Vegetarianism rises due to health, social concerns

The number of people in the US who describe themselves as vegetarian, vegan, or pescetarian has increased in recent years in large part due to concerns regarding obesity, healthy diets, and the treatment of animals.

According to a study done by US News, the number of college aged vegetarians is on the rise, with 12% of university-bound students classifying themselves as vegetarian or vegan—a 50% increase from 2005.

A vegetarian is one who does not eat meat, while vegans do not eat or use all animal products, including dairy and eggs. The increasingly popular pescetarian diet includes seafood, vegetables, fruit, nuts, grains and beans, eggs and dairy.

The reasons for the increase in the vegetarianism trend include healthy diet awareness and obesity concerns, lifestyle choices due to religious or cultural background and also because dietary choices have become fashionable within certain subcultures.

According to Chris Elam, program director of Meatless Mondays at the Monday Campaigns, a non profit public health initiative, students are ahead of the curve of their very campuses and food providers.

They have already moved to a more plant-based diet, and the campuses are following slowly.

In 2011, many celebrities publicly announced their dietary restrictions on meat and brought the trend into the public eye.

Former President Bill Clinton, Tom Brady, Russell Brand, talkshow host Ellen Degeneres and even Oprah via her 21-day vegan cleanse are among the spokespeople for vegetarianism.

Although maintaining a vegetarian lifestyle is difficult due to a lack of options and difficulty finding restaurants and grocery stores facilitating dietary restrictions, the increasing number of vegetarians has lead to greater emphasis on catering to their needs.

Many hotels, airlines, and cafeterias across the nation now include entirely vegan options in addition to meatless meals, and specify preparation details to accommodate the diets.

At Tech, competitions and initiatives sponsored by the GT Dining and the CRC highlight recipes and lifestyle choices targeting those students hoping to maintain a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Keep some healthy and veg-friendly snacks on hand to ward off the temptation to indulge in those omnipresent late night pizzas or buffalo wings.