Patty Huntley, ’13

Anna-Maria Thalassinos, ’14

Students and teacher explain misconceptions of unique lifestyle.

“To me, veganism is a way of life. I don’t wear any wool or leather, I don’t use shampoo or makeup [that have animal components or were tested on animals],” math teacher Cara Hubbell said. “Anything that involves animal testing or any animal products are excluded from [a vegan’s] diet or home.”

Screen shot 2013-01-17 at 10.33.06 AMExclusion of meat and animal-related products is the cornerstone of many vegan diets. However, veganism and vegetarianism are distinctly different regimens that only a select number of people choose to integrate into their lives. According to The Vegetarian Resource Group, about 3.4 percent of Americans are vegetarians and an even smaller 0.8 percent are vegan. However, according to the Ohio News Group, the number of vegetarian adolescents has increased by 70 percent.

Although it may be difficult to fuse these dietary restrictions into a previously all-inclusive diet, vegetarian junior Sam Allaire believes vegetarianism and veganism can be a healthy alternative if done properly.

Since these two diets are similar, there are many misconceptions about what differences they have. A vegetarian diet is defined normally as one that does not include meat, but mainly consists of vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, eggs, and dairy products, according to The Vegetarian Resource Group. A vegan diet, however, is one that restricts not just meat but all products derived from animals such as dairy, eggs and honey.

Senior Judith Westwood has been a vegetarian from the age of four, but segued into veganism during her sophomore year. Westwood said her decision to eliminate meat from her diet hinged on the benefits for the global population. However, there are other motives for people becoming vegan or vegetarian. Allaire said watching documentaries and reading books about the meat industry turned her away from meat consumption.

“I saw a video of animals being slaughtered, and I thought it was very cruel,” Allaire said. “I didn’t think they should suffer through that, so I just did my part by not eating meat.”

Junior Cassidy Buck, who recently became vegan, said that she believes the general population is uniformed about the vegan lifestyle, and that people think vegans only consume a limited amount of food and lack certain nutrients in their diet.

“There’s actually so many different options and substitutes for a lot of foods,” Buck said. “People also think that you can’t get any protein in a vegan diet. But beans, nuts and soy are all good sources of protein.”

Although finding substitutes for non-vegan food is entirely possible, Hubbell said following a vegan or vegetarian diet can be unhealthy if not done properly. She believes that being vegan doesn’t necessarily mean one is “healthy,” especially if there isn’t a balance to the nutrients or a variety of foods included in the diet.

“It’s a lot more difficult to maintain the proper balance of nutrients when you start excluding foods from your diet,” Hubbell said. “Some friends that I have would just eat pasta, for example, which is not good for you to just eat a lot of.”

Even with the abundance of substitutes for the foods that vegans and vegetarians cannot consume, Westwood believes there is still the issue of calorie and nutrient intake, which is crucial for a healthy diet.

“Most people get iron from meat… I take supplements for iron and supplements for calcium,” Westwood said.

It may seem that there are more non-vegan foods than there are vegan foods in grocery stores, but Hubbell said shopping selectively proves not to be a challenge.

“Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s are awesome,” Hubbell said. “They tag all of their foods with a little green ‘v’ that’s vegan.”

However, shopping for vegan products usually requires reading the labels carefully to make sure there are no non-vegan ingredients.

Though taking on one of these diets entails more commitment than a normal one and risks lacking key nutrients, Buck believes they can also cause one to reevaluate the food they commonly consume and their nutritional value.

“I think the hardest part is getting started,” Buck said. “But if you have self control and [maybe] even [have] a friend to do it with makes it a lot easier.”

Info graphic by Patty Huntley