By Katie Best
My little sister claims she is a “vegetarian.” In actuality, she eats like Buddy the Elf: Her primary food groups consist of carbs, sugar and more sugar. While she doesn’t eat any meat, she is really what I like to call a “pickatarian.”
When is comes to vegetarianism, what is actually classified as a “vegetarian” can sometimes be lost in translation.
I am a vegetarian, and while I have no problem with people who do eat meat, nothing grinds my gears more than people who believe stereotypical “vegetarian” myths — such as vegetarians are all hippies or health nuts or that just eliminating meat out of someone’s diet can make them instantly drop 10 pounds. Eating meat is not the only way to maintain a healthy, happy lifestyle.
According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, a vegetarian is someone who has a diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, nuts, eggs and dairy products. And according to the Daily Herald, vegetarianism in children in on the rise: three percent of kids from eight to 18 are vegetarians, which is about 1.4 million kids world wide. Time Magazine conducted similar research which concluded there were nearly 10 million adults who are vegetarians. With all the new-found veggie-lovers, I feel the need to put the truth about going “veg” on the table.
Of those 10 million practicing adults is English teacher Allyson Kreutzer. Kreutzer has been a vegetarian for about 15 years. Everyone her immediate family practices vegetarianism, except for her 7 year-old son who “is the pickiest eater on the face of the earth,” and is allowed to eat chicken.
“Sometimes, when people hear you are a vegetarian they think you are some type of health-nut,” Kruetzer said. “But that is not the case with me. I love desserts, we eat a lot of desserts in my family.”
Health-nuts tend to eat all organic and low fat products and exercise often, continually sticking to a health oriented routine. But not all vegetarians do this. While I try to eat organic products, I do this because organic products have less pesticides, not because I am a vegetarian. Being a vegetarian just makes me feel stronger mentally and physically by keeping me awake and focused.
According to the Daily Herald, research on vegetarians “suggests that a plant-based diet provides many ongoing health benefits, including a lower incidence of obesity, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and possibly certain types of cancer. One of the latest studies on the topic, a small sampling published this summer in the peer-reviewed Nutrition Journal, suggests that vegetarians may be less depressed and have better mood profiles than meat-eaters.” This is especially true when I don’t have to worry about baby chickens being cut to pieces and tortured, just so I can eat them.
But being a vegetarian does not mean someone is automatically going to drop 30 pounds and grow muscles bigger than Superman’s (or Wonder Woman’s, for all the feminists out there). Being a vegetarian does not mean replacing steak with junk food and chicken with candy. A person who changes from an omnivore diet to a omnivore diet has to take the right precautions in order to get enough protein and iron usually found in meat. Being a vegetarian can take a toll on a person’s health if they do not follow the right precautions.
“Like we talked about in health, a lot of plants have the nutrients needed,” Health teacher Cristen Sprenger said. “It really just depends where you can get different nutrients from—like iron— from things besides meat.”
“I eat lots of legumes and lentils,” Kruetzer said. “I work hard to make sure everybody in my family is getting enough protein. I feel like [my family and I] eat a pretty healthy.”
Sophomore Ivy Fishman agrees with eating well in order to stay healthy.
“I’m not much of an exerciser, so I just watch what I put into my body,” Fishman said. “Not in a crazy way, just no Cheetos everday. That kind of thing.”
Fishman has been a vegetarian for seven years, and was originally prompted by her father who dared her to be a vegetarian for a week or so.
“He didn’t think I could do it,” Fishman said. “So I proved him wrong.”
But what some omnivores do not understand is that being a vegetarian is not as hard as it seems. There are many substitutions for meat products, such as Morningstar Farms Meal Starters (a vegan-friendly company that supplies products such as vegan burgers, hot dogs, taco meat and chicken-free nuggets) and Nasoya. Kruetzer even cooks vegetarian-friendly recipes for her family (her favorite recipes are featured below). My personal favorite type of vegetarian-friendly meal is veggie-tacos, which are just like regular tacos except I use Morningstar Farms’ veggie ground beef instead of actual ground beef.
Just because people are vegetarians does not mean they are hippies. People have different reasons for becoming a vegetarian. Kruetzer became a vegetarian because she loved animals and found it was easier to cook meat-free food. Fishman was dared by her father but then continued to practice because it cured her stomach aches. I became a vegetarian after I was showed a video of a slaughterhouse where calves and baby chicks were being murdered and after I came to the realization that red meat grosses me out. Vegetarians shouldn’t have a stereotype, that would be like saying all blonde-haired, blue-eyed people are perfect.
Kermit the frog once said, “it’s not easy being green.” And although I haven’t been hopping from lilly pads and munching on flies, I can promise that eating green and meat-free is actually quite simple.