By: Julia Mastroianni
When you picture a vegan breakfast, I’m sure all you see are fruit bowls and green smoothies. My mornings look a little bit different. By 12 p.m., I’ve eaten one Clif bar and a peanut butter cookie. The plan for lunch is whatever I find in the fridge, but I usually wake up too late to pack my lunch so I have to wait until I get home to eat.
“Whatever I find in the fridge” depends on the week, but usually there’s half an avocado, some hummus or if I’m really lucky, leftovers -- which means I won’t have to actually make anything. I’m living at home this year, so dinner is mostly whatever my parents are making. Luckily, I have parents who go out of their way to make food that is suited to my diet.
Exhibit A: The picture below is of my mom’s pizza twists, which is essentially pizza dough twisted with sausage and olives and then cooked.
She’s nice enough to not only now make my pizza twists with just olives, but also to make my sister’s with just sausage because she hates olives.
And then there are regular ones for everyone else. This is the life of luxury I’ve been living since I decided to go vegan.
Well, sort of. My parents are good humans and therefore do their best to provide me well-balanced and delicious meals when they’re cooking for me. But when I’m feeding myself, which is less frequent now but was every day last year when I was living on my own, my meals look a bit different. These generally involve peanut butter out of the jar, frozen bananas and buckets of pasta. And don’t forget the Clif bars. Lots and lots of Clif bars.
Because I chose veganism for purely ethical and moral reasons, health never really factored into the equation. In what ended up being a slight miscalculation, I jumped into veganism knowing very little about how to sustain myself. I kept eating what I always ate, but with some modifications. I found out pretty quickly that a lot of the regular food I used to eat was easy to change with some milk and egg substitutes.
See? Sometimes I eat actual food. Risotto--no cream-- and Brussels sprouts with mushrooms (I guess part of why veganism wasn’t so hard for me was because I’ve always been the weird kid who loves vegetables).
But I also realized that a lot of the junk food I used to eat still fit my new lifestyle perfectly. Turns out the best junk food is so processed that there are no real animal products left in them. Fries? Oreos? Chips? All fair game. So for someone like me, who wasn’t really thinking about the healthfulness of the foods I consumed, that stuff turned out to make up a large portion of what I was eating. Sure, I could’ve theoretically made healthier versions of everything, but on a student budget—actually, on any budget, healthy veganism is still not the most affordable option.
I never understood why so many of the people I speak to about veganism assume that I’m healthier. I actually didn’t know until I moved to Ryerson that people went vegan for health reasons alone because every vegan I knew was just concerned about the ethics of their food.
It’s cool that people have chosen a more eco-friendly lifestyle to improve their health, especially when there are so many conflicting ideas out there about what a healthy lifestyle looks like. For me, health-based messages have often been riddled with a lot of judgement that accomplishes nothing for people’s self-esteem, so I like to stay away from being swayed by the “healthiness” of particular movements.
I realize it’s objectively not great to be consuming large amounts of processed sugar or packaged foods, but for vegans who care about the earth, health will often come secondary. This applies in particular to individuals with varying identities and access to different resources—someone who doesn’t live in a city, for example, or someone coming from a low-income family will face different challenges in accessing vegan-friendly food.
Recently, my dad found me this vegan cookbook that focuses on uncomplicated recipes with ingredients anyone might have in their kitchen, and I’ve decided to try to make my way through it little by little. I haven’t had Oreos in a while, but there is always a bag of all dressed chips in the cupboard and I’m always game to finish them off. I still haven’t figured out the best way to be vegan yet, and I suspect that’s because there isn’t one way to do it. I guess you just have to find what works for you—Clif bars and all.
This piece was edited by Sukaina Jamil.