Watch Out, There Are Vegetarians Among Us !!!

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Vegetarians are weird: they don’t eat meat, they don’t eat this, they don’t eat that…. Some eat fish but not dairy products; others prefer everything RAW !!!

Vegetarians can be defensive when normal people (aka carnivores), poke fun at their dietary choices.

Being a vegetarian is not that simple, Bugs Bunny. It’s not all carrots and alfalfa and endless salads at Ruby Tuesday.

I’ll try to explain, but be warned: it’s kinda complicated…

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Imagine standing at the counter at Starbucks staring at the menu wide-eyed, like a deer caught in headlights. Ask for an espresso. The barrista calmly looks at you, then looks up at the menu board.

There’s a line of impatient customers behind you, and you suddenly realize that Starbucks serves twelve different styles of espresso and they all have fancy names like Caramel Macchiato, Mocha Valencia, Espresso Con Panna, and Latte Espresso.

Defining the vegetarian lifestyle is like ordering an espresso at Starbucks:

  • There are ovo-vegetarians (eat eggs, but not dairy products)
  • Lacto-vegetarians (eat dairy products, but not eggs)
  • Lacto-ovo vegetarians (eat both eggs and dairy products) –  also my personal favorite Scrabble word.

Near the end of the healthy eater lexicon are vegans: the standard bearers, source of inspiration, purists with a cause. Vegans consume no meat, fish, eggs or dairy products, and will not use or consume any animal by-products.

I’m in awe; there’s no way I would last more than eight seconds as a vegan. Think about all the delicious food I would have to give up. Darn, there goes my favorite chocolate pudding – has cream and eggs – big no, no no; there goes juicy hamburgers – ground beef – ughhh ! And “86” delicious salty butter for popcorn.

Despite my dim view on the subject, more people are opting to eat healthy, adopting the vegetarian lifestyle as a counter-culture to hamburgers and french-fries.

Films such as “Fast Food Nation”   and the Morgan Spurlock documentary “Super Size Me,” have captured the collective imagination. The nation has been battling the influx of “junk food” found in school cafeterias and fast-food outlets. America is responding: the city of New York has banned the use of artery-clogging trans fat in restaurants, with cities such as Los Angeles planning to follow. Emphasis on nutritional content, plus access to healthy food choices and brands,  have made it easier for us to be proactive in our food choices.

Changing eating habits to a vegetarian lifestyle is not as difficult as people think. It’s ok to make the change with little baby steps. Gradually add more vegetables and fruit to your diet, while reducing your intake of red meats such as beef. Don’t lose heart if your resolve crumbles at the sight of a sizzling, juicy rib-eye steak; no one is perfect!

What truly matters is being aware of what you eat and making healthy lifestyle choices. Removing meat, our primary source of protein (vitamin B-12), is easy to replace by combining foods such as rice and beans or soybeans and wheat to make complete proteins. Minerals such as iron, calcium, and zinc, which support growth and strengthen bones, are found in green vegetables like spinach and broccoli. Essential fatty acids, important for brain and nerve development, are easily found in nuts, seeds, and fish oils. It also doesn’t hurt to take multivitamin supplements to compensate for any nutrient the body might be lacking.

Over time, as your body removes the toxins, preservatives, and other chemicals stored in the body from years of eating junk food, you will see and feel the benefits. People who follow a vegetarian lifestyle are less at risk for developing chronic illnesses such as heart disease, hypertension and diabetes. Add some exercise to your routine, and you’ll be good to go for at least another seventy years. If you really think about it, the cleaner the fuel in your car, the better it runs. Why not do the same for your body?

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