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Pass The Protein: My Five-Day Vegan Challenge

When I tell people I’m vegetarian, the most common response is an unintentionally passive aggressive, “Oh.” Followed by an intentionally passive aggressive, “So where do you get your protein?” I used to deny people an answer to this question, partially because I was a newbie vegetarian in 7th grade still trying to figure out the […]

When I tell people I’m vegetarian, the most common response is an unintentionally passive aggressive, “Oh.” Followed by an intentionally passive aggressive, “So where do you get your protein?”

I used to deny people an answer to this question, partially because I was a newbie vegetarian in 7th grade still trying to figure out the appropriate response and partially because I didn’t want to fit the stereotype of those weird plant-eaters who try to convert omnivores. I thought, Should I brush it off or should I take the time to educate someone who still might not understand? I quit eating meat at a young age because it simply didn’t appeal to me. As I educated myself, I learned about the ethical reasons for quitting meat.

A plant-based lifestyle is easier than you think. Vegetarianism involves no meat whatsoever, including seafood. In my six years as a vegetarian, I’ve seriously considered taking the next step: going vegan.

The difference between this and vegetarianism is that vegans exclude all meat and animal-derived products like eggs, cheese, ice cream, and chocolate from their diet.

For some, the goal of veganism is to limit the exploitation of animals happening in the food and clothing industries, which I fully support. However, there’s one thing holding me back: boba milk tea. The thing is… I love dairy. It’s hard to go a day without it.

So I decided to go vegan for five days.

I started by meal-planning followed by a trip to Costco, which offers tons of vegan-friendly alternatives to real animal products. My dad and I bought groceries for the next two weeks to supply a family of four. Buying in bulk is generally more expensive than a standard grocery store, so our total for two weeks (including non-vegan food for the rest of my family) came out to $164.

Don’t let this total alarm you! Despite many myths, plant-based eating is not outrageously expensive like many people think. A standard grocery trip for CB Spanish teacher Ms. Fernandez, who has been vegan for three years, is affordable.

“I spend less on groceries now than when I was eating animal products” she says. Cutting the cost of meat your diet leaves plenty of room for fruits, veggies, and plant-based alternatives. “It depends on where you’re getting your groceries and what you want to consume.”

Ms. Fernandez became a vegan for health purposes. She was vegetarian for one year and slowly transitioned into veganism in order to avoid potential health complications, and her switch has proven beneficial.

“In terms of energy, definitely a big improvement. I’ve noticed my skin to be a lot more clear, I’ve been able to focus a lot better. After months I was able to see that change.”

Despite what you may think, there are limitless options when it comes to vegan food, and it doesn’t have to be boring either. I made it through the week without eating a single salad because vegan eating doesn’t have to be boring. My satisfying and delicious meals were not extravagant either. They all took under an hour to prepare.

A delectable dinner of cauliflower rice, grilled veggies, and potatoes.

Monday breakfast was an everything bagel sandwich with cucumber, sprouts, mixed greens, and my favorite vegan sauce inside. Lunch was a veggie burger. Inside was a Beyond Burger patty, veganaise, grilled onions, ketchup, and grilled bell peppers. Beyond Burgers taste just like a real patty, if not better. For dinner I had grilled veggies and rice. Again, delicious and quick to prepare. It was a surprisingly easy first day.

My favorite meal of the week: a Beyond Burger in an everything bagel.

Tuesday was Election Day and I worked the polls. Due to my busy day I had a quick oatmeal breakfast with bananas, granola, and honey. It was good and filling, but I’m not a huge oatmeal fan. At lunch I ran to the boba shop across the street for fried tofu, rice, and steamed broccoli. After a long day of work, I looked forward to dinner: Ms. Tabitha Brown (TikTok star)’s vegan mac n’ cheese.

Wednesday morning was a simple avocado toast with a smoothie. For lunch was mac n’ cheese leftovers and dinner was a fruit bowl.

Thursday breakfast was more avocado toast. Lunch was one of my favorite vegan snack, an RxBar (wasn’t too hungry). Dinner was–drumroll please–more vegan mac (it’s that good).

Friday was oatmeal for breakfast, vegan mac for lunch (we had a lot of leftovers), and a falafel plate for dinner.

A savory falafel plate with rice and tabbouleh to end the week.

Due to my experience as a plant-based eater, going vegan was easier than I thought. My main obstacle as the only vegan in my household was having enough vegan snacks available. If you live with other family members, going plant-based on your own can be a challenge. Regardless, plant-based foods can be found among all cultures so you’ll never be limited on food options.

“We forget that we’ve always been eating vegan until we were introduced to meat at one point in our history,” Ms. Fernandez says in reference to her Hispanic roots.

If you’re interested in going plant-based but don’t know where to start, consider integrating these alternatives into your diet: nut milk, tofu, soy meat, alongside protein-rich fruits and veggies like broccoli, avocados, grapefruits and peaches. Ms. Fernandez’ advice is to make a slow transition. “Learning how to read your own body and seeing what it needs more of is really important.”

The key to switching lifestyles is consistency. It’s not easy to fully quit meat, especially if it’s a big part of your diet. Try having a vegetarian or vegan breakfast each morning to slowly ease into your new food routine. Practice ordering a plant-based meal from your favorite restaurant (most establishments are accomodating to their plant-based customers). Or ask for meat substitutions on your favorite dish while eating out.

And if vegan food does not sound appealing to you — don’t knock it ’til you try it! There are plenty of vegan restaurants located around the city to get a taste of the food.

So next time someone asks you where you get your protein, you’ll already know the answer: plants.

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