Living a vegetarian lifestyle

claire.abent

On-campus vegetarians aren’t left with empty trays

For on-campus vegetarians, there are many dining options available, both for those with a meal plan and those without.

At the Marketplace, there are two culinary professionals specifically dedicated to making the vegetarian and vegan entrees that are available daily, said Robin Rahoi, NMU’s registered dietician. Meat-free choices are also available on a daily basis at the Wildcat Den. Fieras, Temaki and Tea and Starbucks also provide options for those with vegetarian lifestyles.

Rahoi said that Dining Services is always willing to listen to student suggestions about menus and they make a conscious effort to cater to the needs of students who may follow different diets.

“I totally believe that if we have students on a meal plan, they can meet their needs at our facilities. I also think it’s important to realize that dining services is listening to their needs and that we understand the enthusiasm of a vegetarian lifestyle. And we want to provide wholesome foods to those students.”

Often, concerns are raised about whether or not student vegetarians are getting the proper nutrition without eating meat. Some students can become “junk food vegetarians” and simply eat meat-free products that are highly processed, and frequently not nutritionally sound. It is these people that usually face certain nutritional deficiencies while eating a vegetarian diet, said Rahoi.

“You can be healthy and fit while maintaining a vegetarian diet, but you can’t do it without the proper nutritional knowledge,” she added.

As a registered dietician, Rahoi can also provide nutritional advice and support for NMU students who are already vegetarian or vegan, or are considering a transition to that lifestyle.

She also suggests looking to the Northern Vegans — an organization that promotes healthy and sustainable living, along with vegetarian and vegan lifestyles in the Marquette area, for further resources and support.

LuAnne Crupi, one of the founding board members of the Northern Vegans, said that the group was formed because they saw a need for both education and socialization among those who chose vegetarian and vegan lifestyles in the area. They hold social events throughout the year, including a vegan Thanksgiving dinner every fall. These events are open to everyone, including people who consume animal products.

Northern Vegans have also donated educational resource materials to the Peter White Library in Marquette about vegan and vegetarian lifestyles, said Crupi.

“We understand that the food people eat is based on personal choice, so we provide the kind of information that will allow people to make a critical, independent decisions about their diets,” she said.

Also available on their Web site, www.northernvegans.com, is a wealth of information and resources available for interested students, on and off campus, including a list of vegan friendly restaurants in the Marquette area, social events and links to other web resources about vegetarian and vegan lifestyles.

Vegetarian vocabulary

Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian: does not eat meat, fish or fowl. Eats dairy and egg products.

Ovo Vegetarian: does not eat meat, fish, fowl or dairy products. Eats egg products.

Lacto Vegetarian: does not eat meat, fish, fowl or eggs. Eats dairy products.

Vegan: does not eat any animal products including meat, fish, fowl, eggs, dairy, honey, etc. Most vegans do not use any animal byproducts such as silk.

Pescatarian: does not eat meat or fowl. Eats fish.

Flexitarians: mostly stick to a vegetarian diet, but sometimes eat meat

Tips for begining vegetarians

The Marquette Food Co-Op is one place off-campus students can go to find vegetarian food products, and is also a resource for information about vegetarian and vegan lifestyles.

Kelly Cantway, volunteer and promotions coordinator for the Co-Op, said there are quite a few staff members who live a vegetarian lifestyle.

“They have a lot of personal experience and personal favorites as far as products go,” Cantway said.

Cantway, who is a vegan, suggested some things interested students could do to gradually make that lifestyle change.

“Most Americans eat meat at least once a day. And if you can cut just one day (of eating meat) out of your week, it is a big improvement,” Cantway said. “If people are going a little bit further, and want to become a vegan, you would want to cut out what you eat the most of in your diet.”

There are various ways to begin making the switch to a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. Depending on personal preference, people may begin to cut meat out of their diets gradually or all at once. Usually taking small steps toward a new diet is the easiest for people to stick with.

Lots of ordinary dishes that contain meat can be easily tailored to fit a vegetarian diet with only simple modifications. There are a wide variety of meat replacement options available at local grocery stores. Morningstar Farms, Boca and Quorn make a variety of foods, including corndogs, chicken nuggets and hamburgers, all of which contain no meat. Other foods that can take the place of meat, such as tofu, seitan and textured vegetable protein, can also be readily found in grocery stores. All of these products can provide an additional source of protein for those who have cut meat out of their diet.

Cantway said such meat replacement products often make the transition towards a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle easier.

“Certainly those are very processed foods, but it does help people get through the cravings for meat texture and meat flavor,” she said. “Using these to transition away from a meat-eating lifestyle is a good stepping-stone.”

Reasons behind being meat-free

Reasons behind making the change to a vegetarian lifestyle vary from person to person, but most often it is either for health reasons, environmental or animal rights concerns. Senior computer science major Sebastian Frye shifted to a meat-free lifestyle after doing a research paper on vegetarianism during his freshman year at Northern.

“I read some things about the meat industry that I didn’t know,” Frye said. “The amount of energy spent feeding and raising the cattle, then transporting the cattle, then slaughtering and then packaging is a lot more than just eating grown plants or even just all the feed fed to the cattle.”

Freshman environmental science major Lauren Tarr became a vegetarian at age 10 and a vegan at age 16. For her, it was also ethical concerns that led her to choose a lifestyle free of animal products.

“I learned about factory farming and I couldn’t support the fact that animals are being raised solely to be exploited by humans. So on Jan. 1, three years ago, I decided to make a resolution to keep for the rest of my life,” she said.

Frye said the transition to being a vegetarian was not too tough for him and that he simply just stopped eating meat.

“I’m pretty polar, either I’m doing one thing or the other. I’m not usually in the middle of two things,” he said.

But for Tarr, it took a few months to get used to her new vegan lifestyle, and was often times difficult.

“It was really hard to give up eating eggs and cheese. But after awhile you get used to knowing what you can and can’t eat and reading the labels on everything.”