Growing up, my favorite foods were chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast and teriyaki chicken and rice for dinner. Though honestly, I ate and loved everything. Sushi at the town favorite Japanese restaurant, Twix bars for Halloween, Dunkin Donuts for birthday celebrations, steak, or the kid’s meal at McDonald’s on family road trips: chicken nuggets, French fries, and a chocolate milkshake. I enjoyed food for its taste and didn’t think twice.
My dad's famous chocolate chip pancakes that he would make almost every other weekend. They would always have something fun like smiley faces or different words. Photo: Madeline Sit
Let’s be clear: going vegan wasn’t easy and didn’t happen overnight. For years, I had admired vegans but never saw myself actually becoming one.
My journey to veganism began in 2008 during winter break of 5th grade. At the time, I was an avid fan of Disney Channel and one of my role models was Miley Cyrus. I wanted to be just like her. When she became vegetarian, I wanted to change my lifestyle and be vegetarian too (Now, Miley is now a passionate, outspoken vegan!).
Nonetheless, my parents were against me giving up meat and seafood – substantial forms of protein, they said – from my diet, and so they told me I was allowed to give up meat but not seafood. I loved seafood – teriyaki salmon with rice was my favorite, go-to dinner – and so I went along with my parent’s conditions. I was now pescatarian.
Being pescatarian lasted for nearly 8 1/2 years. I loved animals though and told myself that when I moved out of the house and went to college, I would go vegan. I would no longer be living with my parents nor would I have to abide by their rules and so I could eat whatever I wanted.
However, the transition from pescatarian to veganism was easier said than done. Moving to California for college, I discovered poké, a Hawaiian dish with raw fish that is popular on the West Coast. Poké quickly became one of my new favorite foods, and I fell in love with seafood even more.
Fast forward to February 2017, about a month before Spring Break. I was Facetiming my sister who was still in high school, and she was telling me about a documentary she had just watched called Earthlings. So transformed by the content she had watched and learned, my sister had gone from eating meat on a daily basis to eliminating all meat, seafood, and dairy from her diet overnight.
Inspired by my sister’s commitment and guilty that I talked about loving animals but was still eating them, I switched to eating vegetarian for two weeks. I slowly phased out seafood from my diet. No more poké dishes for lunch or salmon for dinner.
Vegan Ellen DeGeneres talks about why she became vegan and watching the documentary, Earthlings.
I went home for Spring Break, saw how my sister was thriving with her vegan lifestyle and came back to college one week later a vegan. Honestly, the transition from vegetarian to vegan was the most difficult, because I loved eating eggs for breakfast (avocado toast with egg was the best).
Though slowly, I learned to love other appetizing breakfast foods and drifted away from dairy options. I’m proud to say that since March 2017, I have been vegan, though there are special circumstances where I’ll eat dairy if the food is going to be thrown away.
I tried the T.L.T. sandwich at True Food Kitchen last week and it was scrumptious! It’s filled with smoked tempeh, butter lettuce, tomato, avocado, and vegan mayonnaise. Photo: Madeline Sit
Since becoming vegan, I've been more aware on what ingredients are in my food. Going to the grocery store, I read all the labels and double-check that they are suitable for vegans. When I’m not at school, I cook and bake all my own foods. I also find myself making healthier meal choices.
I can’t eat the majority of snacks sold in my school’s mini-market, so that eliminates at least half the junk food that would go in my body. Now, my go-to snacks are apples with peanut butter, carrots and hummus, granola bars, or soy yogurt with granola. I feel like a better person morally, for my diet saves the animals and is better for the planet (2 for 1!). (Note: But just because you’re vegan doesn’t mean you automatically become this health freak. As a vegan, you could get away with eating just carbs. So, it’s important to educate yourself on the right foods to eat, including protein.)
An acai bowl from vegan & vegetarian restaurant Crepes Bistro in San Jose, California. Photo: Madeline Sit
Being vegan doesn’t mean you have to give up your favorite foods. Coming from a foodie who spends more money on food than anything else, I’ve found ways to make “vegan” food taste delicious. From using bananas or avocados as a replacement for eggs in baking, eating meat alternatives like soy chicken, or branching out to new foods like quinoa and cashew milk, my palette has only expanded.
Also, I’ve learned that Indian, Thai, Mediterranean, and Mexican restaurants are great restaurants for both vegans and non-vegans to enjoy. I have a newfound appreciation for food and find myself experimenting with new recipes and dishes daily. (And in case you were wondering: Today, I still eat poké, I simply ask for tofu instead of fish!)
The Herbivorous Butcher is a vegan butcher shop based in Minneapolis, Minnesota that sells vegan meats and cheeses. Their products are designed to look just like your average meats and cheeses.
Over the past year, I’ve realized that veganism is more than having a plant-based diet. It is a lifestyle, one that is grounded in the wellbeing of animals. Being vegan has heavily affected my fashion and beauty choices as I must ensure that the products I buy aren’t derived from animals or that they haven't been used for product testing. It’s challenging and time-consuming having to do extra research, however, it’s worth it. Plus, I am now more informed on where my clothes and beauty products are sourced.
It’s funny because a year and a half ago, a friend told me she had just become vegan, and I laughed, telling her I supported her but could never make the transition.
And now, here I am, sharing my story as a proud vegan. This just goes to show that we have the capability to take on new challenges and become the people we want to be. It simply takes time, dedication, and a mindfulness of ourselves, animals, and the planet. Do YOU have what it takes to be vegan?