Vegetarian diet may be a challenge but it has benefits.

Written by: Mariana Braz

T he decision to adopt a vegetarian diet may come from a lot of different reasons: the need to lose weight, control cholesterol, perhaps the belief that animals should not be killed in order to serve as food to the human race. In any case, going vegetarian may be a challenge but studies have shown the benefits of it.

Vance Wallace, first year Music major at Mercer, went vegetarian for a few months a few years ago. The decision to cut the meat out of his diet came when he needed to lose weight so he could participate in a MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) tournament.

Wallace went vegetarian “for three months” to get ready for the tournament. “I tried to stay on it but it was hard.” Wallace said he is thinking about going vegetarian again because he felt good following a diet based on grains, vegetables and fruits.

Wallace didn’t stay on it the first time because of his family. “My dad would make steak and nothing else,” said Wallace, “so I didn’t have a choice.”

The vegetarian diet is based on on grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes and other products that don’t come from animals. There are different types of vegetarians depending on what kinds of animal products are consumed.

Position of the American Dietetic Association and dietitians of Canada: Vegetarian diets, published in June 2003 in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association explains the different types of vegetarian diets: “facto-ovo-vegetarian eating pattern is based on grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, seeds, nuts, dairy products, and eggs but excludes meat, fish, and fowl.”

The difference between facto-ovo and facto-vegetarian is that the second one doesn’t eat eggs, meat, fish or fowl.

The American Dietetic Association adds another category. “The vegan, or total vegetarian, eating pattern is similar to the facto-vegetarian pattern, with the additional exclusion of dairy and other animal products.”

Unni Parekh, first year Pre-Med major and Falguni Bhosle, second year Accounting major at Mercer are vegans.

Parekh and Bhosle said that they have always been vegan. “I’ve never tried any kind of meat or eggs,” said Parekh.

As a college student, it may be difficult to maintain a diet based on vegetables, grains and no meat. At Mercer’s cafeteria, there are only a few choices that don’t contain meat, salad being the healthiest one.

“I bring food from home,” said Bhosle. She explained that there aren’t many options at the cafeteria. “I’d go hungry if I didn’t bring my food from home.”

Bhosle and Parekh are from Indian families, and that’s the biggest reason why they are vegan. “I think it’s a cultural thing,” said Parekh.

Third year Film major at Mercer, Josh Brand, said that he has thought about going vegetarian but he never actually did. “I lost some weight and when I got stuck I thought about going vegetarian to help me lose more weight but I never did.”

Brand explained that the reason he couldn’t follow a vegetarian diet was “mostly the funds to get the food.”

Outside of Mercer, the places that offer the cheapest foods usually don’t offer healthy options for anybody, not even for meat-eaters, which makes it look like it is impossible to follow a healthy diet.

The website ChooseMyPlate.gov, a United States Department of Agriculture portal, among many other things, lists tips of how to eat healthier on a budget no matter what diet you follow. So while it is true that eating healthy may cost more, there are a few things you can do to lower the cost of your diet.

One of the things is to avoid the convenience of frozen meals because they cost more than if you prepare them yourself. Another tip you will find on ChooseMyPlate.gov is to use leftovers as much as possible. Try eating it different ways, if you made chicken, you can use that to eat over a salad or make chilli the next day.

Other than the financial aspect, there are a lot of myths surrounding the vegetarian diet. The article, “Clearing up common misconceptions about vegetarianism,” published by the Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter on April, 1998, clarifies some of these myths. “Vegetarian diets are often much lower in saturated fat and cholesterol and higher in fiber than non vegetarian diets.”

Another misconception is that vegetarian diets are healthier than diets that contain meat.

Dr John Bock, Clinical Director at Integrated Nutrition Therapy in Hamilton NJ, said in an interview that some vegetarians “don’t even eat a lot of vegetables which is a hypocrisy.”

He explained that “overeating carbs is bad for you,” and since vegetarians can eat carbs, their diets can become unhealthy.

Lacto-ovo vegetarians, who eat eggs and dairy products, can overeat saturated fat contained in dairy products such as cheese and butter. The article published by Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter gives examples of foods that, if eaten in excess, could bring health problems: “Candy, chips, and other foods that fall under the vegetarian heading also tend to have a lot of fat-and calories-and relatively little in the way of nutrients.”

Vegetarian diets offer some advantages. According to the article mentioned before, “studies suggest that in general, vegetarians are less likely to suffer from chronic degenerative conditions that plague the American population: diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity.”

Other misconceptions explained in the same article are: “Vegetarians eat weird foods; Vegetarians don’t get enough protein, iron, calcium and other important nutrients.”

The fact that some people choose not to eat meat doesn’t necessarily mean that they will have to eat weird foods or will be deficient in important nutrients. Both of those problems can easily be solved by planning the diet carefully.

Dr. Bock, explained that vegetarians get all the nutrients they need. “You can live healthfully eating fish, eggs and low fat milk.” He also said that eating “a lot of beans” is one way vegetarians can get the protein they need.

No matter of what kind of diet one follows, planning is important. There are guidelines for health and nutrition that should be followed in order to get enough nutrients out of a diet every day. The dietary guidelines can be found on choosemyplate.gov.

 

Eggplant Rollatini

eggplant rollatini-30

A single serving of Eggplant Rollatini served with a green salad. Photo by Sam Foster

 

 

2 egg whites

1 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs

2 table spoon olive oil

1 cup ricotta cheese

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

2 cups of spinach

Directions

  1. Sweat the eggplant before starting the recipe. To sweat the eggplant, sprinkle salt and let it sit for at least 15 minutes.

  2. Dip the eggplant slices in egg whites and then coat it with bred crumbs.

  3. Fry the eggplant on each side until golden brown on olive oil. Remove to drain.

  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

  5. Spread a layer of ricotta cheese onto each slice of eggplant and then add the spinach. Roll up tightly, and place it in a 9×13 inch baking dish. Pour spaghetti sauce over the rolls, and top with shredded mozzarella cheese.

  6. Bake for 15 minutes in the preheated oven, until the cheese is melted and lightly browned.

 

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Mariana Braz
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