By Julie Cameron
When I told my mother I was going to be a vegetarian she didn’t try to discourage me, she simply said, “fine, but I’m not making two dinners.” She thought it was a phase, something that I would grow out of. After all, who can live their entire life without eating a hamburger, a hot dog, or the traditional turkey at Thanksgiving? Turns out, lots of people can.
You have to realize, two of my uncles are butchers and they keep much of my family awash in discount meat. For me to waltz into my parents’ kitchen and inform my mother that I would no longer be participating in family steak night was, well, unexpected to say the least.
Much to my mother’s dismay, I turned out to be one of thousands of vegetarians in Canada who was under voting age. Some people thought I did it to be cool, some people (like my mother) thought I did it for shock value. But I was always asked the one-word question, so many times I should hand out flyers explaining it: WHY?
Why? Lots of reasons, I was never a big steak fan, loved animals, and when I was little I had a friend who lived on a dairy farm. If you have ever named a cow, you will understand how difficult it is to sit down to a hamburger. But there was, of course, one fateful encounter that pushed me to my dinner of destiny.
My mother had a friend named Jen. Jen had long brown hair down to her calves. I’m not exaggerating, it was down to her calves. She insisted we go to the Natural Foods store in our town so she could get organic vegetables and soymilk. I had never even known what soy was, or that there was a difference between vegetables from the grocery store and vegetables from a natural foods store. And I was amazed. Not only did she have hair down to her calves, but she also knew about foods I had never even heard of. My decision was made.
I feel very fortunate to be a vegetarian in an age where there are so many meat alternatives. My friends and family appreciate that I don’t try to force my food choices on them – there is nothing worse than a holier-than-thou vegetarian.
If you are thinking about becoming a vegetarian, it’s important to do a little research first and make sure you maintain a healthy diet. I have met so many junk-food vegetarians (a self-proclaimed vegetarian who doesn’t eat meat, but doesn’t eat anything healthy or remotely close to a vegetable, unless potato chips and French fries count), that I’m not surprised most people think eating vegetarian isn’t healthy. It is extremely important to make sure that your nutrition is balanced, especially since you have to find alternatives to getting your protein, iron and zinc from something other than meat.
Be sure to take in healthy doses of beans/pulses and rice (or grains) together to get the full complement of essential amino acids. Without the beans, some essential protein building blocks are missing and the body will not be able to make proper muscle tissue, and other tissues in the body and you could lose muscle and gain fat. Soy protein is a good way to get the protein needed. Veggie soy dogs and soy burgers are often the easiest way with a busy schedule!
To meet these needs it is recommended that vegetarians:
- Eat at least 5 servings of a calcium rich food everyday
- Get at lest 20-30 minutes of direct sunlight 2-3 times each week for vitamin D
- Eat a food item that is fortified with vitamin B-12 and iron every day. This means that a vitamin or mineral has been added to a food item. A good source of this would be a fortified breakfast cereal.
- Eat a variety of whole-grain products everyday, this will boost the intake of zinc.
- Enjoy a vitamin C fruit or juice with meals to help body absorb iron
Types of vegetarians:
Excludes the consumption of all food of animal origin except human breast milk.
In general the diet excludes all red meat, milk, fats and oils of animal origin, but it may include fish depending on the nationality of the Rastafarian.
A diet that does not totally exclude but strictly limits foods of animal origin.
The diet is confined to foods such as fruit, nuts and certain vegetables, where harvesting allows the parent plant to flourish.
Form of vegetarianism that includes the consumption of chicken.
Form of vegetarianism that includes the consumption of milk.
Form of vegetarianism that excludes red meat, poultry and fish but includes the consumption of dairy products and eggs.
Form of vegetarianism that includes the consumption of milk and eggs, and, occasionally, fish.
Semivegetarian (demi-vegetarian; quasi-vegetarian)
A self-classification amongst people who claim to have eating habits which focus on vegetarian foods, but they eat some kind of meat on an occasional basis. Red meats are usually excluded.
People who classify themselves as reducing their overall meat consumption.
- Apu (vegan, on The Simpsons 🙂
- Alex Baldwin and Kim Basinger
- Drew Barrymore (vegan)
- David Duchovny
- Michael J. Fox
- Woody Harrelson
- Dustin Hoffman
- Jennie Garth
- Brad Pitt
- Brooke Shields
- Alicia Silverstone
- Jonathan Taylor Thomas
- Liv Tyler
- Fiona Apple
- Jeff Beck
- All of the members of Blur
- Bob Dylan
- All four of the Beatles
- Lenny Kravitz
- Sarah Maclachlan
- Moby (vegan)
- and for now…Beyoncé! (vegan)