Growing up I had always been a healthy kid, but something happened when I was in high school that changed my lifestyle and my health forever. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, an incurable disease. Not only did it affect my body since I gained 8 kilos in approximately one month, but it also affected my self-esteem. I was tired, weak, and sleepy all the time; my hair was falling out more than normal and the doctors didn’t tell me anything other than that I had to take medication forever. I’d never liked taking medicine, so I wanted to try a more holistic approach to improve my health. I did some research and that’s how I came across veganism, my best friend to date. Up until this day, I think it was the best choice I have ever made. My life would not be the same if I were not vegan and I enjoy it every day, I have never considered it an obstacle.
I have been vegan for 8 years, and there’s two main taboos that exist regarding the vegan diet that could not be less true: number one, the low protein intake in the vegan diet; and number two, how difficult it is to go out to eat as a vegan. For the first, soy is probably the main meat substitute in vegan diet and contains 37 grams of protein per 100 grams compared to chicken which contains 24 grams of protein per 100 grams. And for the latter, I have taken on the task of going out through the streets of Toronto to disprove this taboo. Although some restaurants offer salads as “vegan options”, I wanted to avoid those restaurants at all costs, just because there are way too many people who think vegans just eat lettuce or salads, which couldn’t be farther from reality.
After almost a decade, it is a daily occurrence for me to look for vegan restaurants before leaving home or non-vegan places that have a menu that I could “veganize”. For me, what veganism represents is much more than a diet, it is a lifestyle that takes care of the environment and the wellbeing of animals.
So, as a student on a budget, these are my top 4 places that helped me get through my first semester at Centennial College.
Fresh Kitchen + Juice Bar
Address: 320 Danforth Avenue
A cozy place just a few minutes away from Pape Station, Fresh offers a variety of innovative dishes from breaded cauliflowers with delicious BBQ sauce, cauliflower tacos, cheeseburgers, and more healthy options. While the prices are a little bit on the higher end, I would recommend going to this place with a special someone and ordering some margaritas. Cheers!
A&W Canada – Home of the Burger Family
Address: Broadview & Danforth.
This fast-food place was a surprise for me. I wouldn’t have come across it if it hadn’t been for my sister who told me she wanted to go there for a burger and that they had a plant-based option for me. If you’ve walked down Pape Ave, you’ve probably come across A&W. The plant-based burger comes with a Beyond Burger patty, which is one of my favourites. Their flavour is *chef’s kiss* incomparable (the patty itself has 20g of plant-based protein!) perfect on-the-go option and for only $16 dollars you can make it a combo. It’s a perfect option for Centennial College students *wink wink*.
Address: 482 Parliament St
The options offered by this Vietnamese restaurant range from a delicious vegan pho, vegan pad thai, and vegan sandwich with BBQ tofu which can be made into a combo with french fries. I was so happy when I saw there was a full-page vegan menu and another one for non-vegans.
Located on Parliament Street, this cozy restaurant is one of my favourites not only for its good price but also for the portions of the dishes, so be careful about ordering too much because the servings are filling.
Address: 1000 Gerrard St E
This option may not be on the top of my list of favourite fast-food chains, but it sure gets you out of trouble! One day I entered the establishment on a wishful thought that they might have some options for me as a vegan, since back in my country, Mexico, I had experienced something similar when I discovered Starbucks had some vegan baguette options. KFC Canada now offers its first plant-based chicken sandwich substitute. I didn’t expect the spicy flavour of the patty, which was nice, but since I’m little distrustful I ordered the burger without the mayo (it was unclear to me if it was also vegan).
My main goal is to show that the vegan diet has many benefits for health and the environment, AND it tastes delicious! Both concepts can go hand in hand. I invite you to give these restaurants a chance and see how delicious a vegan diet can be! If you are interested in finding out more about the vegan lifestyle, I recommend watching the documentaries “We Are What We Eat: A Twin Experiment,” “Cowspiracy,” and “The Game Changers.” They will completely change your perspective on how you eat. Trust me.