Surviving The Vegan Challenge

One question I am always asked when I tell people I am a vegetarian is, “so what do you eat?” After years of eating this way, it quickly became second nature, and I don’t think twice about what I can and can’t eat. This past week, I took on the challenge of trying to survive AU’s campus as a vegan, and I was sure surprised with the outcome. For one, it takes a lot of conscious thought of what I could and couldn’t eat, and making decisions based on that. Is honey considered vegan even though it comes from bees? Is something that may contain traces of milk vegan? The definition of a vegan is not consuming anything derived from an animal, and it definitely proved to be a challenge even with my background as a vegetarian. Even after the week I have to ask other vegans out there “so what do you eat?”


Do The Research

             There are tons of hidden ingredients in things you wouldn’t expect that a vegan can’t eat. TDR surprisingly offered me the best options for the week because it labels everything as vegetarian or vegan, and allowed me to pick and choose what I wanted on my plate. The salad bar tended to be my go to, and I would consiously remind myself I couldn't pile on my favorite cheese or hard boiled egg. Before heading anywhere else on campus, I had to google ingredients. Freshii only offered a few non-dairy selections, and Subway uses honey or dairy in all its bread besides the original Italian. At the Eagle's Nest, I had to learn to read labels of everything I ate to see if it was safe. Most of the sandwiches availble were off limits, and I had to be really creative to make sure I was getting all the nutrients you need everyday. I packed meals with protein from soy products and beans. I also had to remember to keep up iron and calcium levels. The best way to do that is to drink soy milk with added calcium, and take vitamins every morning. I kept a food diary throughout the week to keep track of food trends, and make sure I was eating enough throughout the week. Knowing the nutritinal information of what youre eating can help ensure a healthy day, vegan or not. 

Get Creative

            Honestly, eating on campus was really hard. Most sandwiches and salads had dairy or meat in them, and eating in TDR three meals a day for a week was just not an option. Though heading out the Whole Foods can be expensive, I bought a box of soymilk and cereal for the week for breakfast, and some fake meat products to make my vegetable only meals more exciting. In addition, Chipotle offers some good veggie options (if you skip the pinto beans, cheese, and sour cream) and many of the Chinese restaurants in Tenleytown offer great tofu options to classic dishes. Explore, be creative, and try something different to make sure you’re getting everything you need. Also, a huge challenge was trying to eat on campus when MGC was being evacuated due to a firedrill. I had to get food somewhere else, and ended up finding little snacks in the Eagles Nest to make a meal. You sometimes have to think outside the box to ensure a balanced diet throughout your day. 


            I can honestly say that cutting out dairy and other animal products helped me feel healthier in general. Making the decision to get the veggie burrito at TDR without the cheese and sour cream was tough and required a lot of self-control, but I didn’t feel so bloated after a meal. I also found that because I was eating more veggies and high fiber foods, I stayed fuller for longer and had more energy through out the day. Being vegan isn’t something I am willing to stick with at this point in my life, but it was definitely a challenge I’m glad I took. If you are interested in trying to go vegan, make sure you do the research before you the take that step. If you plan to stick with it, meet with a nutritionist or doctor first to ensure you are going to stay healthy, and get all the nutrients you need. 


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