Vegan foods

She stared in awe at a juicy Italian soy “soysage” with apple and sage that was paired with roasted peppers, fried rice and Jamaican agave beans. Every bite she took was full of flavor and substantial nutrients, each tastier than the last. Every bite is entirely vegan.  

People become vegan for many reasons. Some do it to prevent the exploitation of animals, others do it as a dietary lifestyle for the health benefits. Emma of Emmalikesfood, a pescetarian, and Joanna of Jo Carb Diet, an omnivore, decided to take on the challenges of being vegan for one week. This included eliminating meat, poultry, fish, as well as animal products and by-products from our daily life on and off campus. While many vegans debate on whether or not honey is vegan, we decided to go all the way and cut that out as well.

With all the terms and conditions underway, we took on a vegan adventure to see what food options were out there.

Day one was exciting and actually pretty easy for both of us. We both usually eat breakfast at home, including oatmeal, fruit or toast with peanut butter. Emma already had vanilla whey protein powder to support her nearly vegetarian diet, so she was able to add more protein in a flavorful way to her breakfasts. At first the diet was about making do with what we had that was already vegan, but we quickly realized that wouldn’t cut it. Friendly City Co-Op became Emma’s best friend over the week, with portabella mushrooms for burgers, vegan sausage, vegan cocoa crisps and a new favorite: Amy’s vegan mac and cheese.

Eating on campus proved to be its own adventure. Most of our favorite places to eat had vegan options but it required researching to make sure we weren’t accidentally breaking our diet. The Farmer’s Market Burger in Chophouse of the Student Success Center isn’t actually vegan because their ingredients include milk and eggs, but Emma learned that the vegan burger containing sun-dried tomatoes with perfectly seasoned french fries was actually a tastier option.

Get Your Green On! inside the Grace Street Market has made-to-order quinoa bowls, where Jo had most of her vegan meals. Her usual quinoa bowl included chicken, feta cheese and eggs. Switching from a omnivorous lifestyle to a vegan lifestyle meant that protein would be scarce, at least for someone who used to eat meat and eggs. Because of this, Jo had to replace her non-vegan choices with protein-filled items like tofu and lots and lots of beans. Emma’s nearly vegetarian diet made this option particularly easy, as all she had to cut out was feta.

When Jo wasn’t eating quinoa for lunch, she was at UREC getting the Classic Hummus rice bowl at Freshens Fresh Food Studio. The rice bowl could easily become vegan by taking out the feta cheese, leaving warm brown rice, spinach, romaine, cucumber, tomatoes topped with a garlic Tahini sauce and regular hummus.

Snacks were easier off campus than on campus. Chips and salsa, pretzels and peanut butter and surprising vegan treats like Oreos proved to be the easiest. On campus, the best snack options were either in Starbucks or the Pod in Grace Street Market. Starbucks has kale chips that aren’t just tasty but also healthy and low in fat. A popular item Jo got was Hippeas organic chickpea puffs, which has a similar consistency to Cheetos.

Dinner off campus required creativity. Jo had a night of vegetable pasta with a tomato garlic sauce and a side of broccoli; a night of quinoa, broccoli and bombay potatoes; and a night of gnocchi with tomato basil sauce, mushrooms and a side dish of brussel sprouts. Something Jo explored twice was Taste of India, an Indian restaurant that provided a whole section for vegan eaters on the menu. The best part about this restaurant was that they had vegan naan, a must-have addition to heavily spiced dishes.

Once the weekend came, Little Grill Collective was the best vegan option for brunch. Most of the menu items could be converted to a vegan dish by substituting eggs with tofu, or using applesauce instead of eggs or adding vegan chocolate chips in pancakes.

Veganism made us realize how even the simplest treats can be surprisingly vegan, like Oreos and Uncrustables. But there were also staples in our lifestyles that were surprisingly not vegan, like Cheerios and certain types of bread. Though she felt more hungry at points in the day, Jo noticed that she felt more energized being vegan, and without a single stomachache, which could be because of the exclusion of dairy. Needless to say, toward the end of the week there was a light at the end of the tunnel, and it led to a valley of cheese and freshly made waffles with butter and syrup. The hardest part for Emma was probably the baked goods that surrounded her in her day-to-day life. She bought four cookies on her first full day after veganism.

While we both were excited to introduce dairy, cheese and other non-vegan foods back into our lives, we both gained a lot from our temporary diet. Being vegan for a week forced us both to look more introspectively on what’s actually in the foods we take for granted. Food For Thought, the vegan club on campus, is working toward getting more vegan friendly options on campus, which will hopefully make this lifestyle choice even more accessible. If you’re considering going vegan, vegetarian or any similar diet, we both recommend giving it a shot, whether it’s Meatless Mondays or quitting cold-turkey — but go grocery shopping first.

Contact Emma Korynta and Joanna McNeilly at breezearts@gmail.com.