Lani Tunzi checks out her vegetarian options. | Photo by Leslie Tunzi

Lani Says: Vegetable Man

2021 Editions February Lani Tunzi

By Lani Tunzi

What’s in your cupboard?

As if my expectations couldn’t get any lower, I signed off last year with a bad case of food poisoning.

When I woke from my seafood-induced fever dream, I found myself in a New Year and resolved ….to become a vegetarian.

I have been an avid meat eater my whole life — chicken wings, burgers, shellfish, the whole nine yards. I was always slightly appalled at the idea of refraining from meat, mostly because I never imagined I could live without Italian Bakery sandwiches. But even after my stomach bug had left me, I couldn’t shake an uneasy feeling towards my once-loved meals. The more I thought about the moral and health justifications behind a vegetarian lifestyle, the more I was convinced.

Fortunately, living in Los Angeles, there are many options for people on restrictive diets. Especially in Eagle Rock, you hardly see a new restaurant hit the boulevard that doesn’t advertise a gluten free, lactose free, sugar free or some other nutritionally niche menu. This has made it a breeze to find delicious vegetarian takeout. But what about home-cooked meals?

To my surprise, being vegetarian has been a great opportunity for me to amp up my cooking skills. Not only is this giving me a fun way to spend time, but I am thinking about nutrition in a way I never have before. I’m anemic, so it’s crucial for me to consume enough protein and iron. Due to these deficiencies, I conducted a lot of research to make sure I was eating a balanced and nutrition-dense plate, which has led to me buying more fresh produce, trying new recipes and eating healthier than I ever have.  My favorite meals so far have been veggie stir fries, potato and quinoa hash, and chickenless noodle soup — about as far away from the typical college freshman survival fare of Ramen and Cheetos as a I could possibly get!

Momentary cravings for In-N-Out aside, I’ve been immensely satisfied with my plant-based options. I have more energy throughout the day and I feel better overall, mentally and physically. Though I set out to go meatless for a month, I think I’ll stick with it for the time being — or at least until I can’t resist the temptation of that classic Italian sub…

Lani Tunzi, Class of 2020 at Eagle Rock High, is a freshman at UC Santa Barbara.

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