Is going vegan right for you?

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Maggie Reid, Assistant Features Editor

Some college students are starting to become more aware of what they put into their bodies. This includes eating healthier, becoming a vegetarian or even becoming a vegan.

Becoming a vegan does not happen overnight. Rather it takes careful planning and consideration.

Erin Kelly, program director of nutrition, believes that there are two types of people who decide to go vegan.

“One group is more concerned with the health benefits, and the other group chooses to become vegan for ethical and personal beliefs,” Kelly said. “I feel like college students are more politically aware and educated about animal rights.”

Becoming vegan can lower risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. Those who chose to eat vegan are also typically at a lower weight, although it all depends on what you choose to eat.

“You can eat french fries and still be vegan,” Kelly said. “But, that is not healthy.”

Assistant Professor of Biology and registered dietitian Jessica Redmond recommends following the MyPlate guidelines on www.choosemyplate.gov, which emphasizes filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables, with one-fourth the plate being a source of grains and the last one-fourth being a source of plant protein.

“Following a vegan diet can provide health benefits, such as increased fiber intake and virtually no cholesterol consumption,” Redmond said. “However, this assumes the person is following a healthy vegan diet. It is still possible to make unhealthy food choices while following a vegan diet–there are now vegan cookies, cakes and other empty calorie foods available.”

 

Senior Amanda Taurisano has been a vegetarian for the last ten years, but, as of two months ago, decided to become a vegan.

A typical day of food for Taurisano varies, as she likes to switch things up. Some of her breakfast favorites are a bowl of cereal with almond milk, banana pancakes and oatmeal. For a long day at school, she would typically pack a peanut butter sandwich and some fresh vegetables. Dinner is typically different, as she likes to switch it up most night with a little help from Pinterest.

“The hardest part about being vegan is probably knowing if something is vegan or not, especially when you’re eating out,” Taurisano said. “When you’re at home you can check the ingredients on the container, but when you’re eating out you’re relying directly on the knowledge of another person.”

However, Taurisano does not let this discourage her from eating out.

“There are lots of places in Utica where you can eat vegan,” Taurisano said. “Almost every restaurant has at least one or two options. A few of my favorite lunch places are Panera and Core Life. If I want to eat out for dinner Symeon’s and Delmonico’s are usually my go-to’s.”

Other than the added health benefits of eating vegan, you are also helping animals and the environment.

“The most obvious reason to be a vegan is probably that you aren’t causing harm to animals,” Taurisano said. “Another that people may not think of is that it is much better for the environment. A vegan lifestyle contributes less air pollution and requires less land, fossil fuels and water.”

 

Taurisano hopes to be a vegan for the rest of her life, but since she is so new to it she is not sure if that will be true or not.

The main food that Taurisano misses is cheese, although she has found new ways to make sure she is not missing out.

“I love cheese and vegan cheese does not taste like the real thing,” Taurisano said. “I have learned to cope with it though and have even found some good vegan macaroni and cheese, which satisfies my cravings.”

For students thinking about going vegan, Taurisano suggested to try to do it gradually rather than going straight into it.

“I think the only reason going cold turkey worked for me was because I was already vegetarian before, otherwise I can imagine it’d be very hard,” Taurisano said. “Another piece of advice is that if you “cheat” or mess up, it is okay.”

According to Redmond, Iron may also be another important supplement to take, as the intake in the vegan diet might be low.

Redmond suggested that starting slowly and try following a vegan diet for an entire day or a full week before fully committing to it. Redmond also suggested meeting with a registered dietitian to make sure your body is getting enough nutrients.

“We can go through your current intake [of vitamins and nutrients] and help identify any nutrients you may be lacking.” Redmond said. “Apps like MyFitnessPal or Fooducate will also be helpful to track your intake on your own and see how well your diet meets your needs.”

If you are interested in learning more about vegan diets or nutrition overall, consider taking BIO 205: Human Nutrition and/or majoring in nutrition. Contact Jessica Redmond at jgredmond@utica.edu for more information.


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