Hi. Wow, it’s been a minute. I want to thank you all for being patient while I worked on adjusting to college, shifting my eating habits, and prioritizing my mental health.
The transition to college was not an easy one for me. In fact, it may have been one of the most physically and mentally challenging experiences of my life.
Back in September I was ready for my journey ahead. While l understood prior to leaving for college that my food intolerances would make my transition difficult, I underestimated the effect not eating would have on my health and well being.
Tip number one, never underestimate the power of food.
The first quarter of college can be lonely. You are starting over, beginning a new journey full of twists and turns. You live in a new place and eat the food they provide (if you can), you make new friends, and you call your teachers professors instead of teachers (crazy, I know).
While all of this was a bit of a culture shock, I tried not to let it phase me.
As time went on, my health began to decline. I felt tired all the time, and I mean all the time. I could hardly open my eyes in the morning, I could barely walk up the stairs to my dorm room, and I borderline heaved when I walked up hills. I even developed a cough that lasted for two solid months, two months! My head hurt, and I was always dizzy.
During these first two-ish months of college I cried a lot. And I am not ashamed of it. It is not that I had given up; I kept telling myself over and over again that I would begin to feel better, that things would get better, and they just never did. My poor physical health eventually took a toll on my mental health, and there was a period of time when I would wake up, look at myself in the mirror, and not even recognize the girl staring back.
Everyone told me the reason I wasn’t feeling well was because it was my first quarter in college, a time period when “everyone gets sick.” While there is absolute truth to this, I did not understand why week after week I could not seem to get better.
It was not until I completed an assignment for a nutrition class that I began to realize a major catalyst of my pain.
For our assignment, we had to track everything we ate for three consecutive days. We then needed to plug all of the foods we consumed into a nutrition calculator online that would highlight our nutrient deficiencies, toxicities, and perfections.
Plugging my food intake into the nutrition calculator online forced me to open my eyes to how I had been neglecting my body. Not only had I consumed less that 1500 calories each day, but I was deficient in every single vitamin and mineral with the exception of Vitamin C. Vitamin C came up as a toxicity.
Looking at my results and seeing how severe some of my deficiencies were, I was shocked. How had I let myself become so unhealthy? Eating a rice cake two meals a day does not supply enough nutrients to sustain anyone. Of course I was sick and dizzy every day. I was barely eating!
It is hard to be dairy free at college, and it is hard to be gluten free at college. It is hard to be egg free at college, and it is hard to be meat free at college. It is even hard to be corn free at college. But all together? It truly feels impossible.
The sad thing is that even after discovering all of this, I didn’t know how to fix it. That passion for food, for this blog, for cooking... it was dissipating into forgotten smoke before my eyes, and I had no mental strength left to fix it. I was watching my passions disappear.
Every morning I woke up and told myself, “It will get better,” but then I did nothing to try and make it better.
No wonder nothing ever changed.
Do I blame my rough college transition solely on my inability to eat food on campus? No. But it did play a really large part.
I don’t really blame my rough quarter on any one thing in particular. I think that it happened for a reason, like most things do.
I’m able to see this now, as I’ve been home for a few days and had some time to reflect. Yeah, sometimes life is rough. Sometimes life is really rough. But that doesn’t mean that it will stay like that forever. Like my Papa always said, “Never confuse a rough day for a bad day.”
I believe that sharing my story and being vulnerable is a good start to turn this all around. Not only will it help me, but hopefully it can help someone else in a similar situation feel less alone.
It can be scary to be vulnerable and let people in. Especially when social media makes it out to seem like everyone around you is thriving and living their best lives. That said, I need to be able to be open and genuine in order to both receive support and help support.
So, all of that said, what am I going to do now? (1) I am going to spend my winter break cooking and devising a whole list of easy recipes that I can replicate while at school. You better believe I am going to have a game plan going back into school so that I eat three solid meals a day. (2) I am going to make sure I stay writing. Even writing this post brings me so much happiness because I am doing something I love so much, something I really missed. And (3) I am going to make all my friends’ kitchens back at college my own.
I am going to take this time I have over the next month home and get my life back on track. I am ready for whatever life throws my way.
Everyone needs to start somewhere. I am starting here.
Eating a well balanced diet in college is hard. Eating food (at all) with food restrictions in college sometimes seems near impossible, let alone eating a well balanced diet. I often find myself snacking more than eating real meals. Now, I am not saying that the foods I am going to list down below are the healthiest. They are, however, foods that have gotten me through the last month and a half of school.
The main purpose of this blog is for me to give advice to other people with similar circumstances to mine. I felt hopeless when I developed my allergies, because I had no outlet to turn to for advice. Because my life now revolves heavily around college, I have decided to do a “College” thread, similar to my “Veganism” thread. If any of you have suggestions as to what other articles you’d like to see, please comment down below or on one of my Instagram posts!!
Without further ado, here are my vegan, gluten free dorm room essentials.
Refrigerator / Freezer Items:
Supplements / Vitamins:
Not vegan or gluten free foods, but kinda food-related things I thought of:
I left for college about two weeks ago. This means that I haven’t been to Soul Cycle in over 14 days. I am having serious withdrawals.
Now, I know this sounds dramatic. But bear with me, and at the end of this article, I hope you will understand the true impact SoulCycle has had on me.
I was a swimmer for a long time. However, after I got sick my freshman year of high school and had to stop swimming competitively, I actively sought for another outlet that would bring me that same joy.
After trying out many different activities, my two favorite being Zumba and Cardio Barre, I still felt like I was missing something. Don’t get me wrong, Zumba and Cardio Barre were fun, in fact, the only reason I know how to dance is because of Zumba. That said, I knew something was missing…
until my friend dragged me to Soul Cycle.
Unlike most SoulCycle fanatics, I did not have a memorable first experience at SoulCycle. I showed up late to my first class, struggled to get on a bike, and had to pee the whole time. I left having little intention of coming back.
I don’t remember what prompted me to go back to SoulCycle years later. All I remember is one specific class that completely shifted my perspective. However, before I can share that story, I need to give you some background as to how the structure of Soul Cycle works.
Soul Cycle is an indoor cycling workout class where you ride to the beat of the music. There are no monitors or tracking devices. There is no competitive aspect. It is a completely individual experience that is enhanced by the positive atmosphere that SoulCycle instructors cultivate.
Each class is 45 minutes with the exception of hour-long SoulSurvivor classes. The class starts with x amount of songs. The amount of songs depends on how long each song is and how many remixes the instructor chooses to include. Once that amount of songs is played, there is a water break. This water break is followed by a few songs dedicated to arms. After arms, there is a single song that plays, and the instructor usually goes silent. The lights are turned off, and each rider is able to have their own individual experience. They can ride however they want. After the song’s conclusion, there is a final song, and then class is over.
Now that you know how each class is structured, let me get back to my story.
I showed up to a class one day when I was having a really bad day. I strapped on my shoes and climbed onto the bike. I really let myself feel the music and took the instructors inspirational messages to heart. At the start of the individual song, I closed my eyes. A spoken song blared through the speakers, sounding like a speech. To be completely honest, I couldn’t even tell you what the exact content of the speech was. What I can tell you though is that it brought tears to my eyes. It was exactly what I needed to hear at that moment in time.
During that last song of the class, I rode hard. I felt really good. And that’s when I was hooked.
I’m a big believer that are minds and bodies are inarguably connected. If our minds are healthy and in a good spot, we will do things that make our bodies feel good too. And vise versa.
What makes SoulCycle unique is that is doesn’t just focus on the physical aspect of working out. Classes are filled with positivity not just between the rider and instructor but between the riders themselves. As riders we are encouraged to high five our neighbors and let out an occasional “wooo” when the workout gets challenging. The energy inside the room is palpable. It is truly incredible.
Imagine riding really hard, really fast, while doing pushups, and having your instructor yell over the music, “Keep going Gabby, you got this!” I can assure you, if you go enough, the instructors will shout you out. It is truly the best feeling, and this positive reinforcement makes you want to work harder.
Imagine wanting to give up and hearing, “You’re unstoppable as long as you don’t give up. Keep going!” or “There’s a reason your windshield is bigger than your rear view. Keep riding!” I know that on their own, these quotes don’t seem extraordinarily important. That said, when you are having a rough day or are doubting yourself, they can be exactly the thing to put that pep back in your step and prompt you to work harder than you thought you could.
Quotes that I have heard in SoulCycle have honestly become some of my life mantras, and for that reason I feel obligated to share them with all of you! Here are a few of my favorites:
Don’t stretch yourself so much that you break for someone else.
Don’t wait for life to be perfect before you start enjoying it.
Welcome change like an old friend and soon that’s what it’ll be.
If you take anything from this article, it is that SoulCycle is just a good vibe. While it is a hard workout physically, it also provides mental healing. I personally never feel better than right when I finish a hard workout, when sweat is pouring out of every pore in my body, and all I can do is smile, knowing that I worked my butt off to get there :)
P.S. If you ever want to try out SoulCycle, I highly recommend going to Cat (She teaches at Calabasas) or Joey (He teaches at Westlake).
When I was younger, I went to baseball games with my family all the time. I got all dressed up in my blue and white and laughed with my cousins as we sat side by side eating Dodger Dogs. Looking back, the limp hotdogs did not look extremely appealing, however, back then, they were exactly what we wanted. Now, being vegan, I no longer have the luxury of ordering a plain Dodger Dog with ketchup. In fact, I don’t think that I can eat anything at Dodger Stadium. Does this mean I should stop going to Dodger games? No! Not at all. It just means that I need to do a little preparation beforehand.
While LA itself is extremely accommodating to people who need food accommodations, its amusement parts and sporting events aren’t. There is good reason for this. Big events like a Dodger game or Disneyland attract thousands of people. In order to feed all of these people, these events need to serve food that is both quick, easy, and satisfies the nostalgic crave of its consumers.
These people working events don’t have time to replace the Cesar dressing with balsamic, take off the croutons and cheese, and add vegetables. They have pre-made Cesar salads ready for purchase and want to give you your food as fast as possible so they can get to the next person in line. This system ensures the most minimal amount of chaos possible. It is a perfected science.
So, as a vegan in LA, it can be challenging to eat at attractions. It can be especially hard if you are also gluten free or have another food limitation. That said, this lack of available food doesn’t mean that you can’t still have fun. It could mean though that you may have to sacrifice a filling meal for a good time out.
For my grad nite night this past year, my school took us to Universal Studios. Universal Studios is an amusement park with active movie lots on site. It attracts tons of tourists and lots of fun rides. The bottom line is that there was no way that my allergies would prevent me from going.
Knowing I would have nothing to eat, I made myself a big dinner prior to leaving. This meal kept me satisfied for a while, however, we were gone from 4pm-2pm. Needless to say I was really hungry coming home. I wasn’t allowed to bring a bag into the park otherwise I would have packed myself a smaller, second dinner to take with me.
Going off of this, my first tip is to eat prior to leaving for an event. Even if there is a possibility that you will be able to eat wherever you are going, it is smart to eat prior as well. It is better to be full and refuse the meal at the attraction than to be hungry and wishing you had eaten before.
My second tip is to bring food with you if you are able to. Unlike my experience with grad nite, generally people are allowed to bring bags into sporting events and amusement parks. My go-to snack to bring with me if I know food will be scarce is a peanut butter and jelly rice cake. The rice cake fits easily into most purses or bags, and it is a really easy snack to eat. If you are worried that the jelly will melt and be messy, (which it can be), I recommend putting some banana on the peanut butter instead. Another snack you can bring is a nut packet or any type of granola bar.
My third tip is to bring a water bottle. Water at amusement parks can be extremely expensive. Bringing your own water bottle will save you money, trust me. Aside from that, water is an appetite suppressant. If you are constantly drinking water, you will stay full from your previous meal for a longer amount of time than if you scarcely drink. If you are drinking enough water, chances are you are less likely to be in extreme hunger while you run around visiting princesses at Disneyland or are cheering on your favorite basketball team.
Now, I am not going to lie, it can be hard being out at events with no food. I have a friend who has celiac and barely goes out to events because he is worried about there won’t be food for him. And that is absolutely ok.
Because my last tip is to consider before going out if this outing is worth it. And it’s okay if it isn’t. That said, I personally love doing things and having new experiences. I refuse to let my dietary restrictions prevent me from going to things and doing things I like. This is why I either always pack my own food whenever I go somewhere or deal with the consequences of not eating for a few hours.
Yes, I am often times hungry after a while when I go out to events with my friends. But honestly, my friends often prefer my peanut butter rice cakes to their cold, chewy amusement park burger.
It is definitely still possible to have fun at amusement parks and games being vegan. It may just require a few sacrifices.
But can you have fun without bringing your own food? It really depends on how full your last meal made you and what amount of hunger you can tolerate before succumbing to hangriness. (PSA: being hangry is a real thing). There may be some events that aren’t worth attending. There will be some events that are.
You just have to remember that you aren’t the only vegan at the Dodger Game, at Disneyland, or at Six Flags. There are other people like you, going through the same things, and I’m one of them. With the right attitude and preparation, anything’s possible.
Being vegan, by definition, means a person who does not consume any meat products. That said, being vegan is more than solely about what foods you do or don’t consume. Veganism is a lifestyle.
When I decided to venture on my health and wellness journey, I began to pick up many vegan eating habits. However, through speaking to other vegans and going to vegan festivals, I began to realize that being vegan is about so much more than if I eat meat or not.
I began this journey because my body began to reject meat products. It was not by choice. The more time I spend adjusting to this new diet, the more I learn about its intent.
A large component of veganism is about filling your body with things that are good for it and that make you feel healthy both inside and outside. With that comes other, non-food related components.
In this post, I want to talk about the exercise component of being vegan.
In an effort to make my body feel good, inside and out, I personally need to work out. When we work out, the activity releases dopamine within our bodies and that induces happiness. This explains why my mood instantly increases after a good workout.
As someone who struggles with anxiety, I use exercise as my escape. I can eat all the healthy, fresh food in the world, but it is that combined with exercise that keeps my mind at ease. When I am doing a workout I love, I feel invincible. My phone is tucked away, and I can focus solely on myself.
This outlet used to be Cardio Barre and has since transferred to Soul Cycle. While a separate Soul Cycle review is on its way, it is imperative to write about it now as well because that is the only way that I can relay to you how much exercise (Soul Cycle in particular) has positively shaped my life.
When I lost the ability to eat many foods, I found a home in the kitchen, finding new foods to cook. This activity is fun and allows me to show a creative side of myself that usually lies tucked away. However, it is not always enough to clear my head. When I get anxious, this seemingly random burst of thoughts floods my mind. It seems as if there is nothing that can barricade them. I begin to overthink and question everything I can.
Although I have a therapist who has helped me through lots of mental blocks, I had no other outlet to release this tension within myself on my own time. That is, until I started going to SoulCycle. The whole idea behind SoulCycle is that you are empowered while you are working out. You are being positively reinforced with inspirational speeches as you are cycling. This combination of working body and soul allows me specifically to release my own tension.
I am working hard, sweating more than I probably should be. But I love it. The instructors encourage positivity and healthy living, two things that the vegan lifestyle often preaches as well.
Exercising, no matter what kind, heals the body, mind, and soul. It works out your physical body while challenging your mental state, releasing endorphins that heal the soul.
Exercise is a crucial aspect, in my opinion, to living happily. Because that’s all we want right? In this wild ride of life, we may strive for different things. But everyone wants happiness… right? Life is kind of like a cake. You need certain amounts of ingredients in order to make it just perfect. It doesn’t always come out like it does on the box, but that’s ok.
Every cake is different, just like every body. Funny how I’m using a cake metaphor when talking about healthy living…. I know for me, being meat and dairy free is one aspect of my recipe. Another is exercise. Mix those two together, and I have an extremely solid base to live my happiness.
So, you don’t have to work out in order to call yourself vegan. Working out just adds another component of that healthy lifestyle we are all working towards achieving.
Eating out as a vegan who also has tons of other non-vegan related intolerances can be hard. That said, it’s not impossible. In fact, far from it. Over the course of my four year (and counting) dairy free, gluten free, meat free, and egg free journey, I have eaten at my fair share of restaurants. In these delicious outings I believe I have come close to mastering the art of eating out with allergies. Although I briefly spoke on this in my article, “Being Vegan in a Non-Vegan World,” a recent encounter at a restaurant prompted me to believe that there is more to say on the topic.
I decided to jump on the bandwagon and try the controversial and evenly intriguing Impossible Burger. As someone who hadn’t eaten red meat since 4th grade, I was hesitant to try the vegan burger that was created to mimic, in both taste and sight, a beef patty. As I ordered the burger, I gave my usual shpiel to our waitress: “I have an allergy to gluten and dairy so can you please make sure it is in a lettuce wrap and doesn’t have any butter please?” Usually, this type of warning suffices. That said, I realize now that I have a habit of going to the same restaurants over and over again. The servers know my allergies at this point, and I don’t worry as much about specifying my allergies and making sure I know exactly what is in each meal. I trust that they will know for me.
While this works at those specific restaurants, it doesn’t anywhere else. I can’t assume it will.
Back to my story. As I was waiting for my burger, I decided to look up what the actual Impossible patty was made of. Turns out, the actual patty contains gluten. I brought it up to our waitress, telling her that I was under the impression the burger was gluten free and could not eat it once it arrived. She apologized and told me that she completely forgot that the patty contained gluten.
At first I was upset that I was not told prior that the patty was not gluten free since I said that I am allergic to gluten. But once I was able to set my emotions aside, I looked at the situation from a more logical standpoint. Had I asked if the patty was gluten free? No. I confidently ordered the burger and instead of asking if everything was gluten free, I ordered it as if I was already sure it was.
Now, yes, the blame does not solely fall onto me. The waitress did apologize because she forgot to warn me. But this potentially bad situation reminded me of an important thing to remember when eating out: unless the person taking your order has his or her own food modifications or is very sensitive to someone else's in their lives, chances are, they will not know as much about ingredients as you do. Not all waiters know what foods contain certain allergens and we can’t assume that they do.
The amount of people that think mayonnaise has dairy in it constantly amazes me. Yes, it is not vegan, but that is because of egg, not milk.
While I have had more negative eating experiences like this, I have also had amazing ones. I had the greatest experience at a restaurant called Wokcano when my waiter was vegan. I ordered a meal and asked if it could be made vegan. He responded excitedly, telling me that he was vegan and knew exactly what to write down. While this experience was extremely successful, I can’t expect all of them to be this good.
If you are worried about a certain ingredient, ask. Never be afraid to question an item or ingredient on a menu. And if you blatantly ask about a certain ingredient and get the “ok” you either need to put your trust in your waiter or not risk it at all if the reward is less than the potentially negative effects of eating the food.
And similar to this, never be afraid to say you are vegan or gluten free. It is not something to be ashamed of. If I have learned anything from being 100% dairy and gluten free, it is that the vegan and gluten free community sticks together. When my waiter told me he was vegan, I was able to trust him so much more because he understood the importance of an aspect of my lifestyle that others didn’t. He knew what ingredients I could and couldn’t eat because he could and couldn't eat them also.
So, if you need food accommodations, don’t let them stop you from eating out. Eating out can be fun. Don’t miss out on that experience. Just make sure that you cross every T and dot every I when ordering and don’t be afraid to question what you don’t know.
As long as you ask politely, you are not being a "bad guest." You are not being an inconvenience. You are living your life and want to make sure that you are eating foods that will make you feel good. Never be ashamed or apologize for that.
As I walked into Hugo's Restaurant, I was welcomed warmly. The hostess greeted me with a smile and sat me right away. The restaurant itself is very open, which I like. One side of the main room has doors that remain propped, leading to an enclosed outdoor section. All of the walls, chairs, and tables in the entire restaurant are light wood, brightening the room. The light from outside cascades off the wooden table tops, further illuminating the room. There are lots of green plants as well, adding pops of color. Overall, the combination of the bright, open eating areas and greenery create a very homey and calm atmosphere. I sat and ate beside a window. The light shone through the window beside me, as calm music played in the background. It is safe to say that I enjoyed my serene eating experience.
For an appetizer, I got the Asian Spring Rolls. Lately I have had this random craving for spring rolls. This crave was thoroughly satisfied. These spring rolls were delicious. They were filled with snow peas, carrots, cucumbers, avocado, kelp noodles, and fresh herbs. The kelp noodles gave the roll a super nice crunch. The cucumber and carrot slices were cut so thinly that their crunch was almost lost, so the crunchiness of the noodles was a great addition. The mild sesame-chili dipping sauce that came with the spring rolls was both tangy and sweet, and paired well with the dish.
My main course, however, did not impress me as much. I got the Hugo Veggie Burger on top of their homemade bread, with a side of fries. This entree was very dense. The homemade bread, while good, was very heavy. This burger would have been better if it had been in a lettuce wrap. The burger patty itself had really nice flavors. It tasted very fresh. My issue with the burger was that it was all the same texture. It was mushy from the top to the bottom. I personally would have preferred if it had a bit more crunch to it. I had the same issue with the fries. The fries had no crunch and were very soft. Imagine a soft fry as opposed to a crunchy one. I am not sure how else to describe the texture, but I think my explanation made sense. The fries were also seasoned in a plethora of different seasonings, hitting my taste buds the wrong way.
For dessert, I got the Mixed Berry Cobbler, which was really yummy. While the texture again was slightly mushy, the crispy pieces of granola on top saved the dish. The flavors of the berries were really spot on, and it tasted very fresh.
To finish off my meal, I ordered a ginger turmeric tea. I love turmeric tea and often get it wherever I can find it. This tea, in particular, was really really good. It had the perfect balance of turmeric and ginger so that it was not too spicy, and it paired really well with some honey. Between the appetizer, burger, cobbler, and tea, I left Hugo’s very satisfied and full. The leftover spring rolls in my fridge are calling my name as I write this. :)
Would I Recommend?
I would recommend Hugo’s to people. Aside from the burger, I had a really pleasant dinner and enjoyed my spring rolls. That said, I advise you all to pick simple dishes when you eat at Hugo’s. The more a person must work to make a non-vegan dish vegan, the more accommodating needs to be made. I like to stick with foods that are naturally gluten free and vegan, because I find that they sit with my stomach better. A lot of Hugo’s options, while accommodating to vegans, are heavily processed to satisfy that request. Hugo’s is worth it; just stick to the simple menu items.
Being vegan in a non-vegan world can be rough. Living in Los Angeles, I have been blessed with a wide variety of vegan foods due to up and coming health trends. That said, it is hard going to a restaurant and having any sort of restriction.
It’s much easier and better received to say, “I’ll have the BBQ chicken salad please” than it is to say, “I have an allergy to gluten and dairy so can I please have the BBQ chicken salad but with no chicken, no bacon, no eggs, and substitute ranch for balsamic vinaigrette.” See my point?
While this may be true, you should never feel ashamed of being vegan. People can be vegan for many reasons, and you do not have to feel that you need to justify to anyone why you are or inversely, why you aren’t vegan.
So, my first tip to being vegan in a non-vegan world is to never let anyone’s disapproving glance get the best of you. People make assumptions as to why one has dietary restrictions, and you cannot take those personally. You must keep your head held high and order exactly what you want and how you want it. This is your body that you are fueling and you do not need to sacrifice your health for an onlooker’s approval.
My second tip to being vegan in a non-vegan world is always specifying that you cannot eat dairy. I have found that waiters and waitresses take the request more seriously if you tell them that you have an allergy to dairy, even if being vegan is a personal choice for you. Although I believe this is not mean hearted, people sometimes have the tendency to overlook requests that alter foods because they don’t think there is a substantial reason for doing so. If you don’t have an allergy to something or are conscious about a certain type of food, it can be hard for someone else to see the severity of your request.
Going off this tip, I always make sure to specify what ingredient in the meal I order has dairy in it. If you aren’t allergic or cautious of a certain food, it can be hard to identify what ingredients are in it. For example, although not vegan, a lot of people think that mayonnaise has dairy in it, when, in reality, it is dairy free. Also, if you are ordering a salad, make sure there is no cheese as well as specifying that you have a dairy allergy. It can be easy for waiters or waitresses to overlook ingredients like this and it is a lot of pressure to put on them to figure out which ingredients have dairy in them when you could easily say no cheese.
My fourth tip is to look up the menu of the restaurant you are going to prior to going. This way, you know if and what you will be able to eat and, if you are going with non-vegan friends, you will know your order before going so it is not as much of a struggle to find something to eat. Also, if you look at the menu before and realize that there are not a lot of options for you, you can always go somewhere new. You will completely dodge the chaos of realizing you cannot eat.
My fifth tip is to never be afraid to mix and match foods at a restaurant. What I mean by this is that a lot of meals are easily arrange-able. For example, when I get Mexican food, I always order a side of rice, a side of beans and veggies, guacamole, and corn tortillas. I make my own fajitas and usually have some left over for another meal. Although this isn’t exactly on the menu, I made my own meal with no hassle and had food for another meal. As a vegan, I love having leftovers because they make for super easy school lunches.
My sixth tip is to always carry around a snack. You never know when you will get hungry and as vegans we cannot just get fast food. Our options are much more limited and often take longer to prepare. Therefore, I always carry a packet of nuts or a granola bar with me in case I get hungry. Trader Joe’s has great pre-packaged nuts that make for a good snack.
So, those are my top six tips for being vegan in a non-vegan world. Although there are endless tips, I figured we’d start with six for now. I promise, one you get the hang of it, being vegan is not as hard as it may seem.
I’m sure that this post comes to no surprise. With my breakfast and lunch recommendations, I felt the need to finish it off with my current favorite dinner restaurants. I know that I’ve previously done five, but I could not choose which restaurant to cut out from my top six, so I decided to include them all. Also, I don’t think I blatantly said this in my past articles, but if I did, I just want to reiterate that regardless of what restaurant I go to, I always premise my order by saying, “Hi, I have an allergy to gluten and dairy, so can I please get…”And, while this infamous line begins every conversation I have with my waiter, I always specify what gluten or dairy food could contaminate my meal. For example, if there is cheese on a salad, I always make sure to say “no cheese please,” as well. If someone doesn’t have allergies, it is hard to know what would have dairy or gluten in it. For instance, a lot of people think mayonnaise has dairy in it, but really it is completely dairy free.
It is always better to be safe than sorry, especially if your health is on the line. So, with that said, here are my current favorite dinner spots!
My all time favorite restaurant, and coincidently, a dinner restaurant, is Pace. Pace is a nice little Italian place right inside Laurel Canyon. When I was able to digest fish, I used to get their grilled salmon with asparagus and root vegetables. However, now, I get their gluten free pasta. Their gluten free pasta is the best pasta I have ever eaten, no exaggeration. I get gluten free spaghetti or penne (depending on my mood and what is available) with grilled vegetables and marinara sauce. The dish is seasoned just right, and the pasta is cooked so that there is still some bite to it. I usually ask for whatever vegetables they have to be put inside the pasta dish, and it usually comes with zucchini, carrots, and squash. I would drive in rush hour traffic on the 101 and Laurel Canyon to get this dish, and that is saying a lot. Aside from this pasta dish, I always start my meal with Pace’s soup of the day. All of their soups are vegan and gluten free, which is a plus! My personal favorite soup is their broccoli soup, but I have not tasted one that I didn’t like.
My second favorite dinner restaurant is Katsuya. Katsuya is a very popular sushi restaurant, and when I was able to eat fish, I ate there much more than I do now. However, I have found a way to enjoy my time at Katsuya without just getting a plain cucumber avocado roll. Don’t get me wrong, I love cucumber avocado rolls-however-as someone who used to eat all types of fish, it is a tad disheartening to walk into a sushi restaurant and ask for two cucumber avocado rolls. That said, I have devised a new creation that will change the way vegans eat sushi. When I go, I order one order of spicy tuna on crispy rice, but without the spicy tuna on top. I also make sure to specify that I have a gluten and dairy allergy to make sure that they don’t cook it with butter or fry the rice in flour. I then order one grilled asparagus appetizer, gluten and dairy free, and two sides of the steamed tofu that they use in miso soup. Once the food arrives, I take my rice cakes and layer them with the tofu, asparagus, wrap it in tons of ginger, and dip it in gluten free soy sauce. It is really delicious. If you can eat mayonnaise, I suggest getting a side of spicy mayo and making your own spicy tofu mixture to top the rice cakes with. While messy, I promise this dish is worth it.
My third favorite restaurant is Gracias Madre, located in West Hollywood (you are going to see a trend of Mexican food in this post because Mexican food is easy for me to eat - beans, rice, veggies, corn tortillas, guacamole and I’m set). My favorite meal at Gracias Madre is their Mushroom Fajita special. It is really flavorful and lasted me two meals since it was such a large portion. However, I don’t know if they are available all the time. My favorite appetizer is their Brussel Sprouts. They may honestly be my favorite brussel sprouts. They are crispy but at the same time allow your teeth to sink into them. They go very well with a sprinkle of lemon, and they give you a very large portion which is good because if you don’t finish them, you can take them home. My favorite dessert is by far their vegan and gluten free Pumpkin Flan. It sinks right through your teeth as you take a bite.
My fourth favorite dinner restaurant is Wokcano. Wokcano is a Chinese/Japanese restaurant. There are locations in Woodland Hills, West Hollywood, Culver City, Long Beach, Hollywood, and more. I get their vegetable fried rice without egg. I make sure to ask for gluten free soy sauce, and from prior experience, learned that they do make their rice with butter. So, I make sure to ask for no butter on the rice or vegetables due to a severe allergy. The only issue I have with Wokcano is that they often get the order wrong when I order takeout. However, I have never run into any issues when I eat there. The rice is a super simple dish but incredibly filling and very tasteful.
My fifth favorite restaurant is Sol Y Luna. Sol Y Luna is my favorite Mexican Restaurant and is located in Tarzana. Their rice is my all time favorite rice. It comes cooked with corn and onion and is absolutely delicious. When I eat at Sol Y Luna I make my own fajitas. Since they don’t have vegetable fajitas on their actual menu, I order each piece of fajitas on their own. I order one side of rice, black beans, steamed vegetables, corn tortillas, and guacamole. However, I make sure that there is no cheese atop the beans or guacamole because if not specified they will put cheese on top. The side of vegetables comes with carrots and green and yellow zucchini strips. They go very well with the black beans and that amazing yellow rice. Sol Y Luna also has very delicious strawberry lemonade!
My sixth favorite dinner restaurant is XOC grill. XOC grill is another Mexican restaurant located in Woodland Hills inside a little shopping commons called The Village. My favorite meal at XOC grill would have to be their Veggie Tacos. Their veggie tacos come with mushrooms, zucchini, and peppers. The olive oil used to cook the veggies is super flavorful and they are also seasoned very well. I get the tacos in corn tortillas with black beans and white rice. The white rice is delicious and paIRS really well with the tacos and beans. I always put the rice and beans atop the taco and eat it all together. It really is delicious, however, my recommendation would be to eat there because the olive oil tends to leave the dish soggy if taken to go. That said, I have never experienced soggy tacos while eating at XOC grill and have been very pleased each time I’ve gone.