Vegetarian Options at Rowan University with Melissa Hudock

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Melissa Hudock poses in front of wall art in the MarketPlace at Rowan University’s Student Center. (Photo/Erin Lafferty)

If you are a student at Rowan University, you might have heard of Melissa Hudock, the campus’ registered dietitian nutritionist in part with Gourmet Dining. In the audio interview below she explains both the health benefits and drawbacks to being a vegetarian, and the options available for Rowan students who follow a plant-based diet.

Gabriela Lupu: Blogging without Limits

From the town of Gura Humorului, Romania, Gabriela Lupu, 39, started the blog, Cooking without Limits, in 2012. Five years later her blog would have over 25,000 followers.

It all began when Lupu’s son was born.

“When my little boy was born, I started cooking again – easy and healthy recipes. I knew that would be an adventure, so I decided to share it. We all have something to learn each day, and this blog was my way of learning about my mistakes in the kitchen.”

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Additionally, Cooking without Limits is also known for Lupu’s exceptional food photography, which she was receiving a lot of questions on at the time and therefore decided to use her blog as a medium to answer them.

After half a decade, Lupu’s biggest challenge maintaining her blog revolves around time.

“I don’t always have time to write a beautiful post,” she says. “I love when I lay my soul out in the open and talk about something personal. I know I connect with people reading it and that feels so good.”

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When asked about who and/or what inspires Lupu in regards to Cooking with Limits, she responded with, “I need a book to write about that.”

From chefs to photographers, inspiration comes in so many ways and so often,” Lupu states.

On her list of inspirational photographers, she marks Penny De Los Santos as “the first photographer that really made me find ‘my style’” She describes De Los Santos as “one of the best food photographers that I know.” Also on the list is Keiko Oikawa, Lara Ferroni, Beatrice Peltre, Aya Nishimura and Anders Schonnemann.

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When it comes to support, Lupu says both her mother and husband read her blog, “They don’t comment on the blog, but they tell me to my face what they think about my recipes,” she says. “I am happy that I manage to teach my mom something about food, because she taught me the basics when I was a little girl.”

According to Lupu, blogging “will play a very important role” in the future of online journalism since most journalists have a blog themselves.

Lupu compares Cooking without Limits to a baby.

“With every post it grows, I grow. I am always happy to write about a good recipe that I did or explain about food photography.”

She continues to add, “At the end of the day, getting people response is the most exciting thing. When you have followers happy and satisfied you know you did a good job.”

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Through her blog, Lupu has been about to “teach bloggers about food photography” and “show them beautiful photos.” She believes she has “rediscovered herself” by writing her blog.

Lupu’s advice for individuals new to blogging is as follows: “Be yourself! Write about something you like and makes you happy.”

With so many followers, Lupu has realized the true power of not only blogging, but online journalism in general: communication.

“I started this blog for me, but now is a blog for a lot of people. We created a community with bloggers from around the world sharing information and advices.”

 

All photos courtesy of Gabriela Lupu. 

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The main entrance of the Williamstown Farmer’s market along with snow blowing by (Photo/Erin Lafferty).

On a snowy March day, in the late afternoon, the Williamstown Farmer’s Market (commonly referred to as just the “Amish Market” by locals) is crowded with individuals of all ages browsing. What are they browsing exactly? The answer: a whole multitude of items from fresh produce to used books to puppies. Here you have the opportunity to purchase a wicker chair for your patio, a a stuffed animal for your nephew, and finish the visit off with a haircut at the salon. With all of these options, specifically those edible, being a vegetarian in South Jersey has never been easier.

Upon arriving at the Amish Market and walking through the main entrance, you are greeted by a world of food. Freshly baked soft pretzels fill the air with their aroma, and a wall of colorful candy line the shelves. In the first 20 feet of visiting, you’ll find the spice and nut/seed section – a section great for vegetarians with the goal of adding additional protein to their diet.

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A panoramic of the numerous amount of nuts and seeds offered at the Williamstown Amish Market (Photo/Erin Lafferty).

Walk a little further, and you’ll enter the produce section where you will find fresh vegetables and fruits in pristine condition awaiting your selection. High protein produce is essential for a vegetarian diet in order to maintain a healthy body inside and out.

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One of the most interesting stores within the market is The Gluten-Free Grocer which has not only gluten-free options available but vegetarian-friendly ones as well.

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The Gluten-Free Grocer located within the Shoppes portion of the Williamstown Farmer’s Market. The sign, seen above, is located above one of two entrances into the store.

Browsing this “specialty food market” proved to be an interesting adventure and I was able to find many high protein options (as seen below) from pasta to protein shakes to snack bars.

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All-in-all, it’s safe to assume that there are several unique vegetarian options available for individuals in the South Jersey area. If you’re interested in visiting the Williamstown Farmer’s market click here.

 

 

FAQ from Non-Vegetarians

 

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Photo courtesy of Pexels.com.

Last week we learned about vegetarianism through the perspective of Widener student, Serena Turco. This week, in honor of that article, I will share with you my most frequently asked questions and answers that I receive from non-vegetarians.

Why?

Well, every vegetarian’s answer will be different regarding this answer, but mine is a combination of moral, health, and logical reasoning.

Moral: I started to realize that the chicken on my plate was a life, and not just dinner. I began watching documentaries about the meat industry which revealed the cruel treatment of the animals that are slaughtered. Even as a meat-eater, you should be concerned about these conditions that your food is subject too: crowded, filthy housing, hormone additives, etc. The more I let my mind wander, the more I thought deeply about which animals we choose to consume, and which we choose to invite into our homes as companions. Where do we draw the line and why?

Health: I found myself gaining a lot of weight solely from going to fast-food restaurants. I knew this was extremely unhealthy for me, and decided to find a loophole that would keep me from eating fast-food and force me to eat healthier. For me, vegetarianism was the best option. I still go to McDonald’s for an order of fries from time-to-time because I don’t believe it’s effective to completely go cold-turkey, but since making this change I have significantly reduced my fast-food consumption.

Logical: As a society, we do not dietarily need meat to survive; there are plenty of other methods of obtaining protein. Additionally, there is extensive research on the positive worldly effects that come from living a vegetarian lifestyle such as lowering methane production therefore decreasing the rate of global warming, conservation of water, and freeing up land reserved for livestock.

So, you just eat greens now?

Well, I ate greens before converting to vegetarianism, but I also eat a fair amount of grains, fruits, dairy, sweets, etc. As long as it doesn’t contain meat, then theres a chance I will eat it (that is if I find said food tasty). There is an untrue assumption that in order to be a vegetarian you must eat like a rabbit. While there are vegetarians that choose to eat this way, there are plenty of others, like me, who indulge in pasta, candy, fries, pizza, etc. from time-to-time.

How do you get protein if you don’t eat meat?

Contrary to popular belief, protein is found in a variety of foods from vegetables to dairy to nuts to meat alternatives. If you’re curious, check out this article I wrote a few weeks back discussing what foods to eat to obtain protein.

For me personally, I try to eat at least one meat alternative a day. My favorites are “chicken” nuggets and “chicken” sliders. I also eat a lot of almonds (these are my favorite), peanut butter, and dairy products such as cheese sticks and milk.

Along with protein, it’s important to remember to get your daily intake of vitamin B12. These are typically found in animal products such as meat and dairy, but you can also find it in vitamins such as these.

So, are you vegan too?

Nope, just vegetarian. Vegans are individuals who choose not to use any products that involve animals in the process of creating. This includes foods like milk, eggs, cheese, etc. as well as items such as fur clothing, makeup that has been tested on animals, specific shampoo and conditioners, and even some brands of toothpaste. Veganism requires a lot more knowledge on the ingredients of products and how they are made, whereas vegetarianism is simpler: just don’t eat meat.

But you still eat meat sometimes, right? You have to crave it!

Surprisingly, I haven’t craved meat since the first week I decided to go vegetarian. Once I replaced my daily meat intake with meat alternatives, I never craved meat again. While the difference in taste for some meat alternatives is noticeable at first, after eating it once or twice you become adjusted to the taste and crave that instead.

Will you make your children be vegetarians?

I would never make my children be anything they didn’t want to be. In the first few years of life, before a child can make decisions for themselves, I would choose to feed my children a vegetarian or mostly vegetarian diet. Once my children have the consciousness to make their own decisions, I will not stop them from eating meat if they wanted to. Vegetarianism is a choice an individual will need to make on their own, for their own reasons.

How do you afford it?

Vegetarianism is actually not as expensive as some might assume. I go grocery shopping probably twice to three times a month and spend about $30-$40 each time. This is hardly 20% of my monthly income, leaving me with more than enough money to pay my bills, save, and treat myself.

Do you ever get tired of answering these questions?

Yes, and no. Some questions I really enjoy answering because they allow me to inform others of the benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle, but others are just, in simple terms, annoying to answer repeatedly again and again.

 

 

 

A Vegetarian-Based Interview with Widener Sophomore, Serena Turco.

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Photo courtesy of Serena Turco.

Serena Turco is a 20-year-old sophomore Environmental Science major, minoring in Spanish, at Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania. On top of that, she’s also a fellow vegetarian. I decided to interview Serena, via email, about her story with vegetarianism and her experience with this lifestyle as a university student. See what she has to say about her on-and-off journey, occasional meat-consumption, and surprising viewpoint on the impact of our diets on the environment.

Q: When did you become a vegetarian and why?
A:  I became a vegetarian when I was 13 years old. I took a break when I was about 16 and ate meat until I was about 17 or 18, then I stopped eating meat yet again and haven’t since then. I cheat occasionally, but only about once a month. I became a vegetarian originally because I felt like it was wrong for us to kill animals when there are so many things we can eat without hurting anybody. I realized at some point that that isn’t really biologically correct – after all, all different animals eat other animals. It’s the way the food chain is. However, when I got older and became more interested in the environment, I learned that the results of farming reach beyond just killing millions of animals, but also that our farming practices in the United States are just not sustainable. We humans, omnivores, are the reason that thousands of acres of forest land are cleared every year to make room for grazing animals. Large-scale farming is very unsanitary as well, keeping animals closely enclosed, and rather than fix the problem, we’ve compensated by overusing antibiotics, causing new strains of antibiotic-resitant bacteria to form. I personally cannot feel comfortable eating meat every day knowing that my choices will not only lead to the suffering of animals, but also to the disturbance of natural lands, along with a myriad of other environmental problems.

Q: Do you feel as though being a college student has affected your vegetarian lifestyle? If so, how?
A: Being in college has not affected my vegetarian lifestyle in that it hasn’t caused me to start eating meat full-time again. Sometimes it is difficult, though. Since I don’t live on campus, I can pack a meal every day, but of course, eventually sometimes I have to eat on campus, since I’m still there all the time despite my lack of a dorm room.
Q: How have you been able to maintain your vegetarian lifestyle throughout college? Do you have any tips or tricks that make living on campus as a vegetarian easier?
A: I really don’t have any suggestions for someone living on campus since I don’t really  know the struggle of having to eat only at on-campus dining. I’d say if you live in an apartment-style, buy your own groceries. If you have to eat at the cafe, though, explore your options. I know the workers at Widener are very approachable and will cook something separate for you if you have a dietary restriction. Don’t just resort to french fries and pizza! The freshman 15 was no joke for me because that’s pretty much how I ate out of fear of being the annoying vegetarian.
Q: Take me through a typical day of your diet. What do you have for breakfast? Lunch? Dinner? Snack? Drinks? Etc. 

A: I feel like I don’t eat that much differently than when I ate meat, but here ‘goes.

Normally for breakfast I eat a bowl of cereal, a protein shake, a smoothie, or a protein bar if i’m really pressed for time. On the weekends, when I have more time, I will cook something like an omelette or pancakes.
Lunch is normally whatever I can find (lol). If I’m at school I’ll go to burger studio and get a veggie burger, or I’ll go to Einstens and get a bagel. I may also pack my lunch.
Dinner is also very variable. I eat a lot of pasta, so I make things in all kinds of sauces and with all different types of vegetables. I’ve found that ethnic foods are a lot more versatile for vegetarians, and so I find myself eating Indian or Mexican or others quite often. I have also made friends with people from all over the world at college, so I’ll eat whatever someone makes me. 🙂
Snacks obviously aren’t that hard. Not a huge snacker, though. I’ll usually just eat meal leftovers as a snack, or I’ll eat things like cookies. Not a vegan, so baked goods and ice cream are still a go.
Q: Do you have any advice to individuals contemplating converting to a vegetarianism lifestyle? What are some benefits/disadvantages you can enlighten them on?
A:Honestly eating vegetarian is a great idea. It makes me feel like with each meal I am making a difference in a changing world. My advice is that if you find yourself cheating once in a while, that’s okay. If everyone in the world would just take a day or two each week and not eat meat, the world would be in a better place. Rather than torturing yourself constantly and just giving up, eat a cheeseburger every other week, or something like that.
I just want to give a big thank you to Serena for taking the time to answer my questions. 

Mini Grocery Haul

As a vegetarian blogger, I believe it is not only important to write about the lifestyle, but give my audience an opportunity to experience it through my perspective. Therefore, this week I decided to share a few items I picked up, at both Walmart and Target, to give you insight on how I carry out my diet. You’ll notice throughout this article that a lot of my groceries are rich in protein – a topic I discussed the importance of last week.

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Gardein is one of my favorite meat-alternative brands offered at both Walmart and Target. Not only are their products affordable, but they’re always delicious and have a variety of options available.

This week I decided to purchase “crabless cakes” and “meatless meatballs.” Both of these items come with a list of benefits, respectively. The “crabless cakes” provides approximately 32mg of omega-3 per serving. Omega-3 is important for a healthy individual for several reasons.

The “meatless meatballs,” on the other hand, allow for individuals to cut back on fat consumption by providing 30% less fact in comparison to other similar products.

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I have to be honest, the Gardein “chick’n sliders” are probably one of the most delicious snacks I’ve ever tasted! Not only that, but they have the appearance and texture of real chicken! In fact, when I first tried these sliders I had to triple check to see if they were indeed vegetarian because of how realistic they are compared to authentic chicken sliders. In addition, they are ready to be eaten in minutes of putting in the microwave.

Morning Star Farms is another one of my favorite meat-alternative brands available. They produce products such as chicken patties, veggie burgers, and “chik’n nuggets” as seen above. Not only do the nuggets provide 4g of fiber, but similarly to Gardein’s “meatless meatballs,” they contain less percentage of fat – 40% to be exact!

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Sweet Earth is a new brand to me that I have recently discovered at my local Target! I’m very excited to try their mushroom ravioli because its full of protein and is a good source of calcium! As a person with a vitamin D3 deficiency, it’s important for me to intake a fair amount of calcium everyday, and this product will help me to do so.

The next item I decided to repurchase is a take on most people’s favorite childhood sandwich – the PB&J. Smucker’s Uncrustables are frequently found in the lunch boxes of children, but the freezable sandwich is the perfect afternoon snack, especially if you’re going from class-to-class like me! This week I decided to opt for the reduced-sugar and whole wheat version of the Uncrustables, as a way of keeping it as healthy as possible!

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I was ecstatic when I stumbled upon protein-enhanced pasta! Barilla’s ProteinPLUS pasta is a great source of protein, and when combined with Gardein’s “meatless meatballs” and pasta sauce, creates a delicious, Italian dinner with major benefits.

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These are probably the top two purchases I’ve made this weekend. I don’t usually buy drinks besides water and decaf iced coffee, but these two have quickly become staples in my diet.

Firstly, IZZE beverages are not only delicious, but fizzy enough to replace unhealthy options such as soda. My favorite quality is that it contains no caffeine, something I have found that I am very sensitive to. The only downside to this product is the sugar amount, so I would not recommend this to individuals with conditions such as diabetes.

Lastly, where do I even begin on Fairlife’s chocolate milk? This is possibly the most delicious chocolate milk I’ve ever tasted, but the best qualities about it is the protein and calcium benefits as well as the reduced sugar and fat! It almost seems too good to be true. Additionally, for all my lactose-intolerant friends out there, this product is lactose free! It also has a longer shelf life in comparison to “normal” milk.

Typically these items lasts me about 1.5-2 weeks before I have to go repurchase. It’s important to keep in mind that these products do not make up the majority of my diet. Along with these items, I also consume a healthy amount of fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, etc. A balance diet is a healthy one.

All photographs were taken by Erin Lafferty. 

 

How To: Afford Alternative Sources of Protein on a University Student’s Budget

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Image courtesy of Pexels.com.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make while making a lifestyle change, such as converting to vegetarianism, is to go into the change completely uneducated. This can cause not only personal health problems (depending on the change), but relapse and resistance to try again. One of the biggest priorities of a vegetarian is to find methods of replacing protein formerly absorbed from meat with different alternatives. Add a university student’s budget on top of that and the search for affordable sources of protein takes on another challenge.

1. Create a budget

STOP! Before you do any research, calculate a budget you would like to set for yourself, otherwise you might overspend and potentially put yourself in financial risk. Remember to make the budget realistic – limiting yourself to $20.00 for protein source for an entire month is not realistic.

2. Do the math

According to Harvard Medical School, “The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is a modest 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.” This is important to calculate because too little or too much protein can effect your body’s performance.

3. Find sources that taste good

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Image courtesy of Pexels.com.

Theres a reason why we use food to train animals: it’s a natural motivator. The same applies to humans. In order to stick to a diet consisting of protein alternatives that are not meat, you need to make it tastes good. Logic says, if you hate spinach, but buy 10 bags of it for good protein, odds are 9 of those bags are going to go to waste. Good sources of protein that are tasty include “chicken” nuggets made from soy, hummus, nuts such as almonds, and a variety of vegetables from broccoli, cauliflower, and potatoes.

4. Find and compare local stores

With a simple Google search, you will be able to find grocery stores in your area. Many grocery stores offer an online inventory or the weekly circular at least. Using these as guides, go through each store’s options and make a list of each item, along with its price, and tally up the total. Compare all total costs of each store, and ask yourself these questions:

  • Which store offers the lowest prices for the most product?
  • Is there certain items I need that are not offered at this particular store?
  • Do I have the luxury of visiting all the stores and getting each item at its lowest price?

You may even want to consider creating a pros and cons list of each item and/or store. Planning is a vital step that is too often overlooked, and although it may be time consuming, it will inevitably be the deciding factor on your outcome.

5. Buy

This step is somewhat self-explanatory, but here are a few final tips:

Do not forget to:

  • Use coupons and discounts to get the best offer. Many stores offer coupons in weekly circulars, discounts on mobile apps, etc.
  • Ask about produce – you are putting these items into your body, therefore you have a right to know where they came from, how their freshness was maintained, how long they were at the store for, etc.
  • Eat before shopping! Shopping while hungry results in poor food choices and unnecessary money spent.

 

In summary: budgetting, planning, and comparing are your best friends when attempting to buy meatless, protein-high foods on a university budget while finding foods you enjoy are helpful for maintaining said diet. The balance of all of these things allows for you to enjoy a vegetarian, protein diet that will keep you healthy and financially stable.