Vary your veggie options

Cassandra Hays, Columnist

When I decided to become a vegetarian, I knew I had cut my options for accessible and convenient food in half. Most meals feature some sort of meat as the “star” of the dish, and it can be hard to come by a decent vegetarian option, especially when you’re in a rush. And while CWU does have a few options for vegetarian and vegan students, if we’re being honest, they could be doing a lot better.

According to Forbes, 10% of Americans aged 18 to 29 do not eat meat, with 7% being vegetarian and 3% who are vegan. This is much higher than any of the older age ranges surveyed and shows a trend of college-aged Americans eating less meat. With vegetarianism and veganism on the rise, options on college campuses should reflect the growing demand. 

As a senior who lives off campus, I’ll admit that I don’t eat at the SURC very often. I can’t recall many vegetarian options in the dining hall when I was a freshman, but I know that dining has recently expanded their menu to include more meatless dishes. Lately, my experience with vegetarian options at CWU has been grab-and-go options from the Bistro or C-Store. Here, I can find an overpriced bowl of chopped fruit; a protein box with nuts, hummus and veggies; and salads, salads and more salads. While it’s great that these options are available for students who don’t eat meat, eating the same thing over and over can get pretty boring.

With limited meatless options to pick from, I should at least be able to expect my vegetarian meal to actually be vegetarian. Just last week, I picked up a grab-and-go salad from the bistro, clearly marked with a “V” indicating that it was vegetarian. As I sat down, open my salad and pour on the dressing that was included, I decided to take a peek at the ingredients contained in the dressing. About halfway down the list, I see it: anchovy paste. For me, this was little more than an annoyance. Some people, though, may be allergic or intolerant to an ingredient like anchovies. It can be easy to overlook a minor ingredient like that in a dressing or a side component of the meal. But had I known it wasn’t vegetarian, I wouldn’t have wasted $6 on the salad in the first place. 

I think it’s awesome that vegetarian options are there, and compared to some other colleges, CWU has plenty to offer in that area. I just think that options could be expanded to include other types of dishes. Instead of a bland salad or mediterranean-style wrap, why not offer something more interesting and flavorful, like curry or a vegan pad thai? There are lots of cultures that have dishes that revolve around plant-based diets, such as Indian, Ethiopian and Thai cuisines. Adding dishes like these would not only bring more flavor to the vegetarian menu at CWU, but also deliver a taste of culture and diversity as well.

Other than the lack of variety, the problem I have with vegetarian options on campus is the lack of protein. Often, when I need to grab a quick bite, I have to opt for some sort of fruit or veggie-based snack with a low amount of protein. Aside from the protein box, the options presented at grab-and-go locations on campus aren’t the most protein-packed meals. It would be cool to have more meal options that feature beans, chickpeas or even meat alternatives, such as Beyond Meat, as a plant-based protein source. 

In the future, as more students start eating less meat and the demand for meatless meals goes up, I’m sure options for vegan and vegetarian students will expand. But until then, I’ll keep bringing my lunch from home.