Alternative eating habits

There are both pros and cons to going the meat-free route

This vegan burger from The Sleepless Goat is one of the many examples of healthy and delicious meant-free options.
This vegan burger from The Sleepless Goat is one of the many examples of healthy and delicious meant-free options.

For some, imagining a life without hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, steak, bacon, veal, and other meats is unthinkable.

For vegans and vegetarians, who choose to abstain from consuming meat and other animal products in their diets, it’s a reality.

Vegetarianism has a number of derivatives, each with its own preferences to what products they consume, but all of them have one thing in common: they don’t eat red meat or chicken.

Lacto-ovo vegetarians consume dairy products such as milk, cheese, butter and yogurt.

Lacto vegetarians consume dairy products, but not eggs.

Ovo vegetarians consume eggs, but not meat or dairy products.

Veganism, the strictest form of vegetarianism, is a lifestyle that excludes animal products in all aspects of life, including diet and clothing.

Beth Doxsee, health promotion assistant at Health, Counselling, and Disability Services said vegans are a lot stricter in terms of what they allow themselves to consume.

“A vegan diet mainly means that someone has decided they don’t want to consume any animal products,” she said. “Vegans won’t eat any type of milk or eggs, whereas vegetarians tend to be different in the sense that they don’t eat red meat or chicken or sometimes fish as well.”

Doxsee said the benefit of a diet without meat or animal products includes the reduction of consuming saturated fat.

“It’s the most harmful type of fat,” she said. “If you eliminate those types of foods, you’re not as likely to consume that very high, unhealthy type of fat.”

Doxsee said people who don’t consume meat or animal products, however, need to be aware of the deficiencies in their diets to avoid becoming malnourished.

“They need to be concerned about not getting certain vitamins and minerals because they’re not consuming certain types of food.”

Eating two complimentary proteins, such as whole grain bread with peanut butter, can fill in some of the protein gaps in a vegan or vegetarian diet, Doxsee said.

“Those are two incomplete proteins, and if you pair them together you get the complete protein which is all the essential amino acids that you need.”

Doxsee said although vegan and vegetarian lifestyles can be healthier because vegans and vegetarians tend to consume more fruits, nuts, and vegetables, they need to watch their protein intake and should consider adding a vitamin supplement to their diet, because it is often difficult for non-meat eaters to get enough vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin B12 and iron.

“It just means you need to be a little more cautious to make sure that you do get enough protein to support yourself, and you’re just a little but more likely to be deficient in certain vitamins and minerals.”

Doxsee said healthy vegan and vegetarian options aren’t nonexistent on campus, but aren’t usually found in the retail outlets around Queen’s. “Mostly, they’re just a little bit tougher to find,” she said. “They’re not the convenient type of food to find that’s easy to grab.”

Although eating healthy on the go can be tough for a student who is vegan or vegetarian, Doxsee said quick fixes such as hummus on a whole wheat pita are easily accessible and a good source of protein.

“It just means putting foods together that you might not have thought about at first,” she said. “It’s good to get an idea about the different types of incomplete proteins from plant sources.”

Jen Flood, ArtSci ’08, has been vegan for a year and a half. She said the choice to cut all animal products from her diet was an ethical one. “Veganism is an expression of my decision to not cause others, who feel pain just as I do, to suffer or be exploited for my benefit,” she said.

Flood said using animals as a means to human ends is wrong.

“All of these animals feel pain in the same way, and have an interest in living their lives free of exploitation,” she said. “It is true that this leads to dietary decisions quite different from the bulk of the population, but to focus on this is to miss the point entirely.”

Flood said vegans aren’t limited in the choices of food they consume, and eat a diet of vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, legumes and cereals.

“The possibilities are endless if you enjoy cooking and want to be creative, but there are also a lot of really quick and easy meals you can make which are definitely necessary when you’re a busy student,” she said. “I tend to make a lot of curries, stir fries and pastas.”

Flood said the biggest personal benefit to going vegan is the knowledge that she hasn’t caused other beings to suffer.

“The only struggle is living in a world full of people who haven’t made the connection between the food on their plates and the pain that has occurred to get it there.”

Monica Heisey, ArtSci ’10, decided to be a vegetarian when she was about 10 years old.

“I found out what veal was and it really disturbed me, and I somehow got to thinking … hamburgers are just grown-up veal, I guess.”

Heisey remained vegetarian until Grade 11, when she became anemic because she wasn’t getting enough iron. She also said she lacked energy due to a lack of protein.

“I kind of started eating meat again on the sly, so I didn’t think it was fair to call myself vegetarian anymore,” she said. “If I had to grab lunch on the go and I wasn’t going to be eating with anyone I would just get a salad with chicken and I felt better for the rest of the day.

“I hadn’t had it for five years and I missed it, so now I’m back on it,” she said, laughing. “It sounds like a drug habit or something.”

Although she lost her taste for red meat, Heisey said she doesn’t have the same moral qualms about eating meat.

She said eating healthy as a vegetarian as difficult.

“When I was younger I wasn’t very smart about it and I would just kind of eat salad; and I wouldn’t think to have tofu with it or chickpeas,” she said. “Towards the end I did make a genuine effort but it’s really, really difficult.

“It’s hard to be a good vegetarian.”

—With files from Anna Mehler Paperny

Tomato tortellini garlic soup


6 cups vegetable stock
3 tbsp. minced garlic
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. paprika
1 sprig each, fresh sage and thyme
2 cups undrained, canned tomatoes
(or three cups fresh, chopped) 9 oz. tortellini
parmesan cheese


1. Brown garlic in olive oil in the bottom of a soup pot.
2. In a separate pot, cook tortellini.
3. Make a bundle of the sprigs of sage and thyme (tie them together with string).
4. Add vegetable stock and herb bundle to garlic. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, remove herbs and season with parsley, salt and pepper.
5. Add tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes.
4. Place cooked and drained tortellini in bowls and pour soup over the top.
5. Garnish with grated parmesan cheese.

Angela Hickman

Two-bean enchiladas


1 small onion, finely chopped
1 large green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp. ground cumin
1/4 cup vegetable broth
15 oz. black beans (canned)
15 oz. kidney beans (canned)
1 cup canned tomato sauce
1 cup corn, fresh or frozen
8 corn tortillas
1 tbsp. chili powder
vegetable oil


1. Preheat oven at 450ºF. Lightly coat 9x13” baking dish with vegetable oil.
2. In medium saucepan over medium heat, combine onion, bell pepper, garlic, chili powder, cumin, and vegetable broth. Bring to a simmer and cook until onion and pepper have softened (about 5 minutes.)
3. Add tomato sauce and beans (with their liquid.) Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
4. Stir in corn and simmer for two
more minutes.
5. Strain mixture, reserving liquid.
6. Steam tortillas until soft and pliable.
7. Put 1/2 cup of filling in each tortilla, roll up and place side by side in baking dish. Drizzle liquid over the top.
8. Cover top with grated cheese.
9. Cover baking dish with foil and bake for
15 minutes.

Tip: Freeze portion-sized leftovers for easy, healthy meals when you’re in a hurry.

Angela Hickman

Vegan and vegetarian resources


Started by homemaker Jennifer McCann, the Vegan Lunch Box was created with the intention of providing vegan families with alternative lunch options for their children in a world where animal crackers and bright orange macaroni and cheese are prevalent. Stocked with recipes, photos and ratings of each lunch, the Vegan Lunch Box is an excellent resource for vegans, vegetarians or those just looking for healthy lunches on the go.


Part of the Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington Health Unit, Dial-a-Dietician is free nutritional information hotline. Free of charge, answers to topics such as eating disorders, fad diets, food allergies, vegetarian and vegan diets, preparing and preserving food, and fat and cholesterol can be provided by a registered dietician. Just leave your name, phone number, nutrition question and the best time for them to return your call, and your call will be returned within 48 hours.
1-800-267-7875 ex. 224 or (613) 549-1232 ex. 224

Jane Switzer

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