) 3/4 cup brown sugar 1 tablespoon of minced ginger 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar 1/2 tsp cinnamon 1 tsp salt Dash of cayenne pepper Bring mixture to a boil in a pot (stir frequently so it doesn’t burn) and then simmer until it’s a jam texture (stirring occasionally, about 2 hours). Let cool, store in the refrigerator in an airtight container and enjoy! _____________________________________ Mermelada de tomate! Súper fácil y muy delicioso! Me encanta poner un chin sobre pan tostado o también comérmela con galleticas y queso Filadelfia (vegano). Lo único que cambiaría para la próxima vez es pelar los tomates antes de hacer la mermelada. No lo hice esta vez y en el resulto final quedaron pedacitos aunque trate te pasar la mermelada por la licuadora. Has probado la mermelada de tomate? Con que te lo comes normalmente?! 2 libras de tomates (peladas y cortadas) 3/4 taza de azúcar morena 1 cucharada de jengibre 2 cucharadas de vinagre de sidra de manzana 1/2 cucharadita de canela 1 cucharadita de sal Una pizca de Cayena en polvo Poner todos los ingredientes en una olla a hervir a fuego alto (moviendo la mixtura mucho para que no se pegue a la olla). Luego baja el fuego y deja que hierve a fuego lento hasta que tenga la consistencia de una mermelada (más o menos 2 horas). Deja que se enfríe y poner en un envase dentro de la nevera. Disfrutar!

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It’s easier than you think to make traditional Latino dishes healthier. If you want to incorporate more veggies Flores suggests using black beans instead of beef as they have more protein, fiber, calcium, and iron than beef and less sodium, cholesterol, and fat. Black beans are already a staple of many Latino dishes so you’ll likely already have some in your cupboard. Legumes are going to be healthier for your body and your wallet as they’re significantly less costly than meat. Give beans a chance and whip up Coco Verde’s Niños Envueltos of cabbage rolls stuffed with lentils and rice, preferably brown rice for more protein and fiber.

Some of the other items that Flores suggests every Latinx have stocked in their kitchen are whole grains like brown rice, sweet or red potatoes, dried beans (or low sodium canned). She supplements these with seasonal fruits and vegetables and pairs it all together for unique renditions of Latino dishes.

Frias thinks of creative ways to make unhealthy dishes better such as focusing on spices and salsas and baking instead of frying.

“I stay away from any high saturated fats like sopapillas and chicharrones. I still eat tamales and churros but only about twice a year,” she says. Marquez-Sharpnack echoes a similar sentiment in her approach to healthy eating. “Stay away from fried and fatty foods, choose dishes that are high in protein, and incorporate fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables into your meals.”

If a recipe calls for sour cream or mayonnaise, Frias substitutes with non-fat Greek yogurt which provides extra protein. Going cheese-free can be a challenge so she uses low-fat cheese in minimal portions and opts for lean meat over fatty proteins.

Snacking is hard to resist. Marquez-Sharpnack keeps lots of fresh plant-based supplies on hand such as fruit, veggies, and nuts. “I always have avocados and apples sitting on my counter and a bag of walnuts or almonds. Snack on healthy choices so that you are not starting and make bad choices,” she says.

Healthy Meal Ideas From Latina Food Bloggers

For breakfast, Flores recommends preparing overnight oats similar to avena. Muy Bueno Cookbook has a healthy rendition of old fashioned Mexican oatmeal avena. Breakfast is a surprisingly easy meal for folding in typical Latino foods such as cactus with this licuado de nopal. Avocados are great any time of day–add a Latino twist by skipping toast and serving your mashed avocado over a warm corn tortilla.

At lunchtime, Flores tends to turn to arroz con habichelas instead of rice and chicken. She likes to have a side of some maduros (her maduros pie is to-die-for) and some veggies. Calabacitas are a great side dish to have on hand. Frias says they can easily be turned to the main dish by adding some rotisserie chicken breast chunks. Another fail-proof side or main dish is Muy Bueno Cookbook’s Avocado and Tomato Salad with Feta Cheese which is full of healthy fats.

If you’re a meat eater, lunch is a great time to have seafood which is high in healthy Omega-3 fatty acids. The shrimp ceviche recipe that Frias swears by is easy to follow and can be eaten with or without baked tortilla chips. We’re also a fan of her shrimp tacos with mango salsa for an easy and healthy lunch–be sure to use corn tortillas instead of flour. If you want something a bit lighter go for Muy Bueno Cookbook’s Seared Ahi Tuna Salad. Many Latino flavors are bold and low calorie such as lime juice, chile, ginger, garlic, cilantro, onion, and parsley.

If you’re used to having beef for dinner make Muy Delish’s Albondigas Soup–Frias uses 98% lean ground beef instead of fatty ground beef. In the cool evenings of the winter, it’s too easy to fall back into unhealthy eating patterns as you’ll be craving hearty dishes. Marquez-Sharpnack recommends going for a portion of caldo de pollo instead as it’s loaded with protein and veggies and is super flavorful and comforting. Remember, adding veggies is the easiest way to make a dish healthier. There’s always room for more plants in traditional Latino dishes such as arepas, pupusas, tamales, enchiladas, and more.

Why Healthy Eating Matters for Latinas


High rates of health issues such as high blood pressure and diabetes in Latino communities motivate Flores to encourage her fellow Latinos to eat healthily. “We’re oftentimes led to believe that genetics is the main reason for this, but in reality, it has a lot to do with what we eat! That’s also the hard part. A lot of what we eat is guided by where we live, especially for people that live in food deserts, or places where fresh healthy food or even supermarkets are very limited or unaffordable,” she says. Basically, you are what you eat, right?

Frias can relate to this on a personal level, as a major motivator for her own journey into healthy eating was that, like many Latino families, some of her relatives suffer from diabetes. “I believe that prevention is the best medicine. I don’t want to end up dealing with health issues as I get older if I can do something about it now. Si se puede,” says Frias. As Latinos, we have a high rate of obesity, heart and liver disease. “We must break that chain! All of these diseases are easily preventable just by eating healthy foods and having an exercise routine.” Recognizing food as nourishment is a key first step into becoming dedicated to healthy eating practices and decreasing chronic disease.

For Marquez-Sharpnack, it’s her mother’s healthy influence that inspired her to pass down healthy eating habits to her children. “It saddens me to hear that childhood obesity in the Hispanic population is growing faster than other segments of the population. Almost two in five Hispanic children between the ages of 2-19 are overweight or obese.” This urgent call for action shows the necessity for healthier eating in our communities–for the sake of our niños.


Read:7 Body Positive Latina Models That Are Killing The Fashion World and Beyond

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