When you’re making your own meals at home, it’s easy to have complete control over every aspect of your eating. You stocked the pantry, you planned the menus, and you’re whipping up tasty meatless meatless entrees for you and your family. But unless you’re completely housebound, you have to go out in the world some time – and often, that requires eating in restaurants.
That doesn’t mean you have to toss out all your vegetarian principles. More and more, restaurants offer vegetarian options, and even fast food outlets have food you can eat. Depending on where you are, you can find something to eat. The reason restaurants have become more sensitive to the needs of vegetarians has nothing to do with social consciousness – it has to do with money. Vegetarians (and friends of vegetarians) have money to spend, too, and restaurants that don’t cater to meatless eaters lose business when those folks want to eat out.
Even if you end up in a restaurant that doesn’t have anything vegetarian on the menu, you can always request something special. Remember, restaurants want your money – and they get that money buy selling you food, and preparing it in a way you like! Salads can be made without the chicken or salmon that’s listed on the menu. You can even ask your server if the chef can prepare something vegetarian just for you. Chefs often get a little bored making the same things day in and day out, and yours may welcome the opportunity to whip up something new! Just be polite, ask nicely, and your request will be seen as perfectly reasonable.
If you live in a big city, you’ll probably be able to find vegetarian restaurants in your town. If you can’t find any on the Internet or in the phone book, look for a natural foods store in your town – the employees there will be able to point you toward restaurants that are vegetarian-friendly. If both of those searches come up short, think ethnic! Chinese restaurants are great for vegetarians, offering delicious vegetable entrees, rice and noodles. Just take a moment to quiz your server about how the dishes are prepared – some dishes that sound vegetarian on the menu may contain meat or eggs. Tell your waiter that you don’t eat meat, and they’ll make sure your meal comes the way you want it.
Indian restaurants are terrific for vegetarians, too, although not all cities have them. The Indian diet has a rich tradition of vegetarianism, and restaurants offer a selection of vegetable curries and dishes made with chickpeas, which are an excellent source of protein (and delicious). If you’re new to Indian cuisine, you have a delightful adventure ahead of you – try dal, a traditional, spicy lentil dish, and samosas, delightful little pastries stuffed with meat, vegetables and spices (just make sure you don’t order the ones with meat!) If you’re avoiding dairy, though, be aware that many Indian dishes are prepared using clarified butter, called ghee – just ask that your meal be prepared with vegetable oil instead.
If your co-workers or family announce a trip to the Olive Garden or another Italian restaurant, don’t fret – Itailian restaurants are another great option for vegetarians, especially the ovo lactos. Pasta with meatless marinara sauce is a staple menu item, as it pasta primavera, which is loaded with vegetables. Many Italian soups, such as pasta fagioli, gets their protein from rice and beans (just make sure that they use vegetable broth, and not beef or chicken). At the big chain restaurants like Olive Garden or the Spaghetti Factory, you’ll find salad bar/bread stick combination meals that are perfect for vegetarians and easy on the wallet. And if the gang heads out for pizza, ovo lactos have lots of options, too. Plain cheese pizza, or even a cheeseless pizza topped with vegetables, are just as tasty as the meat-loaded kind.
Other ethnic options are excellent choices for vegetarians, as well. Hit a Greek restaurant and load up on hummus, dolma (stuffed grape leaves), baba ganoujh (a delicious eggplant spread), spanikopita (spinach pie) and salad made with a grain called tabouli. If you like Mexican fare, you can have gazpacho (a cold vegetable soup), chiles rellenos (green peppers stuffed with cheese, the breaded and fried) and bean-and-cheese versions of all the usual favorites – burritos, enchiladas, tostadas and tacos.
Eating with the common folk
If you’re an ovo lacto vegetarian, you’ll be able to find lots of things to eat at family-style restaurants, no matter what time of the day you visit them. At breakfast, you can enjoy waffles or pancakes, omelettes and egg “scrambles.” Other times of the day or night, there’s grilled cheese sandwiches, salads, french fries, egg salad and other items. It gets harder, however, if you’re vegan. In fact, despite the size of the menus in these restaurants, vegans will find little that they can eat. This is where it pays to be creative and flexible. Ask your waitress if the kitchen will top a baked potato with steamed vegetables, or ask if you can just side dishes and have a small salad, some veggies and rice. It may not be the most delicious meal you’ve ever had, but it’s an adequate meal until you can get something tastier.
As mentioned earlier in the chapter, your better restaurants will have menu items designed with vegetarians in mind – and even if there’s nothing that’s just what you want, the chef will probably be amenable to customizing a dish to your liking. Most of the time, though, you’ll find delicious vegetarian appetizers – you can even make a meal out of two or three of those if there’s no entrée that appeals to you. But you’d be surprised how creative a chef can be when asked to come up with something new on the spur of the moment, and your meat-eating friends will be jealous of the special attention you receive!
The diet industry rakes in the enormous profits that it does for one simple, yet ingenious, reason – the diets they promote don’t work. Whether it’s meal replacement shakes, prepackaged microwave meals, appetite suppressing pills or the elimination of one major nutrient category (usually fat or carbohydrates), they all have one thing in common. That is, that while they’re designed to take off weight in the short term, they aren’t a lifestyle that you can adapt for the rest of your life. Sooner or later (usually as soon as about half the weight you wanted to lose has melted away) you go back to eating real food instead of shakes, pills, bars or boxed dinners, and the weight all comes back. Then you pronounce that diet a failure and jump on a different one!
This merry-go-round makes the diet industry very happy, and they’re thrilled when a new fad comes along that they can exploit. When it was diet shakes, a hundred companies made diet shakes. When the boxed-meal diets became popular, five more “programs” opened franchises. The same company that was making low-fat meal replacement bars five years ago also turned out low-carb bars when the Atkins diet was all the rage – and switched back to making low-fat bars as soon as the fad started to fade. If the next big fad turns out to be an all-fish diet, you can bet those same companies will be manufacturing Cod Munchies and Halibut Delight Cookies.
The secret to successful weight control – the secret that the diet industry doesn’t want you to figure out – is eating a moderate amount of a variety of nutrient-rich foods. Because if you’re eating whole foods, there’s nothing for them to sell you! And the ideal weight control diet is a vegetarian diet. Vegetarians are, overall, thinner than meat-eaters, despite eating everything that the diet programs forbid.
Rethinking the concept of dieting
Going by conventional wisdom, it doesn’t make sense that vegetarians can be slender when they eat potatoes, pasta, bread, beans and rice. Which is the first clue that the conventional wisdom is wrong. Popular fad diets insist that starchy foods will pack on the pounds, and insist that you limit carbohydrates to a small green salad and maybe one piece of fruit each day. But vegetarianism is a naturally slenderizing diet, and one that makes sense when you understand just how it fuels the body.
If you want to lose weight permanently and stay off fad diets forever, the first step is to jettison everything that the diet gurus have told you. Starvation diets – and really, that what all fad diets are – don’t keep weight off in the long term.
A realistic diet is one that contains whole, healthful foods and doesn’t involve buying special products and supplements. You don’t need to count calories or “points” or talk to a diet counselor every week. You just need to change the way you eat, replacing bad old habits with good new ones.
Face it – if you’re fat, it’s because of the way you eat. And the only way to change that is to revamp your diet and have some patience. It took a long time to gain all that weight, and it’s going to take a long time to get it off. If you want to lose weight and keep it off for the rest of your life, you have to find a way of eating that you can live with even after you’re at your ideal weight. There are no quick fixes – not if you want permanent results.
Ever visit the kitchen of an avid cook? It’s organized, clean, well-stocked and ready for whatever creative menus strike their fancy. Eating well isn’t just about the food you eat – it’s also about having the tools you need to make great meals. Organization, planning and cleanliness will make cooking in your kitchen a pleasure rather than a chore.
Managing your workspace
Whether you enjoy spending hours in the kitchen chopping, stirring and mixing or just want to get in, get out quickly, it pays to make your kitchen somewhere that you enjoy spending time. That means that it’s clean, organized and has the equipment you need to do the job.
Step one to organizing your kitchen is to go through your cupboards and get rid of all the accumulated stuff that you don’t have any use for. That means broken appliances (and the ones you got as Christmas gifts that you’ve never used), old paper plates from kids’ birthday parties, half-full bottles of hot sauce that you’ve had for six years and those empty jars that are gathering dust on the top shelf. If you’re not going to use it, toss it out, give it away or sell it online – just get it out of your workspace.
Take your kitchen, one section at a time, and clean off the shelves. Wipe them down with cleanser, maybe lay down some fresh shelf paper. Do the same with your drawers. You don’t have to do it all in one night – take it a little at a time with the goal of getting all your shelves and drawers sparkling clean. Scrub down the stove and clean your refrigerator – inside and outside. Throw away food that’s gone bad or have just been sitting there for ages because you’ll never eat it. Toss out the foods in your cupboards that are going to waste, too.
Right now, there’s probably a haphazard plan, at best, to the way your kitchen is organized. Your pots and pans are a jumble in one cupboard, your wooden spoons, spatulas and knives all tossed in the same drawer, and your cookie sheets are leaning against the wall. The dry goods on your shelves – cereal, pasta, and the like – are probably stuck on the shelves with no regard for organization. It takes time to find things when you want to use them, and there’s an attitude of disrespect when you treat your food and your tools this way – your new lifestyle is about healthy habits, right? So develop good organizational habits, too!
Start by organizing things by type. Put all of your fats, oils, salad dressings and condiments together. Pasta, rice and other uncooked grains should be together, too. Think of how they’re stocked when you go to the grocery store – there’s an intuitive design behind the methods that grocers stock their goods. The same rules make sense in your kitchen, too. Organize your spices, as well. You don’t have to be quite so anal retentive as alphabetize them, but you can find an organizational system that works for you, like putting the things you use the most in the front, or separating the herbs and the spices.
Handling the hardware
There are tools that you’ll need to cook with, but not as many you might think – and possibly not even as many as you already own. If your countertop is cluttered with a coffeemaker, a mixer, a blender, a toaster oven and microwave, be honest about how often you use these items. Do they need to be there all the time? If you rarely bake, store the mixer under a counter until you need it. Ditto the blender. If you only make a pot of coffee on the weekend, think about store it out of sight during the week. This will give you more space to work and make your kitchen look less cluttered.
If you don’t cook much, you may find yourself lacking some basic kitchen essentials. Most can be purchased inexpensively at stores like Target or Wal-Mart, but you can find a lot of them for almost nothing at thrift stores. The basics for any home kitchen include:
Measuring cups and spoons
Bowls in various sizes for mixing and serving
Baking pans and cookie sheets
Pots and pans in assorted sizes
Good, sharp knives – a paring knife, a chef’s knife and a serrated bread knife
Bigger items that you’ll probably want:
A mixer, either countertop style or handheld
Heavy duty blender
Slow cooker (usually called a crock pot)
There are tons of great recipe books for vegetarians – among the most popular are The Moosewood Cookbook and its sequels, and the classic The Vegetarian Epicure. It’s not difficult to find recipes, and you can always adapt your favorites to your new lifestyle.
Here’s some recipes to get you started. All of them are good for ovo lacto vegetarians – the vegan recipes are noted as such, and ovo lactos can enjoy them, too!
Old-Style Potato Pancakes
4 medium baking potatoes, peeled and coarsely shredded
1 medium onion, coarsely shredded
4 green onions, chopped
1 egg beaten (Although Rudy mentions eggs, vegans like me should use egg replacer or smashed tofu - Anouk)
salt and pepper to taste
vegetable oil for frying
In a large bowl, mix the potatoes and onions. Wrap the mixture in cheese cloth or paper towels, and squeeze out the excess liquid into another bowl. The starch from the potatoes will settle into the bottom of the bowl – pour off the water and save the remaining potato starch.
In a large bowl, combine the potato mixture, green onions, egg, salt and pepper, and reserved potato starch. Coat a nonstick 12-inch skillet or griddle with a thin layer of oil, heat skillet over medium-high heat. For each pancake, press together about 2 tablespoons of the potato mixture with your hands, place on skillet and flatten with a heat-proof spatula. Cook for about 8 minutes, turning once, until brown on both sides. Serve hot.
Savory Breakfast Flan
6 oz. grated cheddar cheese, plus two tablespoons
8 oz. frozen corn
10 eggs (Although Rudy mentions eggs, vegans like me should use egg replacer or smashed tofu - Anouk)
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1-1/4 cup skim milk (vegan milk)
3/4 cup half-and-half
Spray a 9"x13" baking pan with cooking spray. Spread half of the cheese in the bottom of the pan. Layer half of the corn on top of the cheese layer. Repeat with layers of cheese and corn. Combine all remaining ingredients except the 2 tablespoons cheddar, and pour over corn and cheese. Bake at 325°F for 1 hour, or until puffy and lightly browned. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons shredded cheddar and return to oven for 1 minute. Run a sharp knives around edges to loosen, cut into rectangles and serve.
Mediterranean Tofu Scramble (vegan)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 package (14 oz.) firm tofu
4 oz. sliced mushrooms (I use half of a pre-sliced 8 oz. package)
1 small can (2.25 oz.) sliced black olives, drained
2 Tbsp. chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 tsp. oregano
½ tsp. garlic powder
½ teaspoon salt
Add oil to medium skillet over high heat. Crumble the tofu into the pan, add remaining ingredients. Cook about 10 minutes until mushrooms are soft.
Oatmeal Spice Breakfast Bars (vegan)
Makes about 10 bars
2-2/3 cups rolled oats
1/3 cup flax seed meal
2 med. bananas, mashed
1/3 cup canola oil
½ cup dried fruit, in any combination (raisins, dates, cherries and cranberries are good)
2/3 cup chopped nuts or sunflower seeds
1½ tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ginger
2 Tbsp. sweetener, or more to taste (non-vegans may use honey)
Vegan egg substitute product to equal one egg
Combine all the dry ingredients and mix well. Add bananas, egg substitute, oil and sweetener; combine until blended and mixture is sticky. If the mixture appears to dry, add a small amount of water. Shape dough into 1/2-inch thick bars on a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350F for 15 minutes.
Easy Vegan Pancakes
Serves 4 to 6
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
2 cups vanilla soy or rice milk
½ tsp. cinnamon
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
Combine flour, baking soda and baking powder. Add milk and oil, stirring until just mixed (it should still be a little lumpy). Heat skillet until a drop of cold water dances across the surface; grease pan with spray oil and drop 1/4 to ½ cup batter onto skillet for each pancake. When the edges look brown and the air bubbles appear on the top of the pancake, turn and cook other side. Serve with syrup or fresh fruit.
Carrot Breakfast Muffins (vegan)
Serves 6 to 8
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup oat bran
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. Cinnamon
½ tsp. Nutmeg
1/3 tsp. Ginger
2/3 cup grated carrots
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 cup water
1/4 cup canola oil
Preheat the oven to 375F. In a large mixing bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients and the grated carrots. Add all of the wet ingredients. Mix well. Pour the batter into a lightly oiled muffin pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Other breakfast options:
Breakfast Burritos: Eggs or extra-firm tofu scrambled with onions, peppers and chopped vegetarian sausage, topped with soy cheese and rolled up in a warm tortilla.
McVegetarian Sandwich: Place scrambled eggs (or egg substitute or tofu), vegetarian faux-Canadian bacon and soy cheese in a sliced English muffin. A great take-and-eat breakfast!
We’ve talked a little bit about meat substitutes, tofu, and grains like quinoa ... but what are they? What do you use them for? And where the heck do you get them? Luckily, as more and more people become vegetarian (and non-vegetarians cut back on animal foods) more co-ops and whole foods stores keep cropping up, even in smaller towns. Mainstream grocery stores keep expanding their "natural foods" sections because customers are demanding soy products and whole grains. It’s just a matter of knowing what you’re buying, and all the delicious ways you can add variety to your vegetarian diet.
Tofu for you
The two most common meat-substitute protein foods you’ll find in vegetarian cooking are tofu and tempeh. They’re both soy-based foods, but they’re very different.
Tofu is a smooth, almost flavorless curd made from soybeans. While Westerners still think of tofu as exotic or as a strictly vegetarian food, it’s been a staple in other countries’ cuisine for thousands of years. The Chinese have been eating tofu since at least 200 B.C., and it’s used every day in Asian homes. "Bean curd" is another term for tofu, so keep an eye out in Chinese restaurants for menu items that feature curd – that’s tofu!
Tofu is made from soy milk in a similar manner to the way cheese is manufactured from animal milk. A curdling agent is added to the soy, causing the solid matter to clump into curds. The curds are then pressed into a solid block.
The flavor-free quality of tofu is precisely what makes it so versatile – tofu is spongy and porous, and absorbs other flavors very well, so it can be adapted to almost any kind of dish. It comes in a variety of textures, from extra-firm to soft, so it can be used as a meat substitute, and egg substitute, or it can stand in for dairy in fillings, sauces, dips and puddings. Recipes will tell you which type to use, and once you get used to cooking with it you’ll come up with countless ideas on your own.
For a meat substitute, firm or extra-firm tofu is usually cut into cubes and added to stir-fry dishes, or marinated in soy sauce (or other flavorful liquid) and cooked in big chunks. If you freeze tofu and then defrost it, the texture becomes more chewy – ideal for people who miss the texture of meat.
Silken tofu, combined with melted chocolate (vegan or otherwise) makes an excellent chocolate pudding or cream pie filling. Soft tofu can be used to make creamy sauces – just puree cooked vegetable in a blender or food processor and add tofu. This same method works to make creamy, dairy-free soups.
Whatever form it takes, tofu is a marvelous source of nutrition. Primarily eaten as a high-quality source of protein, tofu that’s been processed with calcium salt is also a great source of calcium (another reason you don’t need dairy!) It’s also loaded with iron and other minerals. People on a low-fat diet should remember that tofu is fairly high is fat, but it’s free of cholesterol and generally lower in fat than animal proteins – and there are also lower fat tofu products on the market. Firm tofu is usually higher in fat than soft tofu.
Because of its soft consistency and bland taste, tofu is a good source of nutrition for babies or older people who have difficulty chewing hard foods. It’s most commonly sold in tubs or vacuum packs and can be found in either the dairy case or produce section of your supermarket. Once opened, leftover tofu may be stored by rinsing, covering with fresh water daily and stored in the refrigerator, where it will keep for up to a week. Tofu can be frozen for up to five months.
We’ve already discussed many of the problems associated with consuming dairy, from the horrible practices of factory farming to the difficulty the body has digesting cow’s milk. Well ... we’re going to do it again! Because while you may choose to be an ovo lacto vegetarian – and that’s a great step towards eating a healthy, socially responsible diet – there are still some very good reasons to limit the amount of dairy products you eat.
The truth about osteoporosis
You probably believe that osteoporosis, the crippling disease that results in weak, brittle bones, is caused by a deficiency of calcium. For pretty much your entire life you’ve heard that "milk does a body good" and that the only way to prevent osteoporosis is to drink lots of milk, and to eat plenty of cheese and yogurt. You know, "for healthy teeth and strong bones!"
And yet, Americans and Canadians eat more dairy products than any other country while having the highest incidence of osteoporosis. In fact throughout the world, the level of hip fractures (a symptom of osteoporosis) rises in direct relationship to how much calcium the people consume!
The truth is that, like heart disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes and a host of other ailments, osteoporosis is the by-product of affluence, not of calcium deficiency. As scientists study osteoporosis, they’re discovering that it’s the result of a bad, overall lifestyle, including diet. Calcium certainly plays a part in building strong bones – as we discussed earlier, however, bones only build their density in our younger years, so by the time we reach adulthood that die has been cast. Consuming a lot of calcium as an adult simply has no bone-building effect.
Animal protein is high in sulfur-containing amino acids, which requires the body to find a way to offset the effects of those amino acids. Our bodies do this by first using the small amount of calcium in our food, then by taking it from our bones – after which point it exits the body through our urinary tract. The more meat and dairy products you eat, the more calcium you need to process them through the body. A researcher at the Creighton University School of Medicine named Robert Heaney – an advocate of dairy consumption – found in his research that the single most important factor in the rate of bone growth in young women is not how much calcium they consume, but how much calcium they consume in relation to animal protein. The more protein eaten, the more calcium must be consumed to offset the calcium drain. Most people in the U.S., Canada and Northern Europe eat more than twice the recommended amount of protein, and more than four or five times the amount of protein actually needed, with 70 percent of it coming from animal sources. Osteoporosis is not a result of calcium deficiency – it’s a result of eating too much animal protein
That burning feeling
Have you ever downed a glass of milk to sooth an upset stomach, only to find an hour later that your stomach feels bad all over again? That’s because milk actually causes the stomach to become more acidic. Here’s how it works: animal products are more difficult to digest than plant foods, which means that your stomach needs to produce more hydrochloric acid (HCI) to break them down. So let’s say that you had a bowl of cereal with milk for breakfast, a little cream in your coffee and a slice of toast with melted cheese. All that dense protein needs plenty of acid to digest it, so HCI is produced. You feel that familiar burn of acid indigestion a few hours after you ate, so you drink a glass of milk to settle your stomach. And it does, temporarily, by neutralizing the acid. But you you’ve just added more animal protein to your stomach, and now your stomach has to produce even more acid to digest it! Milk is a highly alkaline substance, so whenever you drink milk with a meal, you’re actually hindering your body’s ability to digest your food properly.
The hormone factor
If nothing else has convinced you to get your calcium from rich plant sources like broccoli, tofu, nuts, seeds and leafy green vegetables, try this on for size – your ingesting antibiotics and hormones every times you consume dairy products.
They don’t the meat and dairy industries "agribusiness" for nothing – they’re businesses, and their primary goal is to make a lot of money. They make that money by selling lots and lots of animal products, and that means keeping animals healthy and growing them big/ To do this, they pump them full of antibiotics and hormones.
Just like a nursing baby ingests whatever its mother has eaten, you consume the cow’s diet when you eat animal foods. That means that you’re getting hormones in your food, hormones that were used to fatten pigs, make cows give more milk, hormones to force chickens to produce more eggs and for turkeys to grow massive drumsticks.
Hormones regulate every aspect of the human body, from how much weight we gain or lose, to our sex drives and our moods, to how much hair we have. They influence your sleep cycle, your complexion, your reproductive cycle and your brain functions. When cows are given excessive, unnatural levels of artificial hormones to produce more milk, what affect do you think it might have on you when you drink the milk they produce?
If you’ve ever taken any sort of a hormone for medical purposes – steroids, birth control pills, cortisone shots – then you know how quickly that small amount of hormone introduced into your body makes dramatic changes. An imbalance of hormones in your body can make you grow hair in unexpected places, create accelerated maturity in children and adolescents, cause you to feel anxious, depressed, angry or overly emotional, and cause your face to erupt in blemishes.
If you have an ongoing health concern like diabetes, or if you’re pregnant (or trying to conceive), or if you’re an athlete in training for a sport, you naturally have concerns about whether a vegetarian diet is your best option. The answer is – yes, if you’re eating enough of the right foods. Vegetarianism is great for keeping blood sugar under control and getting the body in peak shape, whether you hope to run a marathon or have a baby.
Doing vegetarianism as a diabetic
For diabetics, diet is the first line of defense, literally the difference between life and death. Left untreated, diabetes can cause blindness, kidney failure and even loss of the hands and feet, and it affects people of all ages. If you’re a diabetic, your doctor has already told you that your diet is the single most important weight you can manage your diabetes – a low fat, high carbohydrate and high fiber vegetarian diet is an excellent option.
Worldwide, over 30 million people suffer from diabetes. Essentially, the condition is one in which the body is unable to process nutrients efficiently. In a "normal" body, the food we eat is converted to usable energy in the form of glucose, a sugar that’s carried by the blood to all of our various functions with the help of the hormone insulin. Diabetics, however, have an imbalance of insulin – either too little or none at all – which means that the body has difficulty converting blood sugar to usable energy. This means that the glucose remains, unconverted, in the bloodstream and never gets where it’s needed, leading to fatigue, muscle pain loss of concentration and coordination and blurry vision. When someone has a hypoglycemic episode, that’s what’s going on – the amount of usable sugars in their bloodstream is too low. In extreme cases this can lead to the person lapsing into a coma, or even dying.
As a matter of controlling their blood sugar, diabetics have to keep a close eye on their diet, eating a wide variety of foods and making sure they sit down to regular meals. Carbohydrates must be watched carefully – at least half of the recommended diabetic diet must include complex carbohydrates from sources like baked potatoes, whole grain breads, vegetables and legumes. Sounds like a vegetarian diet, doesn’t it?
The vegetarian diet is so good for diabetics, in fact, that some vegetarian diabetics can transition off medication, including many who previously had to inject insulin. The level of control that vegetarianism allows diabetics allows them to feel confident that they’re eating for optimal health.
Adding a third vegetarian to the family
If you’re hoping to get pregnant, both you and your doctor want you to be in the best possible condition to insure that both you and your baby are healthy. Eating well is important before and during pregnancy – and the more of a head start you can get on good health before you conceive, the better.
Vegetarians may eat a healthier diet than omnivores, but you’ll still need to follow the same advice as meat-eaters in many respects. Take a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement for several months before you get pregnant, and make sure it offers plenty of B12 and folic acid, or folate, a B vitamin that helps prevent birth defects of the spine and brain. Get plenty of physical activity and drink lots of water, and avoid alcohol, tobacco and caffeine. Eat nutritious foods and cut back or eliminate junk food and refined sugar.
As a vegetarian, you’ll probably be in better shape than if you were eating meat, and closer to your ideal weight. You’ll also have a strong immune system now that you’re avoiding animal foods, which you’ll pass on to your baby. Just make sure that you’re getting plenty of iron – many women begin pregnancy deficient in iron, and as your body grows and you store more blood to nourish your baby, you don’t want to risk becoming anemic.
We all start out life as lacto vegetarians. Out first food is our mothers’ milk, made just for us and full of all the nutrients we need. Infant formula, the alternative to breast milk, is made as close as possible to that of mother’s milk, and it’s all we require or should eat for the first four to six months of life. The good news is, if you’re a vegetarian, your breast milk is superior to that of meat-eating mothers – you’re not passing on any of the antibiotics, pesticides or other contaminants that you would if you were eating meat. (And if you’re a vegan and you breast feed, your child is still a vegan, too – breast milk is a natural food for humans while cow’s milk is not).
Whether or not you breast feed is entirely your decision but, for most babies, breast milk is the optimal food. In addition to the sugars and other nutrients, scientists believe that there are other, as yet unidentified, substances in breast milk that make it superior to infant formula. Should you decide not to breast feed, choose a soy-based formula – soy is less likely to cause allergies than cow’s-milk-based formulas. But don’t give regular soy milk to a baby less than a year old, as it’s not designed to meet their nutritional needs.
Cow’s milk should never be fed to babies under one year old, as it can cause intestinal bleeding and lead to anemia. Also, studies have shown a link between infants drinking cow’s milk and their increased risk to become diabetic later in life.
At the four-to-six month mark, it’s time to introduce your baby to solid foods. The timing varies from baby to baby – when your child reaches 13 pounds or double his birth weight wants to breast-feed eight times or more during a 24-hour period, and when she takes a quart or more of a formula per day and still acts hungry, it’s time to transition to solid foods.
You’ll want to introduce solid foods slowly, so that their systems can get used to the change in diet. Start with cooked grains – rice cereal is best, as almost every baby can digest it easily and unlikely to cause an allergic reaction. Once your baby eats cooked cereal, begin to slowly introduce other foods. You can buy commercial baby foods or puree your own fruits and vegetables in a blender. If you buy prepared foods, buy ones that are free from added sugars, preservatives and any other additives that your baby doesn’t need. Start with raw, mashed fruits and move on to cooked vegetables like mashed sweet potatoes. It’s smart to introduce new foods one at a time, so if your baby has sensitivity to a food you can easily identify it.
When your child starts teething (somewhere between 12 and 24 months) they can move on to foods that need to be chewed. Raw vegetables can be introduced then, starting with veggies that are easy to chew and unlikely to present a choking hazard. When giving babies "finger foods," take care that the foods aren’t too hard, large, sharp, or round. Good choices are carrot sticks, lettuce and other leafy green vegetables, and lightly blanched and cooled broccoli. As long as it’s safe for the baby to chew, an vegetables that adults eat are fine for a child.
Follow the same feeding schedules and advice that you would for any other baby, except for not feeding them meat. Adapt the guidelines in the baby books to the vegetarian diet. Just make sure that you don’t let other people convince you that you should be allowing your baby to drinkl cow;s milk – once your child is old enough to transition off formula, you can give him water, regular soy milk or rice milk, juice, regular soy milk, or any other nutritious liquid.
At seven to ten months, start introducing high-protein legumes to the baby’s diet. Slowly add tofu into their meals and snacks, as well as soy cheese and soy yogurt – two servings per day, about a half-ounce per serving. Most babies are very fond of lentils, which can be cooked until fairly soft and have a pleasant, bland flavor. Nut butters should not be fed until after 12 months.
As you ease into the toddler/preschooler years (ages 1 to 4), you can start offering your child some vegetarian versions of classic kids’ favorites. Vegetarian and vegan children are just like any other kids – they’ll be a bit fussy sometimes, but there are a wide variety of nutritious foods that children universally enjoy:
Spaghetti with meatless sauce
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
Baked french fries with ketchup
Veggie burgers, hot dogs and sandwich slices
Whole wheat bread and rolls
Grilled soy cheese sandwiches
Veggie pizzas with soy cheese
Pancakes or waffles, with fruit or maple syrup
Baked potatoes with non-dairy sour cream
Rice and beans
Calcium-fortified soy milk and orange juice
Cold cereal with vanilla soy or rice milk
Chicken-Free nuggets (soy protein nuggets that taste just like breaded chicken)
Fruit, cut up into bite sized pieces
Raisins and banana chips
Vegan cakes, cookies and other baked goods
Vegetarian diets feature a lot of bulky, filling plant foods, and since small children have equally small stomachs, they sometimes don;t get all the calories they require. Make sure to include a lot of calorie-dense foods in your child’s diet so that they get all the energy their growing bodies require – add avocado, which is calorie-dense and full of good fats, to sandwiches. Peanut and almond butters are excellent sources of calories for kids, too.Very young children also need to eat more than three meals each day. So be generous with the snacks featuring grains, fruits and vegetables to add lots of necessary nutrients to their diet. Don’t worry about a vegetarian diet affecting your child’s growth – a 1989 study of children living in a vegan community in Tennessee found that while they were slightly shorter than average at age 1 to 3, they caught up by age 10, when they were actually taller than average, and weighed slightly less than children raised on an omnivorous diet.
Explaining yourself, even though you shouldn’t have to
As we’ve discussed, you’ll need a supply of quick, polite answers to handle the questions people will have about your diet. Don’t get cranky – sure, they’re nosy, but isn’t it nice that they want to know more about vegetarianism? If you already know what to say, it’ll be easy to give them an answer without turning the conversation into a lengthy debate. Some of the most common questions you’ll field are the same ones you had when you first started out – except now you know the answers:
Why are you a vegetarian?
If you don’t eat meat, how do you get enough protein?
Can you eat chicken? How about fish?
Is this some sort of a religious thing?
Is it hard to never eat meat?
Why do you wear leather shoes if you won’t eat animals?
Isn’t vegetarian food boring?
Can you eat at McDonald’s?
If you already know the answers, you won’t mind the questions so much!
Dining gracefully with meat-eaters
Dinner parties – both attending them and hosting them – can be problematic for people on special diets. If you’re the host, you can make sure that you have a tempting variety of delicious foods, dazzling your guests with such tasty choices that they’d be foolish to miss the meat. But what if you’re the guest?
Often, even if your hosts know that you’re vegetarian, they may not know how to feed you. They may think that by serving grilled salmon instead of meat loaf they’re offering a vegetarian-friendly entree. Or you may end up in a situation where your hosts simply have no idea of what your needs are.
In those cases, you need to make the best of things. Etiquette is, fundamentally, about behaving well under challenging circumstances. If all there is on the table that you can eat is bread and salad, do so – and, if you’re questioned, smile and say that they’re so delicious that you’re happy to enjoy them. Even if it’s disappointing, remember that’s it’s just for one meal – chat with your tablemates, enjoy the company and have a good time anyway!
If there’s absolutely nothing on the menu that you can eat, or your hostess sits a plate of animal food in front of you, do what children do – squish things around and mess up your plate. Hide the meat under some lettuce, and leave some empty space so it looks like you ate something. If the conversation is compelling, most people won’t notice how much you did, or didn’t, eat.
Whatever happens, don’t make an issue of your diet. To be blunt, no one is really interested in what you can’t eat, and it’s considered rude to draw all of the conversation to yourself in such a manner anyway. If someone asks, tell them you’re vegetarian and steer the conversation to something else.
If you’re headed to a big social event like a wedding or a family dinner, and you think there might be challenges finding something to eat, then eat a light meal before you leave the house. Even under the worst circumstances there will be something for you to snack on, but you won’t be suffering from hunger pangs throughout the evening.
Being a great, meat-free hostess
Part of being a terrific host is anticipating your guests’ needs. Think about how you’d like to be treated when you go to dinner at a friend’s home – how about offering the same courtesy to them? When you invite guests to dinner, ask them if they have special dietary needs, or if there’s anything they absolutely hate. You’ll be surprised at what people have to say – some are allergic to bell peppers, or peanuts, or dairy. If you accommodate their needs that same way you’d like yours accommodated in a similar situation, you can make them feel extra welcome in your home.
One sure way to make everyone happy is to serve a variety of different dishes buffet style, allowing guests to fill their plates only with what they want. It helps them to feel comfortable if they don’t want to eat something – no one will be looking at their plate and wondering why there’s still food there – and it’ll save you the effort of serving, so you have more time to enjoy your guests.
Only serve meat if you genuinely feel comfortable doing so. Some people will cook a chicken or fish dish for guests, but not partake of it themselves. If you’re happy doing this, then go ahead. But if you aren’t, then make them the best vegetarian meal they’ve ever tasted, and show them how delicious eating meat-free can be!
You now have a lot of valuable tools at your disposal – you know how to plan meals, you know what nutrients you need to keep your body healthy, and you know how to feed your vegetarian child. You even know how to answer questions from others and make sure you have plenty of healthful food to eat at home, at school, and at work.
Making your new lifestyle work at home and in the office requires a lot of flexibility, good humor, and planning. By this point, though, you should feel up to the task! You’ve made excellent choices for your health and your future, and how you integrate it into the rest of your life will not only affect your relationships, but also how others view vegetarianism.
Meat-eaters and meat-free – managing a mixed marriage
It’s understandable, when you’re single and dating, to believe that your ideal partner will share all of your values. But that’s unrealistic – no two individuals are exactly alike, and the day-to-day struggle of paying bills, doing laundry, getting to work and raising children can sometimes make even the smallest difference seem enormous. As the popularity of vegetarianism increases, so do the number of "mixed marriages" between meat-eaters and non-meat eaters. You and your spouse may agree on a lot of things, but still disagree on how to eat.
The key to making it work is acceptance of each other’s choices. If you judge your spouse harshly for not joining you in your vegetarian journey, you may be turning them off entirely, closing the door to them making that step themselves in the future. No one likes to be told that they’re "bad," particularly if they’re simply eating the same diet as most of the other people they see every day.
Try to keep in mind that your choice to become vegetarian was a personal one, and it has to be for them, too. You can’t control what your spouse eats – but you can control how you behave towards them.
Cherish the issues in your marriage that you agree on. There are probably far more of those than there are issues on which you don’t see eye-to-eye.
Acknowledge that your spouse’s diet isn’t meant to hurt you. If your partner eats meat, it isn’t a choice designed to make your life unhappy or more complicated. Try to respect their decision, whether it is based on ethical principles, on convenience or on habit.
Try to get your partner to compromise on certain foods. See if you can get them to eat soy hot dogs, veggie burgers and non-dairy cheese at home.
Never attack your spouse’s point of view, especially in public. Belittling your partner will only cause them to be resentful and more resistant to vegetarianism.
Try to find restaurants where you can eat together. Choose venues that offer both meat dishes and vegetarian options, so that you can enjoy a fine meal together.
Play an active role in shopping and preparing meals. Cook a variety of tasty, appealing meals so that your partner can see that the diet isn’t boring. Buy a few cookbooks and try new recipes to keep things interesting.
Be a positive role model. Allow your cheerful attitude and good health serve as an example of how great vegetarianism can be.
Don’t talk endlessly about your diet. If your partner is interested, the subject will come up naturally – but don’t lecture.
If you’ve agreed not to eat meat at home, accept that your spouse may eat meat sometimes when they’re not with you. Again, you can’t control what they eat, and nagging doesn’t help.
Eating together is one of the great pleasures of any relationship. Negotiate a menu plan that’s acceptable to both of you, and then enjoy your meals together!
Being vegetarian at work
As a vegetarian this can pose a unique challenge. If everyone around you is ordering steak or chicken Caesar salads and you’re not eating much, it can call undue attention to your eating habits. Suddenly, no one’s talking about the deal – they’re talking about why you aren’t eating your lunch!
More and more people are choosing meatless lifestyles, but that doesn’t mean that being a vegetarian at work is easy. You’ve made a lifestyle choice dictated by your health and your ethics, but you have to walk the fine line of also fitting in with your colleagues. After all, if you’re too independent of a thinker, they might not believe that you’re still a team player. When you’re at work you want the focus to be on your work – not on what you eat. The same grace, good humor and tact that you use to deal with family and friends is even more important in the workplace.
By now you’ve learned pretty much everything you need to know about becoming a vegetarian, from ethics to nutrition to meal planning. Just don’t forget one of the biggest reasons that living a vegetarian lifestyle is a wonderful choice – what you eat affects the rest of the world.
Consider the effect of a meat-eating society on the planet:
Water and soil damage. 260 million acres of U.S. forest have disappeared, to make room for cropland to farm meat. To produce a one pound of beef requires 2,500 gallons of water. The manufacture of a single hamburger patty takes enough fossil fuel to drive a small car 25 miles. It takes less water to produce a year’s worth of food for a vegetarian than to produce one month’s food for a meat-eater. Factory farms damage the environment in addition to the horrors they commit on the animals that they raise and slaughter. They use large quantities of fossil fuels and fresh water, and pollute the earth in return.
85 percent American topsoil – over 5 billion tons – is lost annually due to the raising of livestock. 26 billion tons of topsoil is lost annually on agricultural land worldwide. In the United States, one-third of the cropland has been permanently destroyed due to excessive soil erosion. By switching to a vegetarian diet, you alone spare an acre of trees every year.
Millions of acres of forests and wetlands have been leveled and drained to create pastures to feed the animals butchered for meat, destroying habitats for wildlife and disrupting the ecological balance. Irrigation of these pastures and croplands uses vast quantities of water, our most precious resource, and the water that runs off these lands takes with it irreplaceable topsoil, turning millions of acres of lush cropland into desert. Along with waste products from factory farming and slaughterhouses, runoff from agribusiness contributes more pollution than all other human activities combined.
Depletion of rainforests. Between 1960 and 1985, nearly 40 percent of all Central American rain forests were destroyed to create pasture for beef cattle. As the primary source of oxygen for the entire planet, the survival of the rainforests is inextricably linked with the survival of mankind. The unique flora and fauna found in the rain forests provide ingredients for many medicines used to treat and cure human illnesses, and scientists are continuing to find new medicines as they discover new plants available only in these regions – yet approximately 1,000 species go extinct every year due to destruction of tropical rainforests. By destroying the rain forests, we may be destroying the chance to cure AIDS, cancer or influenza.
Poison in the atmosphere. Two-thirds of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide are created by the burning of fossil fuels, and 200 gallons of fossil fuel are burned to produce the beef currently eaten by the average American family of four each year. Burning 200 gallons of fossil fuel releases two tonsof carbon dioxide into the atmosphere – by switching to a vegetarian diet, you’re cutting back on the amount of pollution in the air.
Poison in the workplace. The air inside factory farms contains a dangerous combination of ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, bacteria, and decomposing fecal matter. A joint study by the University of Iowa and the American Lung Association concluded that 70 percent of the workers in indoor facilities on factory pig farms experience symptoms of respiratory illness. Chronic bronchitis is suffered by over 50 percent of all "swine confinement workers," three times that of farmers who work in outdoor facilities. The turnover rate of workers in these conditions is understandably very high, and in some cases the owners of the factory farms have had to sell their businesses because they themselves were unable to work in their own farms.
Consider this, the next time you’re complaining about your job – the decomposing waste from pig pens is collected in pits below, causing a build-up of hydrogen sulfide. According to the American Lung Association report,"Animals have died and workers have become seriously ill in confinement buildings ... Several workers have died when entering a pit during or soon after the emptying process to repair pumping equipment. Persons attempting to rescue these workers have also died." The pigs living in these conditions breathe those toxic fumes every minute of their short lives. Animals living in these conditions regularly contract pneumonia and other respiratory illnesses – yet another reason why they’re pumped full of antibiotics.
Economics. Raising animals for food is,, to put it bluntly, a stupid way to feed a hungry world. Livestock in the United States consume enough grain and soybeans to feed more than five times the nation’s population. One acre of pasture produces an average of 165 pounds of beef – the same acre could produce 20,000 pounds of potatoes. If Americans reduced their consumption of meat by just 10 percent, it would save 12 million tonsof grain annually. That much grain could feed 60 million people each year. 60,000,000 !
Congratulations! If you’ve followed all the steps and taken the advice presented to you in this book – you’re a vegetarian! Now you have one more decision to make – whether you want to use your knowledge to reach out to other vegetarians and educate meat-eaters about the lifestyle. You don’t have to do this, of course. You can live your meat-free life quietly and on your own, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But now that you know what you do about vegetarianism’s value to individuals and the world, you may find you want to become a bit more active.
You don’t have to do it right this minute, of course. But many, many vegetarians find that it’s easier to maintain their lifestyle if they have the support of others who share the same values. As you now know, there are many reasons for becoming vegetarian, and people have all sorts of different reasons for going meat-free – and you may find that there’s a lot to learn by discovering the viewpoint of other vegetarians.
Even if you choose to travel this path alone, you’re an ambassador for vegetarianism. Your family, friends, co-workers and even strangers will see you as an example of meatless living, and as you meet more people and have more unique experiences of your own, your outlook, appearance and behavior will – for better or worse – be seen as that of a vegetarian person. So why not be the best vegetarian that you can be?
Whether we like it or not, our appearance and actions are judged by others. If you’re telling a co-worker about the barbaric treatment of cows in factory farms while eating a cheese sandwich or discussing karma while wearing leather shoes, your audience may see you as a hypocrite. That’s not to say that you can’t be a good vegetarian and eat cheese or wear leather – but you need to be aware of when your actions and your words aren’t in sync.
Always practice good hygiene and dress neatly. Don’t play into society’s prejudices by exemplifying the stereotype of the "dirty hippy." If you’re clean, neat and appropriately dressed, the people that you deal with will think, "Hey – you’re just like me!" They’ll hear your message because they relate to you, rather than being turned off due to their own preconceptions.
Making a connection
If you live in a small town, it may be difficult for you to find other vegetarians to talk to about the lifestyle. But don’t give up! If you have a college or university in your town, there’s probably a vegetarian group on campus – higher education and vegetarianism often go hand-in-hand. Watch for notices of vegetarian group meetings posted on bulletin boards at colleges schools and community centers, as well as libraries, supermarkets and other public places. Check out the ads in your local newspaper and look for natural food stores, bookstores or other shops that support alternative lifestyles. Visit them, and ask questions – in a small town, word of mouth is invaluable.
The Internet is also a great resources for vegetarians. There are hundreds of online groups, including message boards and recipe swap site, geared toward vegetarians. Not only are they a good source of discussion and community, they may be able to connect you with vegetarians in your own area.
If you still find yourself coming up short, take the initiative and start your own group! It’s highly unlikely that you’re the only vegetarian where you live, even in a rural area or a very small town. Take out a newspaper ad and throw a potluck at your home or local community center – you may be pleasantly surprised by how many people show up! Once you’ve got a group together, start a regular event where you all eat out at local restaurants. You’ll not only help your community by supporting restaurants that cater to meat-free diners, you may also encourage other local businesses to take vegetarians into consideration when planning their menus.
As a newcomer to vegetarianism, you’ll probably find it helpful to socialize with others who share your point of view. Even the most well-meaning friends can be less than supportive of a lifestyle change, because they think they already know who you are and what you like. But by making connections with others who feel the same way, you’ll not only broaden your own social network, you’ll have a valuable resource for asking questions, sharing ideas and learning about other approaches to meat-free eating.
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