Opinion: More vegetarian options should be available in restaurants

Matt Olson, Reporter

In a country that revolves around the meat and dairy industry, it can be very difficult for people who are vegetarian or vegan to find sustainable food options when they go out. According to Singleplatform, veganism is at an all-time high, so the fact that only very few fast food and major chain restaurants have options for vegans is frustrating, to say the least. 

There are several chain restaurants that do provide at least one plant-based meal option. For example, Taco Bell has a section of their menu with all vegetarian options, most of which can be customized to be made vegan, if desired. This also applies to restaurants like Chipotle and Qdoba. Restaurants such as Burger King and Freddy’s Frozen Custard also offer veggie burgers as a plant based alternative. While there are options out there, they are slim, and often times the vegetarian option is not sustainable, like french fries or other sides. Having more plant based options would provide healthier options for customers as well as making it more likely for vegan and vegetarian customers to go to the restaurant.

Steps have already been taken in grocery stores to provide vegan options for all kinds of foods, ranging from chicken nuggets to ice cream. There is a common misconception that veganism means you only eat salad, but this is completely false. There are options out there, but large food corporations often do not take advantage of them. With the rising popularity of plant-based diets, it would be beneficial to provide a wide variety of food options. This could encourage people to reduce their meat and dairy consumption, which is good for several reasons. 

One reason for the rise in popularity of veganism and vegetarianism is the health benefits. According to the Healthcareers website, people who eat mostly plant-based foods are 32% less likely to get heart disease, and going vegan can reduce the risk of developing type two diabetes by 23%. A study done by Healthcareers also proved that the participants who cut out meat and animal products from their diets lost 9.3 pounds more than those who take part in a controlled diet over 18 weeks. 

There are many reasons to begin a plant-based diet, but the most important one is its effect on the environment. An infographic from Healthcareers explains that 18% of greenhouse gas emissions are caused by farming livestock. Methane emissions have an effect on global warming 28 times higher than carbon dioxide, and comes primarily from cows, according to the Oxford University Press. That being said, livestock farming is the largest use of our water, and most of it is indirect use needed for cleaning and watering livestock, according to The Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG). It takes far less water to grow crops such as grains, fruits and vegetables, compared to the food grown to feed these animals. 

If more fast food and chain restaurants add plant-based options to their menus, it increases the possibility of there being a lower demand for meat products. Study News Today says that offering a greater vegetarian selection could be a way to lure meat eaters into choosing more veggie meals. By doing this, it would lower methane emissions, reducing the greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere, and drastically reduce the amount of water being wasted. It would not only benefit people’s health, but it would also save the environment.