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'Vegetarian' or 'a vegetarian'?

Updated on June 27, 2015
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It's a subtle difference, but important

Are you 'vegetarian' or 'a vegetarian'? Is there actually a difference? To me, yes there is. You see, for many years, I ran a health food store. I was (and still am) vegetarian. But I object to being called 'a vegetarian'. Maybe I'm pedantic, but here's my reasoning.

You see, so if you don't eat meat and fish, that's is like being left handed, blonde, skinny ... it's just another description that says who you are. To be 'a vegetarian' is rather like saying I'm a Martian, or a Democrat or a Mongolian - it's WHO you are as opposed to WHAT traits you have. Being veggie is only a small part of what make you into you, a truly unique person. By using the phrase 'a vegetarian' it can make us sound to be a cliquey group which excludes others. That's such a shame in this day and age, isn't it?

Source

A new vegetarian in the family? Arrgh!

When I had my health food store I frequently met appalled mothers who told me that their teenage son or daughter had become 'a vegetarian'.

This made it sound as though they had become something truly weird. (Martian, Klingon, alien etc.)

Yet every single day, people choose to make amendments to their diet for various reasons. People don't become a 'glutenfree-arian' or a fatfree-arian' - they just choose to cut out gluten or fat. Why should cutting out meat or fish 'turn' one into that strange being; 'a vegetarian'?

These mothers seemed to think that all of a sudden, they had an alien in their midst; someone really strange and weird.

'What' they would say to me ' what do these people eat?' I would reply blithely 'Oh, you know. Pies, pizzas, casseroles, stews, sandwiches, pasta and rice dishes ... strange stuff like that ...'

Source

Misconceptions

Number one

You see, something that is often overlooked is that to be vegetarian doesn't mean living exclusively on vegetables. (If you did, you'd be called vegan; vegans eat no animal products at all.) Cheese, milk, eggs, pasta - your weird new veggie probably eats all those foods.

Number two

One misconception that I often come across is that people who follow a vegetarian diet don't eat red meat but do eat chicken and fish! There are some people who follow this type of diet but it's incorrect to call them vegetarians. (My mum used to do this, much to my amusement).

Number three

A very frequent misconception is that when you have someone who follows a meat-free diet in your family - or when you decide that you're going to give up eating meat and fish yourself - is that you will have to develop new ways of cooking and use unusual ingredients. That's simply not the case.

A variety of meat-free meals
A variety of meat-free meals | Source

Recipe ideas - These are some of my favorite meat-free meal ideas.

These are my favorite meat free recipes and are meals that I make on a very regular basis. I'll add to these when more recipes are published.

Further reading

Life is so easy for today's veggie. There are some wonderful cookbooks available to help you. They make fantastic gifts too.

Whatever type of food you and your family prefers, you'll find that there are books tailored to your own tastes.

Photo credits

All photographs © me!.

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    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @anonymous: Haha! Thanks!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      What's that girl talking about a tier 2 lens? Tier 1 all the way! Hey, do other people that come here that aren't from here know what tier lenses are? O.K. let me explain ... oh, maybe not too complicated even for us.

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @WriterJanis2: Thank you so much Janis.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 5 years ago

      Hope this bumps up to a Tier 2 lens. Pinned.

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @anonymous: It says that 'vegans eat no animal products at all' not that vegans ONLY eat vegetables! Vegans (and many vegetarians) also eat specialist vegan products these days. You should try some of them - they add variety to recipes. Thanks for visiting :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Otherwise, I love your take on being "a" vs just being!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Just for clarification, vegans don't exclusively eat vegetables. We eat veggies, fruits, tubers, nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes...being "vegan" is just as normal and healthy as being "vegetarian."

    • CuAllaidh profile image

      Jeff Johnston 5 years ago from Alberta Canada

      I enjoy meat way to much to ever go veggie, however I do enjoy many a vegetarian dish :D

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Although I'm a meat eater, there are also many delicious vegetarian dishes, especially Pizza. Great Lens.

    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 5 years ago

      I'm confused: I think your second paragraph says the same thing about both tags. Mushroom stroganoff - now that sounds exquisite.

    • AprilAlice profile image

      AprilAlice 5 years ago

      I was raised vegetarian, so it seems "normal" to me. I now eat fish and some poultry, but many days are still vegetarian -- out of habit.

    • Tennyhawk profile image

      Tennyhawk 5 years ago

      Good to know!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I never thought about that before. There really is nothing wrong with being a vegetarian.

    • audrey07 profile image

      audrey07 5 years ago

      Nothing wrong with being vegetarian. I don't find it weird at all. Many Buddhists are vegetarians on certain days of the month too.

    • Diva2Mom profile image

      Diva2Mom 5 years ago

      Great lens and fabulous job! BLESSED by a little Squid Angel. God bless you and huge hug!

    • Adventuretravels profile image

      Giovanna Sanguinetti 5 years ago from Perth UK

      Thanks for this lens. You're right people do have so many strange notions about vegetarian food. My wife comes from Northern Italy, where they have so many wonderful meat and fish free delicious recipes, but if you tell them you're vegetarian they typically start to panic and run around wondering what to cook for you!!

    • LynetteBell profile image

      LynetteBell 5 years ago from Christchurch, New Zealand

      I had never thought about the 'a' before. Thanks for a great lens.

    • TACTCI LM profile image

      TACTCI LM 5 years ago

      It's who you are as opposed to what you are, great point! Thanks.

    • TransplantedSoul profile image

      TransplantedSoul 5 years ago

      You are right - the "a" has no use and is just used as a label. I wil stop saying that I am "a vegetarian" effective immediately. I too am pedantic - but it can be fun!

    • meganst profile image

      meganst 5 years ago

      Great lens, you have made very clear where you are coming from when speaking about the difference between vegetarian and "a vegetarian" :)

    • moralblogger lm profile image

      moralblogger lm 5 years ago

      Well explained! I find it frustrating when someone claims to be 'vegatarian' but still eats fish? It's as if they see fish as something you would plant, therefore not have a heart, liver, eyes, brain and all the other things a living creature has. Congrats on the Purple star...deserved!

    • SuzieJames profile image

      SuzieJames 5 years ago

      Great lens! AS someone who has eaten the vegetarian way for most of my life and totally plant based for the last year I agree completely about the label thing. ( notice I said plant based and not vegan? Vegan is a label I have trouble with in my own way :-) )

    • profile image

      mecheshier 5 years ago

      A fabulous read. Thanks for sharing. I have been a vegetarian for over 35 years. I hear you, I do not like be called "A vegetarian" in other words, one of those!

    • Melissa Miotke profile image

      Melissa Miotke 5 years ago from Arizona

      Interesting, I never thought about the difference.

    • profile image

      Suunnyy 5 years ago

      Great lens and Congratz on purple star ;)!

    • Jemjoseph profile image

      Jemjoseph 5 years ago

      I often confuse vegetarian with vegan - giving up meat, but being able to eat animal products like cheese, milk, eggs & yogurt would definitely be an easier and more palatable transition for a meat eater than a vegan diet.

    • rasnasah profile image

      rasnasah 5 years ago

      Great lens.Thanks.

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @flinnie lm: Thank you so much!

    • flinnie lm profile image

      Gloria Freeman 5 years ago from Alabama USA

      Hi great info on vegetarian, I like eating less meat. Congrats on purple star. Blessed by Squid Angel flinnie.

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @allaboutdubai: Thank you so much!

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Fredzup: Thank you so much. Labels are weird, aren't they?

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @lbrummer: I'm so pleased it's helpful!

    • kimark421 profile image

      kimark421 5 years ago

      Great lens and info for vegetarian. Or, a vegetarian. Or meat eaters like me.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I wish I could eat less meat

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Great lens.

    • profile image

      cleanyoucar 5 years ago

      Great read! Thanks for sharing this with us.

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @kmhrsn: Thank you! I have to congratulate Squidoo for the layout because it only uses the basic modules. CSS might as well be Chinese as far as I'm concerned :)

    • nikkinal profile image

      nikkinal 5 years ago

      Very enjoyable article and well-defended point of view. I eat just about every food, but I would rather hang out with vegetarian people than a bunch of vegetarians. It's the whole approach and I agree, there is a difference!

    • lbrummer profile image

      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      I have a granddaughter who is vegetarian, so I appreciate the explanation. Congratulation on receiving the Purple Star.......well deserved, I might add. Blessed!!

    • Fredzup profile image

      Fredzup 5 years ago

      I like the way you pointed out how we get labeled. Are you really anything? We are on a path of eating and growing more vegetables with a venture into raw food dishes. Plants can cure many things wrong with people. Would you put something in your gas tank that is know to make your car run poorly?Thanks for the wonderful Lens and I look forward to more recipes...

    • KathyFirak profile image

      KathyFirak 5 years ago

      Great food photos. Check these http://www.firakphoto.com

    • kmhrsn profile image

      kmhrsn 5 years ago

      Great lens. I liked that it was mostly information, not spammy at all! Also, I was wondering how you formatted it in such a lovely way. Did you use CSS? (Something I'm clueless about.) This really is one of the most attractively presented lenses I've seen.

    • Deborah Swain profile image

      Deborah Swain 5 years ago from Rome, Italy

      am also vegetarian...congrats on the purple star!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Not "vegetarian" but would be "a vegetarian" if i didn't love meet so much;)

    • poldepc lm profile image

      poldepc lm 5 years ago

      congrats on your purple star lens...

    • rattie lm profile image

      rattie lm 5 years ago

      Lovely lens.

    • rattie lm profile image

      rattie lm 5 years ago

      Lovely lens.

    • allaboutdubai profile image

      allaboutdubai 5 years ago

      Congratulations on the Purple Star, you do deserve it.

    • persistance lm profile image

      persistance lm 5 years ago

      This is an interesting point you've raised. Being 'vegetarian' or 'a vegetarian'. I grew up in a family that choose to cut out all meat and fishes. We do eat eggs, cheese, and milk. We do it not for health reasons but more for religious reasons. We also don't eat onionsand garlic as per the rules of the religion. Growing up, I'm always the weirdo among my friends coz I'm A Vegetarian. Now after reading your lens, it gives me confidence that being vegetarian is just a state of being and there's nothing weird about it.

    • Rosetta Slone profile image

      Rosetta Slone 5 years ago from Under a coconut tree

      I haven't ever thought of this before, but you make a good point. I was vegan while living in Paris : no-one believed me when I said I ate food. They all thought I must live on air or something! It's amazing and kind of sad how people can't conceive of the idea of eating a meal based on vegetables.

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @dajafreemancmt: Thanks! I think that there are many more vegetarians these days than ever before.

    • dajafreemancmt profile image

      dajafreemancmt 5 years ago

      nice read :) im vegetarian tooo

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @IMHustle: Thanks so much!

    • profile image

      IMHustle 5 years ago

      I never gave any thought to the "vegetarian" vs. "a vegetarian" argument before, but I do see your point. Btw, I'm not vegetarian or a vegetarian; I just love eating vegetables :) Congratulations on the purple star!

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @LisaNowatzki: Thanks - I'm pretty excited!

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @anonymous: Thank you - and thanks so much for visiting!

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @irminia: Thank you, irminia !

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @dawnsnewbeginning: How amazing that a doctor would say that! Thanks for letting me know - fascinating!

    • LisaNowatzki profile image

      LisaNowatzki 5 years ago

      Great information. Congratulations on the purple star.

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @OhMe: Thanks - it's exciting!

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @safereview: Thank you! And thanks for visiting.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Congratulations on the Purple Star. :)

    • irminia profile image

      irminia 5 years ago

      Since I'm not a native English speaker I used to have doubts whether it is correct to say for instance "I'm Slovenian" or "I'm a Slovenian" ... and in the same way "vegetarian" or "a vegetarian". So for some people it is only a matter of grammar, I believe. I've learned some English in all these years, I understand subtleties a bit better and I'm totally glad that someone has made this point about being "vegetarian". Thank you!

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @dawnrepurposes: Thanks so much! My mum, who often innocently got her words wrong, once accidentally referred to me as 'a vegetable'!

    • dawnsnewbeginning profile image

      dawnsnewbeginning 5 years ago

      I didn't like meat growing up and my Mom took me to the Doctor and he said there was no such thing as vegetarian. I found out years later there were people like me who did not prefer meat!

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 5 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Congrats on your purple star

    • safereview profile image

      Bob 5 years ago from Kansas City

      I love me some meat, but I really enjoyed your lens and the fresh new perspective (for me) on how I use the word vegetarian. And congrats on the Purple Star award.

    • dawnrepurposes profile image

      dawnrepurposes 5 years ago

      This is very true. I have always referred to myself as vegetarian without the "a" in conversations. But my friends and family refer to me as "a vegetarian". Didn't like that. Actually, in writing I see that I do say I am "a vegetarian" some times. I will be watching that from now on! Congrats on the purple star!

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @GabrielaFerrer: Thanks so much, Gabriela! I'm very excited.

    • GabrielaFerrer profile image

      GabrielaFerrer 5 years ago

      Congratulations on the Purple Star!

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @anonymous: Very true, davespeed. Have a great day!

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @atala1: Thanks for reading!

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @BaliFloatingLeaf: I know what you mean, BaliFloatingLeaf. I would love to be able to grow my own fruit and vegetables. All I can manage so far is to grow a few herbs on pots but it's an ambition. Luckily we have a farmers market locally that sells organic produce. Thanks for visiting!

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @AllThingsPotter: Thank you so much. Squiddo is an exciting place to be!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      It's an interesting distinction that you make between "vegetarian" and "a vegetarian." I've never thought about that before. I agree with you that we shouldn't think of eating vegetarian as something weird.

    • profile image

      atala1 5 years ago

      An interesting way of looking at things. Thanks.

    • BaliFloatingLeaf profile image

      BaliFloatingLeaf 5 years ago

      Thanks for the lens. Never thought about it that way. I've increasingly been interested in a so called "real food" lifestyle. Eating mostly vegetables, but some dairy and even meat if it is organic, free range, without hormones or antibiotics. Also trying to avoid as many additives as possible. This has become very difficult as the options are very limited.

    • AllThingsPotter profile image

      AllThingsPotter 5 years ago

      Congratulations on getting a Purple Star!

    • AllThingsPotter profile image

      AllThingsPotter 5 years ago

      Congratulations on getting a Purple Star!

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @getmoreinfo: Thank you for stopping by!

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @rudhushudu: Thank you! I see that you're from India - I LOVE Indian food! We often have my own (English) versions. I like to add fruit to curries too. SO good!

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @olmpal: Thank you so much!

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @JuneNash: I think you're right, gigglinggranny. People have so many different reasons for being vegetarian and often it's an animals' rights issue. (That's not my reason though). Thanks for stopping by and for you comment!

    • profile image

      getmoreinfo 5 years ago

      Thanks for the information about being a vegetarian.

    • profile image

      rudhushudu 5 years ago

      I am a veggi myself I love being one! great lens

    • profile image

      olmpal 5 years ago

      Not a vegetarian myself but I love vegetables. So thanks for the recipes. Congrats on the purple star!

    • JuneNash profile image

      June Nash 5 years ago

      Very interesting. I enjoyed reading your point of view. I'm not a vegetarian myself. I believe in a healthily varied diet. A little bit of everything. I think we all have different needs. We eat the way that makes our bodies feel best.

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Donallphin: Well done with your cholesterol success! It just goes to show that 'we are what we eat'. I agree about the variation of definitions and you're so right about eating healthily. I never liked meat so rarely ate it when I was younger even though I didn't consider myself vegetarian. But when I married someone who is 100% vegetarian it made life easier for me to be the same.

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @GabrielaFerrer: Hi Gabriela,In addition, I know people who won't eat honey because of its animal association. And yet I also know people who follow a vegetarian diet for animal welfare reasons and wear leather shoes. Crazy world!

    • Donallphin profile image

      Donallphin 5 years ago

      I appreciate this lens. Everyone has a right to eat the way they want, and there are misconceptions about what it means to be vegetarian, vegan, or even "omnivore." I believe in trying to "eat healthy." For me, to take my cholesterol from 224 to 147 in six weeks was to become a "virtual vegan." Thanks so much for this timely lens.

    • GabrielaFerrer profile image

      GabrielaFerrer 5 years ago

      I tend to disagree with one of your misconceptions. I consider a person to be a vegetarian a person who eats vegetables and vegetable products ONLY. Eggs come from a hen's bottom, milk from an animal's udder, and so on. I consider them animal products, whoever eats them are NOT vegetarians. Simple as that...

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @GreenerDays: That's interesting! I avoided eating meat as a child, even though I didn't know that vegetarians existed, because I just didn't like it. I think my family just thought I was weird!

    • GreenerDays profile image

      GreenerDays 5 years ago

      @BritFlorida: There was a point once when I was a teenager and I tried to eat meat (as an act of rebellion, yes), but it made me quite sick as I lacked the enzymes needed to digest the meat. And to be honest, eating meat has never really appealed to me (the smell of cooking meat turns my stomach a bit), and I'm really glad my parents made the decision to raise me that way (60s hippies that they were). I hope your son appreciates your decision as well!

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @GreenerDays: How interesting! I don't think I've ever met a lifelong vegetarian before. What's interesting to me is that you didn't rebel - I brought my son up with a vegetarian diet. He chose later in life to eat meat. His choice and that's fine but at least I believe that he had a healthy diet during his formative years.

    • GreenerDays profile image

      GreenerDays 5 years ago

      Interesting distinction, and not one I've really thought about before - despite being raised vegetarian and being one my whole life!

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Jo-Jackson: Thank you - coming soon :)

    • Jo-Jackson profile image

      Jo-Jackson 5 years ago

      Looking forward to your Mushroom Stroganoff with Wild Rice lens.

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Sundaycoffee: Sundaycoffee - I'm waiting for restaurants to catch up. I'm so tired of being presented with a) vegetarian lasagna (boring and predictable) b) a plate of roasted vegetables (unimaginative) or c) a salad! I find that ethnic restaurants (Indian, Mexican and Italian) are the best choices for a vegetarian diet. How about you?

    • profile image

      Sundaycoffee 5 years ago

      An interesting argument! We learn to promote gender equality, are tolerant towards race and religion, but vegetarians or vegans are still considered slightly insane. :) During the last years it has gotten a bit better though; many have started to support the idea, or have become vegetarians themselves.

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Gayle Dowell: Thank you so much for your comment.

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