May 13, 2015

One of the the four values of healthy eating, according to the American Heart Association, is variety. Eating nutrient-dense, clean foods is great. However, if you're only eating bananas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you'll be overloading on potassium, and missing out on other nutrients that bananas do not contain. Sometimes, I find myself in a rut where I just want pizza... or enchiladas... or bacon. Deep down, I know I truly love the taste of foods that will fuel my body better than those, however I get bored. I was reaching one of these moods around the time of lent. So with the push of my friend, who also promised to do this, I attempted to go fully vegan for the 40 days and 40 nights of Lent.

It made sense for me to make such an intense Lenten promise. With being busy at school, and not being in a religious club like I had been in the past, I found myself not making my religion a priority in my life. I figured, what better way then to remind myself every time I wanted to eat something? Here I will write my "vegan" story, what I ate, my favorite dishes, and if you choose to be vegan, how to go about that. 


What I do like about veganism is that it's not only about health and wellness of the person who partakes in it, but it's also about the greater good of animal treatment. I am totally for this cause, I love animals. If you need a reminder, just count how many pictures of my dog I have on my snapchat story (n_vergak) daily. However, I love my animal products too much. I also like trying different dishes and restaurants (I like to call myself a lowkey foodie), and I don't want any restrictions when trying new food! However, I really respect what these vegans are doing here.

Vegans have a much longer list of things that they CAN'T eat than a list of what thy CAN eat. No animal by-products means no dairy-based anything: cheese, yogurt, sauces, sour cream, cream cheese, ice cream, etc. No meat whatsoever, or anything prepared in meat oil. Two unfortunately banned items that are more inconvenient than you thought are eggs and honey. Also, they have to be really careful with how their bread, pastas, and grains were prepared, processed, and packaged. They CAN eat veggies, rice, quinoa, barley, fruits, legumes, fungi,  nuts, oils, hummus, etc. 

There's different versions of veganism. My version was a broke college student version. Basically, anything that didn't outright have meat, cheese, or dairy in it, I allowed myself to eat. I knew that the bread and the pasta in the dining hall were probably prepared with animal by-products, but I ate them anyways. Yes, I did have many times where I did cheat, I'll admit it. I always had a hint that they put cheese in their veggie burgers, however, I needed to eat SOMETHING. Also, sometimes I allows myself to have greek yogurt here and there if I knew I wasn't going to get enough protein that day. Here's a menu of what a vegan may eat for a few days. This was not my menu, as my options in the dining hall were limited. I would've LOVED to recreate this menu, however. Maybe next year in my apartment!

My Diet
I discovered a love for many delicious foods during my vegan journey. I'll go through my typical vegan day here:

Breakfast: Flaxseed vegan microwave waffles topped with strawberries and light agave nectar.
Lunch: Sandwich on a multigrain baguette with pumpkin hummus, apples, and greens.
Dinner: A blackbean veggie burger atop a bed of rice
Snacks (could include but not limited to): pita chips, popcorn, fruits and veggies, pretzels and hummus, nuts.

Here are some of my favorite dishes I ate while I was vegan.

"Vegan Sandwich": The sandwich listed as "lunch" above is actually what I ate at A&J King artisan bakery in downtown Salem. I was very pleased that they had a vegan section of their menu, this was DELICOUS! I would get it again even not as a vegan. 
lots and lots of burritos: Together, rice and beans make a complete protein, seeing as both rice and beans separately do not contain all amino acids, however, when combined, all amino acids are present. That being said, I HAD A LOT OF BURRITOS. I ate a vegan, gluten-free microwave burrito almost daily for lunch. Chipotle and The Howling Wolf were my saviors. 
Indian food: Not only did I discover Indian food is delicious, but it's also vegan-friendly mostly. Their unique ways of combining chickpeas, grains, peas, and more are delicious. Samosas and aloo matar wraps contain peas, chickpeas, and potatoes, and are delicious.
Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos: One day, the vegan gods were in my favor. The dining hall served mini burritos filed with just maple-glazed sweet potatoes and black beans. I swear I ate five... I plan on remaking these this summer and next year.

On the surface, I can say that I accomplished the health and religious goals with this. Of course, there was a few days (including Easter day) when I went a little animal by-product crazy. I think there was a point where I ate pizza for five meals in a row. The newfound freedom was invigorating. However, I was very much looking to discovering this freedom. If you really think about it, I never would have been able to enjoy that freedom if I didn't commit to 40 days of veganism.

The only complaint I had about veganism was the stretch of days I was sick of eating the same thing. I loved my indian wraps and cereal with almond milk, however I craved chicken salad sandwich, or anything different. However, this wasn't because of the roles of veganism. This was due to my situation: broke college student in a dorm living off of microwavable and dining hall food. If I had my own kitchen, I would have had more variety.

I loved discovering new ways to eat. Obviously, there are multiple ways to get your protein for the day. I was pleased to play around with polenta, tempeh, tofu, soy-based cheese and milk, soy-based yogurt, etc. I think some people think on a too-small scale when it comes to food. Broaden your horizons! Variety is a key to healthy eating.


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