Monday, October 20, 2014

Vegetarian? Examine Your Reasons.

Before you consider a vegetarian diet, think about your reasons for doing so.  Don't get me wrong, while I am not a vegetarian myself, I am pro-vegetarian (when it's done healthfully), and I do love a lot of vegetarian foods myself. It can be a very healthy lifestyle...key word being "can."

A lot of people contemplate going vegetarian to lose weight.  I once encountered a woman who was very overweight and said she had been vegan for years.  When I asked her what she had been eating, the list included french fries, vegan cookies, sweets, snack foods and a lot of processed, packaged vegan foods.  This just goes to show that a vegetarian or vegan diet should not be regarded as healthy automatically and should not be used for the primary purpose of losing weight or "being healthy," unless you are choosing your vegetarian foods wisely.

With the growing number of concerns about the treatment of animals, it is no surprise that a growing number of people are going vegetarian for reasons such as this.  What's being fed to the animals we consume in terms of antibiotics and foods and how our meat is being processed are disconcerting topics to think about.  Unfortunately, people have to be almost just as picky in selecting vegetarian foods.  Guess what?  Soybean crops are sprayed with pesticides and most of the vegetarian foods (veggie-burgers, tofu and tempeh-based products) are soy-based.  Canned beans, another popular vegetarian food, are loaded with sodium. Preservatives and additives are added to a lot of packaged vegetarian foods.

So, if your purpose for going vegetarian is to reduce chemical intake and avoid putting unnatural substances into your body, you should choose your vegetarian foods with equal scrutiny.  Some solutions to this concern?  Local farm-raised meats, organic unprocessed vegetarian foods and whole foods in general.  True, these foods tend to be more expensive but there are ways to consume these things less expensively than at the grocery store.  A helpful resource for going vegetarian healthfully is The Vegetarian Resource Group.  They have a ton of information, recipes and tips.  If you're not hot on the idea of going totally vegetarian but enjoy vegetarian foods and are considering cutting back on animal products, there is always the "Flexitarian" lifestyle.  This is a diet consisting of mainly plant foods and occasional animal products.  In other words, it does not have to be an "all or nothing" approach. 

There are indeed a lot of unhealthy options out there for meat-eaters and vegetarians alike, but there are also a lot of healthy options and resources.  The key is research, prioritization and careful planning.