Disclaimer: Please listen to your body, educate yourself and talk to a professional if you are looking to completely change your diet.
I learned this week that some parmesan cheeses aren’t vegetarian. Never thought of that, huh?
Last spring, I wanted to go vegetarian to better myself and my awful diet of gross college food. It lasted for about two weeks, but then spring break hit, and I basically gave up.
Then, the coronavirus pandemic started, and I did not really care about what I put into my body.
While I was at school during that period last year, I realized I did not find any variety in the vegetarian options. Every dining hall meal seems to be centered around meat. There were meatless options, but what about those who want something delicious and agreeable with their own diets?
Before this week, I tried to be aware of what I was putting in my body, limiting my intake of meats — especially red meats — throughout the week. However, I do need to listen to what my body wants, and often, I do need meat in my diet at least once a day.
I did not go vegan for a week (due to my love of dairy products), but I respect those who are vegan, because I could not imagine what that experience would be like at Penn State after the week I had as a vegetarian.
Everybody’s way of eating is different, so please educate yourself before judging other people’s diets. I am not an animal hater or a meat lover, but rather someone who listens to what my body wants.
To start off the week and my Sunday morning, I had a bagel with cream cheese and an iced latte with almond milk from Edge in Redifer Commons. I am not really a breakfast person, but I do enjoy my coffee and sometimes food in the morning.
Since I was having a busy day and it was toward the end of THON weekend, I had a snack of potato chips for my lunch.
For dinner, I headed back to Redifer Commons to try out the dining hall food. I basically ordered sides — grits, cooked mushrooms, veggies and an apple.
Sounds weird I know, but I actually enjoyed eating this. Some of the food needed some more seasoning, but it was a good yet weird version of dinner.
I also indulged in some Reese’s Cups and an energy drink.
Maybe it was because I was busy or that it was the first day of trying vegetarianism again, but I felt good that day. I did not miss eating meat at all.
It was interesting asking people on the first day “Is this vegetarian?” and getting weird looks. It kept occurring throughout the week.
I filled my week with meals that were easy and accessible. This day was no exception.
Again, I ordered a bagel with cream cheese and an iced almond milk latte. I ordered variations of this all week, because I knew that what I was getting was vegetarian and sticking to a routine helped me while attempting vegetarianism last year.
I had a ton of work to do, so I quickly ordered a veggie quesadilla and french fries from the commons. It was actually good, but I feel like I got too much food to compensate for the lack of meat that week.
Later that day, I headed to Chipotle for work. Not to promote the company or anything, but I knew it had great vegetarian options, so I was actually excited for the veggie bowl I got to eat during my break.
It was delicious. I did not have to ask if anything was vegetarian because I already knew, and it was just an easy meal to get without worrying about accidentally eating meat.
I was completely stuffed, and that took away the thought of having meat in my diet.
Being two days in, I wanted to try something different for breakfast. Again, I got Edge coffee, but this time, I got an iced caramel macchiato and some avocado toast to treat myself.
I did not have lunch, but I got “linner” instead to balance it out. I was downtown running errands and I went to Panera.
It took me a while to look at the menu, because what I usually get contains meat, and I really had to think about what I was getting while still maintaining the budget on my gift card.
I got some vegetable soup, a side baguette and a chocolate chip cookie. Later, when I got home, I ate from a big bag of M&Ms my mom sent me, which compensated for the food I was missing that day.
I kind of missed meat on Tuesday. I really wanted to have my go-to Panera salad with chicken, but I just stuck with the soup.
Panera does have a lot of options, but it stressed me out a bit to look through the entire menu just to find something to fit my new diet.
I could not imagine how vegetarians don’t go crazy searching for something they can eat that is affordable. I praise you all for that.
I had an 8 a.m. class Wednesday, so I headed over to the library’s Starbucks to get my caffeine intake for the day with another iced caramel macchiato. I also got a croissant.
Around lunch, I headed over to the HUB-Robeson Center to study before an exam.
I have tried Panda Express’s spring rolls before, and they are vegetarian, so I had them as a snack. I would definitely recommend those if you are looking for something hot and quick to eat.
Wednesday, I was not in the mood to be healthy, so I got Sbarro’s mac and cheese with a side salad. I felt kind of gross after eating it, but I was full.
I went back to work at Chipotle that night and got a veggie burrito. It was really good and filled me up.
I did not really miss meat on Wednesday — maybe because I was full and satisfied again.
I enjoyed what I put into my body no matter how gross it was. I ate what was best for me while still maintaining a vegetarian diet.
This day was another day where I did not eat as much because of how busy I was.
I had another iced caramel macchiato and a bagel with cream cheese. I also had a burrito and fries from Redifer, and some Oreos (which are actually vegan) at the end of the night.
Even though I had a fairly big burrito and a large portion of fries, I felt like I needed more food by the end of the day.
I realized now how unhealthily I was eating this entire week, which I probably did to distract myself and shift my body toward vegetarianism.
I usually try to eat healthier, but I think the distractions throughout my regular week inhibited me from eating better.
Additionally, no matter the diet I am on, I still eat poorly at Penn State compared to when I am at home and having home cooked meals.
At this point in the week, I was ready for the weekend and to not focus on what I was eating every day.
Again, it was quite exhausting to constantly think of food, and I realized that I usually think, “What am I going to eat today?” and never “What can I eat today?”
Friday and Saturday
On these days for some reason, I did not eat as much as I usually would. I do not recommend doing what I did, and I try not to eat like this on a regular basis.
Friday, I only had a coffee, mozzarella sticks and a cheese quesadilla my roommate made for me. Saturday consisted of water and Sheetz curly fries for the whole day.
Maybe it was because it was the end of my week or the fact that I did not care about what I was putting into my body, but I am disappointed in myself for eating like that.
You would think I would have been a bit healthier, especially toward the end of the week, but I wasn’t. Now, I reflect back on it as a lesson learned that what I put into my body reflects how I live the rest of my life.
Reflecting on this week as a whole, it was quite challenging. I felt like all I could think about was food, and if I was not already full, I would miss having meat in my diet.
Being on a campus meal plan and having limited spending money for outside food, I was frequently picking meals based on the price.
On top of the usual stresses of a college student, I tried to eat on campus as much as possible while still maintaining my vegetarian diet.
That does not mean I would refrain from going vegetarian again, because I did enjoy taking a different approach this week. I have always been aware of the amount of meat I eat, and I plan on limiting that as much as I can.
Not all vegetarian food is healthy, but I was never aware of how much junk food I actually eat throughout the week, even when I’m on a meat-based diet.
Penn State has done better since I experimented with vegetarianism last spring, but there is still room for improvement.
Everybody is different and everybody has different dietary needs. I also harbor no hate against anyone who enjoys animal products or anyone who chooses not to eat animal products.
Overall, no matter the challenges, I enjoyed learning more about meatless diets and getting to experience a different perspective. I will be eating differently, and not in a bad way, from now on.
I am much more aware of what I put into my body and I am grateful I had the opportunity to do this.
To see if I could stock up on some records for my collection, I visited the records section …