The truth about vegetarians: It’s not just about the animals anymore

Lindsay Lillig

Vegetarian diets benefit more than just the lives of animals. Many people have converted to vegetarianism based simply on a desire to improve their own personal health. The idea of a diet that omits meat leaves most people flummoxed. “But if you don’t eat meat, then what do you eat?” vegetarians are often asked. Switching to vegetarianism is not as complicated as it may seem, nor is a vegetarian diet difficult to maintain.
There are three main classes of vegetarians. The most commonly recognized is “lacto-ovo-vegetarianism,” which is a diet that includes all dairy products (milk, cheese, eggs, yogurt and so on). The second is “lacto-vegetarianism,” which is a diet that includes milk products but not eggs. The strictest vegetarian diet is referred to as “vegan.” Vegans eat strictly plant-based foods—this excludes products that come from an animal in any way, including milk products, eggs, honey and gelatin.
The Healthwise Staff of Everyday Health magazine provides multiple reasons about why vegetarianism is a healthy, nutritional choice. In general, vegetarians tend to weigh less than people who eat meat. They are also less likely to develop heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Consistently good health in vegetarians is attributed most highly to a diet of fruits, vegetables and whole grains—the essentials for a well-balanced vegetarian diet.
The staples of a vegetarian diet are easy to substitute in place of the old staples of a meaty diet.
1. Fruits. Berries, bananas, oranges, grapes, apples, peaches, plums, pears, apricots and avocados. Instead of bacon or sausage with breakfast, eat a bowl of fruit. Fruit adds flavor and fiber without extra grease.
2. Veggies. Beans, peas, corn, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, peppers, squash, egg plant, asparagus, broccoli, spinach, lettuce and cucumbers. Whether it is pizza, burgers, sandwiches or meatloaf, vegetables can stand in for any meat-based entrée. Black bean patties and eggplant parmesan are delicious and easy dinners to make.
3. Dairy. Milk, eggs, cheese and yogurt. Dairy is a vegetarian’s main source of fats and calcium. Egg and grilled cheese sandwiches are hard to beat. (This does not apply to vegans—soy takes the place of dairy.)
4. Whole grains. Whole wheat breads and pastas, oats, granola, brown rice and popcorn. Instead of white bread, buy wheat or multigrain. Order brown rice rather than white rice. Load up on the granola bars and indulge with popcorn.
5. Peanut butter. All tree nuts are huge sources of proteins. However, they tend to be the priciest vegetarian snacks. Therefore, peanut butter is a vegetarian’s best friend. A PB&J can easily contain 11 grams of protein and only 10 grams of fat.
A vegetarian diet is easy, thrifty and nutritious. It is only boring if a person chooses for it be. Take it from a fellow vegetarian. You will not miss meat as much as you may think.