Plant-based lunch options grow necessary for dietary benefits

At Saint Viator, every student longs for the midday break where they can chat with friends, catch up on homework and most importantly, eat. Hamburgers, fries, and the beloved Lion Bowl consisting of mashed potatoes, corn, popcorn chicken and bacon fill the stomachs of ravenous teenagers on a daily basis. Generally, the most filling lunch options revolve around a meat-based diet and leaves limited healthy options to students who follow vegan or vegetarian diets.​​ While those who are not plant-based themselves do not think about it, there is still a need to provide filling and nutritious lunches for vegan and vegetarian students.

Taking a look into the options that non-meat-eating students have, they are plentiful but a limited amount of them have any nutritional value. Pizza, fries and bosco sticks, while satisfying to the palate, are not suitable for everyday consumption. Vegetarians and vegans have to make up for the nutrients that they lose from the lack of animal products. Most notably, protein is something that plant-based diets have to find from other sources and it is not being found in cheesy bread.

While the lunch menu does offer a salad bar and different prepackaged salad options, eating salad day after day gets repetitive and boring. Additionally, eating the same meal every day is not necessarily healthy either.

“Your body needs a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, proteins and whole grains to ensure that you’re getting the macronutrients and vitamins you need” says, “Depending on what you’re eating, you can become nutritionally deficient by severely limiting yourself to a few meals or a handful of foods”

Adopting vegan and vegetarian food options is also advantageous to those who do not follow plant-based diets. There is no need to shift to a completely vegetarian or vegan diet to reap the benefits.

“[Vegetarians] may also have a lower risk for some other diseases such as constipation, diverticular disease, gallstones and appendicitis” says

Incorporating more plant-based foods into the menu also aids the environment along with students.

The Physician’s Committee states, “Research shows that meat and dairy products are fueling the climate crisis, while plant-based diets—focused on fruits, vegetables and beans—help protect the planet.”

Plant-based meals do not have to be complex. Dishes as simple as rice with vegetables, pasta and noodles are all simple foods that would entice any Viator student, not just vegans or vegetarians. The rise in the “beyond meat” craze has also made meat substitutes such as meat-free burgers, chicken, sausages and other similar foods more available in local grocery stores.

The addition of meat-free meals at Saint Viator is necessary and feasible. This idea is already set into motion during the Lenten season on Fridays every year, therefore adding days with meat-free meals throughout the entire year is completely possible.

Vegan and vegetarian students deserve to have more options for a meal that don’t consist of unhealthy fried foods or the same salad every single day. Their dietary needs must be met in order for them to continue to get through the school day happily and healthily. By implementing plant-based meals into the school’s menu, not only will these needs be met, but it will create diverse and healthy eating habits for all Viator students.