Vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, flexitarian, you name it. There are a handful of food trends out there that confuse the crap out of me. You see, some people enjoy eating vegan foods, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they are vegan for life.
Even with these food trends becoming more and more common there is still a negative stigma that typically follows. Personally, I have heard some people call it "silly," "a call for attention," or simply "stupid" when I choose an all veggie, whole-grain pizza off of the menu. Also, I got so much crap for eating carrots and hummus as a snack in high school (just let me be).
I'm not kidding when I tell you that people will talk no matter what, even about what foods you like to eat. I was definitely nervous to try this since I'm the type of girl that needs to have chicken in her salad to feel complete. And, definitely, my Latin-American heritage doesn't really promote vegetarianism either (I mean, with all that chorizo and carne asada, it is nearly impossible). Additionally, I feared that I wouldn't be able to get all of my recommended protein in without eating meat.
But that didn't stop me. Being the foodie that I am, I am always on the search to try new things. So, when the idea of trying to be vegetarian for a week popped into my mind, I said, "why not?" For a full 7-day period, I was willing to try the vegetarian lifestyle.
Going into this challenge, I must admit I was a little nervous. Ever since I started college I’ve seen people in both ends of the spectrum. Forgetting to eat is common for a lot of college students, while the other extreme for some is binge eating through their entire meal plan. Sometimes I felt that most 18 to 20 year-olds have zero to very little knowledge of the food that they are consuming. So, I started doing some digging. Now, there is so much more information available about the positive effects of a diet rich in dietary fiber, complex carbs, and other vitamins and minerals that are predominantly found in fruits and vegetables.
As I read more and more about the benefits of the vegetarian lifestyle, my interest in it grew. For pure research purposes, a desire to eat cleaner, and feel good about myself, I decided to start my college vegetarian week. And so my journey began and so did operation veggie-up.
I undertook this challenge and felt very confident and motivated to make it through an entire week of calling myself a vegetarian. My breakfasts usually consisted of something like almond butter and banana toast, an egg white omelet, avocado toast, or occasionally a granola bar on those mornings where I struggle to get out of bed.
My lunches and dinners most of the days were salads (no chicken, of course), soups, veggie or fruit smoothies, and lots and lots of hummus. I was definitely consuming more fruits and vegetables than usual through different means, such as sandwiches, smoothies, and salads.
Three days into the vegetarian challenge, I walked up to Panera (also known as Bread Co. in St. Louis) and ordered a Green Goddess Cobb Salad (my favorite), without chicken or bacon. As I was telling the cashier my order, she kept giving me a funny look and almost smirking at the fact that I specifically ordered my salad without chicken or bacon. To be honest, I expected it, since vegetarians always get picked on for some reason.
I usually found myself grabbing a granola bar as a snack just because my schedule can get a little crazy sometimes and this week was definitely one of those heavy, restless weeks. The fact that I was already trying to eat clean made me have less cravings for junk foods. I worked out as usual throughout the week and felt really good overall, and never felt light-headed or weak in any way.
The AftermathFirst off, I thought it was going to be sooo much harder than it was. I found myself eating a lot of eggs, and much more fruits than I normally do. I rekindled my love for quinoa bowls and roasted red pepper and tomato soup as well. I had no problem eating lots of hummus and adding beans to my salads, as well as healthy fats like nuts and olives. Also, I realized I am slightly in love with smoothie bowls, just a little obsessed with avocados, and green smoothies are actually growing on me. There are so many vegetarian meals out there that are insanely good you'll never realize that they are actually vegetarian.
Overall, I felt great both physically and mentally. It really is true that “we are what we eat” in the sense that if you fill your body with wholesome foods, the better your body will function and feel. I would definitely try going vegetarian again, and adopt it as a lifestyle. After realizing that I had fallen in love with food again, I have decided to try to at least let one day a week be “meatless."