I have another confession. I occasionally write about bacon and meat, however, I don’t actually eat them...that’s right, I am a vegetarian. GASP! Now before you write me off as a crazy hippy, hear me out. Now, I am not the type of person that is going to shove it down your throat and condemn you for eating meat ( I will however shove it down your throat that you should eat your fruits and vegetables); being a vegetarian is a personal decision. I just want to take this opportunity to educate you all on the matter because pretty much anytime I disclose that I am a vegetarian, it’s like playing 20 questions. Now, I don’t mind fielding these questions unless I get questions like this…
Anyways, I thought I would take the opportunity to field some of these questions for you.
Note: For the purposes of this blog and life the term meat includes the following: beef, pork, chicken, turkey, fish, shellfish, any flesh of an animal.
What is a vegetarian/vegan/pescatarian/lacto-ovo-vegetarian?
Let’s first start with defining all of these for you, so that you can vaguely know what you are talking about the next time you encounter one of these...
- Pescatarian: The only meat they eat is fish. They may or may not eat milk, cheese, eggs, and other dairy.
- Ovo-vegetarian: Does not eat meat but does consume eggs.
- Lacto-vegetarian: Does not eat meat but does consume milk, cheese, and other dairy products.
- Lacto-ovo-vegetarian: Does not eat meat but does consume milk, cheese, eggs, and other dairy products. Technically this is what I am and I would venture to say this is what people mean when they say they are vegetarian.
- Vegan: Does not consume any animal derived product. This include honey, dairy, eggs, etc. Sometimes vegans will also not wear leather, wool, silk, etc. since it is derived from animals. Additional foods that often contain animal products include marshmallows, jello, gelatin, etc.
Now this is where it gets interesting. To start with, not all vegetarians are vegetarians because we think that animals are our friends…
Other reasons for going vegetarian include:
- Religious: Some religions not only encourage vegetarianism, but require it, such as Jainism. Religions that encourage it include Hinduism, and Buddhism, and Seventh Day Adventist.
- Environmental: Raising animals for food requires a lot of land, food, energy, and water in addition to the pollutant byproducts that are produced by animal agriculture. According to the Water Education Foundation, it takes 2,464 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef, compared to 25 gallons for a pound of wheat. Also of note, is that the meat industry contributes to global warming by being the number one producer of methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases. Cows are the biggest contributor to this and yes, methane is released when cows burp and fart…
Some organizations dispute this and claim that vegetarianism is actually worse for the environment. I am by no means an environmental scientist and this is the most unbiased article I could find on the topic.
- Health: Vegetarian diets are typically lower in saturated fats (the “bad” fat) and higher in fiber. This equates to a lower risk for developing heart disease, certain types of cancer, diabetes, obesity, and hypertension. Some studies have also found that vegetarians live longer.
- Animal Cruelty: Don’t worry, I am not going to go all PETA on you and post gross pictures of suffering cows. I will however just post this…
Personally, I grew up on a farm and have participated in the butchering of chickens and witnessed my “pet” cow be butchered. His name was White Sox. My parents lied to me when I asked over a dinner of steaks shortly after his butchering if I was in fact eating White Sox. They assured me that they had in fact traded in White Sox’s meat for that of another cow’s. Did this scar me and cause me to become a vegetarian? Nope.
- Cheaper: This one is probably not a shocker; fruits, vegetables, eggs, legumes, etc are cheaper than meat. That is unless you buy everything organic but for more info on that check out my previous post.
- To annoy people: Just kidding at least this is probably not the case in most instances but I cannot speak for all vegetarians.
So….What do you eat?
Contrary to popular belief, I don’t just eat salads; I said I was a vegetarian, not a rabbit. I eat anything that doesn’t contain meat. Instead of focusing on what I can’t eat, let’s rephrase the question to what I can eat. Obviously this includes fruits and vegetables, but also eggs, cheese, legumes (beans), nuts, seeds, grains, tofu (no vegetarians do not eat this as much as people tend to think that they do), and so on and so forth. I think why people can’t seem to get past the “what do you eat” question is because Americans place so much focus on meat being the golden child of every meal. With that being said, I would like to share you with a video that I found highly entertaining about If Vegans Said Stuff Meat Eaters Said...
Vegetarianism…the wrong way
Now, some foods are naturally vegetarian like chips, cookies, cake, French fries, etc. I mean Cookie Monster is technically a vegetarian...
That’s not quite the way one should do vegetarianism. Since vegetarians eliminate meat and other animal products there are some minor nutritional concerns. One of the most prevalent questions that I get is where I get my protein from. Getting enough protein is the least of my worries. There are eggs, soy, dairy, nuts, legumes, seeds, and yes even fruits and vegetables contain some protein as well.
Things to be more mindful of include: iron, vitamin D, vitamin B12 (especially if you are vegan), and calcium (again especially if you are vegan). However, vitamin D you can get from the sun and it is fortified in other foods and iron is found in plenty of non-animal sources such as spinach and raisins.
Breaking it down
I am not going to preach that everybody should be a vegetarian. I only ask that you be more cognizant of what you are eating and of course for you all to eat more fruits and vegetables. Now, I may be weird, but it is not because I am a vegetarian. Maybe it’s from the emotional scarring of eating my pet cow; I don't know but I am working with my therapist on that one :) For more information on vegetarianism that isn’t too off the wall or biased, check out The Vegetarian Resource Group. Now if you will excuse me, I need to go do my part to prevent watermelons and other fruits and vegetables from taking over the world. Until next time!
Keep it Fresh,
Keep it Green,