Diet or leave it? Terps talk about their eating choices in College Park

By Claire Linton
For Unwind magazine

A lifestyle, not a diet, seems to be what students want their meals to reflect, whether it be vegetarianism, veganism or another dietary style. For Tali Cohen, a sophomore studio art and secondary education major, becoming vegan was not only a desire, but also a convenience.

“Oddly enough, the refrigerator where I was living at the time was really [terrible], and all of my dairy kept going bad, so I was like, ‘OK, I’ll just be vegan,’” she explained. “The more I read about it, the more confident I became in my choice.”


Unlike a lot of other places in the United States, it is easy to be vegan in College Park because of easily accessible options, such as tofu in Target, Cohen said.

Yancy Rivera, a senior economics major, similarly adapts options in College Park to his low-carb, high-fat keto diet by omitting rice from his Chipotle order and making guacamole a regular part of his meal.

Other once-routine parts of Rivera’s life have also changed since he started eating based on a ketogenic format.

“I used to always have a glass of orange juice in the morning, but now it’s just not worth it,” Rivera said.

Caylie Baker, a sophomore English and government and politics major, became a vegetarian seven years ago because she didn’t like the idea of eating animals.

“As I kept [eating vegetarian] I learned about all the other benefits,” Baker said. “At this point I feel like I kind of do it for every reason: health, animal rights, sustainability, all different things.”

Baker also explained that she is not looking for something temporary in terms of her health, so a structured program that essentially tells you what to eat is not appealing.

Mandie Ruiz de Gamboa, who just recently became vegetarian, used her stint with Weight Watchers to jumpstart a healthy lifestyle that could fit her needs.

With Weight Watchers, Ruiz de Gamboa was “working towards the goal of eating better and living a better life.”

“I love food, it’s just very much a cultural thing for me and my family, it was more about learning how to control how much I eat,” Ruiz de Gamboa, a sophomore animal science and psychology major, said.

However, she explained that the Weight Watchers point system was not flexible enough to accommodate her decision to be a vegetarian.

“I’m kind of doing my own version of it,” she explained.

Cohen also does her own version of veganism by trying to “always make the kindest choice.”

For instance, when the preschoolers she worked with made her a strawberry milkshake as a welcome gift, she opted to drink the shake.

“In that situation the kindest thing to do was to drink the milkshake and get on with my day,” Cohen said. “I try not to be crazy about it.”

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