This Letter to the Editor was submitted by Hannah Tower, Dining Services Nutrition Assistant at Concordia College.
There are currently over 7 million people in the United States who follow a vegetarian diet and over 22 million who follow a vegetarian-inclined diet. A 2010 study found that three percent of students at Concordia identify as vegetarians, eight percent say they follow a vegetarian-inclined diet and seven percent reported not eating red meat.
Two of the largest reasons that prompt people to become vegetarians of any kind include health and environmental benefits. When it comes to the health benefits of eating more foods from the earth, nutritionist Heather Stueven says there is no substitute.
“No pill or supplement can replace the nutrients that the body gets from vegetables, fruits and beans. These items are packed with everything the body needs to stay healthy and avoid preventable diseases.”
According to the Water Education Foundation, it takes 2,464 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef in California. In contrast, only 25 gallons of water are needed to produce one pound of wheat. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates the meat industry generates nearly one-fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that are accelerating climate change worldwide.
“The pressure to supply meat to the public created a lower quality product that could lead to compromising the immune system and high fat content,” said Concordia student Adam Mousel, who has been a vegetarian for over two years.
Dining Services recognizes the importance of not only having vegetarian options available at every meal but also educating students about the benefits of a meatless diet. Each semester, the Explore station features a week called de la terre, or “of the earth”, devoted to vegetarian menu items and education.
“We don’t expect students to give up meat completely; we would like them to learn more about how eating an occasional meal without meat can improve the environment and their overall health,” said Janet Paul Rice, associate director of Dining Services.
Every day, you can find specific vegetarian entrées at Comfort and Explore, a sandwich at Fillings, pizza and pasta sauce at Slice and Al Dente, a soup option at Simmer and options at Sizzle. Not to mention the variety of items available at the Fresh and Energy stations.
The Mission Nutrition labeling system used in Anderson Commons labels food as vegetarian following the Lacto-ovo category. To find out whether a food item is vegetarian just look at the corn cob and there will be a V in the lower left hand corner.
The four main categories of vegetarians are:
Lacto-ovo-vegetarian: When most people think of vegetarians this is generally what they think of. These types of vegetarians do not eat any type of meat or fish but do eat eggs and dairy products.
Lacto-vegetarian: Does not eat eggs, meat, or fish, but does consume dairy products.
Ovo-vegetarian: Does not consume dairy products, meat, or fish, but does consume eggs.
Vegan: People who follow this type of diet do not consume meat of any kind, eggs, dairy products or processed foods containing animal-derived ingredients like gelatin. Many vegans refrain from eating foods that are made using animal products that may not contain animal products in the final process.
Students with nutritional concerns or questions about vegetarian options in Dining Services can set up a meeting with one of four Registered Dietitians. Meeting with a dietitian is free for students with a meal plan. To set up a meeting email email@example.com.