College Veganism: What, Why, and How

 

College Veganism – What, Why, and How

Four months ago, I decided to cut all animal products from my diet. Naturally, this has raised a lot of questions from people in many parts of my life, so I decided to break down the questions I receive the most often and explain my answers to each of them.

1) What exactly does it mean to be vegan?

Technically, your diet is only part of a vegan lifestyle. A fully plant-based diet excludes all animal products – so meat, eggs, all dairy products and even products like honey and beeswax are all out. It doesn’t stop there, though – a full vegan lifestyle also removes all animal products and byproducts from your daily life, including skincare products, clothing, and accessories.

2) Why?

This is a big one. I seriously think I get this question at least once a day – but why? For most people, I think it boils down to one, two, or all of these three reasons:

A.   For The Animals – Seems pretty self-explanatory, but many people don’t know why vegans choose to make the leap from vegetarianism to the elimination of all animal products. It only takes a little bit of research to realize how messed up the dairy industry really is, though, and how exploitative of animals it is to use any part of their bodies or the products they create. A lot of vegans, though certainly not all, cite the main reason for their lifestyle as protecting the animals over the industries that exploit them.

B.   For The Environment – It’s no secret that a plant-based diet is more environmentally sustainable. It’s a fact that has been in the news more than ever in recent months. The amount of land, water, energy, and even plants that it takes to feed an omnivore is exponentially larger than the amount needed to support a vegan diet. For many people, especially in our generation, protecting the environment is as important, if not more, than protecting the animals.

C.   For Personal Health – There are a lot of reasons that veganism is healthier for many people. For me, it has made me infinitely more conscious about the things I put in my body and that has made me feel much healthier. A pretty solid bonus is that dairy upsets my stomach – and most people’s – and I’ve noticed a huge difference in my digestive health since I made the jump to just cut all dairy products out of my diet.

 

3) What do you even eat?

Literally anything other than meat, eggs, and dairy. I promise it isn’t that complicated. I could eat nothing but whole fruits and veggies and raw seeds – but I don’t. I also could eat nothing but French fries and Oreos – but I don’t do that either. I eat just as moderate and balanced of a diet as I did when I ate animal products. There just isn’t anything that comes from an animal in it.

4) Isn’t it expensive?

….No. In all honesty I don’t even know where this stereotype comes from. First of all, like any diet ever, there are expensive ways to do it and inexpensive ways to do it. I save money where I can. Not every piece of produce I buy is organic. I often choose other options over expensive vegan “replacements.” I’ve also found myself eating out far less, which has saved me a lot of money over time.

5) Is it as hard to transition to veganism as people says it is?

I think this is a really personal question, so it’s difficult to answer in a general sense. For me, no, it really wasn’t that hard. I’ve been vegetarian since I was seven, so giving up meat wasn’t a part of the transition for me, and I stopped drinking milk when I was maybe 11 or 12 and first diagnosed with lactose intolerance. The e most difficult items for me to give up were really just cheese, chocolate, and ice cream. What I miss the most is the convenience – but removing the ease of just grabbing a chocolate bar has made eating a far more intuitive experience for me.

6) Is it easy to find vegan options on campus?

It’s definitely not easy, but it’s not too hard to not be worth it. My favorite spots are the Juice Bar and POD Salad Express in the Webb. This year, I have a kitchen in my apartment so I mostly buy groceries and cook at home, but my understanding is that the dining halls have started offering more vegan options, including vegan pizza, smoothies, and several vegan and gluten free dessert options as well based on the student demand. Plant-based diets have become so much more popular in the past few years that it has become easier to find yummy, quick, and inexpensive options both on campus and off.

7) What advice do you have for someone who wants to make the transition to veganism?

You can do it! Honestly, I was super, super nervous to make the transition, and I had set a pretty low bar for the likelihood of it being a successful journey. I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it really is. Go slowly, and remember that gradually cutting things out of your diet does make a difference. You don’t have to make the change overnight – and you shouldn’t! It can be very startling to the body to cut out anything too quickly or to make drastic changes without giving your digestive system adequate time to adapt. This article from Nutriciously is a great source for a gradual and healthy transition to a vegan lifestyle. Take your time and find recipes that work for you.

8) Where do you find recipes?

Photo from bakerbynature.com 

Pinterest is my favorite platform for finding vegan recipes! I usually just search whatever I’m looking for and add “vegan” at the end. Eggs and dairy can be difficult to replace, so it may take a few attempts – or a few different recipes – before you find something that tastes good to you. One of my favorite blogs for recipes is theveglife.com (I swear by their pumpkin chocolate chip cookies) and this vegan chocolate chip cookie recipe from Baker By Nature is my ultimate favorite (pictured above, too)! For lunches and dinners, I love this pesto spaghetti recipe and this buffalo cauliflower sandwich!

 

In all honesty, when I started my journey toward veganism earlier this summer, I was pretty terrified, but I learned really quickly that it isn’t all that difficult. I’m not saying it’s for everyone, but I do think that there is value in trying something new and in listening to that nagging moral conscious in your head. I am genuinely so glad that I took this step. I feel healthy, and I treat food and meals consciously in a way I didn’t before. My diet aligns with my morals, too, and I really do love that. I don’t plan on looking back any time soon.