Becoming a Herbivore: A Beginners Guide to Vegetarianism Part 1


 

LIFELONG HERBIVORE...AND STARBUCKS ADDICT!

Recently a friend of mine asked me to write a blog post about being vegetarian and some important things to consider when making the switch. I am happy to oblige! I should point out that I am a lifelong vegetarian so my experience is going to be different than someone who is switching over from meat eating to veggie. I have never eaten meat or fish so I don’t really know how that transition goes. I also am not vegan but I am happy to define that so you can know the differences.

Vegetarianism can be a very healthy lifestyle and dietary choice but remember to still eat healthy…just because you aren’t eating meat anymore does not mean that Doritos become a food group or that you should focus on a high-carb/high-starch diet instead. I sometimes struggle to keep my protein sources up and it is especially important when raising veggie kids to make sure they get enough protein and vitamins and all that good stuff.

Let us dive right into it! So you want to be a vegetarian? OK. What kind of vegetarian do you want to be? (this handy list is from about.com guides, I left the links intact if you want to read more!)

1. Pescatarian (also spelled pescetarian)

The word “pescatarian” is occasionally used to describe those who abstain from eating all meat and animal flesh with the exception of fish. Although the word is not commonly used, more and more people are adopting this kind of diet, usually for health reasons or as a stepping stone to a fully vegetarian diet.

2. Flexitarian/Semi-vegetarian

You don’t have to be vegetarian to love vegetarian food! “Flexitarian” is a term recently coined to describe those who eat a mostly vegetarian diet, but occasionally eat meat.

3. Vegetarian (Lacto-ovo- vegetarian)

When most people think of vegetarians, they think of lacto-ovo-vegetarians. People who do not eat beef, pork, poultry, fish, shellfish or animal flesh of any kind, but do eat eggs and dairy products are lacto-ovo vegetarians (“lacto” comes from the Latin for milk, and “ovo” for egg).

Lacto-vegetarian is used to describe a vegetarian who does not eat eggs, but does eat dairy products. **I am a Lacto-Vegetarian because I eat cheese and some dairy products but I do not drink milk.**

Ovo-vegetarian refers to people who do not eat meat or dairy products but do eat eggs.

4. Vegan

Vegans do not eat meat of any kind and also do not eat eggs, dairy products, or processed foods containing these or other animal-derived ingredients such as gelatin. Many vegans also refrain from eating foods that are made using animal products that may not contain animal products in the finished process, such as sugar and some wines. There is some debate as to whether certain foods, such as honey, fit into a vegan diet.

5. Raw vegan/Raw food diet

A raw vegan diet consists of unprocessed vegan foods that have not been heated above 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 degrees Celsius). “Raw foodists” believe that foods cooked above this temperature have lost a significant amount of their nutritional value and are harmful to the body.

6. Macrobiotic

The macrobiotic diet, revered by some for its healthy and healing qualities, includes unprocessed vegan foods, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and allows the occasional consumption of fish. Sugar and refined oils are avoided. Perhaps the most unique qualifier of the macrobiotic diet is its emphasis on the consumption of Asian vegetables, such as daikon, and sea vegetables, such as seaweed.

Now that you have figured out what kind of vegetarian you want to be, let’s take a step back and decide why you want to go veggie. It may not seem that big of a deal, but if you are making a total lifestyle change it helps to have some sort of motivation that drives you so you stick to it and give it a chance!

Many people go vegetarian for health reasons, for animal rights, for a whim, trends, religious reasons, ethical reasons or just plain personal preferences. It is good for you to sort out why you want to make the change and also so you can explain it to others. For example, I am vegetarian because I was raised vegetarian and generally speaking I enjoy it. I am raising my child vegetarian because that’s what I like. I haven’t tried meat simply because the desire to do so isn’t there. If my daughter wants a beef burger instead of a veggie burger someday, fine by me!

If you want to know more about reasons to go vegetarian, PETA has an interesting starter kit available for aspiring vegetarians/vegans. I haven’t personally received it but if you are interested in the animal rights aspect of vegetarian culture, do check it out! (http://features.peta.org/VegetarianStarterKit/)

Okey dokey. So. Top 5 Questions I get about being an herbivore:

  1. What do you eat? I can’t survive on lettuce and tofu!!
    1. I eat a wide variety of things. I try to eat a somewhat balanced diet but I can be a bit persnickety about food. I eat a lot of grains, beans, rice, quinoa, veggies, fruits, junk food etc.. I do love cheese and some dairy products but I don’t eat eggs because I don’t like them. I can go into almost any restaurant, including a steak house, and find something to eat other than salad. Which, incidentally, I hate. I am not a fan of lettuce AT ALL. Yes, I am a vegetarian that does not eat lettuce. I cook a lot of ethnic dishes at home too. Indian food is absolutely amazing and really vegetarian friendly. Stir-fry and curry and other dishes are mainstays at my table as well. I would recommend everyone give tofu a chance because frankly, braised tofu teriyaki is freaking delicious but to each their own. I do supplement my diet with soy and “fake meat” (it’s tasty!) but I recognize that not everyone likes the taste. Try it though, it’s pretty good and tofu is easy to fix.
  2. What about nutrients? Sure, you eat plants but don’t you miss out on all kinds of healthy vitamin crap you are supposed to be eating?!
    1. Ha. Yes. If you go vegetarian, it is important to keep on top of your supplements and make sure you are getting enough of what I call “The Top 5.” Everyone, regardless of diet should be taking a multivitamin too. I used to not take one, but now that I do, I do feel better. Plus, they have gummy vitamins for adults. WHOA!
      1. B12:: I take a supplement for this but if you are ovo-lacto, you can get your daily B12 from 2 servings of eggs/dairy a day.
      2. IRON: I cannot stress this enough. I am generally borderline anemic all the time and frankly, taking iron pills sucks. So. Eat iron-rich foods!! A lovely list of iron-rich food that fit into a vegetarian diet: tofu, black strap molasses, amaranth, lentils, swiss chard, dulse, lima beans, potato, wheat germ, pinto beans, kidney beans, dandelion greens, kale, pumpkin seeds, black beans, spinach, broccoli, almonds, pumpkin, beet greens, brewers yeast, quinoa, teff, figs, raisins, prunes, green beans, millet, whole wheat, parsley, kelp, oats, corn, peanuts, cashew butter, almond butter, blueberries, bananas and raspberries.
        (See, told you tofu is good for you!!)
      3. Zinc:: I eat a lot of lentils and get my zinc that way but zinc is really, really good for your immune system and general overall healthfulness. Make sure you are getting your daily recommended amount. (Leeks, baked potatos, swiss chard, oats etc.. they all have lots of zinc!)
      4. Omega 3’s! If you eat fish, that should take care of this, otherwise you are probably deficient. I take Omega 3 supplements at the moment but you can also do your research and see if flax seed vs. fish oil vs. other options is the best one for you!
      5. Calcium: You can get it from your standard green leafie vegetables. If you go vegan, you better be eating a lot of these. If, like me, you really don’t like many of the green leafies, buy calcium enriched products (like soy milk) and take a calcium supplement daily. Your bones will thank you.
  3. Isn’t it more expensive to be a vegetarian? All that health food…and organic stuff…
    1. It is actually quite cost effective to be vegetarian. I don’t know how much your budget is for meat-eating but for a family of one adult and one child, entirely vegetarian and probably going out to eat twice a month…I spend around $125, and that includes random things like dog food for our pup. I think that’s pretty good. I coupon and cook, though. If you want pre-made food and easy-dinner like easy-Mac, you end up paying for it. I also rarely buy organic unless it’s on sale. I do make sure we get hormone free dairy products, however, that stuff is scary!
  4. I don’t want to be a bother to other people! How do I be vegetarian without asking for special treatment from friends and family and restaurants?
    1. OK. Well, here’s the deal on that. I do ask for things at restaurants, like the chicken to be left out of the pesto-alfredo dish etc… and my whole family knows I am vegetarian so that hurdle is over. At a friend’s house, I always ask if I can bring something to the meal due to my being vegetarian. There are many ways to do this and eventually you get into a good rhythm. I have had times when there has been literally bread and butter for dinner that wasn’t covered in meat…it happens and it can be a difficult social situation but with tact and grace you can get through it quite easily. J (Sorry that isn’t more helpful! I have traveled the world and never been in a situation where the ONLY option was to eat meat or not eat at all. I imagine if I were in that situation, I would bite the bullet as it were!) Good luck!
  5. I like meat. Why on earth would I ever become a vegetarian?

I get this a lot. Um, it’s a personal choice! Here is Dr. Sears 2 cents, I like the way he puts it: (source: http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/family-nutrition/vegetarian-diets/12-frequently-asked-questions-about-vegetarian-diet) Here are six reasons:

  1. Vegetarian cuisine is naturally low in saturated fats, and foods of plant origin contain little or no cholesterol.
  2. Plant foods are also much higher in fiber than animal foods.
  3. Many plant foods contain significant amounts of vital B-vitamins, and folic acid: and fruits and vegetables are powerful sources of phytochemicals – nutrients that help every organ of the body work better.
  4. Vegetarians tend to eat fewer calories, since grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables, volume-for-volume, tend to be lower in calories than meat and poultry. Studies have shown that as long as their diet is balanced and nutritious, the people who consume fewer total daily calories live longer and healthier lives.
  5. Veggie lovers believe that foods from plant sources, which are lower on the food chain, are safer than animal foods, since pollutants tend to concentrate in fatty tissues. While raw fruits and vegetables can carry harmful bacteria and pesticide residues just like meat, you can remove many of these pollutants by washing the plant foods. Trimming the fat from meat or chicken is less effective. Meat, poultry, and seafood are also more frequent carriers of foodborne illnesses than plant sources.
  6. Environmental conservationists believe that having more plant-based diets is healthier for the planet. It takes less energy and less farmland to feed a vegetarian than it does to feed livestock.

So, that is part 1. Part 2 will include my favorite recipes and how to make vegetarian holiday food that will make the meat-eaters at your table absolutely crave it! 😀

Peace, Love and Gardenburgers,

Bekah

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Comments
One Response to “Becoming a Herbivore: A Beginners Guide to Vegetarianism Part 1”
  1. maritza b says:

    This is very informative!! Thanks!!

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