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What I Learned in 4 Years of Being Vegan

On April 10th, I celebrated 4 years of eating a plant-based, vegan diet void of all meat, eggs, dairy, fish, and other animal products. I’ve learned a lot of things in those four years like Oreos are vegan, it is important to plan ahead when eating out, nutritional yeast makes everything taste better and side salads are not filling. Here are 4 main takeaways from my experience.

There is a world of foods out there

Before going vegan, I grew up on the standard American diet of meat, potatoes, and very little variety in my diet. A lot of people can view veganism as restricting what you eat, but it really expanded my palate. In the first year, I tried tofu, seitan, cauliflower, yams, asparagus, nutritional yeast, banana peppers, rice milk, and the list could go on. I had to become creative in the kitchen and learn to cook without the staples I had been accustomed to, which has made me expand what I eat on a daily basis and appreciate how you can transform food in the kitchen.

There are amazing all-vegan restaurants and bakeries throughout the world and annual vegan food festivals are held in many cities to celebrate food.  Some of my favorite meals to make at home include a potato and pepper dish with veggie sausage, pasta anyway, veggie tofu scramble, and cauliflower mac n cheese.

Everyone’s path is unique
Vegan food
Cassie Nataro

I went vegan because my parents didn’t think I could restrain from eating meat for a month. I like to prove people wrong and I took that bet and won. I stayed vegan because I liked the health benefits and I watched Cowspiracy and Forks Over Knives on Netflix and realized it would be hard for me to go back to my old way of eating after being educated on the state of animal agriculture.

There are many reasons people go vegan and there are many reasons people stay vegan. Some people focus more on eating raw, natural foods, others eat honey, and some are vegan down to their socks and shoes. All vegans do not eat meat, eggs, dairy, and fish, but everything else varies from person to person.

Not all vegans are skinny

A lot of people associate the word vegan with the word healthy. Vegans tend to be healthier than meat-eaters due to eating more nutrient-rich foods and foods that do not contain cholesterol which can promote heart health and lower blood pressure among other things. While vegans may be healthier is some aspects, there are so many unhealthy vegan fast foods, snacks, and sweets out there that can contribute to a poor diet that happens to be vegan. For example, many fast-food fries are vegan, Starbucks frappuccinos can be veganized and non-dairy ice cream exists. All of these foods are delicious and are really helpful in the beginning when the mind and body need to adjust, they should be consumed in moderation. Being a college student and busy, I can find myself eating quick frozen meals and not participating in the most healthy choices, just like anyone would.

People will be curious and patience is key
Vegan ice cream
Cassie Nataro

Oh the questions that come from breaking the norms of American society. Some people are genuinely curious and others are flat out rude. I was not raised vegan, so I understand where people are coming from. I appreciate when people thoughtfully ask questions and it helps me reinforce why I stay vegan.

It also takes a lot of patience on my end to not go into full education on the horrible ways of industrial animal agriculture every time someone asks me a question or I go out to eat with friends.  For me, I have come to a place where I do not need to convert everyone, I just need to respect their choice and they need to respect mine. I also just want people to be more open to trying a veggie sausage or non-dairy ice cream and not having the mindset that all vegan food tastes like dirt.

Overall, I love being vegan. It can be hard at times, but I’ve met people through this shared lifestyle and have tried so many new things I wouldn’t have otherwise. There are all vegan restaurants and bakeries that are so creative with food and allowed me to appreciate what I eat more. I don’t see myself going back to or stopping vegan at any point soon because I am satisfied with all that I am able to eat. To the people that are curious about veganism, don’t hesitate to ask questions, remain curious about everything and be open to trying new things, you might find yourself liking tofu and cauliflower wings more than you thought.

Cassie Nataro is a junior statistics major at Baylor University. She is from Easton, Pennsylvania, just a little north of Philadelphia. When she is not listening to a podcast, she can be found working at a local restaurant, studying around Waco, closing her watch rings or hanging out with her friends. Some of her favorite things include breakfast foods, swimming, cult documentaries, witty banter, cross stitching and vegan baked goods.
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