An Introduction to Vegetarianism
So, as you've probably gathered, I'm a vegetarian.
I haven't eaten meat since I was about 12. I stopped when my dad went for a job at an abattoir, and I overheard my parents talking about what the job entailed. He didn't end up taking it, so the vegetarian thing became sort of a personal challenge, and now I can't imagine eating meat again.
Don't get me wrong - I won't think any worse of you if you eat meat. In fact, one of the most annoying things about being vegetarian is that people get uncomfortable eating meat around you, or ordering it at a restaurant when you're there.
Avoiding the Odd bit of Social Awkwardness
Yep, the odd bit of social awkwardness definitely comes with the territory if you're vegetarian.
I remember listening to an episode of The Alan Davies Show, where he's been invited to someone's house for tea and everyone else eats meat. The host asks "So, do you like the cauliflower?" and Alan replies "Yes... I've never had a whole one before!"
If you're thinking about becoming vegetarian, I'd advise you to do the following to avoid such situations.
If you're going to a social gathering where someone else is cooking, or staying at a friend's house, make sure you let people know you're vegetarian.
It's also polite, and probably easier for everyone, if you bring your own meat substitute.
If after all this you still find yourself in a situation where you can't get your hands on anything meat-free to go with your sides, you can't go wrong with a plain old egg. That is, unless you're vegan.
Kinds of Vegetarianism
This brings me to the different types of us herbivores. A lot of people are unaware that there are actually different types of vegetarians with different diets and restrictions. The most common are:
- Pescetarians (Not pest-atarians, cheeky!) - If you decide to be one of these you will give up eating all meat except for fish. To be honest, if I was a fish and knew this, I'd be pretty offended.
- Lacto-ovo-vegetarians - This is what I am, and is probably the most common type of vegetarian. Basically, lacto-ovos refrain from eating all meat and seafood, but do eat eggs and dairy products such as milk and cheese.
- Vegans - Vegans don't eat any meat or seafood, and also don't eat eggs, dairy products, or anything that's derived from an animal.
Staying Healthy as a Vegetarian
If you're going to become a vegetarian, no matter what kind, you have to be extremely careful with making sure you get the right nutrition and vitamins. This is even more important if you're keen to be a vegan.
Stuff you'll have to make sure you're getting as a vegetarian includes:
- Vitamin B-12
All of these things are readily available in either meat, eggs or dairy products, but not so much in vegetables. With a quick google, however you can easily find out what vegetables contain these.
Here's a quick guide to what vegies are high in which nutrients:
- Peas, lentils, beans, nuts and seeds have your protein.
- You'll find iron in green vegies such as spinach, broccoli, and peas, in breakfast cereals, and even watermelon.
- You'll mostly find vitamin B-12 in eggs and dairy products, so if you want to be vegan maybe look into a supplement.
- Some sources of zinc include wholegrain foods, nuts, and tofu.
Also, if you decide to become vegan, you'll have to keep a close eye on your calcium intake. Dairy products have the most calcium, but you can get calcium from green vegetables like spinach or broccoli. You can also take supplements, or get things such as orange juice and soy milk that has added calcium.
Remember, these are only examples. With a little research you can discover a whole heap of other stuff that'll meet your vegetarian needs.
It's Not Hard to Go Vego
Whatever you do, don't be put off about all this talk of supplements, orange juice, and "eat your greens, young lady!" Being vegetarian has opened me up to some really yum and interesting stuff that I wouldn't have otherwise eaten.
It's easy to find a vegetarian recipe for pretty much anything you ate before, as long as you put the magic word "vegetarian" before it. There's vegetarian pasta, vegetarian sushi and even, wrongly enough, vegetarian meat!
Not to mention that most restaurants have delicious vegie options. And there's a whole section at the super market dedicated to yummy vegetarian meat substitutes!
The Benefits of Vegetarianism
There are also heaps of health benefits to not eating meat.
Vegetarians generally have lower cholesterol levels than meat-eaters, which means you're less likely to have heart problems. You can't beat that! (Because, you know, hearts beat? No? Never mind.)
Us vegie-heads also have lower blood pressure, we digest food easier (woot for that!) and vegetarianism can even help to prevent cancer!
The Disadvantages of Vegetarianism
Despite these health benefits, deciding to go cold turkey on eating meat is a big decision. You should be aware of the disadvantages as well as all the benefits I've mentioned.
When you're vegetarian, it is a bit more work deciding what to eat, as you have to make sure you're getting all the good stuff mentioned above. But really, I find that as long as I keep my diet pretty varied I don't have to think about it too much.
Also, as I mentioned above, you might get people who don't quite understand, or who become uncomfortable eating meat around you. If this is the case, just explain that you're fine that other people eat meat (as long as you are, of course). More often than not, the awkwardness disappears.
Really, these are the only annoying things I can think of about being vegetarian. If you're thinking about it, give it a go! If it ends up being not for you, who cares?
For more info about vegetarianism, check out these helpful sites:
- The Australian Vegetarian Society (new window) has a list of vegetarian restaurants, vego cooking classes, dieticians and even recipes for you to explore.
- Vegetarian Victoria (new window) has some great info on going vego, healthy vegetarian living, and also has a member discounts page for members of the society.
- Vegetarian Resource Group (new window) - This US-based group has a good Kids, Teens and Family page with nutrition info and recipes.
Articles Written by Meledy
Reviews written by Meledy
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