BY KATHY LALUK
Eat, drink, and be merry. Now that you're off in the college world, dining halls will help you rediscover how much fun meals with friends can be. And though you may know who's sitting at your table, you may not know what's sitting on your plate. Mom and Dad's home cooking isn't available 24/7, and familiar favorites may no longer be options. It takes some getting used to, but colleges are doing their best to serve up a wide variety of foods to please everyone's eating habits.
Vegetarian, vegan, and organic diets have become increasingly more common in America throughout the past several decades. In addition to creating some yummy new food options (take the veggie burger, for example), the American Dietetic Association reports that vegetarian and vegan cuisine can help reduce the risk of high cholesterol, osteoporosis, and even lung, liver, and colon cancer.
From soy milk to tofu, baba ganoush to hummus, and everything in between, everyone -- not just vegetarians and vegans -- can enjoy tasty meatless foods. So if you'd rather not eat the mystery meat in the dining hall, or maybe you're looking for a healthier way to help keep off the "freshman 15," here's a look at your options within the college system, as well as some local veggie and vegan mainstays worth checking out.
The University of Rochester recently kicked its vegan options up a notch with its Vegan Zone, located in the DouglassDiningCenter. From full entrees to smaller side dishes, chefs prepare vegan dishes every day. UR also added even more options with its gluten-free stir fry station in the DanforthDiningCenter. Kosher and vegetarian dishes are also available in all of the campus dining halls.
RIT offers several vegetarian, vegan, and even low-sodium options on campus at its Jump Asian Express venues. Food court companions Quizno's, Ritz, Sports Zone, Sandella's, and Sol's also offer plenty of vegetarian options. According to the university's website, dining services administrators are looking into the sale of organic foods at Crossroads, an on-campus food court, and the Corner Store. And if you're looking for a healthier option to satisfy your sweet tooth, try the gluten-free brownies and snack bars at Java Wally's.
Nazareth takes the healthy mentality of vegetarian and vegan diets a step further with its Whole Body Cuisine, which is served in all dining halls on campus. The entrees keep fat, sodium, and cholesterol in check, while still packing in the flavor.
SUNY Brockport offers daily vegetarian and vegan lunch and dinner entrees at the Brockway and Harrison dining halls. Feel free to swipe some tofu or hummus to add to your typical meal. If you're craving sweets, but still want to eat smart, try a chocolate soy milk for dessert. It'll satisfy your chocolate craving, and is nutritious at the same time.
The Red Jacket and Letchworth dining halls at SUNY Geneseohave Beans and Greens stations that serve tasty tofu ravioli, stuffed peppers, and other vegetarian and vegan dishes.
Itching to get off-campus for some great veggie grub? Check out Natural Vibes Fish and Vegetarian Restaurant, located at 350 Thurston Rd. This place offers more than most campus dining halls can boast, and has several Caribbean-inspired vegetarian and vegan dishes that are to die for. For an online menu and more information, visit naturalvibeshome.com.
Hyjea (2120 Five Mile Line Rd, Penfield) is a trendy café that serves healthy dishes ranging from smoothies to sandwiches to pasta and stir fry, and 5 percent of its profits go to Foodlink, a local food charity.
New Health Café (133 Gregory St) serves up vegetarian versions of diner favorites, including its popular breakfast burrito (filled with egg or tofu and your choice of veggies) and vegetarian meatloaf.
If you're looking to try something really different, lots of ethnic restaurants (particularly Thai and Japanese) have vegetarian dishes. California Rollin', a sushi joint located at 274 N Goodman St. and at the former ferry terminal in Charlotte, has lots of veggie-friendly options (try the Humpty Dumpty roll -- tomato and red ginger -- for a spicy kick). Or if you're in the mood for some great pad thai, try local favorite King and I (1455 E Henrietta Rd).
If you're doing your own cooking or are just looking for some veggie munchies, try the Abundance Co-op Market (62 Marshall St). Open seven days a week, the co-op has a wide selection of locally grown organic produce, gluten-free products, a newly opened juice bar, and even a grab-n-go section with plenty of veggie options, including fresh-made wraps and soups. The Natural Oasis Market (288 Monroe Ave) is another local vegetarian-friendly grocery and offers organic food, including fruits and veggies, soy milk, pasta, spices, and tea. Natural Oasis also has a café onsite, which has Ethiopian cuisine and a vegetarian buffet.