Monthly Archives: April 2015

Vegan Sins

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Tomorrow I start my last two weeks of my freshman year of college! But with that, I am also completely swamped by homework, final papers, preparing for finals, attending meetings for events next fall (already!), and figuring out my summer work and living plans; I haven’t had a whole lot of extra time, and when I do, I usually spend it napping away my sleep deprivation rather than typing out a nice, thoughtful blog post. That being said, tonight I have a moment as I wait for my laundry to finish drying to revisit my recent trip to Austin, Texas (note to self: never do laundry on Sunday nights ever again since apparently everyone in the entire building also chooses Sunday night to do their laundry).

Last weekend I met up with my parents and my dad’s side of the family for my cousin’s wedding in Austin. I had a little anxiety about the trip, since I knew Texas is the land of cheesy Tex-Mex and meaty BBQ, but I was also excited to see what traveling vegan style would be like. It turns out that traveling vegan is actually pretty easy when going to larger cities, since usually you can find a vegan restaurant in there somewhere. Upon arrival we went to this wonderful vegan place called Counter Culture where I happily devoured a vegan pizza spread with rosemary hummus, sweet potatoes, spinach, and cashew cream. As we left, I noticed a card near the door labeled “Vegan Guide to Austin,” which listed all of the vegan restaurants in town. GENIUS!! Every city needs one of these! We grabbed one on the way out and it turned out to be quite helpful for the rest of the trip. I’m now planning ways to make one of these for Salt Lake, since we have quite the assortment of vegan options.

However, I also sinned: I was not 100% vegan, despite the lovely Vegan Guide and Austin’s array of vegan options. That’s the thing about weddings, they usually aren’t catered to vegans. Luckily, the bride and groom are both vegetarian, so I wasn’t completely stuck, but I still indulged in an impressive amount of dairy with butternut squash ravioli, an avocado bisque soup, and, sad but true, 5 cheese mac ‘n’ cheese. The mac ‘n’ cheese was completely unnecessary since I had the ravioli as well as the soup and some roasted veggies, but honestly I had already accepted my non-veganness for the night and it was just sitting there pleading to me to be eaten, so I could only agree and proceed to pile it on my plate. Also, i indulged in not one, but two, cake pops for dessert (they are so small, one just wouldn’t cut it). Yikes.

But guess what? It’s okay! One day full of some delicious, dairy-laden vegetarian food may have momentarily increased my environmental impact, but it also allowed me to enjoy a wonderful time with my family without freaking out about what I would be able to eat. Veganism is very important to me, but flexibility is also crucial. We are still all humans having a very imperfect human experience, and no matter how set we are on our goals and how perfect we would like to be, we also have to take a step back and appreciate the big picture for a minute. One day sacrificed for a pleasant celebration of love with my family is worth it to me. There will always be a tomorrow to start fresh and get back to that lovely plant diet.

On a completely different note, since I haven’t blogged in forever, here are a few noteworthy moments from the past week or so:

  1. I gave my mini “pitch” of a presentation on veganism for the Westminster Thinks Big coordinators on Thursday! It went very well and it seemed like they were all very excited about my topic, but there are also many students who want to give talks. I should find out by the end of the month.
  2. My summer job with the Outdoor Rec program is in the final stages of planning, so I should hear back this week sometime! I am so excited to get all this good trip leader experience over the summer and get my foot in the door with the program in general. It seems like our directors are pretty stoked about it, so prospects are looking good!
  3. Yesterday I did the SLC Marathon Bike Tour with Bridger and his dad, where we got to ride the SLC marathon course before the runners started. Our start time was 6am, and Bridger and I had to get up at 4:30 so that we had enough time to ride our bikes from campus to the start. It was a really lovely way to see some neighborhoods of SLC that I hadn’t been to before, especially as the sun rose over the mountains. To top it off we went and got an almond milk chai latte and tea afterwards in downtown.
  4. Tonight I went to Evergreen House, which is a bit of a hole in the wall asian food joint. However, they are known for their vegan sushi, so Audrey, Bridger, and I all ordered some rolls to see what the hype was all about. Turns out, the hype is completely justified.

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Vegan Revolution

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Everyone knows “that one vegan” who cannot stop talking about their veganness and who posts incessantly on FaceBook and Instagram about their vegan life. And no one likes that vegan because it gets pretty old pretty fast (although I can totally understand the excitement now that I’m one too). I don’t want to be that vegan, but at the same time, I’m so passionate and excited about it that sometimes it is hard to hold myself back. I am trying to find a balance between taking over my friends’ lives with veganness and functioning as a normal human being, and so far this balance has resulted in me keeping my mouth closed a lot of the time until I can let my vegan thoughts fly free in my vegan friend circles, which mostly consists of me, my roommate Audrey, and my friend Bridger.

However, I recently received two pieces of information that have caused me to decide to open up and start my little part in the vegan revolution:

  1. My mom sent me an email claiming that Tioga Pass (which is an entrance to Yosemite in the Sierras) is at SIX PERCENT of normal snow pack. Six percent, people!
  2. I got an email asking for any students interested in doing a talk for our annual Westminster Thinks BIG event which happens in the fall.

Can you believe that Tioga is at 6% of average? Climate change is real and it is happening now! There is no time for us to sit around twiddling our thumbs and calling climate change a “myth.” Climate change is impacting our lives as we speak, and it is our duty to do what we can to decrease our atrocious impact on Earth and to slow this whole process down.

So, with that alarming kick in the pants, I applied to do a talk at Westminster Thinks BIG, which is basically Westminster’s version of TED Talks, where students and professors and alumni give a short presentation on their big ideas and passions. I am pretty passionate about this whole environmentalism through veganism thing, so I think it is time to start spreading the word as much as I can to at least get people thinking about the consequences of their diet. I can eat a clean vegan diet all I want, but that alone will not return Tioga Pass to average snow pack. This has to be a group effort, and by group I mean a national and international effort, so it’s time to start doing my part right here on my little liberal arts campus in the middle of Utah. Changing the world is a pretty daunting task, but with each new person who cuts back on meat and animal products, we get one step closer to that goal.

Vegan = Healthy?

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Something that has recently been brought to my attention is the misconception that vegan = healthy. One of my friends told me the other day that I’m the healthiest person she knows because I’m vegan, but this got me to thinking, and I realized that veganism does not necessarily mean healthy at all. For some reason, veganism is a very scary thing for people to think about, and they automatically jump to the conclusion that we only eat salads and maybe some nuts and berries that we gather from the forest. Along with this assumption also comes the idea that because we only eat salads, nuts, and berries, we are clearly the healthiest people. However, let’s consider the following list of food items:

  • Oreos
  • Cashew Cheesecake
  • French Fries
  • Garden Burger
  • Vegan Mac n Cheese
  • Sorbet

What do all of these foods have in common? Two things: they are both vegan and also unhealthy to consume regularly. Being vegan is not some insta-health solution. While it does encourage the consumption of natural foods over processed foods more than an omnivore diet, there are clearly many things, both processed or natural and homemade, that are still unhealthy.

What does this mean for me? Up to this point, I have been exploring the vegan diet and lifestyle, trying to figure out what works for me and how I can weave it into my sometimes crazy college life. It has been about two months now, and I am starting to feel pretty darn comfortable with being vegan. The next step is to go back and refocus on health and fitness through my diet, this time only powered by plants rather than by meats and dairy.

Right before going vegan, as I have mentioned before in other posts, I was about a month and a half into a clean eating diet plan that was set up for me by a nutritionist. I had a very specific diet consisting of extremely clean proteins like egg whites and lots and lots of chicken breast, ground turkey, and protein shakes (3 per day!). These proteins were paired with complex starchy carbs, veggies, and some occasional almonds for snack. Absolutely zero sugar was involved besides the fructose from 1/2 cup of blueberries in my morning oatmeal. It was a very difficult diet to stay on, and it became extremely boring because I couldn’t get very creative with my food and make new dishes. But the important parts of the diet were the absence of processed sugar (even a very low fruit intake), the high levels of protein, the complex carbs, and the portion control. Now, I have by no means just been wildly stuffing my face with vegan junk food for the past two months, but I also haven’t made the health factor the most important consideration when choosing foods. Now that I am feeling more comfortable with vegan eating, I think it is time to reevaluate the principles of my old clean diet and turn it into a less strict, more creative, yet still effective, vegan version.

Moral of this story: don’t take veganism as an obvious pathway to better health. Your health is still on you and what you choose to fuel your body with. A healthy, clean diet, especially a vegan one, can give you more energy, help you sleep better, and just make you feel better in general! Who wouldn’t want that?

After all of this health talk, if you happen to be looking for a vegan protein powder, I’ve finally decided that my favorite is Garden of Life’s RAW Protein in vanilla. I tried the VegaSport chocolate flavor for a while, but it has this weird, saltyish taste in it that I cannot stand, even when blended with bananas and blueberries and peanut butter and all other good things. The vanilla RAW powder has a more gritty texture, but the flavor is a lot more mild and easily blends with other yumminess.

If you have no idea how you could incorporate protein powder into your day, here are some ideas:

  • Mix into a bowl of oatmeal along with sliced banana and/or blueberries (LOVE this!)
  • Protein smoothie (my favorite is cashew milk+banana+blueberries+PB2+protein powder)
  • Mix into coffee…? (some people say it’s good but I haven’t had good results)
  • Protein pancakes (thousands of recipes online)
  • Chia seed and protein powder pudding (protein powder, nut milk, and chia seeds, leave it in the fridge until it gets gelatinous; saw this on Pinterest)