Is a Vegan Diet Right for You?

     In 2018, vegan diets are all around us. Countless restaurants offer vegan entrees and many people have a vegan friend or family member. With this immense exposure to vegan diets, we have all thought about doing it ourselves right? Freshman year, I became very close friends with my assigned dorm roommate, also named Emily. After moving in together, I discovered that she was vegan. Emily explains that she has been vegan since high school, and was vegetarian for years before that. She chooses to be vegan as a health choice, to reduce her impact on the environment, to reduce the inhumane treatment of animals, and as a personal ethical decision. Looking back, I am pleasantly surprised at how this exposure unexpectedly altered my eating habits, as well.

     Emily was first vegetarian since middle school and finally became vegan as an upperclassman in high school. Her journey began after watching a documentary about the inhumane treatment of animals as food resources in 7th grade. What began as almost exclusively an animal rights practice for Emily began to transition to a complex web of reasons. Many people’s first response to meeting someone who practices a vegan diet is “Why?” For Emily, it is now an animal rights issue, an environmental impact, a health choice, and an ethical decision.

     There are many reasons someone might want to become vegan themselves. After talking with Emily, she gave me several pros to a vegan diet. Rice, beans, and frozen vegetables are extremely cheap and make up most of her meals. Also, since there has been a recent rise in demand for vegan products, there are new and delicious substitutes for almost any food, including vegan chocolate, vegan burgers, and vegan hot dogs. Not only does she feel healthier after becoming fully vegan, but she explains that “I have met so many people at UA through Vegan Voices [the vegan club on campus]. The vegan community (contrary to popular belief) is extremely accepting.” These are all benefits to a vegan lifestyle, not even considering that reducing the number of animal products you consume can be one of the biggest was to reduce your environmental impact.

     She does specify some cons to be aware of though. Going out to eat can be a challenge in areas that may not be as well adapted to vegan or vegetarian lifestyles. Luckily, you can usually look at a restaurant’s menu options online before you go. Additionally, certain products can be expensive, such as many meat and cheese substitutes. However, there are definitely ways to get around these products in your everyday diet. Lastly, some people can be easily put off be veganism. People who have not had much exposure sometimes have a hard time connecting with those who adhere to a different lifestyle. I am sure that I myself have said some insensitive things to Emily when I first learned about her diet, but it is not a hard lifestyle to accept and love.

     Now, two of my favorite foods are still sushi and cheese, so I am obviously not vegan or vegetarian. However, exposure to Emily’s eating habits has made me much more conscious of my diet. I have had several vegetarian friends and family members before, but I had never really been exposed to a true vegan diet. Through Emily’s choices, I became much more aware of vegan substitutes. I discovered that I usually prefer veggie burgers to beef burgers and that sometimes a cheese substitute can do the job for the sake of health. Emily’s advice to anyone thinking about becoming vegan is to just try it. Ignore any excuses you make for yourself, and once you try it, veganism is much easier than you would imagine. Also, remember that no one is perfect. Emily suggests making the transition slowly, or maybe to try being vegan only a few days a week: “Small steps really do make a huge difference in the long run.”