Students share their secrets to a successful vegan lifestyle

No butter. No cream. No eggs. No cheese or milk from cows or goats. No meat, poultry, lamb or beef. No fish, shellfish, shrimp or lobster. No gelatin and no honey.

This entails the diet of a vegan. According to Harvard University’s website, a balanced meal consists of a plate with half vegetables, a fourth whole grains and a fourth healthy proteins. However, according to vegetariantimes.com, only around 1 million of the 7.3 million vegetarians in the U.S. are vegan. Vegans and vegetarians make up a small portion of the population that does not consume meat as a source of protein.

A vegan is defined by Merriam-Webster as a strict vegetarian who consumes no food that comes from animals and one who abstains from using animal products. According to Time magazine’s website, the ideals of vegans can be traced back to 500 B.C., to a Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras of Samos, also the creator of the Pythagorean theorem. Pythagoras believed in compassion and sympathy between all animals, not just humans. Similar to Pythagoras’ beliefs, sophomore Cece Chapel said she believes in animals’ feelings.

“I guess I just think that animals have feelings,” Chapel said. “Considering that a pig is as smart as or is smarter than a dog, and is smarter than a 3-year-old baby, I don’t think that they should be eaten.”

Before making her commitment to be vegan five years ago, Chapel said her mom gave her plenty of videos and books to read and watch to understand the entirety of veganism. Similarly to Chapel, senior Sarah Allison said she did her research before committing to veganism.

“I watched a documentary about the effect animal agriculture has on our society,” Allison said. “It’s astounding and very inspiring if you care about our planet.”

In addition to Allison, sophomore Faith Kim said she watched a documentary called “Earthlings” that finalized her decision to become vegan. However, Kim said her family’s reaction wasn’t as on-board as her own.

“My mom actually gave me a hard time ever since I did become vegan,” Kim said. “She’s like ‘Why do you want to make yourself suffer so much?’”

Contrary to her mother’s concerns, Kim said she enjoys trying vegan foods, and said she eats animal-product substitutes to ensure she gets a balanced diet. From a non-vegan standpoint, physical education and health teacher Staci Lowe said she thinks there are many ways for vegans to get their nutrients.

“I think as long as they make sure they’re getting all the nutrients they need, protein being one, as long as they’re aware of those things and still have a balanced diet and [are] getting all the vitamins, minerals, nutrients they need, I think they’re good,” Lowe said.

According to mercola.com,  a health website, a vegan diet excludes many vitamins consumers would get through animal products otherwise, such as vitamin B12, vitamin D3, creatine and sulfur. However, the article goes on to further explain that this deficiency can be, for the most part, helped through supplementation. From a strictly nutritional standpoint, mercola.com said veganism can be dangerous; however, Kim said she recommends eating more and using substitutes, such as soy to make sure one gets enough protein in his or her diet.

“[The] first tip is make sure you’re eating enough, because, for example, [you] get a pasta right, and you take out the cheese and the meat, that’s like 400 calories gone,” Kim said. “There’s a lot of vegans that don’t eat enough, and they’re like, ‘Oh, I feel sick and I have no energy,’ [so] make sure to eat a lot. All my friends are like, ‘Why are you eating so much?’ but you kind of have to.”

Since Kim said she eats enough, she thinks veganism has helped with her energy and exercise levels, as well as her skin.

“Before I went vegan I didn’t exercise at all, but I feel like nowadays, since I’m eating healthier, I’m like, ‘OK, maybe I should start working out too,’ so, I think my body has changed a lot,” Kim said. “I feel a lot lighter and less weighed down. I had stomach problems, like digestive issues, and that went away really fast.”

Although Chapel, Allison and Kim said being vegan has affected them positively, they all said it can be hard at times. Chapel said it’s usually easy to find vegetarian options, but it’s harder to find vegan options because “dairy is in, it feels like, everything.” Nonetheless, Allison said finding things you’re excited to eat is important.

Allison said finding things you’re excited to eat is important.

“My tip for beginning vegans is to watch YouTube videos for ideas,” Allison said. “Find meals and snacks that you actually like and stick to them. Peanut butter, fruits and potatoes are going to be your best friends.”

Although Allison is currently on a hiatus from veganism, she said she’ll keep variety in mind when she goes vegan again in the future. Allison said she quit in the first place because she found herself bored with what she was eating. To avoid urges to quit, Chapel said comfort foods are essential.

“First of all you’ve got to get all the comfort foods, like cheese and the meat and stuff that you like, the comfort foods, and you’ve got to get the vegan form of them immediately, because you’re going to want them at some point,” Chapel said.

Kim said she enjoys eating vegan foods like chicken-less nuggets or freezer meals, and mentioned that there are vegan snacks that most don’t realize are vegan, such as pop tarts. Additionally, since not all restaurants are vegan, or offer vegan options, Kim said she had to get creative. She said there are times when she can’t eat anything at restaurants, so she’ll bring her own food instead. However, Kim said she has found a handful of vegan restaurants to try out.

“I went to this [restaurant], it’s called Eden Alley… It’s a vegetarian, vegan restaurant,” Kim said. “[Kansas] also [has] Cafe Gratitude. It is amazing; their foods are super good. Lastly, I think it’s [called] Mud Pie Bakery, and it’s just a cafe or bakery, and they sell vegan pastries.”

Whether someone is vegan for health benefits, environmental preservation, animal rights reasons or out of guilt, according to familyhealth.org veganism comes with the necessity to carefully balance eating and pay close attention to one’s diet.

“Your body needs certain things to grow and stay healthy and so you’re just going to make sure you keep that overall goal in mind and make sure you’re not starving yourself of things your body has to have to function properly,” Lowe said. “You can get that from other things, you just have to be focused more and pay attention.”

Outside of the difficulties of being vegan, Allison said it is worth it. She said she thinks the impact one vegan has can accumulate over time to create something bigger.

“You just feel better all around,” Allison said. “Not just physically, but mentally, too, because you know your decision to be vegan is making an impact in the environment and the animal agriculture industry. Some look at it like one person isn’t going to do anything, but individual raindrops all coming together can form a waterfall and that’s the way I look at my impact.”

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