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The corporate gods at McDonald’s could only guess that their commercial jingle would come to represent the typical diet of college students.
But then again, the times are changing.
As college students climb aboard the fat-free, health-diet bandwagon with the rest of America, more and more students, including many SIUC students, are going to the extreme and declaring themselves vegetarians.
In the College Eating Index, a recent survey conducted by Rolling Stone magazine and Roper Starch Research, 500 American college students were polled on their eating habits.
In response to food choice, 75 percent of the students polled picked pasta over chicken, pizza, chips and candy as the most common food consumed.
Whether is has to do with cost, increased activism or better health, the 90s college student seems to be more aware of the benefits of a vegetarian diet.
Vegetarians do not eat meat, fish or poultry. Vegans are people who do not eat any of the above mentioned and also stay away from animal by-products like milk and eggs.
Bill Shinn, an SIUC senior in speech communication from Puyallup, Wa., said he became a vegetarian when he started college five years ago. Technically, he is classified as an ovo-lacto vegetarian. He does not eat any meat but still eats eggs and milk products.
He said his decision to become a vegetarian was based partially on health and partially on cost.
I had a few friends that you could say enlightened me, he said. I discovered some of the benefits about it and read a lot about the meat industry. Vegetarianism is the new diet of America.
SIUC has experienced a definite interest growth in the vegetarian diet, Lynn Gill, coordinator for nutrition and fitness at the Wellness center, said.
In the past we have held workshops, but in the past seven years, there has been an increase in attendance, she said. There is definately more of an interest.
Shinn said increased awareness is a main reason why many of his peers have given up meat.
If you can reduce the impact on yourself and the environment, why not do it? he said. If people want to try it, I hope they give it their all. I don’t call them trendy.
There are a lot of people who are doing it because it is popular, but at least it’s a healthy trend.
Connie Dickman, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association and a nutrition consultant from St. Louis, said many of the students she talks with at Washington University’s student health program turn to vegetarianism for weight loss.
Dickman said she has seen a definite increase in interest in vegetarianism, but more and more vegetarians are uneducated and end up denying their bodies of important nutrients.
Vegetarians are at risk for fatty diets because of their high intake of cheese, ice cream and junk food.
A vegetarian diet can be very nutritious and easy to do, but that takes understanding what it means, she said. There is still a high fat intake because they are not educated.
Shinn said a large percentage of vegetarians are uninformed, but the proper eating habits are picked up in time. However, he said vegetarians do need to be concerned with what they eat.
Beer and potato chips are vegetarian foods, too, he said.
Even though some college students are picking a healthier diet, many are not applying that attitude to other areas of life, Dickman said.
They think, If I eat vegan, it will be good for me,’ but it’s not carrying over to other parts of their life, she said. They still abuse caffeine, alcohol and nicotine.
For the past three years, Jen Schrober, a sophomore in political science from Chicago, has kept up with a vegetarian lifestyle. She said she still drinks, and her two vegetarian roommates still smoke cigarettes.
I’m a drinker, she said. There are plenty of meat-eaters that drink and smoke. Just because I’m a vegetarian does not mean I’m going to be religious about my health in general.
But her roommates Donna Perkins, a sophomore in administration of justice from Tinley Park, and Julie Grumbach, a sophomore in elementary education from North Brook, agree that increased health is a benefit of becoming a vegetarian.
With the increase of vegetarian products accessible to young consumers, some students are breaking away from the red-meat dinners and are trying to create a healthier future.
My father has really bad blood pressure, Perkins said. I keep on trying to get him to try a veggie burger.
Perkins said even though she has become more aware of the importance of proper nutrition, she still is pretty unhealthy.
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I like to joke around and say that it (unhealthy habits) makes up for the vegetarian part.