Making the switch to a vegan lifestyle

Adopting a vegan lifestyle can seem daunting at first. Incoming VegIU President Troy Chirico shares his advice for anyone making or considering the switch to veganism.

Start slow

Don’t put pressure on yourself to quit cold-turkey (or turkey in general).

“You don’t have to change overnight. It should be a slow process just because it is going to be something new for your body. Start maybe just one day a week with no meat. That way you don’t feel any pressure to stay perfect.”

Survey substitute options

Soy, almond or coconut milk can be swapped in for dairy milk and meat alternatives are available.

“They’re really easy to find. Obviously places like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s have more options, but even if it’s a limited supply, there’s still a supply at most major grocery stores.”

Know that you can get protein

Don’t let the myth that vegans can’t get protein scare you.

“There’s a big misconception with eating plants that people think you have to get protein from meat. But protein is found in beans, spinach, kale, broccoli, mushrooms, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds. You can survive and live a healthy life on a completely plant-based diet.”

Explore your options on campus

RPS offers a variety of vegan-friendly options, from the black bean quinoa bowl at Caliente to vegan chili at the Collins buffet.

“Forest is fantastic because, obviously, the salad bar. You can go to Wells and the fridges are completely stocked with Bloomingfoods food. Collins actually has a buffet style dining hall and they have one vegan option for every single dinner, which is super cool. Seriously, I could go on and on.”

Check out places downtown

Bloomington has a handful of specialty vegetarian/vegan restaurants, and even more with vegan options. Just call ahead or look up the menu online if you’re unsure.

“If you’re looking for vegan or vegetarian cuisine, The Owlery is a fantastic place. They make stuff specifically to satisfy those cravings you have. Then there’s also Rainbow Bakery, which is a completely vegan bakery in town. And actually, I really love going to Red Robin. The have a boca burger and you can get it on a wheat bun. And bottomless fries, which are amazing.”

Be prepared for some opposition

Family and friends may not always agree with your decision.

“They’ll probably get some backlash from some of their friends — that’s to be expected. But never be combative. You want to give off an image that you aren’t trying to shove your beliefs down their throat because that’s a big stereotype of vegans.”

Look into organizations, resources and community networks

Organizations like Mercy for Animals have online starter guides, along with how-to’s for ordering at various restaurants. There are also apps on the market that can scan products to determine their vegan-status. Connecting with groups — offline or online — is another way to aid your transition.

“There’s Facebook groups, there’s chat rooms. You’d be surprised how many people (there are). More and more people are switching over to plant-based diets.”

Swap out items for vegan-friendly products

In addition to adopting a plant-based diet, veganism includes using ethical products. When deciding to go vegan, the way you transition your belongings is up to you.

“There are two different options you have. One, you donate them or give them to someone who doesn’t mind what they’re made of. Or you take the product that you currently have and use it to its full life because it’s already happened. Then, the next time you just purchase something that’s vegan-friendly.”