The setting sun streams into my aunt’s dinning room, the scent of barbecued steaks, fried fish and fresh salads wafts around. My relatives pick up plates and begin to dish up a little bit of everything. I join the buffet line. I bypass the steaks and dive into the salads.
“Aren’t you going to have some meat? You need meat,” remarks a relative I hardly know.
“No, I’m a vegetarian,” I reply.
The room goes quiet. Everyone stares. It’s as if I had just made a radical statement, rebelled and forsaken my roots. They knew vegetarians existed, but they didn’t think there was one among them.
When you’re a vegetarian, access to nutritious foods other than salads can be tricky – especially when you’re on a student budget in a small town like Fredericton.
“Being a vegetarian is a commitment because it’s less convenient being unable to eat what everyone else is eating,” said Laura Robinson, a St. Thomas University student who’s been a vegetarian since middle school.
“It might be easier to choose a Kraft Dinner cup, but it’s healthier to eat some Greek yogurt and almonds if you’re hungry in the middle of the night,” Robinson said.
As a vegetarian, you do need to ensure you’re obtaining all the nutrients that meats are typically rich in, like iron, protein and B-12. Protein and B-12 are also found in milk products (although, if you’re vegan, you’ll need to purchase products that are fortified with these nutrients or look for supplements). Iron can be found in dark-green vegetables or in a supplement form.
“If you go at it in a healthy way and make sure you’re getting enough of everything, then it’s the same deal as eating meat,” said Telina Debly, a second-year student and vegetarian.
Being a student vegetarian may seem costly, as simulated meats (products that look and taste like meat, but aren’t) tend to be pricey. However, there are other nutrient-rich options like quinoa and salads with nuts. Victory Meat Market downtown sells fresh vegetables and fruits at an affordable price. Students can also join the Community Food Smart program on campus, which provides students with monthly packages of fresh produce for $15.
Luckily, if you’re going out with your friends (or going on a date with yourself), Fredericton does have a mix of local and chain restaurants with vegetarian options.
“Products without meat tend to be less expensive, but you also have to go out of your way sometimes to find vegetarian options that aren’t just French fries and an omelette,” said Debly.
Local restaurants like Isaac’s Way, Caribbean Flavas and Cinnamon Café (a solely vegetarian, vegan and raw foods café) tend to offer more vegetarian or vegan options than chain restaurants. Some restaurants are also able to leave meat products out if the meals aren’t prepackaged.
Robinson believes that Fredericton would benefit by having more local restaurants.
“Different vegetarian options that are more than the typical pasta with cheese are nice. Plus, local restaurants also benefit the Fredericton community as a whole,” she said.
People become vegetarians for a variety of reasons, among them: health (vegetarian diets tend to lead people to be more health conscious), ethical and environmental concerns, religious reasons, dislike the taste of meat and simply because they want to be.
“When you’re a vegetarian you’re more aware of the impact of food on your health and its role in different economies and the whole cultural conversation around meat,” said Debly.
“I think if you’re dedicated to your reasons for choosing it, you’ll find a way to make health a priority,” said Robinson.
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