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Julie Blanco: The start of an animal-free diet

Published: Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, November 6, 2012 01:11

I love food. I love to eat food. I love to look at food. I love to read about food. And, hopefully, I’m going to love writing about food — vegan food to be exact.

For the past few years, I’ve been an avid food blog reader but have failed to make a blog of my own. If I were going to have a blog dedicated to something, I wanted it to have a purpose. I didn’t just want to write, “Hey look, this is what I ate today!”

My name is Julie Blanco and I’m a collegiate distance runner. I care about the food I eat and how it will help me perform better. Up until now, I’ve been a fairly normal eater and haven’t gone on any fad diets. I’ve eaten what I wanted when I wanted, sometimes even if I wasn’t hungry.

But recently I was introduced to the world of veganism. Despite the obvious reasons of being a vegan, like protecting animal rights and having concerns for their feelings, I’ve been wondering how a vegan diet would affect my body.

So, I’m going to try it. For one month, I won’t eat, wear, think, dream or drink animal products. For one month, I will be a vegan.

And yes, I am aware that Thanksgiving is around the corner. I’m still not sure how I’m going to handle this situation, since Thanksgiving is one of the best days of the year. But that will be the point of this blog, to find fun and easy solutions around not eating animal products.

As a distance runner, I already have a healthy way of living, but I’m ready for the challenge that lies ahead: ridding my meals of animal products and finding their tasty alternatives. Unfortunately for me, that means the three bowls of cereal I have a day will no longer be eaten with cow’s milk, but rather almond milk. I will forgo the occasional juicy hamburger, grilled salmon fillet, scrambled eggs and chicken tacos that I get from Chipotle every week.

And how will I be able to survive my college life without these staple food items I hold so dearly to my heart? Despite the stress this may put on me mentally (and emotionally) for the first few days of my vegan challenge, I just need to reassure myself this is a good idea and there are many health benefits to being a vegan.

Following a vegan diet can lead to higher amounts of energy, reduction of migraines, disease prevention, healthy skin and many nutritional benefits from eating fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans and soy products.

When I told some of my friends I was going to follow a vegan diet, some of their first responses were, “You can’t do that, it’s not healthy. Where are you going to get protein from?” Although I was a bit concerned of things like this at first, I did my research. And I can still find all the nutritional elements I need to maintain a balanced diet.

I’m not against eating animal products (yet?), but I want to see how this diet could enhance my athletic abilities. Plenty of professional athletes are vegan and still achieve success. If they can, I certainly can too.

Since I’ve been inspired to change my eating habits, I feel that I now have a purpose for a blog — to share my journey of becoming a vegan and maybe inspire people to make healthy life choices.

Today, I started my vegan lifestyle. There weren’t many changes to my eating routine except for breakfast, which I think I’ll miss the most. Instead of eating my Kashi cereal with skim milk, I used vanilla almond milk. I’d never used almond milk before and think that the vanilla flavored almond milk is a bit too sweet to have with cereal. If I were to drink it on its own, it’d be fine. It kind of reminds me of a milkshake, minus the milk and ice cream.

The coffee that I take time to enjoy during my usual rush to get to class in the morning didn’t live up to my expectation. I traded half and half for soy creamer and was extremely disappointed. I didn’t even finish it, and now I think I got a headache from the lack of caffeine. It didn’t come close to the taste my normal coffee has. So, a side task of my vegan challenge will be to find the perfect coffee creamer.

But I’m sure my dinner will go better than this morning’s sad cup of coffee. I’ve planned to create a homemade “Chipotle bowl” with quinoa, black beans, diced tomatoes, avocado, some red onion, a splash of lime juice and a sprinkle of cilantro. Delicious.

So now that Day 1 is almost over, check back Wednesday to see if I made it through Day 2 as a vegan and see what animal-free meal I come up with next.


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