Lifestyles of the Broke and the Hungry

pb sandwich

Sooo…this is what is looks like to be a real vegetarian on a college student’s budget (“real,” meaning that I’ve been eating meat-free for about 15 years and I don’t only eat salads and kale). With that in mind, I’d like to point out that I am a religious carb-eater. Because of this, many people ask me, “If you only eat carbs, how are you not overweight?” The answer is simple—portion control (and I don’t only eat carbs). Is it absolutely 100%, perfectly healthy? No, but I do take my multivitamins and iron supplements every day while also visiting my doctors regularly, just like everyone else. Trust me, all of my doctors have known that I’ve been a vegetarian for this long, especially since I’ve been going to some of them for most of my life. They have never once been concerned about my health, weight, or lifestyle.

Now that that’s out of way, I’d like to talk about  maintaining my vegetarian diet while also currently suffering from “broke college girl” syndrome. Living away at college was tough for me to adjust to—my mom wasn’t there to cook any specialty meals for me anymore and the dining hall at my school only offered pizza, salads, and french fries as vegetarian options. I was completely on my own, budget and all. Therefore, for the first time in my life I had to figure out what to buy, where to buy it, and how much money to set aside for groceries each month. And I know what you’re thinking. My lunch today definitely didn’t seem so exciting, but for a total of maybe .50 cents, I think it did its duty as well as filled my stomach.

Besides the fact that I’m a vegetarian living away at a non-vegetarian-friendly school, I’m also an incredibly picky eater. As you can probably tell from my Skippy Natural Peanut Butter (no jelly) sandwich picture with a few of Snyder’s “eatsmart” Sea Salt Garden Veggie chips, it’s clear I’m not one to go too outside of the box with any vegetarian meals. However, I do have a way of staying healthy and happy with my lifestyle. As of today I will try to post at least one picture of any meal I eat each day to show what it’s like to be a broke, picky eater, and vegetarian living away at college. And how I survive it.

Follow me on my journey through the rest of my time living away at college and beyond.

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It IS Easy Being Green!

Every vegetarian/vegan tries to make the argument that they can “find something to eat on any menu” of just about any restaurant. That way, they don’t feel like they are the ones keeping their friends from going to their favorite fast food joint. The truth is, that’s much easier said than done. However, about a month or so ago, Peta published an article on their website giving a relatively descriptive list of every restaurant that a vegan and vegetarian can happily dine at (and yes, happily means not just plain salads).

Here’s a simplified version of their list:

  • Applebee’s – strawberry and avocado salad with zesty chili-lime vinaigrette dressing
  • Baskin-Robbins – variety of dairy-free and gelatin-free ices and sorbets
  • Bruegger’s Bagels – olive oil bagels that come in the flavors: blueberry, chocolate chip, cinnamon-sugar, cranberry-orange, pumpernickel, and rosemary or a variety of vegetarian sandwiches that can also be vegan without cheese
  • Buffalo Wild Wings – black-bean burger or salad with light balsamic, French, or Asian sesame dressing
  • Burger King – BK Veggie Burger
  • Carl’s Jr (and Hardee’s) – French fries, CrissCut fries, hash-brown nuggets, made-from-scratch biscuits, cinnamon and raisin biscuits, or apple cobbler, or the all-you-can-eat salad bar!
  • Cheeburger Cheeburger – grilled Portobello mushroom sandwich, wrap, or salad
  • Cheers – veggie burger
  • The Cheesecake Factory – veggie burger (made with brown rice, faro, couscous, mushrooms, black beans, and onion) or an onion and penne pasta dish (with broccoli, oven-dried tomato, roasted eggplant, peppers, artichoke, Kalamata olives, garlic, and pine nuts)
  • Chili’s – tostada chips and salsa or veggie quesadillas or Cadillac Fajitas without meat
  • Chipotle – Sofritas made of organic tofu braised with peppers and spices in a bowl, burrito, taco, or salad
  • CiCi’s Pizza – vegan pizza or pasta or salad buffet
  • Claim Jumper – vegan pizza
  • Cracker Barrel Old Country Store – mixed vegetable plate or apple-cinnamon oatmeal
  • The Daily Grill – gazpacho soup or a trio of hummus or sweet potato fries or herbed brown rice with almonds or penne pasta primavera or pasta pomodoro or grilled vegetable plate
  • Del Taco – 8 Layer Veggie Burrito or ½ lb. Bean & Cheese Burrito or the Value Bean & Cheese Burrito or the Jacked Up Value Bean, Rice, and Cheese Burrito with red or green sauce
  • Denny’s – Fit Fare Veggie Skillet or English muffins or bagels or grits or applesauce or fresh fruit or vegetable plates or seasoned French fries or baked potatoes with vegetable toppings or garden salads with light Italian dressing or oil and vinegar dressing or sandwiches made into vegetable options
  • El Pollo Loco – BRC burrito or side dishes like pinto beans and corn on the cob
  • 5 & Diner – black-bean veggie burger
  • Flamers Grill – veggie pattie
  • Hard Rock Café – veggie burger or grilled veggie sandwich
  • Hard Times Café – veggie burger or vegetarian chili
  • Houston’s Restaurant – veggie plate or vegetarian burger, both available on vegan bread
  • IHOP – hash browns or fresh fruit or grits or sautéed spinach and mushrooms or baked potato or salad with fat-free or regular raspberry vinaigrette or light Italian dressing
  • Iron Skillet – salad bar or spaghetti
  • Jack in the Box – black beans or potato wedges or seasoned curly fries or breakfast blueberry muffin or oatmeal
  • Jason’s Deli – organic vegetable soup or spinach veggie wrap or salsa, hummus, guacamole or salad bar
  • John Harvard’s Brewery & Ale House – veggie burger or veggie sampler or vegetarian stir-fry
  • Johnny Rockets – The Streamliner (vegan Boca burger with grilled onions, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and mustard)
  • Kelsey’s – veggie burger
  • Kona Grill – edamame and seaweed salad or sushi (cucumber roll, avocado roll, vegetarian roll with asparagus, avocado, yamagobo, cucumber, and sprouts) or salads (house, roasted asparagus, or oriental) or Pan-Asian noodles or linguine with marinara sauce
  • Little Caesars – vegan pizza sauce and pizza dough
  • Papa John’s – vegan pizza sauce and pizza dough
  • Pizza Hut – vegan sauce and dough on Thin ‘N Crispy Pizza and dessert crusts
  • Manhattan Bagel – all vegan bagels except jalapeno cheddar cheese and egg varieties or Manhattan Grille and Vegetable Garden sandwiches
  • Moe’s Southwest Grill – tacos, fajitas, salads, and burritos are vegan by substituting meat for tofu
  • O’Naturals – vegetarian chili or carrot-ginger soup or chipotle sweet potato and veggie lentil soup
  • Panera Bread – Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich or Low-Fat Vegetarian Black Bean Soup
  • F. Chang’s China Bistro – everything on its menu can be made vegan (yay!)
  • Pollo Tropical – Vegetarian TropiChop or sides like black beans, French fries, white rice, boiled or fried yucca, sweet plains, or corn
  • Pyramid Breweries Restaurants – Boca burger can be substituted for any non-vegan burger on the menu or Margherita Pizza
  • Qdoba Mexican Grill – according to Peta’s article: “you can make a burrito, taco, or salad bowl with the following vegan ingredients: corn or flour tortillas, black or pinto beans, brown or cilantro-lime rice, fajita vegetables, grilled vegetables, potatoes, guacamole, and most salsas” or the tortilla soup is vegan, too
  • Quiznos – veggie sub (guacamole, black olives, lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, mushrooms) with vegan bread (white or wheat) or garden salad
  • Red Robin Gourmet Burgers – hummus plate or Boca burger patty
  • Roy Rogers – mainly sides like baked potatoes, veggies, or salad bar
  • Ruby Tuesday – Endless Garden Bar
  • Souplantation & Sweet Tomatoes – Strawberry Fields Tossed Salad with Caramelized Walnuts or Summer Vegetable Soup
  • Starbucks – sesame noodle dish (made with broccoli, carrots, red pepper, snap peas, tofu, pickled cucumbers, and sesame peanuts) or multigrain bagel or classic or blueberry muffin or the Seasonal Harvest Fruit Blend or the Hearty Veggie & Brown Rice Salad Bowl
  • Subway’s – Veggie Delite
  • Swensons Drive In – Veggie Special
  • Taco Bell – sides dishes like cinnamon twists, chips and guacamole, cilantro rice, black or refried beans, and Mexican rice or Bean Burrito “fresco style” or Black Bean Burrito or Veggie Cantina Power Bowl without sauce
  • TGI Fridays – nachos with tortilla chips, jalapenos, guacamole, and pico de gallo or house salad with Cilantro-lime or balsamic vinaigrette or Cajun onion rings
  • Tubby’s Grilled Submarines – Hot Veggie Stir Fry sub or Cold Veggie sub
  • Tutti Frutti Frozen Yogurt – vegan flavors include: peanut butter, soy latte, black sesame, banana milk, and plain soy or sorbet flavors: raspberry, strawberry, and pineapple
  • Wendy’s – plain baked potato or garden side salad with red Italian dressing or French fries or veggie sandwich
  • World Wrapps – Teriyaki Tofu or Bombay Curry Wrapp or Classic Burrito Wrapp

*Always check or ask for ingredients. Just about all items listed above can be made vegan by asking for no cheese*

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Photo from HuffingtonPost.com

But wait—there’s more! Just today Huffington Post claimed that White Castle announced they will begin serving Dr. Praeger’s veggie patties starting tomorrow, December 30th! The sliders were tested for a short period in select stores back in July, and it seemed that the carrot-zucchini-pea-spinach-broccoli-based patties have done well! Is this finally the start of the vegetarian empire in fast-food restaurants? Will we finally be able to eat anywhere we want without frantically Googling a menu beforehand? Only time will tell.

Why a Vegetarian is the Best Kind of Partner

So you’re a vegetarian. So what? Yet, you always get incredibly self-conscious when you start talking to that new hot guy or super cute girl in your class. But why? Because you think they’re going to turn you down when you tell them you love animals? They won’t want to take you out to dinner because you’ll have to ask the waiter for no chicken? They think you’re an embarrassing “tree hugger” who doesn’t bathe? Now that’s just ridiculous. Dating a vegetarian actually has its perks.

We’re Cheap Dates

Young woman eating salad

Picture from nutritionforottawa.com

Think about it. A typical salad from just about any restaurant isn’t going to charge you anymore than $5 or $6 with no meat added. Compare that to a regular burger or steak that are usually around $14 or $15 from the cheap places. Besides, most restaurant waiters love when you order such a simple meal; it makes it easier on them. When ordering a plain dish of pasta or a regular Caesar salad without chicken, most people feel like they’re being a nuisance to their waiter and are uncomfortable with ordering a “specialized” meal. However, it’s usually the other way around. Waiters hate when people make such complicated orders that they become worried if they’ve written it down correctly or if it’s going to come out just as they’ve ordered. Sure, you may get a weird look from your waiter at first for asking for “no chicken” on their signature dish, but if you specify that you’re vegetarian, they usually understand and don’t give you a hard time. Your date, on the other hand, will love that it doesn’t cost much to take you out.

We Have a Better Sex Life

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Picture from huffingtonpost.com

Don’t believe me? In a study done at UC Berkley’s Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, researchers found that over 11 months of eating tofu and other plant-based foods in comparison to a heavily meat-based diet, those who ate a vegetarian diet were linked to having higher levels of estradiol and cortisol, or the “sex hormone” and the “stress hormone.” This resulted in more time spent having sex than their meat-eating counterparts. In addition to this, there has actually been another study done on stamina. This one was focused specifically on men riding stationary bicycles. Men who ate a primarily meat-based diet only peddled for 57 before their muscles failed. Men who ate an equal meat and vegetable diet lasted only 114 minutes. It was the men on the strict vegetarian diet that lasted 167 minutes. By combining the sex hormone phytoestrogens and increased stamina, vegetarians are proven to have a better sex life than others who eat primarily meat-based diets.

We’re Healthy

YONKA

Picture from healthyblackwoman.com

In result of eating all of that protein and plant-based nutrients instead of animal fat and cholesterol, the risk of an incredible amount of health problems goes down. The risk of developing kidney stones and gallstones decreases significantly with a vegetarian diet. 15% of men and 7% of women suffer from kidney stones and gallstones because of the high animal proteins consumed. Since vegetarians also absorb more calcium than those who eat a meat-based diet, their bones become stronger and healthier. Meat contains high renal acid levels that force the body to extract calcium from the bones, making their bones weaker. Vegetarians consume their enriched-calcium through tofu, kale, spinach, and other greens, and don’t ever have to worry about meat sucking out the calcium from their bones. By being a vegetarian, the risk of heart disease also decreases. In one study conducted, it showed that vegetarians are actually 24% less likely to develop heart diseases than meat eaters are, mostly because avoiding meat lowers blood pressure and prevents hypertension, which are the main causes of strokes. In a study performed in 2003, it was also proven that being on a vegetarian diet or consuming very little meat for 20 years increases life expectancy by 3.6 years. More specifically, being a vegetarian can increase life expectancy by 4.42 years in women and 7.28 years in men. In 2013, it was also proven that having a vegetarian diet lowers your risk of all kinds of death by 12%.

We’re Compassionate

Woman_Hugging_Dog

Picture from pet360.com

Although not all vegetarians, but a significant number, eliminate meat from their diets for moralistic reasons, like saving the animals. Most animals that are slaughtered for grocery store meat or milked for dairy are raised on factory farms. Factory farms all over the world tend to have a reputation for being incredibly cruel. For example, in 2014 at Winchester Dairy in New Mexico, hidden-camera footage displayed how the farm’s workers were “viciously beating and whipping animals in their faces and bodies with chains and metal wires, and dragging ‘downer’ cows with a tractor and electrically shocking their genitals.” This farm is also the main cheese supplier for Pizza Hut, Domino’s, and Papa John’s. With hard evidence like this, many vegetarians can’t help but want to lower consumer rates at places like this in hopes they will be shut down. Just about everyone loves animals, and how could you not love someone who is so compassionate with animals? If your love interest has a dog, you will probably be petting and cuddling with their dog that’s like family to them as much as possible; and if you’re so compassionate with animals, just let them imagine how compassionate you’ll be with them, as well!

We’re Creative

happy-woman-cooking-with-boyfriend

Picture from sheknows.com

Vegetarians tend to get pretty bored with plain meals, like tofu and salads. Because of this, they actually become unbelievably creative in the kitchen with the different kinds of dishes they come up with. Experimentation is one of a vegetarian’s greatest assets, and it’s possible that they can even make the most dedicated meat eaters salivate over a unique vegetarian dish! Just because vegetarians don’t eat meat doesn’t mean they only eat salads. Meatless meatballs, burgers, and meatloaf are some of the easiest dishes to make that look pretty similar to actual meat and taste, in my opinion, even better. Don’t ever doubt a vegetarian and their skills to turn any meat-filled meal into a flavorful vegetarian dish in just a small amount of time. Wouldn’t someone love to be with you because you not only can cook for yourself, but can also make unbelievable dishes for them?

We’re Happy

Happy African American Man & Woman Couple

Picture from forcampus.com

Studies show eating more fruits and vegetables can actually help to boost your mood. Cutting out meat, fish, and poultry for just a few weeks weakens depression, anxiety, and stress, according to a study published in the Nutrition Journal. Omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, which are typically found in fish, have been commonly linked to mood. It has also been shown that those who eat a primarily meat and poultry-enriched diet are more at risk of depression because of their high levels of arachidonic acid, or omega-6 fatty acid. Those who eat a vegetarian diet consume little or no omega-3 or omega-6 fatty acids at all. In the same study, the results showed that with every person who consumed a strictly vegetarian diet, “stress and anxiety scores decreased after the two weeks” showing that “those who eliminate meat, fish, and poultry may be better able to cope with mental stress than omnivores.” Now, wouldn’t your love interest rather be dating someone who has less of a chance of battling anxiety and depression? This definitely would result in fewer arguments and fighting, that’s for sure. You’re just all smiles majority of the time and would never let a few bad days get you down. Being happier definitely makes for a great and longer-lasting relationship.

If anyone ever tells you that they don’t want to date you for being a vegetarian, just remind them of all these good qualities you have and what you bring to the table. There’s nothing bad at all about the diet you choose to abide by; in fact, it’s incredibly beneficial to you and your love interest. So, why wouldn’t anyone want to date a vegetarian?