Vegan, vegetarian diet means special concerns for students
When Evan Williams first began his journey as a vegetarian five years ago, he had dreams of McDonald’s.
But after being a vegan for the last four years, he no longer is tempted to bite into a Big Mac.
“Honestly, it’s been so long I can’t remember the taste of the things I used to eat,” said Williams, a social relations and policy and comparative cultures and politics sophomore. “There’s substitutes for any foods I used to like.”
Although some might think it is difficult or unsafe to practice an alternative eating style, experts say students such as Williams are not harming their bodies by having an alternative eating style, as long as it’s done right. MSU’s cafeterias on campus have options for students with alternative diets or those who are looking to try a new way of eating when they enter college.
Vegetarians do not eat meat, fish or poultry, and vegans additionally don’t consume anything derived from animals, including eggs and milk, according to WebMD.
Sharon Hoerr, a professor in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, said vegetarians and vegans should be careful they get enough iron and vitamin B-12, and there are supplements to get these nutrients.
“Neither a vegetarian or vegan can live on salads — they don’t have the adequate protein to maintain health,” Hoerr said.
Ronda Bokram, Student Health Services staff nutritionist in the Health Education Department, said she does not think being a vegetarian or vegan is better or worse for one’s health. She said the important part is to make sure to get proper nutrients.
Bokram said the body has the ability to store nutrients for a while, so vegetarians or vegans might not feel the effects right away.
Hoerr said some consequences of not receiving enough nutrients include fatigue and a weakened immune system.
After nine years as a vegetarian and being a vegan since last summer, advertising senior Maggie Ortlieb said there are no foods she misses. She encounters many people who are skeptical of her eating choices and think it’s unhealthy, but Ortlieb said she feels the opposite.
“(I) definitely feel healthier (and) could tell within a couple weeks,” she said, adding she has more energy. “(I) just have to make sure I’m eating a variety of foods (with) different colors. Eating enough is the main thing — you have to eat more than when you eat meat or cheese.”
Williams said it is important for vegans to do research and read labels. He said some people are surprised with the foods that are and are not vegan — Oreos are vegan, but Caesar dressing is not because it contains anchovies.
“I usually plan out what I’m going to eat a week beforehand,” Williams said. “(I) try to eat a wide variety of things.”
Bokram said students are welcome to contact her if they have any questions or need advice on being a vegetarian or vegan.