Sometimes you just need a reminder to eat your greens, especially when living the student life. It’s easy for junk food to slip from the occasional snack to a diet staple. My personal, latest reminder was just before the New Year, when I was invited to my first vegan potluck.

When my boyfriend and I first arrived at the potluck, we set our dish down and waited for others to arrive with theirs. The host, a raw, nut-free, seed-free vegan suggested we all bring a list of ingredients, because even though all dishes were vegan, attendees might have other dietary requirements. I was determined to make something that she could eat, so I made a finger hors d’oeuvre: zucchini discs topped with guacamole, basil, sun-dried tomatoes, and spices. Other delicious vegan dishes included a spicy thai marinated kale salad, piggies in a blanket with veggie hotdogs, chickpea curry with basmati rice, and strawberry energy balls for dessert. I learned some new recipes, and tried new foods, like persimmons, which are a wonderfully sweet treat when they’re nice and ripe.

Like most niche subgroups, this group of mostly strangers were thrilled to be introduced to like-minded people. The atmosphere during the event was of pleasant discovery and discussion, and whether they adopted the vegan lifestyle for cultural, religious, ethical, or health reasons, they were all equally passionate about the diet choice. And veganism is a substantial lifestyle choice—something that affects you everyday.

My boyfriend and I were the only non-vegans at the event, but of course we were equally as happy to eat the delicious array of treats. The vegan guests were happy to enlighten outsiders about their lifestyle. And even though I wasn’t really there for work, that’s any journalist’s happiest situation. During our stay, there were only a couple incidents where it felt like I was trying to be converted to veganism, or judged for not being one, but, as a general rule, if you’re going to step into someone else’s lifestyle or culture, you have to be open-minded. You need to have a good sense of humour and roll with the punches, and you have to be open to criticism. It’s really the only way you’ll learn.

Since the potluck, I’ve been inspired to eat more fruit and vegetables, and to keep striving to make healthier decisions. I recently splurged and purchased this wonderful kitchen appliance called a spiralizer, which cuts vegetables into pasta-like noodles. Now my go-to recipe website is <inspiralized.com>, a food blog dedicated solely to spiralizer-inspired recipes. This just goes to show how there are resources out there for whatever specialized diet fits your wants and needs.

So, boys and girls, fruit and vegetables are on your plate—eat them? I want you to be happy and healthy. I don’t want you to struggle through sugar crashes and root canals. And for myself, I want better food to be available in restaurants, schools, and supermarkets, and that will only happen if together we raise our food standards. I want our kids to be educated about food and learn healthy cooking in school, and that will only happen if we raise our voices. And contrary to what many junk-foodies believe: eating well is not complicated, and a frozen pizza is not cheaper than a bundle of carrots. And if you need a bit of inspiration to get going, try attending a vegan potluck, joining a health-conscious cooking class, or even just taking a stroll down the produce aisle and picking up a fruit or vegetable you’ve never tried before. You just might like it.

Annual Seedy Sunday soon in Nanaimo