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April is Earth Month, a time to reflect on environmental themes, such as conservation and sustainability, environmentally conscious activities, and healthier lifestyles. With this in mind, students at Barrett Honors College are holding a Vegan Challenge Week April 9-13. Throughout the week, students will be encouraged to eat vegan and track their food intake.
Did you know that the production of meat and animal-based food products makes more of a negative environmental impact on the Earth than non-meat products? Did you know that a mostly plant-based or vegan diet can be a sustainable and healthful alternative, and bring positive benefits such as more energy and better sleep?
These are just some of the reasons to consider adopting a vegan diet. However, switching to a vegan diet can be a challenge and may seem impossible to achieve.
Is eating vegan for a week really an insurmountable task? Not at all, says Vegan Challenge event organizer Katelyn Dinkel, a student who works in Barrett promoting wellness programs and a Global Health and Biological Sciences major. The purpose of this challenge is to debunk the perception that eating a vegan diet is impossible.
“We are doing this to show how many vegan options are available in the on-campus dining halls.” She said.
The Barrett Vegan Challenge is patterned after the Barrett Vegetarian Challenge, which was held during the month of October. In the vegetarian challenge, students were encouraged to eat a vegetarian diet for the entire month. While eating vegan is not impossible, Dinkel and the Barrett wellness team understands the perception that eating vegan is more difficult.
“We took the vegetarian challenge concept and modified it because eating vegan seems less approachable. So we decided to make it one-week challenge,” she said.
The challenge works by keeping a food log and a calendar provided at sign-up to track your progression in the challenge. Students will then take their food log and calendar to Sage North at the end of the week where they will be awarded prizes based on the duration they were able to eat vegan. The longer a student eats a vegan diet, the better the prizes.
In anticipation of this challenge, we asked Satiria Clayton, Nutrition Manager for Aramark, about eating vegan.
What does your job entail?
I am the Nutrition Manager for Aramark. Some of my responsibilities are to assist students who have food allergies, promote healthy options that can be found on campus, and engage with students for nutrition events and activities.
What are the benefits to the human body of eating a vegan (or plant-based) diet?
There are many benefits of consuming a plant-based diet. A plan-based diet is packed with fiber, minerals, vitamins and overall healthy fats. A plant-based diet removes meat, fish and eggs from the typical diet. Adopting a plant-based lifestyle allows for an overall heathy mind and body.
Understandably it varies, but for the average human, how long will it take to notice any changes in their body once beginning a vegan (or plant-based) diet?
On average, a diet change will take at least three to four weeks to see a significant change. Sara Royce, Sun Devil Dining General Manager of Tempe, decided to go vegan on February 1, 2017. She stated, “It took about three weeks for my body to be okay with diet change. After the three weeks passed, I had a lot of energy for my gym workouts, lost about 15 pounds, and noticed an overall change in sleep and my daily activities.”
Are there any situations in which a nutritionist would advise this type of diet to a client?
A nutritionist would always promote healthy eating and adding plant-based items in your daily lifestyle. The USDA ChooseMyPlate format encourages half your plate filled with fruits and vegetables as the recommended lifestyle choice. This allows for the necessary amount of fiber, minerals and vitamins in our diets.
A common perception among many is that vegan diets do not provide enough daily intake of food. In your experience, do you find this to be true?
A vegan diet allows for many food items to be consumed daily. This diet only excludes food that come from animals (meat, eggs, fish, seafood and honey). There are plenty of options that a vegan diet provides, but it can become a little tricky finding vegan options. The key is to think outside of the box and add different foods into your diet. All residential dining halls have a vegan station, Daily Root, that includes a full plant-based option. The dining halls also have the ability to create a vegan pizza at the pizza station, veggie wraps at the deli and vegan burgers at the grill station.
A first-hand account of eating vegan by Ryan Wadding, a Barrett Honors College student majoring in political science
I myself was inspirited to eat a vegan diet for 10 days a few months ago. Although I make the effort to live a sustainable lifestyle, I do fall short in certain aspects. Before I ate vegan, I felt the need to have meat and dairy for every meal. But, I am always willing to learn and dive into new things. One day, I decided I would try eating a vegan diet for 10 days and see what I could learn. I learned a few things.
1) It is not impossible to eat vegan.
There is an enormous amount of information on veganism on the Internet including recipes, information on why veganism exits, and tips on how to stay a vegan. The belief that eating vegan is difficult is just that, a belief, not a fact. And, eating vegan is even easier when you have people willing to do it with you, hence the Barrett Vegan Challenge. Encourage your friends to join you in eating vegan. It will help you, and them, stick with the change in diet.
2) Vegan meals can be tasty without meat or dairy.
Before I tried eating vegan I thought that vegan meals would be missing quintessential ingredients and therefore would not be very desirable. I now know that perception is just that, a perception. Vegans love to eat tasty food too. During the 10 days I ate a vegan diet, I can say with all honesty I never had a bad meal, whether it was cooked in a restaurant or at home.
3) I do not need dairy or meat for every meal.
Even though I no longer eat a complete vegan diet, I still incorporate many recipes I learned into my weekly diet. To this day, I often eat oatmeal for breakfast that is completely vegan friendly, I have meatless Mondays that include no dairy, and I am an advocate for cutting back on beef intake in general.
Eating vegan was different for me, but it was not as difficult as I had anticipated. I highly encourage trying the challenge. Whether you take the challenge to be more sustainable in your life, to feel healthier, or just to learn something new, I assure you all three will happen while eating vegan.
The Barrett Vegan Challenge will start Monday, April 9 and end on Friday, April 13. Students wishing to participate can sign up here. Good luck and happy eating!
Some vegan recipes are available here.
Story by Ryan Wadding, a Barrett Honors College student majoring in political science.