A Collegiette’s Guide to Vegetarianism at Ohio U

While being a vegetarian in college may sound like a life full of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and pasta, a veggie-friendly vicinity like Athens, Ohio makes going meatless easy and accessible for collegiettes!
 
Athens, a city nestled in the hills bursting with flavor and culture, is fertile ground for seeds of a generation of vegetarians and budding “flexitarians,” or vegetarians who sometimes eat meat, to blossom. With a growing concern for the environment, animal rights and health, media exposure has helped boost this once alternative lifestyle to the forefront of popular eating trends.
 
Vegetarian Times indicated in a 2008 study that vegetarianism was most common among Americans ages 18 to 34, the sector representing 42 percent of the 7.3 million vegetarians in the United States. While the degree of vegetarianism is unspecified in the study, whether a pescatarain, vegetarians who eat seafood, an octo-lacto vegetarian, vegetarians who consume dairy and eggs, or a flexitarian, all are a part of a growing movement toward sustainable, cruelty-free eating.
 

Although not vegetarian myself, I eat my fair share of vegetarian fare, based on convenience and taste. Ohio University, ranked sixth in PETA'S "Most Vegetarian-Friendly College" Contest in 2006, is active in its avocation of healthy eating habits and uses local resources and influence to help OU accommodate veggie lovers’ diet needs. The off-campus selection is also bountiful from the weekly Athens Farmers Market, to the organic Farmacy grocery and veggie-welcoming restaurants like Casa or Village Café and Bakery. Whether tailoring a specially made meal at the dining halls to suit a vegan or lactose-free palate, Athens’ vegetarian-friendly options are plentiful!
 
Jen Barker, a sophomore studying Spanish education who has been a vegetarian since her freshman year of high school, attests to Athens’ accommodation. Jen traces her lifestyle change to her love for cuddly critters, claiming she always felt she had “a connection” to animals. As a member of the ‘Paws for Life’ club in high school, Jen increased her awareness of cruelty in the meat industry. The result of this knowledge is Jen’s ability to maintain and her vegetarian lifestyle in a campus culture of convenience. Citing a family history of high-cholesterol as a concern, Jen has found happiness and health through her meat-free diet.
 
Olivia Clark, a sophomore nursing student who began experimenting with vegetarianism when she was 10, offers an alternative perspective. Olivia decided to make a partial habit a permanent change in deciding to become a full-on vegetarian 10 months ago for environmental reasons. Olivia’s change can be attributed to her increased interest in food origin and processing, also thanks Food Inc., a documentary that exposes the flaws of the meat industry.

Olivia attributes her college shift in eating habits to environmental and educational reasons. “There are a lot of people around you who have a common goal to protect the environment,” Olivia said, referencing Athens’ support of her switch. While environment may be key, so is education. Olivia advises other interested students to take a sociology class and learn more about the issue.
 
Yet a third vegetarian collegietteTM’s perspective is Jenna Garchar, a junior and vegan, meaning she also refrains from eating any animal or dairy products. “I became vegetarian and then vegan because I could no longer support animal abuse in my own diet,” Jenna said, referencing her switch from vegetarianism to veganism in college.
 
Whether it’s health, personal happiness, knowing you are doing something good for the environment or saving animals that cause you to alter your food intake, the number of college vegetarians, vegans and flexitarians, etc., is rising.
 
For current or contemplating vegetarians, the three mentioned collegiettes and myself, a self-proclaimed “ever-tarian” (someone who eats everything in moderation), have compiled tips for those looking to adopt or maintain a vegetarian lifestyle.
 

So you want to go veggie?
After reading, you too may be inspired to test the waters of a lifestyle of vegetarianism. The panel of vegetarian collegiettes has spoken, and the best method to vegetarian victory is not quitting “cold turkey.” (No pun intended).
 
“Do a goal, or reduce something in your diet each week,” suggested Olivia. “Then reward yourself. Keeping yourself motivated is key.”  The difficulty in making this diet switch is something that Jen acknowledged.
 
“Keep in mind that the first week is going to be a struggle,” Jen said. “I would recommend easing into it: cutting red meat out the first week, ham and poultry the second and saving chicken last.” Echoing Olivia in saying that chicken is the hardest to give up, Jen praises MorningStar’s meat alternatives as lifesavers.
 
Urging wary meat lovers to “go for it,” and give vegetarianism a shot, Jenna offered this condolence: “It’s not difficult and you will feel so much healthier physically and mentally.” Encouraging others to eat balanced meals, when it comes to the dining halls, “be creative: bring supplementary condiments into the dining hall if you need to spice up your meal a bit.” Still skeptical? “Most dining halls try their best to accommodate vegetarians, but if you are feeling stressed, you can have ‘special meals’ made for you every day!” Jenna assured.
 

Dining Hall Dives:
“There are a lot of options, but people just don’t realize it,” Jen said. Once ranked among PETA’s most vegetarian-friendly colleges, OU still does an excellent job of providing vegetarian eating options such as vegetarian ziti, veggie nuggets and tofu gyros.  OU Dining Services makes a conscious effort to provide alternative entrees daily. While selection is good, creativity is key to being fully satisfied with the dining halls’ options. There are a lot of concoctions you can whip up; you just have to know where to look.
 
Shively Court:Offering great vegetarian options from the salad and pasta bars. Check out the “Soup and Vegetarian Stations” next to the salad bar for more selection.
- Baker’s West 82: From daily soups, to sushi, pre-made sandwiches, pizza, stir-fry, Mexican fare and the best salad bar on campus, West 82 will leave vegetarians with seemingly endless options.
Jefferson: In addition to the regular pasta, salad bar and deli options, Jeff’s “Wok Bar” is a great way to have fun creating a signature dish! Bonus: add flavorful sauce and protein-packed tofu to your meal for additional benefits.
Nelson: Jenna suggests checking out Nelson's “Vegetarian Corner” for the best selection. 
Boyd: Whether vegetarian, or simply health-conscious, check out the “Training Tables,” and salad bars for healthier fare.
 

Five Fave Restaurants :
Finding restaurants that cater to vegetarians’ needs is easy in a town of surrounded by farms and creameries echoing the influence of a progressive past. Some Athens venues and eats include:

-Pita Pit
Located at 8 North Court Street, this “fresh thinking, healthy eating,” pit stop will delight vegetarians. From white or wheat pitas, to filling salads, babaganoush and hummus, Pita Pit’s (link http://www.pitapitusa.com/) filling and condiment options give vegetarians and vegans numerous ways to make their pita.  Jen particularly likes the falafel as “a good meat alternative that leaves you feeling full.” Slather your falafel-stuffed pita with tzatziki sauce, and you’ve got a yummy, portable meal.
 
-Bagel Street
Also located on Court is a local hideaway just as famous for its contorted foil and chalk brick graffiti as it is for its food! Bagel Street Deli is a cozy and colorful place with a long list of “Veggie Delights” bagel creations. Whether you choose one of the specialties, make your own, or opt for a soup or large salad, you’ll leave feeling satisfied! Olivia’s choice? The “Nature Nurture,” with cheddar, provolone cheese, onion, cucumbers, lettuce, tomato and sprouts, topped with Italian dressing for a reasonable $4.
 
-Salaam
Whether you’re looking for a good date place, or an exotic escape, try a taste of the Mediterranean at Salaam, located on Washington Street near Donkey Coffee & Espresso. My top restaurant pick invites guests to “step into another world,” with its alluring atmosphere and interior decorated in shades of jade and tapestries. Salaam’s extensive list of meat-free entrees, appetizers and specialties will tantalize your taste buds. Insider tip: start with the Meze Platter for a sampling of vegetarian delights.
 
-Casa Nueva
Jenna named Casa Nueva on West State Street as being one of her favorite eateries. Locally owned and operated since 1985, Casa is devoted to sustainable eating and serving local goods. With scrumptious breakfasts, seasonal salsa, enchiladas, burritos and platters, Casa has many options for vegetarian and vegan patrons.
 
-Purple Chopstix
Drive too quickly down Richland Avenue and you’ll miss it! This culinary gem is a diamond in the rough serving “Local, fresh, original and traditional cuisine” that’s “not Chinese.” Purple Chopstix is a vegetarian’s wonderland. Decked out in Passion Works flowers and eclectic knick-knacks, this local dive is as much a feast for the eyes as it is for your stomach. Creative plates such as the “Sweet Potato Peanut Pasta” and “Daisy Stir Fry,” will quickly convert patrons from first-timers to regulars. Bonus: it’s BYOB
 
Three DIY Dishes:
While eating out on the town may be fun, it takes a toll on your pocket book. Here are some of the vegetarian gals’ favorite make-your-own meals. Time to get cookin’, collegiettes! 
 
-Vegetarian Chili:  Olivia’s choice for a homemade and hearty dish. Search Savvy Vegetarian (link: http://www.savvyvegetarian.com/) for recipe ideas.
Veggie Sloppy Joes: Jen and Olivia’s eats! Try Rachel Rae’s “Sloppy Veg-Head Joe” recipe, made with black beans, on Food Network.
-Thai Peanut Noodles with Tofu and Portobellos: Perfect for it you’re craving a meatless, protein-rich version of Thai food. Jenna’s pick. Regular or rice noodles, topped with peanut sauce. Yum!
 
Favorite Substitutions:
Whoever said vegetarians don’t miss chicken nuggets? Here are some animal-friendly alternatives to your old favorites.

-MorningStar Farm’s “Sweet & Sour Chik’n,”a favorite substitution for Jen, who claimed she literally squealed in the grocery store, because it was the meal she missed most! 
-Vegan Fettuccini Alfredo: Jenna’s vegan-friendly version of the Italian classic made with vegan cream cheese, like Touftti’s with lemon, tomatoes and mushrooms. For dairy and animal product resisting collegiettes!
-Veggie Nuggets: Whether these finger foods come from the dining hall, or MorningStar, veggie nuggets are animal-friendly and come in all different flavors, such as MorningStar’s “Buffalo Wings Veggie Wings.” 
 
Best Blogs:
If you’re looking for healthy and hearty vegetarian fare, tips, recipes and seriously scrumptious photos (and even fashion!) from lovely collegiettes like yourself, check out the following links:
 
Une Vie Saine: Take a peak into the world of a New York vegetarian French major. This glamorous and picture-covered account is a feast for the eyes.
 
Snack Face: Snapshots of a world of food and fashion from OU alumna, Kailey Harless, someone who is “living and loving life!”
 
Final Words of Advice:
Whether the availability of local goods or the national concern for health, animals or the environment has caused the outburst of college vegetarians, one thing is certain, if you’re thinking of going vegetarian, Her Campus is here to help!
 
Happy and healthy eating, collegiettes!