Veganism in the lunchroom and beyond


Irina Malyugina

As vegan diet mounts in popularity, vegan meal options accommodate most lifestyles. A kitchen staff member prepares a vegan dish.

by Irina Malyugina, Photo Editor

According to the Collins English Dictionary, a vegan “never eats meat or any animal products such as milk, butter, or cheese.” Though both vegetarians and vegans avoid meat, there is a difference: vegetarians avoid meat and fish but consume other non-meat animal products such as eggs and milk.

Vegans choose this diet for a variety of reasons. Some make the decision out of health concerns. According to the American Dietetic Association, “appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.”

Even those who do not choose veganism out of concern for their health note the benefits of avoiding animal products.

“I’ve never experienced energy deficiency since I’ve gone vegan; actually, my energy levels have gotten a lot better since I became vegan because I’m eating healthier and more nutritious foods. I’m able to get through my day, and I’m able to dance for hours on end,” alumna Anastasia Cheplyansky (’18) said.

Research shows that a vegan diet has other advantages as well. An article in the Permanente Journal, a peer-reviewed journal of medicine sponsored by the National Permanente Medicinal Groups, delves into the health benefits of veganism. The article asserts that plant-based diets can lower one’s blood pressure and cholesterol levels, adding that “physicians should consider recommending a plant based diet to all their patients, especially those with high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or obesity.”

Transitioning to this diet takes patience. To ease into veganism, some people first eliminate meat from their diet before discontinuing their consumption of other animal products.

“I’m actually vegetarian now, but I’m going vegan really soon,” said Rachel Joslyn, assistant to head chef Steve Martin.

Veganism is not a perfect diet. Doctors and nutritionists underscore veganism’s rigorous nature. The Permanente Journal article cautions that “a healthy, plant-based diet requires planning, reading labels and discipline.”

While veganism narrows the number of sources of essential nutrients, vegans can choose from plenty of foods.

Vegans may eliminate the risk of a deficiency by eating the right plant-based foods. According to an article on the Harvard Health Publishing website, the potassium and magnesium in fruits and vegetables allows more calcium to stay in the body. Nuts, seeds and whole grains provide protein. Soy and walnuts contain omega-3 fatty acids. For B12, vegans must eat either fortified foods such as cereals or take a supplement, as the vitamin is found only in animal products.

Besides nutrition-related obstacles, vegans may also struggle with the limited availability and variety of vegan foods.

“There’s almost always a vegan option in restaurants, especially in California, but sometimes I’ll go to a restaurant and the only vegan option is fries or a really sad salad,” Anastasia said.

There is a variety of places that offer an array of vegan options. Vegan restaurant The Happy Hooligans offers patrons a variety of comfort foods made without animal products.

Grocery stores may also offer a melange of vegan foods.

“Grocery shopping is really easy,” alumna Satchi Thockchom (’18) said. “There’s always Sprouts and Whole Foods; they have a lot of dairy substitutes and meat substitutes.”

Harker’s lunch program is moving to accommodate the vegans in the Harker community.

“We need to label a lot more things as vegan,” head chef Steve Martin said. “We’re [also] going to offer more vegan options and expand on the vegetarian, the vegan, the organic [and] the natural.”

This piece was originally published in the pages of the Winged Post on Aug. 31, 2018.