The Taiwanese Diet Vs. the American Diet

Delicious veggie buffet meal in Taiwan for only US$3.

Delicious veggie buffet meal in Taiwan for only US$3.

I want to take a moment to talk about my struggle with eating healthily while home in the U.S. this past month.

Many of you might know that I am a vegetarian. In Taiwan, it is effortless to be a vegetarian, as there are more than 1,500 registered vegetarian restaurants on the tiny island. In addition, 93% of all secondary schools in Taiwan have adopted a meat-free policy in school lunches one day a week (to learn more about Taiwanese eating habits, you can check out this interesting article: Taiwan: Emerging Beacon of Veganism). I’m pretty sure if a meat-free day was implemented in U.S. schools, conservative groups would be in a frenzy about our “freedoms” being infringed upon. But the fact that “in recent years, [the USDA] has spent many millions of dollars to increase pizza consumption among U.S. children and adults,”, is not unethical at all…

The Taiwanese love their veggies, but this is sadly not the case in the U.S. Every time I return home, I am shocked by the increasing number of overweight and obese adults, shocked by the number of fast food joints and the lack of healthy options for eating out, and saddest of all, shocked by all of the overweight children.

My heart hurts for my country.

As for my struggle, I found many restaurants offered no vegetarian options, and if they did, it was a side salad. Because obviously, all vegetarians have the appetite and palate of a rabbit. But my fellow vegetarians out there know that we need protein, too! And if we don’t get it, we grow weak. Every day, I delicately plan my meals with meat-free protein to sustain my body, and keep it strong and healthy.But at the end of my first week in the States, I grew very weak, and dark circles formed under my eyes from malnutrition. Why? Because I was constantly eating out while catching up with family and friends, and many times I was stuck with a lousy side salad.

So finally I said f**k it.

If these ignorant establishments will not cater for vegetarians in the year 2014  (just one plate on the menu, I’m not asking for a whole page) then I will bring my own food into the restaurant. So after the first week, I carried an avocado in my purse just in case there were no options. And the times when there weren’t, I took it out of my bag with no shame, cut it up, and added it to my side salad.

America needs to wake up, and fast, as the numbers are not in our favor. Right now, 26 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, and if the trend continues, 1 in 3 children born after 2001 will also develop it. We’ve gone from the average American eating 22 teaspoons of sugar per year, to 32 teaspoons per day.

So wake up America, and start eating your greens!  And please, please, please, cut back on the sugary drinks. By the way, did you know that U.S. Food Stamps pay for 59 million servings of soda per day?

Shocking isn’t it?


  1. adanelz6 says:

    Wow that is amazing – I must visit Taiwan!!

    • Hey this is really interesting. I’ve actually found it really difficult to eat vegetarian and healthy where I am in Taiwan. All the school food that’s provided is doused in oil and mostly meat, I usually end up preparing my own food and almost never eating out. I can always find fresh produce at the market which is great but, even the vegetarian restaurants I find really oily, maybe it’s different in different areas. I’m going to look into it more and see what’s by me. Thanks!

      • Where are you living in Taiwan? My advice would be to take advantage of all the fresh, local and cheap veggies in the market and you will be living the vegetarian dream. I found sesame seed oil cooks well with all the greens. Add some garlic and shredded ginger, and your are set 😉 Good luck!

      • In Nanakn up north by the airport, it’s really westernized so I think even a lot of the Taiwanese food is influenced by fast food. I will try the greens recipe thanks!

  2. Shocking reading! I enjoy eating meat, but we see it more as a treat than a must, and have vegetarian meals 2-3 nights a week. The uk seems to cater better for veggie diets however, lets hope it doesn’t follow in the US footsteps……

  3. If home in the US wasn’t Texas, and say California, especially San Francisco, maybe you’d feel better catered to 🙂 Thumbs up on the avocado, though I think that’s totally crazy! Haha.
    With the First Lady’s Let’s Move campaign, I feel some hope for the next generations, keeping fingers crossed for a healthier America.

    • Yes. I really respect Michelle Obama and all she has done for nutrition. Especially the “My Plate” campaign. And true, Cali would definitely have more options. I spent a week in Austin while home, and while there, I had no problems with eating veg, but everywhere else in Texas is pretty pathetic when it comes to veg cuisine. I was surprised that even my hometown of Houston, which is very cosmopolitan, had so few options.

  4. ExpatTabitha says:

    I too am a vegetarian and visited the U.S. last month for two weeks. Now, I didn’t have problems eating vegetarian; however, what I quickly noticed was that the food seemed too greasy, too sweet, and/or too salty. More so than I remembered. Also, I got stuck in the airport for eight hours after missing my connecting flight due to a delay when I was departing from Seoul and during that time in the airport, I was blown away by all of the walking and eating my fellow Americans were doing, and those eating away while busy away on their laptops, tablets, and mobile device. I observed a lot of overweight and obese people eating big burgers among other things and due to the distractions or what they were doing while eating, they didn’t seem cognizant of how much they were consuming and how fast they were eating. It was like I watching an episode of that show, Man vs. Food in real time as I waited to take a red-eye home. I just kept thinking was this really our norm back in the U.S. or was just noticing how much we consume back home of foods that aren’t good for us.

  5. Ugh, so true! I found more vegetarian options in London than I have in my own state of California… unless you count incredibly overpriced vegan restaurants which seems to be all the rage in LA. Great post! Thanks for sharing.

    Happy travels 🙂

  6. I had no idea that it is actually a struggle to find vegetarian restaurants in the states. But, I loved the idea of bringing an avocado with you everywhere you go. ha ha

    • Haha thanks! In some cities it is not hard, but in others it is. Especially in Texas. However, Austin is an exception. There are TONS of vegetarian friendly restaurants there.

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