by Riley Sugarman
Photography courtesy of Amanda Willis
Many picture a stereotypical vegan as a social justice warrior who condemns meat eaters and survives on celery sticks. There are definitely some vegans out there who fit this mold, but a new wave of vegans shows that one can quietly avoid meat and dairy products while eating delicious foods.
The vegan diet avoids all animal products, including meat, eggs, dairy and fish. The diet has become a popular movement around the world, and its image changed drastically as a result of its popularity.
Veganism in the United States grew 500 percent since 2014 and 44 percent in Germany, 10 percent of Sweden identified as meat-free by 2014, and in 2016 there were an estimated 542,000 vegans in the United Kingdom.
This is likely due to the movement gaining popularity. It boosted awareness of ethical eating, in addition to the recent convenience in the food industry for vegans. Grocery stores carry an increasing number of meat and dairy-free products; local and chain coffee shops now serve dairy substitutes such as almond, soy, and coconut milk; more and more restaurants are becoming vegan-friendly.
Haley Fritz (COM ’19) loves how accommodating servers are in most restaurants. She believes veganism has become a movement as well as a diet, and it has become harder to ignore for business.
Emine Saner, from The Guardian, believes the veganism movement evolved because of the increasingly large number of people who take on the vegan lifestyle specifically for health and wellness reasons.
“This is the unstoppable rise of the wellness bloggers and ‘eat clean’ enthusiasts, who seem to view eating mostly plants primarily as a route to health and glowing Instagram selfies, rather than for ethical reasons,” Saner said.
The plant-eating vegan stereotype is another myth. Saner said many vegans identify as following a ‘plant-based’ diet and still eat everyday foods.
“As a vegan, all I eat sometimes are Oreos and dairy-free mac and cheese, so I’m definitely not a stereotype,” said Fritz.
Vegan fast food has become a popular expansion in the movement. Restaurants such as TGI Fridays now carry Beyond Burgers—a meat-free burger that smells, tastes and even bleeds like real meat. There are vegan fast food and drive thru restaurants, and even school districts now offer vegan options for students.
The health benefits veganism provides is another reason why many flocked to the movement.
Healthline said veganism is richer in certain nutrients such as vitamins A, C and E (in addition to potassium), it can trim excess weight, lower blood sugar, improve kidney function, reduce Arthritis pain and possibly reduce risk of heart disease and certain cancers.
A number of athletes have adopted the vegan lifestyle, most notably in the NBA. Wilson Chandler, Marc Gasol, Jahlil Okafor and Damien Lillard are only a few of the league’s leading vegan players, and they believe it improves performance and general wellbeing.
For Boston University students looking for vegan options when dining out, there are tons of vegan-friendly restaurants around Boston. By Chloe in Fenway serves a vegan-only menu including ice cream, brunch, sandwiches, burgers and more.
The Friendly Toast in Cambridge and Back Bay is not completely vegan, but features vegan items on their menu, including breakfast burritos, tofu scramble, stir fry and chili.
Life Alive in Cambridge offers vegan wraps, grain and salad bowls, smoothies and more and is opening a new location on campus this spring.
Veganism has expanded as a lifestyle, rejecting its hippie roots to become a trendy movement adopted by a rapidly increasing number of people. After how it has modernized thus far, it can only become more innovative and inclusive in the coming years.
“It has never been easier to go vegan, in my opinion,” Fritz said.