At eight years old, Iain Dunn sat down at his desktop and opened an email from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). The email showed a graphic video of an animal slaughterhouse and from then on, Dunn chose a vegetarian lifestyle.
Eight months ago, anthropology and geography freshman Dunn decided to transition to a vegan diet.
“Just from being vegetarian to vegan I feel a lot lighter, not in the literal sense,” Dunn said. “And nutrition-wise, I make sure that I get everything I need. On campus, almost everywhere you go has a black bean option.”
Aerospace engineering freshman and long-time vegetarian Lacey Davis said she also has been able to maintain her plant-based diet by simply planning out her day. However, when Davis decided to cut out all animal products for a week, she found that her options were far more restricted.
“I definitely think they [Campus Dining] could change what they offer for vegan diets,” Davis said. “I think their vegetarian options are to the extent of what they could do, but I know that UCLA has a specific vegan campus dining hall and I think that would be a good idea considering how many people are vegan, gluten-free and have dietary restrictions.”
Along with Dunn, Davis said it is important to be conscientious of how you fuel your body. Cal Poly’s Registered Dietitian and Sustainability Coordinator Megan Coats said if one is serious about being vegan or vegetarian, they must thoroughly educate themself.
“You still need to be mindful of what you are eating,” Coats said. “If you are vegan or vegetarian, that doesn’t mean you’re healthy — and you still need to make it a point to choose healthier options.”
As a resource to find what on-campus food is geared toward a plant-based diet, peer health educator and nutrition senior Lauren Bell recommends going to the Nutrition Calculator on Campus Dining’s website. There are 20 food locations on campus and the site shows which items fall under plant-based diets. It also explains the nutritional value of each food item.
“Those who do choose to go vegetarian or vegan do need to be mindful in terms of protein,” Bell said. “A vegetarian or vegan can get completely adequate protein through a plant based diet, in terms of nutritional aspect … they just need to be educated on what sources do have protein.”
Bell explained that meat has nine essential amino acids that make a complete protein, which can be replaced by a combination of a grains and a legumes, such as beans and rice.
However, even by substituting meat for other proteins, students must incorporate variety into their diet.
“If you’re only eating one type of bean, for instance, or one type of vegetable all the time, you are not getting the plethora of nutrients that you need,” Coats said. “It is so important that you eat a ton of different whole grains, a ton of different beans and fruits and vegetables to get the whole gamut of nutrients.”
Campus options for plant-based diets
To ensure students living in resident halls with dietary restrictions have enough variety, Campus Dining increased the amount of options for students with dietary restrictions. Meatless Monday, changes in the Avenue, and vegan cheese at Mustang Station were additions made to increase sustainable and healthier options.
“It [Campus Dining] is definitely getting more and more accommodating, which is really nice because I have heard of people who were freshmen last year had way less options than I have now,” Dunn said.
For students who are new to a plant-based diet, Bell advised they utilize PULSE as a resource to ensure they are making healthful choices with their food options.