My mantra in life can be credited to Jimmy Buffet’s song, Cheeseburger in Paradise. I dream about steak, lamb, and of course the classic cheeseburger. Being a carnivore should be listed on my resume. One day when I was making Chicken Parmesan last semester, the first few lines of Cheeseburger in Paradise hit me.
“Tried to amend my carnivorous habits.
Made it nearly seventy days,
Losin’ weight without speed, eatin’ sunflower seeds,
Drinkin’ lots of carrot juice and soakin’ up rays.”
If Jimmy Buffet can go seventy days without meat, I can go seven days without meat, I thought. But wait, let’s double the stakes. My mind quickly became a game of Jeopardy where I risked it all and decided to go vegan. I thought, “Let me try it for a week and see how it goes.” Little did I know that this week was going to be one of the hardest weeks of my life (and also the most expensive).
When I told my roommates of my plan, they were quick to judge, but they’re used to my unusual antics. They were supportive, but first made at least fifteen vegan jokes. That day I made my way to Stop and Shop and wandered down the organic aisle for about an hour. I wanted to try everything from dairy-free cheese to vegan microwavable dinners.
One expensive grocery trip and a fridge full of food later, I was ready to begin my journey. I was so excited to try my new diet and also quite hungry. Once my groceries were all put away, I opened a soy yogurt. It hit my tongue, and I knew it was a mistake.
Imagine the texture of slime and the taste of play-dough in your mouth, with a hint of artificial strawberry. I made all my roommates try it, watched them cringe and gag, then immediately chucked it in the garbage. What a great start to my week.
I started off my morning by rushing around the kitchen to butter a piece of toast and subsequently being late to my Medical Botany class. It wasn’t until I made this decision of being vegan that I realized I had to get egg-less bread and vegan butter. Today was also the day it struck me that a lot of food coloring and food dyes are tested on animals and aren’t vegan friendly. I didn’t want to risk failing, so goodbye jolly ranchers and gummy worms.
I woke up from a dream of me sleeping between two hamburger buns to my roommate getting ready for class. I picked up my favorite sweater to wear and frantically dropped it. The tag read 100% wool. I chose a black t-shirt, to mourn the death of my carnivorous ways.
However, lunch brought me a little bit of happiness. Even though I was not allowed to put on any creamy dressing or buttery croutons, I made a salad that would send any Caesar salad home with a K.O. I used cranberries, walnuts, fresh squeezed lemon juice, avocado, sun dried tomatoes, chickpeas, and sunflower seeds. Anything you could imagine, I put it on my salad.
There were a few mornings where I woke up early and made some breakfasts worthy of a fitness Instagram account. This was one of those days. My avocado toast was not only super trendy, but also delicious and easy. All you need is avocado, pepper, and vegan bread.
Day four was definitely the highlight of the week, because just when I felt tempted to order a pizza, I found out Oreos are vegan. Yes, America’s favorite cookie saved the day. For dinner, I went to the Marist Dining Hall, and I was forced to eat vegetables and fries. With my hunger still apparent, I went to find more vegan options and ended up with an overcooked potato and peas.
The vegan challenge was looking up, and day five went smoothly. This was the first time I didn’t let my eating habits consume my life. For breakfast, I had some vegan cereal with almond milk and contently walked to class. For the rest of the day, I snacked on fruit, granola, and rice cakes.
Dinner was easy. I didn’t alter my normal cooking schedule much. I made sure to add protein during this meal because I felt as though it was lacking in my diet. I added chickpeas and other hearty beans to my vegan buttery pasta.
My challenge was about to come to an end, but I was still learning about my diet and ways to substitute for healthier options.
My lunch was a baked sweet potato with melted vegan butter, brown sugar, and a pinch of sea salt. I was surprised at how much I would rather have a sweet potato than a regular potato. Although vegan, regular potatoes have less nutrients, whereas my sweet potato gave me energy from the gods. You could say it was a sweet potato in paradise.
It was the end of the week, but now instead of cheeseburgers I was dreaming about sleeping in a bed of kale and romaine. My favorite meal from the week was day seven’s lunch. I made a stir fry with “meatless chicken,” or soy nuggets. Throw in some rice, mushrooms, carrots, broccoli, snap peas, and, of course, the soy nuggets with soy sauce, and you have a delicious meal.
I was pretty content with my choices throughout the week; maybe I could stick to being vegan. At least, that’s what I thought until I went out to a few parties with my friends that night. We came home with heels in our hands, sore feet, and a college kid’s empty stomach. I looked at the clock and it read 12:07 am, at which point I took a huge bite of the chicken bacon ranch pizza we had ordered.
Since this experiment, I’ve cut down on my red meat and dairy intake, and I’ve switched to almond milk. I try to buy grass-fed and cage-free meat when I go grocery shopping and love a good Portobello mushroom burger. Even though I didn’t stick to being vegan, I feel as though I gained a new perspective on eating. I also learned that Oreos are vegan, which was a plus.