By Skylar Neafus
In recent years, vegan and vegetarian options have become more popular in day-to-day life. People are frequently making the decision to participate in these non-traditional lifestyles.
Both lifestyles share some similarities, but they have distinct differences. Vegans consume no meat, seafood, dairy, or eggs, while vegetarians do not eat any meat.
“I decided to become a vegetarian because I started doing research on how food was grown up and made. I did not enjoy the results I discovered so something in me changed and one day I just proclaimed I was never going to eat meat again,” said sophomore Hannah Roberts.
Some people make this decision for health benefits. Other vegetarians do this because of the treatment that animals go through before they become a slice of bacon or a burger.
“My friend got me into a club about animal rights and he showed me a lot of facts and statistics about animals abuse. I didn’t like it, so I made the switch to vegetarianism,” said junior Zach Thomerson.
Animal rights is a large contributing factor to why people cut out meat in their diets.
“I am currently vegetarian,” said junior Emily Stock. “I started in the fourth grade because I felt bad for the animals. I’ve stuck to it mainly because of the health benefits and it’s just became a habit now.”
Several health benefits have come from the choice to cut out meat such as weight loss, since meats contain a lot of fat. When eaten frequently, meat can contribute to weight gain.
“When I became vegetarian in sixth grade, I did lose ten pounds from it and toned up more because I was an extremely chubby pre-teen. This decision made me become more healthy,” said junior Kacey Hagan.
More drastic health benefits and changes have been seen due to not consuming meats.
“It was a big change. I felt more active and less tired and well rested when I woke up in the morning. All of the added chemicals aren’t good. Cutting it out though wasn’t hard since I hate steak and a lot of other meats,” said Thomerson.
Becoming vegetarian can also be a family decision. It can make the transition easier with the support from people who are going through the same situation.
“My whole family became interested in the health aspects of not eating meat or any other growth hormone infested foods. It was a tough transition at first, but it is now something that I choose to make a part of my lifestyle,” said Hagan.
Roberts followed in her mother’s footsteps in becoming vegetarian.
“I have been vegetarian for about two years and my mother has been for three years. She will continue this lifestyle for the rest of her life,” said Roberts.
The loss of protein is a common point brought up to vegetarians, but there are substitutes for meat that come in many forms.
“I hate tofu, but I do drink a lot of protein shakes and eat a lot of protein bars,” said Stock. “I have to keep my protein levels up for tennis.”
Finding meat substitutes is becoming an easier task for consumers.
“There are an infinite amount of things I eat instead of meat. For example, I eat a lot of things that contain protein to substitute for the lack of protein that I stopped obtaining when I made the decision to stop eating meat,” said Roberts. “The brand Morning Star has a lot of products for vegetarians.”
With the population of vegetarians and vegans growing, restaurants have started to offer more options for them, instead of the traditional salad.
“I have never been to any strictly vegetarian restaurants, but I find it extremely easy to find items on the menu that don’t have meat in them,” said Hagan.
Strictly vegetarian restaurants are springing up in local areas, such as Louisville and downtown New Albany.
“There was one in Louisville on Bardstown Road called ‘Heart and Soy’ and it was really good. I loved it,” said Stock.
Veganism is not quite as common as vegetarianism. According to the online newspaper ‘Vegetarian Times,’ approximately 1 million of the 7.3 million vegetarians are vegans in the United States.
Some current vegetarians make the even tougher transition to becoming vegan to become even more healthy.
“I became vegan during the end of freshman year and maintained that for a year and a half,” said Hagan. “I decided that as long as I was healthy, I could eat some dairy that is already in cooked foods at restaurants. I still don’t drink milk or eat cheese on their own though.”
The decision to become vegan or vegetarian is a commitment and requires dedication for most people.
“Being a vegetarian is who I am now, so I do not believe I will ever be going back to meat,” said Roberts.