Vegetarian options at MRU
by Zoey Duncan
When people are hungry, they eat. For vegetarians, solving that recurring hunger problem on campus can seem tougher than biting into a broiled slab of tofu.
While diets vary, some people will adopt the vegetarian label, and continue to eat fish, while others will eschew all animal-derived edibles – including honey and food dyes made from insects.
In a best-case scenario, a vegetarian is aware of whole proteins, vitamin and mineral requirements and Canada’s Food Guide, said an MRU nutrition professor, but not everybody knows exactly what they should eat.
“I would tell them (vegetarians) to take my nutrition course,” said Jill Parnell, an assistant professor in physical education and recreation. She’s referring to PHED 2007, Introductory Nutrition, which would provide veg-curious students with reliable nutrition information and three course credits.
Generally, said Parnell, there are some areas of the diet where vegetarians tend to fall short. After consulting a professional, vegetarians may need to supplement with zinc, iron, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin D and vitamin B12. Protein is also essential in order to build and repair muscle tissue.
“They (vegetarians) just need to be a little more aware of complete protein sources,” Parnell said. For those who lack sufficient protein, “You’d probably notice…brittle nails and dry hair before it starts eating away at your liver tissue and muscles.”
Complete proteins include tofu, cheese and eggs, as well as rice with beans, or peanut butter with toast.
Mount Royal alumna Vanessa Conley learned the hard way how not to eat like a vegan. When she was 18, she became vegan after reading Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation, but began to lose her hair and reverted to an omnivorous diet.
“It’s definitely tough being a student and managing a healthy diet,” said Conley, who is currently a SAIT student, and now eats a well-balanced vegan diet.
Conley takes a long list of daily vitamins – when she remembers – and shops for groceries exclusively at Community Natural Foods. Her roommates are curious as to how she affords the exorbitant produce, but she tells them that it’s important to invest in what you put in your body.
“People will pay however much for a new pair of designer jeans,” she said as a comparison.
When she doesn’t have time to bring a lunch, Conley feels she’s out of luck.
“Sometimes I just don’t eat, or I’ll get an apple to hold me over,” she said. Conley said the vegan options on the SAIT campus are very carb-heavy.
Aileen Lajoie, a social work student at Mount Royal, recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of her vegetarianism. Lajoie said she was surprised to learn that all of the yogurt for sale on campus contains gelatin, which is made from the skin and bones of animals.
Lajoie does her best to pack a sufficient lunch every day, because her budget prohibits her from on-campus food expenditures.
“I can’t afford to spend $10 on a panini all the time,” she said.
At Mount Royal University, Sodexo is in the midst of a pilot project that features new vegetarian entrées every day from the Chef’s Table at Herb ‘n Market.
“We sort of wanted to get an idea of how many vegetarians and vegans were on campus and how many of them were willing to spend their hard earned money on entrées that would be perceived as value,” said executive chef Marcus Vannest. While it’s hard to pin down a number, the Dieticians of Canada estimate that four per cent of the population is vegetarian or vegan.
Recent vegetarian options at the Herb ‘n Market include lasagna, stirfry, roasted vegetable fajitas, veggie burgers and a Greek spinach strudel.
Vannest said that any Sodexo options that appear to be vegetarian, are definitely vegetarian.
“Absolutely, if it’s a vegetarian-based item, it’s truly vegetarian,” he said. “There is no meat product added to it.” Vannest said that all homemade soups are vegetarian, unless meat is explicitly indicated on the label. And while the Asian Fusion location at Herb ‘n Market uses a separate wok for vegetarian options, independent kiosks go by their own rules. Opa, for example, uses the same fryer for French fries as calamari.
Vannest said that Sodexo does intend to make nutritional information and ingredients lists available at some point, but said it’s a large scale project that will require cataloguing approximately 22,000 recipes.