"Give us only vegetables to eat." -Daniel 1:12
Scripture regards Daniel very highly. He is described by Yeshua as, "a man greatly beloved" and YHWH specifically mentions the righteousness of Daniel along with Noah and Job (Ezekiel 14:14). He was able to interpret prophecy, pray for the return of Judah from exile, had incredible visions, prayed three times a day, and was supernaturally protected from an execution attempt. Nothing bad about Daniel is spoken of in Scripture.
And this highly regarded man spent at least part of his life as a vegetarian.
Maybe you have heard of the Daniel Fast. It is inspired by the events in the first chapter of the book of Daniel.
"But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's food, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested to the chief of the officers permission to abstain that he might not defile himself." –Daniel 1:8
As we see a few verses later the initially hesitant officer decided to let Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah go on a vegetarian diet for ten days. Verse 15 says after the ten days were up the officer was so impressed with the beauty and fullness of their faces that he put the rest of the captives on a vegetarian diet as well.
The premise of the Daniel Fast is a simple vegan diet with no dairy, meat, eggs, sugar, or alcohol for a determined amount of time in attempt to grow closer to the Messiah (and for some, lose weight or get their health back on track). I know many people who have been greatly impacted by doing the DF, and personally most of my meals fit into the Daniel Fast guidelines; so I'm not saying anything against participating in it.
But I do have a question: Did Daniel think he was fasting?
We just read that Daniel purposed not to defile himself. The reason he requested vegetables and water wasn't so he could 'focus on prayer' or 'grow closer to God' like many do when they start a fast. He said he didn't want to defile himself. Daniel wanted to keep kosher.
We know that in ancient Babylon many animals that YHWH says not to eat where regularly consumed. Pigs, shellfish, and turtle, along with other animals (clean and unclean) were regularly eaten. While Scripture doesn't record exactly what was being served to Daniel and his friends, we can clearly see it was unclean, otherwise Daniel wouldn't have thought it would defile him. Even if it was a clean animal that YHWH permits us to eat, like beef, there is no reason the pagan Babylonians would have been careful to drain the blood as YHWH tells us to. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah did not eat the king's meat since they didn't want to break a commandment of YHWH.
It would have been easy for them to make excuses. They were prisoners in captivity after all! But, Daniel resolved not to defile himself. And YHWH and Yeshua both spoke highly of him in Scripture.
It can be argued that if Daniel hadn't been faithful to YHWH's commandments in chapter 1 the rest of the book wouldn't have taken place. He wouldn't have been given the interpretation to Nebuchadnezzar's dream, seen visions, or been protected in the lion's den. Would Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah have worshiped the image the king set up? While I don't believe that diet alone is what made Daniel righteous, we do know that the action of keeping YHWH's commands is righteous. Daniel wouldn't have gotten credit for knowing he shouldn't eat unclean meat, it is the doing that YHWH esteems (Romans 2:13).
I do not say this to imply that vegetarianism or veganism is superior to all other diets. YHWH permits the consumption of clean meat and dairy throughout Scripture and even specifically instructs lamb to be eaten at Passover. But if you're faced with a vegetarian meal or unclean meat then the answer is clear. YHWH's diet is superior to all others!