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Veggie Tales: Vegetarianism 101

EmilyNI sometimes forget that I eat differently and my friends do, too. Whether it’s because people don’t notice me eat or because I eat the same things they do, I don’t know, but I would bet my life on the latter. When I get invited to a restaurant, the first question someone will ask me is: “What can you even eat?” Subsequently, they’re baffled that I can eat at the same places they do.

According to the Vegetarian Times, a 2008 study revealed that 3.2 percent of American adults are vegetarians, 0.5 percent are vegan, 10 percent eat a diet inclined towards vegetarianism, and 5.2 percent are interested in this lifestyle. This suggests to me that many people are on edge about vegetarianism. So what’s the deal? Maybe it seems like a weird restrictive weight loss program that people are clasping onto because of a social media craze. However, there are several misconceptions about what a lifestyle and diet look like for a vegetarian.

Anything different has a tendency to make people feel uncomfortable, but while people complain that they could never go without their “steak,” the switch for me was seamless. So why?

I didn’t have to think twice about eliminating meat from my diet. If you eat healthy, then protein should only be a small portion of your meals — the most significant serving size being in the morning. Protein is easily substituted by a combination of products including nuts, grains and vegetables.

Several friends of mine have attempted this lifestyle — but quickly reverted back to their old diets. The problem was that they also tried to cut everything else out all at once — attempting to accomplish a quasi-vegan, gluten-free, vegetarian diet.

First of all, these lifestyles aren’t cheap. If you like to cook, you have to be able to plan your budget carefully. It takes a real toll on your wallet if you choose to eliminate “unhealthy” foods simultaneously. If you want to commit to a new diet, for personal convictions or dietary needs, make sure it’s the right one for you.

If you’re cutting out gluten “just because,” think twice. Sometimes taking away something can cause unanticipated damage. Always consult a doctor. At your next yearly visit or check-up casually ask what your physician thinks about you taking this step and figure out what they recommend you do to stay healthy.

Being a vegetarian or vegan will not help you lose weight. It may chip off some of the fatty acids you consume on a daily basis, but the fat from protein won’t do nearly as much damage as that from sugars. If you only eat bread as a vegetarian, you’re no better off than when you started. When I first became a vegetarian, I fell into this trap. I always craved sweet things and so I always ate sweet things. I quickly learned how lethargic and uncomfortable that could make me feel.

I can’t tell you what the best way to approach vegetarianism is. I’ll be the mom in the relationship here and tell you to 1. Do your research. 2. Ask a professional. 3. Use common sense.

In future installations of this column, look for cheap vegan and vegetarian-friendly recipes for the upcoming holidays, buying groceries on a college budget, and how to get the ever elusive iron and protein from sources other than meat.

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