Veggie Times: Take the Vegetarian Challenge for a day, a week or for life
By Mirna Santana
In the most simple way: A vegan diet is a diet based on plants as primary source of energy. It is also an excellent way to decrease your impact on the planet resources.
The vegetarian or vegan challenge is not really new. Many organizations promote it. And for you, it is probably not new either. I am sure that you already eat at least a vegan meal a day. The only difference is that you (if you are not vegan or vegetarian) see that meal as a companion to your main dish.
Vegetables and fruits are the main components of most human diets, yet they are usually called companions or side dishes, because, we do not place them on the same stand as the meat based dishes.
You probably think of the salad, potatoes, French fries, vegetables or fruits as entrees, snacks as side dishes instead of the main meal. If you do an exercise called 'reverse thinking', you may start thinking of the meat as the side dish. Thinking this way will trick your mind into considering one or two vegetable based products as a complete meal.
An example of vegan food is the staple food of the tropics: rice, beans, and salad. However most people in the tropics are non-vegetarians. They usually have an animal base product as a companion for their meal. The proportion of meat eaten in most under- developed countries, tend to be smaller than what we see in the US or Europe. In summary in the tropics, the main food portions are heavy on the carbohydrates (beans, rice, cassava) and less heavy on the meat side. Thus for them, the meat is a side dish.
Globally, people eat most animal parts (guts, feet, head thereby decreasing their overall impact for consuming meat). Rarely in the US, would people eat most than a few cuts from an animal that had been slaughtered for human consumption.
In developed countries such as the US large amount of land is used to grow corn, grass, or soy to feed cows. This produces not only soil degradation but also meat high in fats that is most likely to increase the cholesterol levels of its consumers.
All over the world there are millions of people who only eat a piece of mango, or some berries, or, cassava or other vegan meals, not because they planned, but because, they are very poor or they live in food deserts (areas depleted of food sources). A classical example are people in Africa who live mostly on Cassava or Yucca flour. And extreme case is represented by some people from Haiti who don't even have enough plants, so they eat tortillas made of soil or clay.
Now knowing that veggies and fruits are the base of a vegetarian diet, you can take the vegan challenge for a day, a week or for for life.
Vegetarians that include cheese or dairy products in their diet are called lacto-vegetarians. If they eat eggs but no dairy, they are ovo-vegetarian. If they include both, eggs and dairy products they may be called ovo-lacto-vegetarian. Vegans on the other hand do not include animal derived products in their diets--thus their diet is a plant based diet. Many people, and you may be in that category are flexible in their habits yet they make a conscious effort to make their diet mostly plant based. Most days their diet will be mostly composed of vegetarian meals and, sometimes they may include some source of meat (poultry or meat). I call the later one flexitarians or non-strict vegetarians. Yet there are plenty of meat eaters who enjoy eating veggies and fruits.
If you need to lose weight, learn to eat well, reduce cholesterol in your diet, or if you suffer of high blood pressure, taking a vegetarian approach may be all you need to get back on track.
If you think it is going to be difficult you may ask a friend who is vegetarian to cook with you or /teach you how to eat vegetarian food. I don't know of any vegetarian that would not like to add one person to the non-meat eating crowd.
People may take the vegetarian/vegan challenge to improve their health or to be in shape, or for whatever reason is meaningful to them. Meatless diets also support animal welfare. The reason that underlies my promotion of a veggie base diet is to is decrease human impact on the planet resources.
You can find a wealth of resources on vegetarian times, a magazine dedicated to vegetarian meals. You could search on the web or subscribe to the vegetarian forum. Here in hubpages you can also join/visit the vegetarian community.
Some books that I would recommend to learn about reasons to go vegetarian include: Food for a Small Planet, and Diet for a small America by John Robbins. Frances Lappe and Anna Lappe have written extensively about the consequences of eating meat on the overall health of humans and on the planet resources. Her last book makes a case for human impact on climate change through the food production and supply.
Some vegan recipes are easy: you may take your bowl, add some fruits and salads and a balsamic + olive oil + a few spices. voila! Other vegan recipes such as delicious curry or vegetarian Thai recipes are a little more complex, and really worth the try. Do you like to have something that looks like meat? Try the vegetarian meat substitutes, usually made of soy. I would say here that soy is contributing to the destruction of the Amazon forest....so how about, lentils, beans? My favorite meat replacements are egg plant and avocados.
Also being vegan or vegetarian or becoming one for one day a week or for a week, does not convert you into a strange person. If you find a sense of purpose, and at least one reasons among the many, you can keep up with it. You may even feel terrific! You will start to invite everybody to eat vegetarian at least once a day, then a bit more....until perhaps it becomes a habit or part of your life style.
Our dietary choices have a great impact on the small planet we live in. Decreasing our foodprint is an easy step every individual could take part of, at whatever scale they wish to do so. Long-lasting changes are only possible if people are willing to go the extra mile.
If the planet is not a strong enough cause for you, you can take the advice of the doctor. Dr. Maria Collazo Clavel an endocrinologist with the Mayo Clinic, suggest that a vegetarian diet is a good path to decrease serious effects associated with illness such as diabetes and high blood pressure while at the same time it helps to control or avoid problems associated with obesity.
The challenge is best with companions so here are some elevator pitch that may help you enroll your friends:
Start your new vegan diet weight los s plan!
For writers: write that vegan cookbook!
Love your dogs give them: vegan dog food!
Don't know what is a vegan? say vegan=plant eater
Make a poster that show how easy is to cook vegan recipes; display a vegan menu by day or for a week.
Bring delicious vegan snacks to every meeting you participate in---don't say anything else...
Cook a romantic vegan meal for your carnivorous boyfriend/or girlfriend.
Make a vegan food list to help others cope with the novelty of a vegan or vegetarian style.
Promote vegan restaurants or vegan/vegetarian dishes within a mix menu.
Do you like baking? Making it vegan baking--it is easier than you think. Learn about replacements. It is actually inexpensive unless you are a gluten free vegan. In which case, the investment is almost mandatory.
Hate cooking? Go raw vegan!
Please take the challenge and enjoy your veggie times!
'I hand you this book' of recipes available at my Amazon store
Recommendations to read during your vegetarian challenge
More on food and ecological footprint
- Are vegetarians sexy?Is Olivia Munn the sexiest vegetarian?-Olivia is naughty for Nature!
Are vegetarian sexy? Underlying reasons to become vegetarian. Naughty for nature or why some actors and actresses go naked for animal rights...
- What is your food footprint?
Do you want to learn how your food choices may impact the planet? Calculate your foot footprint.
- How To Calculate Your Ecological Footprint
Do you want to know how to calculate your impact on the planet resources? I show you how...
- Earthy Voices: Science, Environmental Issues, and Reflections on Nature
Vegetarian for a day: Take the Challenge
Are you willing to go vegetarian for a day?
© 2011 MSantana