When the pandemic-induced lock-down began in March 2020, my husband informed me he would no longer be eating meat. He had watched a Netflix documentary about the successes of elite athletes on vegan diets. More importantly, he had traveled that January and was greeted with plates of whole animals—bones, eyes, and all. It was a tipping point for him. 

With meal-planning paramount as restaurants shuttered in our community, I decided to eat vegan along with him. We ordered a vegan meal kit so we could try different proteins and recipes with less time spent in grocery store aisles. 

I was surprised by the textures, flavor balance, and cooking techniques we discovered. Plant-based foods and our access to vegan recipes have come a long way since the Tofurkey loaf of my youth. 

People, namely his own family members, were shocked when my husband switched to vegan eating. “You love meat,” they protested. But the truth was it was just something he had grown up eating. He seemed stereotyped as a meat eater because of his football-player build. Vegans similarly get typecast as thin, pale baristas. 

These stereotypes hold us back—we could all stand to eat less meat for the sake of the planet and animals. Even if you can’t commit to being a vegan every day, you can cut down meat consumption to two or three times per week. I promise you will discover new sources of protein, rich flavors, new textures, and food histories along the way. 

Hero Image: Cajun-Spiced Cauliflower Chickpea Tacos. Above Image: Carrot Top Pesto.

Need motivation and inspiration to try eating vegan? You can join half a million people from 200 countries in signing up for Veganuary, a commitment to try eating vegan for the months of January and February. Last year’s participants cited various reasons for trying it: 46% said animals, 22% said health, 21% said environment, and 11% said other. 

Whatever your reason, sign up and download a cookbook showcasing vegan recipes from celebrities like Joaquin Phoenix and Paul McCartney at veganuary.com. You’ll get daily emails with tips, tricks, and recipes.

While San Diego has a ton of plant-based dining options, here’s a shortlist of seven to get you started. 

Clean & Colorful Kitchen

This zero-waste kitchen in San Diego pumps out smoothies, breakfasts, detox kits, and square meals as part of their mostly plant-based food delivery service. Choose from stuffed red peppers, Moroccan grain bowls, blueberry overnight oats, rainbow vegetable tacos, and more.


Grains—The Neighborhood Cafe

The buffalo cauliflower from Grains comes with a vegan ranch that’s out of this world. The holy shiitake, strips of battered and fried shiitake mushrooms, come with spicy mustard or plum sauce. And you can’t go wrong with a tom kha soup topped with lemongrass, tofu, scallions, and cilantro. 

2201 Adams Ave., San Diego


The Far West Lounge by Modern Times

Come for the beer selection—over 30 local and West Coast beers on tap—and stay for the fully plant-based pub food. Encinitas-based Modern Times boasts a menu of double-take-making “are those meat?” sliders, mac and cheese with fried “chicken,” and chilled soba noodle salad ensuring there’s something for everyone in your party.

470 S. Coast Hwy. 101, Encinitas 


Plant-Based Meals

This women-led, San Diego-based meal service offers a rotating selection of over 500 plant-based meals. Pay for a weekly subscription or buy a 20, 15, 10, or 5-meal package. Meals include spring pea pesto gnocchi with microgreens and a miso ginger-garlic rice noodle bowl with vegetables. 


Plant Power

This plant-based fast-food powerhouse makes it easy to down a Big Zac, fries, and shake without losing taste and fullness. 

San Diego, La Jolla, Encinitas



Need to satisfy Thai food cravings without meat? Plumeria has a variety of protein options including mock chicken, crispy tofu, and coconut-based soups. Try the pumpkin curry with spring rolls or the pad thai. 

4661 Park Blvd., San Diego 

527 S. Coast Hwy. 101, Encinitas 


Vegin’ Out

Every Monday, Vegin’ Out ships breakfast, lunch, dinner, and smoothie kits to weekly subscribers. BPA-free containers hold enough food for about 10 servings. Order by 5 p.m. each Friday to get the meals on Tuesday. Lentil stew and pumpkin alfredo are two of the main courses, with harissa root vegetables and cauliflower pistachio pesto as side dishes – and there are even vegan cookies! 


Tips for Enjoying More Plant-Based Foods

Image: San Diego Bars.
  • Take a group of pals on a plant-based cheese crawl, featuring five cheesemakers in San Diego County.
  • Keep a journal to track how you’re feeling, including energy levels and favorite dishes. If you’re eating vegan with your kids, try the Eat a Rainbow food diary and activities from the Whole Kids Foundation. 

Did you know? Updated CDC guidance defines protein foods as including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), nuts, seeds, and soy products. (Source: CDC) Vary your protein sources with these tips.

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About the Contributor
Hannah Wente
Hannah grew up as a 4-H kid showing dairy cows. That grew into a passion for sustainable agriculture and public health. Today, she is a communications professional and freelance writer, and has held communications roles at several nonprofits including REAP Food Group, a Farm to School pioneer. She gardens a large community plot with her husband and grows enough raspberries, peppers and tomatoes to feed a small village. On weekends, you can find her at the nearest farmers' market or in the water.