You might miss its savory flavor. It’s possible that you will drool while reminiscing about sinking your teeth into it. Perhaps you’ll be shunned by your friends and family. But don’t let those things eat at you.
Giving up meat is tough, especially if you’ve been accustomed to eating it for a while. It’s even more difficult in a city like Philadelphia, where every street vendor is teeming with cheesesteaks. If you are considering becoming a vegetarian or a vegan, it might behoove you to gather a bunch of information about the lifestyle you want to adopt.
For those of you confused or unfamiliar with these diets, here is some clarification: Vegetarians do not eat meat products, but include animal-derived products such as milk and eggs in their diets. Vegans go a step further and eliminate all animal-derived products – they are basically very strict vegetarians.
People tend to become vegetarian or vegan for a number of reasons, including animal rights, the environment, religion, an aversion to meat or chemical additives found in meat and dietary concerns. Junior Steve Wyshywaniuk, a film and media arts major, became a vegetarian after reading “one-too-many books.” Wyshywaniuk said he was influenced by the books “Fast Food Nation” and “No Logo.”
And sometimes people decide to become vegetarian and then abandon the lifestyle. Senior Guiddel Chachoute, a criminal justice major, tried vegetarianism for a year and a half.
“I just didn’t like the taste [of meat]. But I came back and acquired a taste for it,” Chachoute said.
It’s no secret that consuming plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will lead to a healthy diet, but problems arise when an individual does not consume a variety of foods. You can’t call yourself vegetarian if you just eat candy necklaces and ketchup packets. That’s called malnourishment.
If you don’t include an assortment of different foods, you will quickly become deficient in important nutrients such as iron, protein and vitamin B-12 – which are all found in meat. These nutrients are also found in many meatless foods such as peanuts, eggs and soy.
If vegetarians aren’t careful about varying the foods they eat, it can lead to anemia. Vegans might become calcium deficient if they cannot find another source to replace milk products. It’s even trickier for vegans to find healthy alternatives to meat and animal-derived products since their options are very limited.
“The key to being a healthy vegetarian is balance,” said Alison Greene, Health Educator at the Temple Health Empowerment Office (THEO). Greene just so happens to be a vegetarian and has been one since she was 10 years old.
“When I became vegetarian my pediatrician had a fit. He insisted on me drinking and eating all sorts of potions,” she said. One such concoction she had to drink was “Spirulina,” a nutrient-rich algae drink.
But algae drinks might not seem very palatable to the neophyte vegetarian. For college students, Greene suggests trying microwaveable vegetarian dinners that contain faux-meat products such as soy. These quick and simple meals usually contain plenty of protein. Some vendors on campus have meatless dishes and many times will omit meat when asked. 7-Eleven even offers a section of vegetarian-friendly foods.
Vegetarian restaurants are also scattered throughout Center City.
“There’s a place called ‘Sunwishes’ [in Center City]. I thought it was really good,” Greene said. Chinatown has a few places for soy-seekers as well. Visit www.vegadelphia.com to search for some restaurants that offer vegetarian
Greene recommends a vegetarian cookbook called “The Moosewood Cookbook” by Molly Katzen. “The Starving Students’ Vegetarian Cookbook” by Dede Hall might be a perfect cooking companion for the poor, herbivorous college student.
Vegetarianism and veganism are definitely healthy lifestyles, as long as you are conscious of what you put in your body. “I used to eat so poorly. It was an excuse for me to eat better,” Wyshywaniuk said. For more information on vegetarianism, visit www.vegsoc.org, or for those of you considering veganism, check out www.vegan.com. You can also stop by THEO located in the lower level of Mitten Hall and talk to one of the counselors. The phone number is (215) 204-7509.
Ellen Minsavage can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.