Powerfully and Positively Plant-Based
Andrews University, like other Adventist schools, promotes healthy eating options in its vegetarian cafeteria. The cafeteria presents a variety of options for vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains, breads and sources of protein, but absolutely no options for meat. Some students find relief in having cheese to sprinkle on their salads or pizza to buffer their meal but one student decided to use the healthier options to her advantage. Nicole Hwang, senior completing a double major in music pre-med and English, follows a plant-based diet and absolutely loves it. Here, Hwang shares the details of her experience so far.
Why did you decide to go on a plant-based diet?
I was an omnivore for the first three years of my life, then my family decided we would switch to vegetarianism. Veganism was a personal choice, and I initially decided to eat vegan because of the way the meat, dairy and eggs industry operates. I don't see an intrinsic problem with using animals for food, but it's certainly wrong to treat them without regard for their comfort and wellbeing. So I reasoned that since it was wrong, there must be another way; and besides, I had exposure to the concept of veganism long before I actually made a conscious choice. Since then, I've seen other strong reasons to stay with my decision, from health, humanitarian and environmental perspectives. I've definitely gone through varying levels of rigor regarding how well I hold myself accountable, but I've come to a place where I don't eat or drink anything that's not vegan unless I think it might be hurtful or awkward to refuse it.
What are the main requirements of a plant-based diet?
I've never actually looked this up, but plant-based diets probably exist on a spectrum. Vegetarianism and veganism, for example, are two different points on the same "plant-based diet" scale. But in my mind, the phrase just means that a person mainly (or only) eats plants or foods derived from plants—and few, if any, animals or animal products. That doesn't necessarily mean they're healthy! But I think this is the most fundamental description of a plant-based diet.
How do you maintain this diet while keeping up with your busy college schedule?
It honestly hasn't been a problem for me yet at AU, especially since the caf and Gazebo are both pretty accommodating. But once I'm on my own, I know I'll have to do more cooking. Even then, there are lots of online blogs, YouTubers, recipes, etc., to try out, and I think it's really fun to experiment in the kitchen! Not only is cooking a creative outlet, but my philosophy is that when you care about something, you'll put in that bit of an extra effort and make some time for it. There are tons of simple vegan recipes, and they don't necessarily take longer to make than corresponding non-vegan ones.
What are some of the effects resulting from your change in diet (physical, spiritual, mental, etc.)?
I became an on-and-off vegan so early in life that I don't really remember what exactly it was like on a day-to-day basis beforehand. But I know that my tastes have definitely changed! I used to love cheese. It was probably the hardest thing to give up. Recently, I accidentally had some and it just tasted...weird. Now that I think of it, it didn't bring back any fond memories. It didn't taste bad, either—it just felt foreign, and I didn't like it.
I'm also a tiny bit lactose-intolerant, and when I'm off dairy products, I feel physically well and alert. I don't have bad allergies, if any, during springtime, I don't gain weight too easily, and I have never needed pain medication for cramps or anything else.
What are some tips for those who'd like to apply this diet to their lifestyle?
To anyone considering making this change, I would strongly encourage you to do so! If you're vegetarian, you're already partway there, and it gets easier the longer you do it. For omnivores who are considering going vegan, I've never been in your position, but I'd say definitely do your research, and try vegan cooking and baking. It's a lot of fun, and usually not that hard. You'll learn how different plant powders and extracts can accomplish amazing things...arrowroot, seaweed, flax, garbanzo bean juice, just to name a few! Don't expect that all the replacement products out there will taste or act like the real thing, but keep your mind open and be willing to experiment. Even though you may find yourself craving stuff like eggs, cheese, ice cream, etc., the more you resist those cravings the more you'll feel like you're in control of them and can overcome them. It'll eventually become habit, part of the way you think. Don't hesitate to look around on YouTube, Pinterest, or Google for recipes you feel like you're up to, and don't be afraid to mess up. The important part is getting back on track and staying focused. And above all, have your own reasons for doing it. Don't do it because your family tells you, or out of guilt or peer pressure; you have to own it, otherwise it'll feel like a chore instead of being a source of fun and inspiration.