Trading beef for broccoli: Advice from a vegan

(Permission from M. Rinka) Vegetarianism and veganism may be gaining more popularity within our culture, but often the transition can be easier said than done.

College is a time of transitioning — from a new environment to new classes to new friends, it’s hard to deny that students experience a plethora of changes during this period of their life. Perhaps it’s time to make an adjustment to your diet, too.

Veganism and vegetarianism have been circulating in the news recently as more celebrities and movements are making the lifestyles more relevant. Whether you’re considering going meatless for your health, the environment, the animals or maybe you’re just somewhat curious about what it has to offer, use these healthy tips to make your experience a little easier.

(Permission from M. Rinka)  Doing your research in terms of food options is essential to transitioning off meat.
(Permission from M. Rinka) Doing your research in terms of food options is essential to transitioning off meat.

Do your research

You’ll inevitably be asked the usual questions like “Where do you get your protein?” after converting to vegan or vegetarianism. Instead of feeling blindsided or attacked by those questions, read up on meat-free sources of protein and vitamins like B12 in order to answer them accurately and informatively. There are plenty of ways to get all the nutrients you need while on a vegan or vegetarian diet. Peanut butter, bread, tofu and even spinach and broccoli contain protein that’s crucial to your health. If that’s not enough to convince you, look to vegan athletes and bodybuilders like Alex Dargatz and Pat Reeves for some plant-based fitspiration. As for vitamins, plant foods generally contain everything you need, with the occasional difficulty of finding B12. Overall, with practice and awareness, eating enough calories on a meat-free diet usually ensures you’re getting all your nutrition.

Get to the roots

No matter what your reason, you should know why you want to stop eating meat. Having a rationale to keep you motivated will help your transition overall. If you’re looking to help animals, investigate how factory farmed cows and chickens are treated and maybe watch a few documentaries — like “Live and Let Live” and “Speciesism: The Movie” — if you’re feeling up to it. From the environmental standpoint, you can find online calculators to see how much water a meatless diet saves vs. a standard one, or view statistics about food waste. Websites like Saving Food and Further with Food offer online waste calculators that show exactly what you can conserve by cutting out certain foods. Being aware of your beliefs and values greatly aids in the adjustment, as it gives you a reason to stick to it.

(Permission from M. Rinka) Slow and steady winds the race when it comes to changing your diet. Start off slow, taking one or two foods out at a time.
(Permission from M. Rinka) Slow and steady wins the race when it comes to changing your diet. Start off slow, taking one or two foods out at a time.

Don’t quit cold tofurkey

“But I could never live without cheese!” Don’t worry. Wanting to eat fewer animal products doesn’t mean you need to go raw vegan tomorrow. Most people begin their path by cutting out foods one by one. Maybe you don’t eat a lot of red meat — so stop eating that first. You can even try searching for plant-based substitutes if you’re finding one ingredient particularly difficult to remove. Plant-based cheeses and meats aren’t hard to come by nowadays. Many pizza places like Blaze offer dairy-free cheese and joints like Burgerfi have a meatless burger option to curb your cravings. If completely cutting out foods isn’t your style, consider “meatless Mondays,” a practice where you avoid eating meat one day a week. Either way, try it out and see what works best for you as an individual.

Find a plant-based pal

Going into something alone can be intimidating. Talk to someone who has knowledge on the subject, or pair up with a curious friend and make it a challenge. When you’re spending time together, try visiting meat-free restaurants or cooking new foods. This will help to keep both of you accountable with some friendly competition. Even if your end goal isn’t to completely go vegetarian or vegan, it can be fun to test it out with someone you’re comfortable with — and who knows, you might even find a new hangout spot.