Written By: Liesel Sumpter
What’s the difference between vegetarian and vegan diets, and how do I eat that way on campus?
It’s no doubt that eating plant-based is all the rage lately. And for good reason – research shows that eating more plants and less meat can lead to a longer, healthier life.
But what’s the difference between eating a vegetarian diet and a vegan diet?
And how does a veggie lover eat well on a college campus?
In this article, you’ll learn about vegetarian and vegan diets and how you can create satisfying plant-based meals on campus.
A vegetarian is someone who avoids food from animal sources like meat, dairy, and eggs. Instead, they eat more fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
Some vegetarians include dairy, eggs, fish, or a combination of the three. They are defined as:
- Lacto vegetarian: eats dairy products
- Ovo vegetarian: eats eggs
- Lacto-ovo-vegetarian: eats dairy products and eggs
- Pescatarian: eats fish
A strict vegetarian is called a vegan. Vegans exclude all animal products including meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, other dairy products, and honey. The Vegan Society defines veganism as “a way of living that attempts to exclude all forms of animal exploitation and cruelty as possible.” For many vegans, it’s more than a diet, it’s a lifestyle.
Eating plant-based is linked to a load of health benefits like preventing chronic disease, lower blood pressure, lower body weight and rates of obesity, lower LDL (“bad”)cholesterol, and improved blood glucose control for those with Type 2 Diabetes.
Overall well being alsoimproves since plants pack more fiber into your diet, which keeps you feelingfuller, longer and aids in digestion.
Watch out, though…
Just because it’s vegetarian doesn’t automatically make it a healthful food choice. For example, French fries and ice cream are vegetarian… But they are also loaded with calories from total fat, saturated fat, and added sodium and sugar.
While there are no bad foods just keep in mind that calling a food “vegetarian” or “vegan” doesn’t mean it’s the healthiest option.
A well-rounded diet focused on plant foods won’t lack protein, be deficient in nutrients, or leave you feeling hungry all the time. However, here are the nutrients vegetarians and vegans should be more aware of:
Protein: It’s a myth that vegetarian and vegan diets cannot provide enough protein. Almost every food that grows from the earth except fruit contains some protein. Beans, seeds, nuts, nut butters, and soy products like tofu and tempeh are great sources of meat-free protein. Whole grains also provide some protein, but don’t rely on it completely. And for lacto-ovo-vegetarians, dairy products and eggs provide plenty of protein.
Plant-based dieters should be conscious of sources of omega-3 fatty acids, the “healthy fats” touted for lowering the risk of certain chronic diseases, certain cancers, and arthritis while improving brain function. Plant foods rich in omega-3s are flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts. For pescatarians, salmon and other fatty fish are great sources of omega-3s.
Iron: This mineral is especially important for teens and college-age women. Although plenty of plant foods contain iron, it’s nonheme iron, which is not as effectively absorbed by the body as the heme iron found in meat. Vegetarians should focus on eating plenty of nonheme iron found in beans and peas, iron-fortified whole-grain breads and cereals, some dark green leafy vegetables, seeds, and eggs for ovo-vegetarians.
Another tip is to eat iron containing foods with a source of vitamin C like oranges, strawberries, broccoli, or bell peppers, since vitamin C increases nonheme iron absorption.
Zinc: Zinc is a necessary mineral in many different aspects of cellular metabolism. Beans, nuts, whole grains, fortified breakfast cereals, and dairy products are all meat-free food sources of zinc.
Calcium and Vitamin D: Vegetarians who do eat dairy and eggs typically do not struggle with getting enough calcium and vitamin D. Vegans, on the other hand, should pay special attention to eating foods rich in these nutrients. Focus on calcium-rich foods like tofu, broccoli, almonds, and some greens. Also look for calcium and vitamin D fortified products like whole-grain bread, cereal, and rice or soy beverages.
Vegans may even want to consider supplements for calcium and/or vitamin D if they cannot consume enough through food.
Vitamin B12: B12 is rich in animal based foods. Dairy products and eggs provide B12 for vegetarians that consume these foods, but plant-based dieters need to be conscious of their B12 consumption, especially vegans. Their best sources of meat-free B12 are fortified breakfast cereals, soy or rice beverages, soy burgers, or even nutritional yeast.
Vitamin B12 is also commonly recommended as a supplement to vegans.
“So, what does this mean for dining at TCU? I’m a vegan and I can never find food to eat at Market Square!” Not so true. Eating according to a vegetarian or vegan diet on campus can be incredibly simple – and delicious – if you know what you’re looking for.
Market Square has a fantastic Mindful section which includes some vegetarian and vegan options daily. The key to creating a balanced meal is to put a variety of foods on your plate to ensure you’re getting adequate nutrients. Aim for at least half of your plate to contain vegetables and fruit.
Personal favorites include the lentil penne, popped quinoa, and roasted tofu. Other go-to stations are the soup and salad bars, which include plenty of legumes, edamame, cheese, and hard boiled eggs to load your veggies with protein. And for lacto-vegetarians, you can never go wrong with a slice of veggie pizza!
If you’re looking to satisfy your sweet tooth, Market Square has multiple vegan-approved desserts like rice crispy treats made with vegan butter and occasionally vegan desserts custom made by the baker. For those avoiding gluten, the gluten-free brownies, buns, and bread are found next to the sandwich station.
Many students don’t know that Magnolia’s in the KFC building is a Zero 7 zone, meaning all food prepared and served at Magnolia’s is free of the 7 most common allergens: soy, egg, wheat, gluten, shellfish, dairy, and treenuts/peanuts. Magnolia’s is a great go-to stop for vegans especially.
If you’re looking for a quick meal, try the different salads at the Bistro, a Sushi Mama vegan poke bowl, a Simple To Go peanut butter and jelly sandwich, the grapes and cheddar cheese cup, the celery and peanut butter, a pretzel and hummus cup, or Greek yogurt – and that’s only a fraction of the to-go items offered all over campus!
Moral of the story is that it is not hard to eat green on TCU’s campus! Next time you or your vegetarian friend wants to eat at Market Square you’ll know exactly what to do!
Definition of veganism. (n.d.). Retrieved fromhttps://www.vegansociety.com/go-vegan/definition-veganism
Duyff, R. L. (2012). American Dietetic Association complete food and nutrition guide. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Vegan vs Vegetarian – What’s The Difference? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/vegan-vs-vegetarian#section2