Einstein once said, “Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” Looking around today, Einstein would be proud. In the past 10 years or so, vegetarianism and veganism have become increasingly popular; tofu is no longer a foreign foodstuff in restaurants, and soy milk is commonplace in coffee chains such as Starbucks. RIT’s campus provides a diverse menu to choose from, but how many of these options are vegan friendly?
According to Merriam-Webster, a vegan is defined as a strict vegetarian who consumes no animal or dairy products. People go vegan for a variety of reasons: Ariana Bhalla, a second year Mechanical Engineering major, recounts how she became vegan in her freshman year, “I wasn’t [vegan] until I lived with some of them [vegans]. I was getting the proper nutrients I needed, my mood improved, I started exercising more, and I felt just better. My top reasons [for being vegan] are for environmentalism and health.”
Others choose to go vegan because of the way animals such as dairy cows and chickens are treated, resulting in the common stereotype that vegans have to be hardcore organic, tree-hugging hippies. Stereotypes such as this, especially in recent years, don’t necessarily hold true; actresses such as Alecia Silverstone and Zooey Deschanel are vegan, and they don’t preach about animal cruelty to any omnivore that crosses their paths.
Veganism gives people the opportunity to explore new food options they haven’t tried before; many Asian, Mexican and Indian foods are traditionally vegan. As veganism has become more popular, RIT has tried to provide vegan options within campus eating establishments. Many veggie burgers — such as the black bean burgers found campus-wide — are made vegan and most sub locations have hummus on hand to make vegetable wraps. Crossroads offers mini-bags of baby carrots, snack-sized hummus packs with pretzels, as well as an array of fresh fruit.
The biggest issue with being vegan is making sure the ingredients list doesn’t include dairy or meat products. Jesse Powers, a second-year Mechanical Engineering Technology student, emphasizes that, “[The] most important thing to do as a vegan — or even just as a person — is to read the ingredients list.” Most prepared food places on campus have an ingredients list available on hand for students to check what is in their food. A lot of vegan products also tend to be allergen free, devoid of gluten and dairy in hopes of appealing to a broader range of component-aware consumers.
Decreasing the amount of animal product consumption is a main goal for many vegans. Try switching to soy milk instead of regular milk, or try to eat a vegan meal once a week — these kinds of efforts are what people like Bhalla and Powers encourage. “Everything that I eat that’s vegan tastes so much better than other food,” Powers said. So the next time you’re craving something sweet, try a Prana bar at Java’s instead of a cookie, or pick up some dairy-free ice cream at Crossroads.