Green is the new black

Bridget Snider, writer

For some, living without hamburgers, chicken nuggets or milkshakes seems impossible. For others like Meredith Fleming, it is not a choice. Food allergies have restricted the way she eats; which, according to her, comes at a cost.

Fleming, sophomore, has a gluten and dairy free diet which limits her from eating many of the foods she used to love. As a kid, Fleming and her family were unaware of the allergies she was living with, but after a while it became clear that something was wrong.

“Every time I used to eat yogurt I would get a really bad stomachache,” Fleming said. “After I cut out dairy, my stomach would still hurt, but then cutting out gluten made it finally stop hurting.”

According to The University of Chicago’s (UC) Celiac Disease Center, Fleming is one of the 1 percent of Americans who have Celiac disease, which means they have a gluten allergy. Ninety-seven percent of those with the disease go without a diagnosis, according to UC. Many of the foods people regularly consume like bread, pasta and ice cream have some sort of gluten or dairy in them, but Fleming said finding substitutes for gluten and dairy is not a problem. There are many options for substitutes for gluten, including xanthan or guar gum, which can replace flour and flour-based ingredients in many recipes.

“Sometimes it’s difficult if I want to go to a friend’s house because they normally don’t have any food I can eat, but I really like my gluten-free peanut butter crackers and gluten and dairy-free ice cream,” Fleming said.

Although allergies like Fleming’s often influence people’s diets, some limit their diet by choice. Caroline Davis, sophomore, has chosen to restrict her diet in different ways, through spending time as a vegan and a vegetarian.

“I liked being vegan, but it was more about the availability [of vegan foods] that made me decide to go back to just being vegetarian,” Davis said. “I feel a lot healthier, and I haven’t gotten as sick since I stopped eating meat. After I eat a big meal, I don’t feel as weighed down anymore.”      

As Davis and Morgyn Welsh, freshman, both know, choosing to become vegetarian sparks a lot of questions and controversy. Both Davis and Welsh said they are often questioned on how they can live without meat, what foods they eat and how they get their protein, but neither of the two said they let it bother them.

“Other people don’t always understand my choice, and some are even weirded out by it,” Welsh said. “[Being vegetarian] is not that different [from a regular diet.] It doesn’t really affect your lifestyle or how you live your life like people think it does.”

According to the Vegetarian Times, a website dedicated to spreading an appreciation for and informing others on vegetarianism, veganism, and other diets, only 3.2 percent of adults in America are vegetarian, with only 0.5 percent of them being vegan. 

“All you have to do is give it a try,” Davis said. “People often think it’s a big commitment to stop eating meat, but it gradually gets easier. There’s things like ‘Meatless Monday’ where you can try not eating meat for just one day of the week. Just that one day can prove to you how easy it can be.”