Despite the fields of soybeans that are scattered across the Midwest, Melissa Rauget-Schofield said soy milk was nowhere to be found when she first became vegan.
Growing up in the Midwest presented barriers in following a vegan diet said Rauget-Schofield, a professor in the anthropology department at Colorado State University. While grocery stores did not offer nearly the number of product options available today and her family did not fully understand her decision, she was always intrigued by being vegan.
“I became a vegetarian mostly for environmental and health purposes as well as animal welfare,” Rauget-Schofield said. “It didn’t make sense for me not to be a vegan because I was still damaging the environment, I was still contributing to industrialized agriculture by continuing to consume milk and egg products.”
Raguet-Schofield has been vegetarian for around 20 years, and vegan for eight or nine years, so her transition to veganism was gradual.
Cutting out eggs in baked products was the last step Rauget-Schofield took in becoming vegan. After that step, she realized eating vegan was not that hard and that she actually enjoyed it.
“It’s really not that much different from being an omnivore,” said Brad Smith, a vegan of four years and a CSU alumnus. “You can still bake; you can still go out with your friends and get food even if they’re not eating vegan food.”
Smith said vegans may initially spend more time thinking about what to eat, but eventually it becomes a natural way of eating.
“Have fun with it,” said Laura Bauer, a post-doctoral fellow and instructor at CSU. “I think the flavors and textures and intricacies of vegetarian and vegan cooking just are so much more unique than omnivores really realize.”
Rauget-Schofield enjoys finding recipes on the website Plant Based on a Budget and sharing them with her family. Her husband has been vegan for one year less than she has been, and they have raised their 8-year-old son vegan as well.
The website is focused on meals containing simple ingredients and emphasizes saving money. Rauget-Schofield said that the two ideas fit together.
“You don’t have to make it really complicated,” Rauget-Schofield said. “Vegan food is simple. it’s just fruits and vegetables. You can take whatever random produce you have in the refrigerator and throw it together in a bowl and it becomes a meal.”
Counting grams of protein and making a vegan diet more complicated is unnecessary. Listen to what sounds good to your body, said Rauget-Schofield.
“As long as you are intentional about filling your diet with whole grains, fruits and vegetables, you can have a balanced diet,” Bauer said.
According to Bauer, following a vegan or vegetarian diet may lead to more mineral and nutrient deficiencies, such as vitamin B12 and vitamin D, but there are supplements to combat these deficiencies.
Deficiencies may be a barrier for some, but Rauget-Schofield faced her greatest barrier when she traveled to do research in rural Nicaragua. Prior to her visit, she had lived in Nicaragua to complete her dissertation research. At that time, she said she had access to a kitchen where she could make her own food.
Her shorter research trip, however, presented limitations. Not living at the field station meant she did not have access to a kitchen. With limited Spanish, Rauget-Schofield said she attempted to convey her food limitations and asked for no milk or butter in the foods people prepared, but also said that was a time when she did feel held back by her decision to live a vegan lifestyle.
Despite this experience, Rauget-Schofield said she does not feel held back by her diet when it comes to exercise. Since changing to a vegan diet, she found her running got better.
“I’m a long-distance runner,” Rauget-Schofield said. “I’ve actually found in fact my running improved. I was running faster and longer right after I first became vegan.”
Smith, also a long-distance runner, has found vegan food to be lighter. He said he can go for a run 30 minutes after eating instead of feeling weighed down by heavy, greasy food.
“It was definitely a lot easier to find the motivation for running,” Smith said. “I feel more normal after I eat.”
Within the running community there is interest in healthy eating, said Rauget-Schofield. Because of this, she has not been faced with resistance to her decision.
“It’s easier to do than you would think,” Rauget-Schofield said. “That’s what I’ve found.”
- Been vegan for at least eight years and vegetarian for 20
- Studies howler monkeys
- Is a long-distance runner
Collegian Reporter Gracie Ludens can be reached online at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @gracieludens.