Students choose vegetarian options for health reasons

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Burgers, burritos and chicken nuggets are staples in many college students’ lives, but vegetarians make the decision to let go of all meat.

Not eating meat may seem extreme to some, but many students in the Provo area choose to be meat-free for health reasons.

Chelsay Jeuhl, a nursing major from Phoenix, Ariz., said her vegetarian lifestyle started after a six-week vegan cleanse.

“My friend’s mom started a program called ‘Eat to Live,’ and it consisted of eating only fruits, vegetables and grains,” she said.

Jeuhl said while she was on this program she was very strict about eating only vegan options. She said the hardest part was remaining social when her friends went out for dinner.

Averi Crockett eats a vergetarian meal of sauted red chard, tomatoes, chick peas, and wild rice.
Averi Crockett eats a vegetarian meal of sauted red chard, tomatoes, chick peas, and wild rice. (Elliott Miller)

“If I couldn’t find anything I could eat, I just wouldn’t eat,” she said.

Now, Jeuhl said she is more lenient about her diet.

“As socially comfortable, I don’t typically eat meat,” she said. “I still choose vegan and vegetarian options when I can. I feel good when I do. I feel good about how I feel physically. I never have that feeling after I’ve eaten gross stuff.”

Adapting to a vegetarian lifestyle doesn’t only include changes to diet and social gatherings but also changes to time and money.

“I make everything I eat, so it takes a lot of time,” Jeuhl said. “To make good meals takes twice as much time.”

Melissa Cowles has been a vegetarian for 14 years. She said the diet can be expensive but still comparable to grocery bills.

“Meat replacements seem pricey, but some hamburger is almost the same,” Cowles said. “Fruits and vegetables tend to cost a lot, but it’s just part of a normal, healthy diet.”

Cowles, a UVU pre-accounting major from St. George, has been living a vegetarian lifestyle since she was a young girl. The catalyst for her change came from her parents.

“My parents heard that not eating meat was healthier,” she said. “So they researched it and found out that not only was it healthier, but that eating meat was actually detrimental to our bodies. Cows are pumped with antibiotics and hormones that are passed on to us.”

Cowles said that at first it was really difficult to eat salads every day, but her parents went to a party where all the food was vegan and were inspired.

“There were three tables of French chocolate pastries, dessert pies, and all kinds of elaborate food all made from vegan ingredients,” she said. “At that point, my parents made the decision to continue the vegetarian diet. It moved from, ‘We want to do it,’ to, ‘We can do it.'”

Cowles said people often ask her about her diet, but she doesn’t like to tell people the reason why she doesn’t eat meat.

“If they really want to know, I’ll tell them,” she said. “Sometimes people don’t want to hear it. People know what things are good or bad for their bodies, but they don’t like to change.”

Cowles remembered a situation where a family friend got upset with her and her family’s diet choices.

“They said we were going against the Word of Wisdom,” Cowles said. “They were very hostile. If you look at the Word of Wisdom, it says, ‘It’s pleasing to not use it unless in times of famine or need,’ or if you do eat it, it says, ‘Eat sparingly.'”

After a five-year period, Cowles said the family who was so angry at their meatless diet eventually started to choose a more vegetarian diet.

Cowles isn’t the only vegetarian to avoid meat because of health research.

Jared Ferre, a food science major from Ogden, said his tectonic shift toward vegetarianism happened when he learned how food is produced and raised.

“The things that the animals’ bodies are pumped with to make them grow faster are harmful,” Ferre said. “They are pumped with corn and soy, and ranchers have to respond to this fast growth by giving them antibiotics.”

Research indicates that Cowles and Ferre may have some basis for their beliefs. According to an article titled “Health Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet” by Sujatha Rajaram, a vegetarian diet may be a good idea.

“Scientific evidence points to the positive association between vegetarian diet and reduced risk for several chronic diseases and conditions such as obesity, coronary artery disease, hypertension, diabetes, and some types of cancer,” the article says. “However, it is clear that the presence of specific plant foods is necessary to maximize the health advantages of a vegetarian diet.”

Aside from health reasons, some students choose to not eat meat because of the way the animals are treated.

Averi Crockett, an English major from Alpine, said she doesn’t consume any animal products because of animal abuse.

“I’m vegan for my health, but also because it’s healthier for the environment,” Crockett said. “The commercial farms are pretty destructive, and the animals are mistreated.”

Eating out can be tricky with a strict diet, but Crockett said she has found a way to help.

“When someone asks me out on a date, I usually suggest a vegan restaurant,” she said. “Indian and Mexican restaurants have a lot of vegan options, so I’ll suggest Bombay House or Mountain West Burrito.”

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