The week I tried eating vegan

Hello dearest readers. Thank you for choosing to read, scan or glance at my newest weekly column, Grace Notes. As students, our lifestyles are often chaotic, overwhelming and full of choices on how we can spend our already divided time. Experimenting with our routine is not something we can always afford to make time for. So over the next semester I hope to be your proverbial guinea pig. Each week I will adopt a new habit, practice or experience in the name of weeding out which are worth trying and which are over-hyped. My hope is that this may inspire some of you to try something new, open your mind to a new way to do things or, at the very least, invite you to have a laugh at my expense (Trust me, there will be some doozies.) Also, if you have any suggestions or things you’d like to see me try, feel free to reach out!

Now let’s get on with it. For my first experiment I tried eating vegan for a week. For all you fans of animal products, I understand this prospect is horrifying. As an avid lover of bacon sandwiches, bacon wraps, bacon toast, bacon bits and all things bacon, this was a horrifying idea for me as well. But after a bloating episode that reached pregnancy scare level, I decided something about my diet needed a dramatic overhaul. Also, I do get a little emo everytime I see a truck with little piggy snouts sticking out. 

Despite all odds, veganism is a trend, so doing this was a little easier with the help of every YouTube lifestyle vlogger ever lending me their “tips and tricks for healthy vegan meals.” My grocery list quickly began to resemble a cleaning bottle label with items like “aquafaba” and “xanthan gum.” After a near meltdown searching for meat-free haggis  (minced sheep innards) in Hy-Vee, I was forced to wade through the “woke” version of food aisles in health food stores. Nothing has ever made me feel quite so pretentious as approaching a health food salesperson to inquire about the dairy-free, vegan, coconut-based yogurt. 

Despite these hurdles in pride, I was able to create some yummy dishes, including stir-fry, dairy and meat-free sandwiches and even vegan pancakes. While some were utter flops (the pancakes, sadly), I found that the meals I was eating were much more exciting than an average night of microwave easy-mac with a side of chicken nuggets. I was cooking—actually cooking! And I was using ingredients I had never used before. Want to feel fancy? Sprinkle some fresh parsley over your pasta.  

What’s more is my bloating essentially disappeared, I found i was less sluggish waking up early and working out felt less like I had slammed five beers beforehand and at any moment was on the verge of passing out. Is that just me?

I realize that you don’t need to go vegan to eat healthy, and that you could technically only eat Oreos and still be eating entirely “vegan.” But if you’re anything like me, the oath of “this week I’m going to eat healthy,” quickly devolves into twice-a- day trips to Slim Chicken’s when s— hits the fan and you have three essays due yesterday. What I’m trying to say is that radically changing my diet and placing clear restrictions on what I was eating finally got me out of the rut. It forced me to get creative, to accept that lazy was not a term I could apply to preparing meals and to stop spending money eating out. 

Even though I’m now gradually starting to reintroduce things like meat and eggs to my diet, I’m still eating healthier and will forever be more ingredient conscious. I realize this may be hard in a dorm-setting or with a busy schedule, but if you’re frustrated with your diet, or with health issues like I was, challenging yourself to eat entirely vegan or plant-based for even just a week will have an impact.

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