For many, college is the first time we are really in control of our diet. No more of our parents’ home-cooked meals; we alone decide what we eat. Some don’t really care what they put into their body, as physical health is not their primary concern.
There are several students, though, who care about the food they eat.
A food lifestyle can be defined as a complex diet that influences the way a person lives. Lindsey Truesdell, junior in kinesiology and nutrition, has been a vegetarian for four years.
“I am a vegetarian because it helps me make healthier decisions,” Truesdell said. “Vegetarian diets are good for the most part; they help decrease incidents of heart disease. Vegetarians have lower BMIs (body mass indexes), generally. There’s a lot of good health benefits.”
A vegetarian, as defined by the North American Vegetarian Society, is a person that abstains “from eating all animal flesh including meat, poultry, fish and other sea animals.” Vegetarians subside mostly on vegetables, fruits, legumes and grains.
According to Brown University’s article, “Being a Vegetarian,” it is important for vegetarians to pay attention to their protein, iron and calcium, as well as vitamins D and B-12. Due to cutting out meat and other animal products, these levels tend to be lower in those who choose a vegetarian lifestyle.
“You definitely have to be careful and make sure that you’re still eating a complete diet,” Truesdell said.
Most of these deficiencies can be controlled by consuming other foods, though, like eggs and peanut butter to balance protein levels.
There are several different kinds of vegetarianism, though. According to the North American Vegetarian Society, a ovo-vegetarian will also eat eggs; a lacto-vegetarian consumes dairy products; and a ovo-lacto vegetarian includes both eggs and dairy products. There are also many vegetarians who consume shellfish or fresh water fish, but no poultry or red meat – these are referred to as pescatarians.
A vegan (aka a total vegetarian) consumes no animal products at all. Many vegans also do not eat honey, according to Brown University’s article.
According to Vegetarian Times article “Why go Veg?,” vegetarian diets are more healthful than the average American diet, particularly in preventing, treating or reversing heart disease and reducing the risk of cancer. There has also been proof of increased energy among vegetarians, and the cost of being vegetarian or vegan is relatively cheaper than consuming the average American diet because meat accounts for 10 percent of food costs.
Julie Gibbs, director of health promotion at Lafene Health Center, said she believes that these diets tend to be more popular especially among college-aged adults due moving out of their parents’ households and exploring new diets and ways of life.
“A lot of the benefits would come from lower cholesterol and blood pressure,” Gibbs said. “The only downside to it is that you could be missing out on some nutrients that come with dairy products or meat products, since you’re restricting yourself.”
Gibbs recommends that anyone wanting to become vegan or vegetarian should really research and develop an understanding what it takes to get the right nutrients.