When students with dietary restrictions come to the University of Nevada, Reno, they have fewer choices than other students.
Dietary restrictions affect individuals who are not able to eat specific ingredients and meals due to diseases, religion, allergens and choice.
There are around 15 million Americans with food allergies. Milk, egg, peanut, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish are the eight major food allergens. If an individual who is allergic comes in contact with their allergen, they may be susceptible to an itchy mouth and hives to asphyxiation and other deadly reactions.
“Having celiac means that I cannot have gluten in any form,” said Gretchen Berg, a freshman at the university.
Berg cannot eat gluten because her immune system will attack her small intestine. 3 million people suffer from Celiac disease.
“Gluten includes wheat, barley and rye,” Berg continues. “It is almost in everything. I have to be careful with how my food is prepared and pay attention to ingredients even in foods that I am familiar with. Sometimes, It is difficult to find restaurants that accommodate me. I have to do research on the restaurants beforehand and if I go, I have to discuss my ‘allergy’ with the staff to make sure I will be safe. Even then, it’s risky. Please try to be aware that there are people who have experiences vary from yours and putting in a little bit of extra effort really goes a long way in making people, like me, feel welcome.”
Along with diseases and allergies, some individuals choose to follow a diet for their health, beliefs and the environment.
Approximately 22.8 million Americans follow a vegetarian-inclined, an avoidance of meat, diet.
“I choose to be veggie because the more I thought about it, the sadder it made me feel to eat something that’s living and can feel pain,” said Katelyn Donaker, a freshman at the university. “Red meat is also really bad for you and I really wanted to stop eating it. There are some places I can eat at, but I haven’t been a vegetarian for very long. It’s hard to eat out to be honest because almost everything has meat in it, even in things like salads that you wouldn’t think would. I don’t like informing people because I personally do not care what other people eat. This is my thing and I don’t want to be one of those people who pushes my lifestyle on others. Being a vegetarian makes me feel good.”
Religion also affects people’s dietary lifestyles. For example, Hindu cultures choose not to eat eggs, fish, meat or poultry because they believe it limits hurting other lifeforms. Muslims follow Halal dietary lifestyles, and Mormons cannot consume alcohol caffeine or other mind-altering foods or drinks. Often, those who believe in the Jewish faith follow Kosher dietary lifestyles.
“Our food is broken up into three categories: meat, dairy and pareve,” said Hunter Dunn, a freshman at the university. “Kosher means must come from an animal that chews, its cud and has split hooves. Cows, sheep and goats are kosher. Kosher fowls are identified by a universally accepted tradition and include the domestication species of chickens, Cornish hens, ducks, geese and turkeys. Animal and fowl must be slaughtered with precision and examined by a skilled shochet, an individual extensively trained in the rituals of kosher slaughtering. All utensils must be kosher. All foods containing milk are classified as a diary and must come from a kosher animal. Common pareve foods are eggs, fish, fruits, vegetables, grains, unprocessed juices, pasta, soft drinks, coffee, tea and many candies and snacks. Most seafood is not Kosher.”
Taylor Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.