Veganism alters lifestyle

Jazmine Bennett doesn’t want to be a hassle.

The freshman has been a vegan for the past year and a half, but when the strict diet-which doesn’t allow her to eat meat or any other foods that come from animals, including milk, cheese and eggs -makes it impossible for her to have a meal with her family, she bends the rules a little.

“If I’m visiting my grandma for dinner and she makes the mashed potatoes with milk, I can compromise,” she said. “[Vegans] aren’t trying to make people go out of their way to make special stuff for us. I know I can’t eat a perfect vegan diet all the time.”

But Bennett said it’s hard to compromise her beliefs for others when family and friends tend to be less than accommodating of her vegan lifestyle.

“I remember a Thanksgiving dinner with my dad’s family where I had almost nothing I could eat,” she recalled. “I had a salad. Everyone was like, ‘You’re not eating anything!’ and I was like, ‘Well”‘”

A former tennis player, Bennett said she faced opposition to her newly-adopted lifestyle quickly after she stopped eating meat.

She lost about 10 pounds during the first week of her new diet, alarming her father, who told her she didn’t have energy on the court because of how she was eating.

She recently met with a campus dietician to discuss whether she was getting the proper nutrition and was told she was healthy.

She already takes a multivitamin and potassium supplement, so the dietician told her to simply watch her proteins, which Bennett said can be done simply by “picking up a bag of trail mix,” for the nuts included in it, which are packed with protein.

Aside from being vegan, Bennett works hard to live a life that is focused on “bettering the Earth.” She recycles, doesn’t wear fur or leather and tries not to use any products tested on animals.

“I know one person can’t do everything,” she said. “All I’m trying to do is contribute to this idea and maybe convince others to do it also.”

An average grocery shopping trip for Bennett includes buying items like bread, peanut butter, hummus, chips and salsa and a food called tabouli, which is made up of chopped parsley, tomatoes, onions and lemon juice.

Opening the mini refrigerator and food cabinet in her dorm room, Bennett reveals a few acceptable items she often keeps in stock: Oriental-flavored Ramen noodles, vanilla soy milk, organic popcorn and “Tofurkey” jerkey meat.

Bennett also said the biggest frustration of being vegan is not so much the difficulty of finding foods that meet the diet requirements, but having to explain to friends why she has chosen to eat differently from them.

“It really doesn’t affect us except when we get together and we’re going to eat something,” said Ashley Albridge, a friend of Bennett’s who lives in her residence hall. “It’s not like she preaches at us.”

Dan Burns, another of Bennett’s friends, said he has liked some of the vegan-friendly foods she has had him sample.

“She brought us some vegan chocolate cake once,” he remembered. “Some of the stuff is actually pretty good.”

“I’d never even heard of hummus before I knew her,” Albridge said. “She’s made us eat so many nasty things, too!”

But Albridge and Burns both said they couldn’t see themselves committing to a vegan lifestyle just because Bennett does-but they do respect her for it.

“I think it’s a good idea, I just couldn’t do it,” Albridge said. “And I think being vegan is even more credible than being a vegetarian.”

Bennett said even though friends are often shocked by some of the foods she can’t eat, sometimes she is even more surprised by the foods other people just assume she can’t have.

“People ask me all the time, ‘Can you eat French fries?'” she said with a laugh. “I guess it’s because French fries are so closely associated with hamburgers.”

But despite any silly questions or trouble she encounters when explaining her decision to be a vegan to friends and family, Bennett said she feels a responsibility to continue with the lifestyle.

“People don’t understand what is wrong with [foods like] cheese and milk, but I just think it’s disgusting the methods used on the animals we eat,” she said. “I’ve always been an activist my whole life and I just think this goes along with taking care of the Earth.”