The food industry seems to be jumping on the vegan wagon. Ben & Jerry’s released a vegan ice cream earlier this year, and videos of the vegan Impossible Burger have gone viral over the last few weeks.
Approximately 3.7 million adults in the United States are vegan according to a survey conducted by Harris Polls on behalf of the Vegetarian Resource Group.
The BYU Vegan and Vegetarian Club’s faculty advisor, Jane Birch, defined the vegan lifestyle as abstaining from all animal foods, and for some, avoiding all animal products as well.
“(Vegans eat) nothing created by an animal or that is an animal,” Birch said. “No meat, dairy, eggs, honey, and they wouldn’t use products made from animals.”
BYU student Candace Cheney decided to make the dietary change two years ago because she wanted to remain healthy during her first year of college. Later, she was impacted by the ethical side of veganism and the influence of media such as the documentary “Earthlings.”
“It wasn’t really why I inquired into (veganism), but it just hit me really hard,” Cheney said. “I just didn’t want to be a part of something so violent.”
Veganism may be perceived as a healthier way of life, but Birch explains unhealthy choices can still be made even while living vegan. She is by definition eating a vegan diet, but she also chooses to live a whole food plant-based diet, which eliminates processed items as well.
“If you just abstain from animal foods, that still leaves a lot of junk food potentially in your diet,” Birch said. “When whole foods are processed, they lose a lot of their nutrients and sometimes you introduce things that aren’t good— a lot more fat, sugar and salt.”
Cheney said she has seen multiple benefits of going vegan, such as an increase in energy . She credits her vegan lifestyle with helping her fight sicknesses. She also believes going vegan has changed her perception of animals, as well as people in general.
“I try to be more open-minded now because that’s what I hope from other people when they hear I’m vegan,” Cheney said. “It’s definitely changed my perception in a lot of ways.”
Cheney said she is comfortable going out to eat in Provo. She recommends fellow vegans try a veggie burrito at Costa Vida or a vegetable/tofu dish at Thai Village. Cheney admits she does not buy food to eat on campus very much, but she has found vegan options previously. She recommends searching for selections at Taco Bell, Jamba Juice or any snack options in the Wilkinson Student Center.
Dean Judd, the owner of Guru’s Cafe in Provo, opened Guru’s menu to vegan options as a result of public demand. He sympathizes with those who are vegan and who have difficulty finding a meal which fits their diet when they go out to eat.
“Obviously more and more people are converting to being vegan. We just felt like it’s a niche that we could fill,” Judd said. “You can find a vegetarian dish but not a vegan dish, and so it’s tough for a person who is vegan to find food.”
Cheney said she sometimes feels as if people are worried for her.
“I’m open to questions. I love when people ask me,” Cheney said. “Sometimes it’s even more frustrating when people close to you don’t ask you and assume certain things without wondering why you do it.”