For various reasons, many Heritage students have made the choice to become vegan. Three students have detailed their individual journeys.
Junior Ariann Barker:
Barker first thought about becoming a vegan as her 2016 New Year’s resolution. Although originally she went back and forth on it, she firmly decided in August 2017 that she would pursue veganism. Since then, she has strictly adhered to the lifestyle, eating in accordance and taking the necessary supplements. Four of Barker’s vegan friends helped influence her decision, as she witnessed how well the lifestyle treated them. More so, Barker was disturbed by the meat industry. “After watching documentaries such as Food Inc. and Forks Over Knives, I realized the corruption behind the meat and dairy industries and wanted to make sure that they never saw any of my money.”
Since becoming a vegan, Barker has seen significant weight loss and an exorbitant increase in energy. However, she faces some drawbacks as well. “I don’t want to be a burden on others, so going to restaurants and requesting changes to a meal or going to my friend’s house and having to ask for something vegan to be present is kind of embarrassing,” Barker said.
Barker’s favorite vegan recipe depends on how much time she has and what time of the day it is. If she needs something quick, her go-to is vegan cilantro pesto. If she has some extra time, she will whip up a vegan burger with extra mustard, pickles and mushrooms.
Junior Emily Chebanu:
Emily became a vegan about four months ago. After realizing that through her diet, she was contributing to something completely cruel, she decided that it was necessary. She continues this lifestyle because of animal rights, but health reasons also contributed to her transition.
Overall, Chebanu’s diet has made her feel much better than before. “I don’t suffer from energy crashes anymore, and this might sound weird, but I don’t have anymore mind “fog” that I use to experience a lot.”
The hardest part is not being able to enjoy a classic meal with friends like pizza, but she hopes that she will be able to eat vegan pizza with her friends in the future.
Senior Sophia Donskoi:
Senior Sophia Donskoi hasn’t had a piece of chicken or red meat since seventh grade and continued as a pescatarian (consuming fish and animal products but no other meat) through tenth grade. Towards the end of her sophomore year, she started to make the switch to vegetarian. A year later, she started to slowly remove the rest of the animal products (primarily eggs and cheese) from her diet by eating vegan five days a week. She went fully vegan the summer before senior year, which makes her completely plant-based for about six months now.
Education pushed Donskoi to make the switch to a vegan diet. After taking Marine Bio Honors with Dr. Thompson in tenth grade, she learned that it was unsustainable to eat both wild and farmed fish, so she became a vegetarian. “After a lot of research I realized that as an environmentalist, one of the biggest ways to reduce my carbon footprint was to eliminate animal products from my diet, so I did,” Donskoi said. While many vegans make the switch for animal cruelty reasons, Donskoi’s main focus is the environmental impact.
The largest change Donskoi has experienced from going vegan has been her willingness to try new foods. Although her previous diet mainly consisted of chicken tenders, pizza and pasta she has expanded her horizons, as eliminating meat and cheese from her diet has made that impossible. Before she went vegan, she wouldn’t even look at an avocado or vegetables in general, however, now she incorporates as much fresh food as possible into her daily meals. She has always loved cooking, but now she can cook a much healthier and wider range of meals.
One negative would be the fact that there aren’t many vegan restaurant options in suburban South Florida. “There’s also definitely a stigma against veganism, too, but I try to stay away from people who criticize my personal choices. My favorite author once said, ‘I have often felt that my vegetarianism matters more to such people than it does to me.’”
Donskoi’s favorite vegan recipe is Buffalo Cauliflower, while she continues to experiment as much as possible when time allows.