Thanksgiving is a time for family, friends, and food

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Diet-Based Student Interviews:
For this month’s edition, I chose to write about food, since Thanksgiving was last week. I focus on four main diets to represent a selection of common dietary preferences: the “Omnivore” diet (someone who eats everything), the Semi-Vegetarian Diet (with an emphasis on avoiding red meat), the Vegetarian Diet, and the Vegan Diet. While each diet is compatible with a healthy lifestyle, there are benefits to some diets that aren’t present in others. Each student interview features relevant health information regarding how that diet allows for a healthy lifestyle.

The “Omnivore Diet” featuring an interview with Trent Martinez ’19:
What types of food do you normally eat (any type more than others)?
I normally eat cereal, fruit, vegetables, bread, grains, lots of meat, and dairy. I also eat
anything that you consider bad for your body, like sugar.

Have you ever considered changing your diet (vegetarian, vegan, etc.)?
No I’ve never considered it, since meat tastes too good.

What effects has this normal diet have on your health? Are there some foods that
affect your physical health more than others?
This diet doesn’t affect my health; normally, I feel fine. Though, I do realize when I have had too much sugar. If I eat healthier for multiple days in a row, I feel better physically. Also, hydration is key to feeling healthier.

What did your Thanksgiving plans look like food-wise?
For Thanksgiving, I ate rolls, turkey, ham, cranberry sauce, stuffing, mash potatoes, pie, ice cream, green beans, and actually a lot more vegetables.

There are benefits to an “omnivore” diet. This diet is a healthy way to have a balanced
diet where every group of food from protein to carbs is integrated into daily meals.
However, people who don’t eat a good mix of foods may overeat too many foods
from one group, for example, sugar. Because there are no dietary restrictions, this
potential to overeat can lead to health problems such as diabetes, obesity, or even
cancer in some cases. The key to a healthy life with an “omnivore” diet is maintain a
balance with a mix of all the different food groups.

The Semi-Vegetarian Diet featuring an interview with Maya Muramoto’18:
When did you become a semi-vegetarian?
I decided to cut out red meat from my diet about two years ago. I never really ate it often before then, but I made a conscious effort to avoid it about two years ago.     

Have you ever reverted to eating red meat?
The only times I have reverted to eating red meat are when my parents only cook something with red meat (like lasagna or soup) so I am basically forced to eat it. This rarely happens at all.

What effect has this diet had on your body?
Personally, because I did not eat red meat often before I became a semi-vegetarian, I did not notice any major changes within my body. That being said, I did notice a slight increase in energy. I plan to continue this diet for the rest of my life because of the health benefits. Cutting out red meat can reduce cholesterol and even prevent many types of cancer.

Why did you decide to become semi-vegetarian?
I decided to become a semi-vegetarian because, as I mentioned before, I rarely ate red
meat to begin with. I also do not like red meat– I prefer white-meat chicken, fish, meat
alternatives like tofu, or protein-rich vegetables like beans. Lots of processed meats
can also contain hormones and harmful chemicals. In addition, the production of meat
has a very negative impact on the environment as it requires large amounts of energy,
so I choose to avoid it as much as possible.

What did your Thanksgiving plans look like food-wise?
For Thanksgiving, I ate as much as humanly possible. Luckily I love turkey and it follows
my diet, and at our Thanksgivings, we do not really serve dishes with red meat. Around
the holidays, I am thankful for not being a vegan.

Semi-vegetarian diets, in this case diets with no red meat, are extremely beneficial.
Red meat, especially processed meats like salami and pepperoni, is associated with
many forms of cancer, as well as heart disease, if eaten frequently. It is also a food
group commonly known to harm the environment, as the resources needed to farm
beef are extremely environmentally inefficient. However, eliminating red meat should
not encourage overconsumption of the other food groups, as this could be unhealthy
too. For red meat lovers who would find it hard to give it up, moderation is the key by
only eating it once or twice a week and avoiding processed red meat altogether.

The Vegetarian Diet featuring an interview with Meghan Gorman ’18:
When did you become a vegetarian?
I became vegetarian during the spring break of freshman year, so it’s been about three
years of being vegetarian.

Have you ever reverted to eating meat?
Yes I have reverted to eating meat but always on accident. There have been times
when I order something at a restaurant and I don’t realize there is meat in it or I am at
someone else’s house and I just start eating some and then within one bite I realize
there’s meat. For some reason I always feel so guilty. The first time I accidentally ate
meat, I was at a Mexican restaurant and did not know what the menu was saying so I
ordered something with meat, I texted my mom right after I realized what I had done
and apologized for some reason, she forgave me thankfully.

What effect has this diet had on your body?
I have noticed my increased energy levels, it helped my skin semi-clear up and also I lost
some weight when I first started and it helped me keep weight off. Also being vegetarian has made me way more aware of what I am putting in my body, and over all a healthier eater.

Why did you decide to become a vegetarian?
This sounds silly but I became vegetarian because during the spring break of
freshman year while on a road trip to Utah. I saw so many cows and was hit with the
reality that most of these cows will be killed for people to be eaten. I then started
watching documentaries relating to going vegetarian and how animal products effect
the earth such as Forks Over Knives or Cowspiracy. These documentaries totally
changed my views on the meat industry and are the main reasons I do not eat meat.

What did your Thanksgiving plans look like food-wise?
Since my parents are also vegetarian, we didn’t have any meat for Thanksgiving. We
had usuals like mash potatoes, gravy, stuffing, green beans, bread, etc. (My mom was
thinking about trying a casserole that had fake chicken in it, so we’ll see if that
happens.) And of course, we had pie, my favorite. I didn’t even miss having the turkey.
I have never really enjoyed turkey so I don’t miss out.

A person following a Vegetarian Diet eliminates all meat and fish from their diet. This
diet has proven health benefits by reducing weight and the risk of many cancers,
heart disease, and high cholesterol. However, vegetarians still eat forms of animal
products, such as dairy, which enables them to access nutrients that aren’t found in
vegetables or carbs. The one disadvantage of this diet is that vegetarians must be
mindful of eating enough protein in the form of eggs, milk, yogurt, cheese, lentils,
and nuts.

The Vegan Diet featuring an interview with Olivia Osborne’18:
When did you go vegan?
I went vegan the summer before my sophomore year, so a little over two years ago.

Have you ever reverted to eating dairy/meat?
I haven’t done it intentionally, however I sometimes accidentally eat something that
had milk or egg in it, but I’m normally very careful. I don’t crave meat or cheese or
anything anymore so it’s pretty easy to stay on track, especially now that I have a pretty
good handle on what good vegan options there are.

What effects has being vegan had on your body?
Overall, I feel like I have more energy now and I feel much less heavy (if that makes
sense). I think it’s helped me stay fit and healthy, because even beyond making sure I
was eating vegan, I overall started eating cleaner foods when I went vegan, so less
sugars and processed foods and all of that have made me feel a lot better.

Why did you become vegan?
I had been thinking about going vegan for a while, but honestly the deciding factor was watching a documentary called “Cowspiracy” which is all about the detrimental environmental effects the meat and dairy industries have on our planet, so I am primarily vegan for environmental reasons. I also do it because of animal rights and because it is overall very healthy for you.

What did your Thanksgiving plans look like foodwise?                                        Thanksgiving is generally a pretty un-vegan holiday as you can imagine, but my mom made me dairy-free mashed potatoes, a lot of vegetable sides, and plenty of vegan desserts like pumpkin pie. So there was honestly plenty! (And I was never a fan of turkey anyway).

A person following a Vegan Diet cuts out all animal products such as meat, fish, eggs,
and dairy from their diet. While this diet cuts out a lot of foods, the health effects can
be extremely beneficial; vegans can experience clearer skin, weight loss, more
energy, and are often less tired. The one disadvantage to being vegan is similar to the
Vegetarian Diet; there might not be enough protein, Vitamin B12, or calcium intake
through this diet. In addition, vegetarians and vegans may develop anemia from iron
deficiency, which can lead to fatigue and decreased exercise capacity. The key to
maintaining a healthy diet is to seek nutrient sources through other means, whether it
be nuts, lentils, tofu, GLVs (green leafy vegetables) and sometimes nutritional
supplements like iron or Vitamin B12.

Other common diets:
Pescatarian: Someone who eats fish but no other meat. Probably one of the healthiest dietary options, as fish is very beneficial for heart health, plus it provides lots of protein. The Omega-3 fatty acids in fish are very good for health.

Gluten-free: Many people are allergic to a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye and have abdominal pain and indigestion if they eat gluten. Other people may have a genetic
susceptibility to Celiac disease, which is an autoimmune condition where the body attacks the lining of the small intestine when gluten is ingested, leading to damage to the intestine. The treatment is lifelong avoidance of any gluten containing food or drink. Celiac disease can lead to many other serious diseases of the blood, nervous system, bones, and pancreas as well as malnutrition and infertility if not treated with strict avoidance of gluten.