I can’t believe classes start tomorrow! With all the brewing anxiety, I know it’s important for me to start this semester off on the right foot – and that means with a happy mind and body. So yesterday (Mon. 8/27) I decided to see if I could eat a whole day vegan while sticking on campus, as vegan-eating tends to be gentler on my stomach and give me more natural energy.
My mother is someone who recently began a vegan diet, and has maintained such for about 7 months now! But, just as I mentioned, she as well does it for the health benefits and not necessarily as an animal rights activist. So, for a month this summer, I tried it myself! It was strange at first, and it was my first ever “diet”, but I stuck to it for a full 30 days and was proud of myself for that. However, a couple of factors made it difficult to maintain: A) I live in a very commercial suburb, with lots of not-so-vegan restaurant chains, and B) I worked at one of those very restaurants! Even though there were slightly healthier options, either I had to purchase those (not included in an employee meal), or it was just too busy to get something like a salad. Therefore, after the month was up and I returned to eating animal products, I decided to take what I had learned and apply it here in school!
One of the biggest things that I learned about eating vegan was that just because something does not contain animal products, does not mean that it is healthy. I ended up eating a lot of potato chips and french fries and way fewer fruits and veggies than I should have! Another important fact to remember is that as long as you pile on those greens, your concern for how much protein you are intaking is lessened significantly. Green foods are GREAT for you, and building meals around having a colorful plate is an awesome jumping point!
I’ll give an example of a very non-vegan and unhealthy meal I got on Sunday.
No good! While a meal at McDonald’s might be technically “worse”, that’s still not the right track for my eating given that I have a tendency to get this plate often here at school. Rather than playing the “well I could be eating THIS” game, I would prefer strictly being proud of what I’m putting in my body! So thus, I changed my habits for Monday.
Breakfast: cereal w/ almond milk and black coffee
Lots of sugar, but filled me up ’till lunch and helped curb any cravings for sweets for quite a while.
Lunch: wheat wrap w/ hummus, lettuce, tomatoes, spinach, and green peppers – small side of balsamic vinaigrette and a golden apple
Sodium content in the wrap and the hummus is apparently high (according to my school’s online nutrition calculator) but I know the veggies were really good to have and this filled me up nicely. (Plus, green pepper – YUM.)
Snack: pretzels and hummus
This is the same hummus that my school uses for the wraps. I bought a container from the market downstairs and ate it with the pretzels I already had in here. It was so perfect as a midday treat!
Dinner: Veggie “beef” taquitos with black beans, rice, and a side of salsa
The salsa was necessary to add flavor, but other than that I was excited to see that there were vegan faux-meat options in the cafeteria! My friend even tried the taquito and agreed that it tasted just like real beef.
And…not pictured…okay, I had a few pieces of chocolate for dessert. I couldn’t resist! So my day was not 100% vegan, but what I view personally as the “important” things (no meat, cheese, few products containing milk/eggs) were covered. And even if the nutrition calculator is telling me there is an exorbitant amount of sodium in the vegetables I ate, I don’t care – they are veggies! I feel so good about the choices I made (even with a treat for dessert) and I am excited to continue them into the year. By avoiding overly-processed foods, I made myself feel better, and that means a better sleeping schedule and more energy for studying or exercising.
Something I may try to maintain is a 5-days-a-week vegan diet: Monday thru Friday vegan, and Saturday and Sunday I am allowed to have meat/dairy if I want it! As a money-conscious college student (who am I kidding, who isn’t?) I already limit myself to one non-campus dine-out a week (not including groceries). This could fit in nicely to my fitness plan!
I’m still trying to figure everything out, but it’s days like these that help me realize that I have the willpower to push myself in the right direction, health-wise, and so does anyone else.