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Students explain vegan/vegetarian eating habits

Sian Rhodes

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According to a 2014 infographic put together by TopRNtoBSN.com, the number of people who consider themselves vegans has doubled since 2009. In the recent years, veganism has become more popular, with people switching their diets because of medical reasons or just personal preference. Students here have changed their diets, too.

Different from a vegetarian, a vegan is, “Someone who does not eat any food or products deriving from an animal (meat, eggs, dairy or fish),” said senior Samantha Haimbaugh, a vegan.

Haimbaugh became a vegan about a year ago. “I started doing research on the types of foods we eat and how this can affect our health and the environment,” she explained. First, she eliminated eggs and dairy, then meat and fish later on.

Maxine Koda, senior, was also a vegan for about three months but continues to eat a vegetarian diet. “I started researching the dairy industry and watching documentaries. I learned a lot about the meat industry and how it has a big effect on our bodies over time,” Koda said. She has been a vegetarian for eight years.

“I feel so much healthier and energized and I never feel like I’m limiting myself.”

Switching your eating habits is always difficult and making a drastic change such as becoming a vegetarian or vegan can come with some challenges. “The two biggest challenges I face are the criticism/questioning from other people and the convenience (of food). I’ve gotten used to these things and I now know how to respond to others and I know what I can order from different restaurants,” said Haimbaugh. One important factor that she also had to consider was how she was going to compensate for certain nutrients that she would get from meats and dairy.

Koda also explained her challenges with changing her diet. She said, “Going out to eat is hard. I always end up eating a lot of fries wherever I go,” she said. In the beginning, Koda warned, you have to be careful not to become a ‘carbotarian’, substituting all your foods for carbs and still lacking the nutrients.

For dinner, Haimbaugh doesn't have difficulty finding something to eat. Here she made pasta marinara with mushrooms.

For dinner, Haimbaugh doesn’t have difficulty finding something to eat. Here she made pasta marinara with mushrooms.

She also said it was difficult explaining her eating preferences to ‘die hard meat eaters’ who may not understand her eating habits.

Both Koda and Haimbaugh think there are some misconceptions about their diets as well. “A lot of people think you lack vitamins or don’t get any nutrition,” said Koda, “But it’s important you keep up with it or find substitutes for nutrients so you aren’t malnourished.”

Haimbaugh also said that while some people assume veganism is super extreme and that vegans judge others, it is not the case. “For me, it is a personal choice,” she explained.

There are also many health benefits to being a vegan or vegetarian. Medicaldaily.com stated in an article that, “U.S. News & World Report ranked the vegan diet No. 19 on its list of best diets overall. It also ranks in the top 10 for best weight-loss diets, best heart-healthy diets, and best diabetes diets.”

“You never know, it (veganism/vegetarianism) might be beneficial for your lifestyle down the road, and for the animals and environment, too,” said Haimbaugh, “I feel so much healthier and energized and I never feel like I’m limiting myself.”