Dining Hall Review: “Vegetarian Friendly” Fallacies

By Amanda Eldreth

Elm Staff Writer 

Ever since becoming a vegetarian last year, my meal plan on campus has been going to waste. With each meal,  I am hesitant to go to the dining hall because of the lack of variety in vegetarian options.  How hard can it be to provide healthy and appetizing alternatives to beef, chicken, or pork? To quote whoever wrote on the white board a couple weeks back, “Vegetarians and vegans need protein too.”

Although there are numerous alternatives for vegetarians on campus, they just don’t necessarily contain the proper nutrients. Pizza, fries, pasta and veggie burgers are served almost everywhere, but these sometimes grease-soaked and carbohydrate-rich foods just add more starch and minimal amounts of protein to vegetarians’ diets.

There’s always the option of salad but even that won’t supply all the nutrients needed to keep up a healthy diet, and eating the same thing over and gets tiresome. The attempt to serve at least one vegetarian alternative to the meals is admirable, of course, but sometimes those choices are questionable too.

I don’t think it’s fair to put more focus on the majority as far as diets on campus go; wraps almost always have some element of meat in them, staff-made salads are forever made with chicken or ham, and it’s getting down right irritating. It might be more difficult to find the alternative for meat while on a budget or buying from vendors. But people who are vegetarians and vegans have their reasons for not wanting to eat animal products, and that should be respected as much as those who chose the opposite.

Recently, I have also noticed a bit of false advertising on the options that are supposed to be vegetarian friendly, such as macaroni and cheese that claims to be vegetarian on the sign but clearly has large chunks of meat in the actual product. From experience, I know the challenge of finding satisfying vegetarian food anywhere, but that should not mean that vegetarians should continue to face dull or unhealthy foods.

Simple fixes to the signs could help to prevent misunderstandings on what a vegetarian can and cannot eat. At a certain point in the vegetarian process, the body can reject meat if it is accidentally consumed and create nausea or some form of rejection, as well as possibly emotionally upsetting the person. I faced an incident like that at home over break and would like to never know those feelings again.

There was an e-mail sent out sometime last year asking for feedback on what vegetarians and vegans would like to see more of in the dining hall. I got my hopes up that this would lead to more variety for people like me. Disappointingly, however, there seemed to be a decline in the foods that I could actually eat. Not wanting to face the same old unhealthy foods and meat in the cafeteria, this often leads me to skipping meals, dining in my room, or going to the Cove.

Would it kill them to offer more vegetables, tofu, or wraps without meat? Have options that are not just cheese and carbohydrate-laden? The surprising fact is that most vegetarians and vegans’ diets lack nutrients from vegetables moreso than they lack protein. Perhaps sending out the email again will help to see if there are more ideas and recipes that could be generated. Nothing will get done if the other vegetarians and vegans don’t offer suggestions, because clearly, the dining hall staff is a little bit lost here.

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