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Learn the truth about being a vegetarian

Vegetarianism is perceived differently by everyone. Some go the meatless route due to religious reasons, while others due it out of a more PETA friendly perspective. However, there are those who pass on the meaty goodness to lose weight.
Not all veggie lovers are created equal. There is a difference between a vegan and a vegetarian according to Lisa Dorfman, a sports nutritionist at the University of Miami.
“A vegan eliminates all animal based products [even products cooked in animal by products],”said Dorfman. “Things such as bread prepared with eggs or milk are eliminated.”
According to Dorfman, vegetarian diets are predominately plant based but vary among individuals. Some vegetarians are considered only “semi-vegetarian” because they increase their plant intake but cut back on particular meats, such as beef. Dorfman classifies herself as a lacto-ovo vegetarian meaning that she includes dairy and eggs in her plant based diet.
Vegetarianism is broken down further into lacto-vegetarian, which excludes dairy by products, and ovo-vegetarian, which excludes eggs from its diet.
Whether your decision for a plant based diet is for weight loss reasons or moral/religious beliefs, going meatless, like any other diet, has its pros and cons.
Vegetarianism can offer great health benefits when done properly. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, vegetarian diets can meet all the recommendations for nutrients. The key is to consume a variety of foods and the right amount of foods to meet your calorie needs.
“I am a lacto-ovo vegetarian. I decided to stop eating meat because of the long term health effects that studies have shown,” said Samantha Adkins, sophomore athletic training.
Being a vegetarian is hard sometimes when most of the student body does not follow a plant based diet. According to Adkins, the non-vegetarian students have a much wider variety of food options and vegetarian choices are “uncreative and boring”.
“I became vegetarian because my dad is vegetarian. The options at VSU are okay,”said Ben Carter, freshman, undecided major. “Sometimes I wish I had more variety, but I’ve grown use to it.”
Due to the elimination of a food group, those who choose the plant based diet may need to focus on nutrients that include protein, iron, calcium, zinc, and vitamin B12 and D.
“I invested in a good multi-vitamin, and make sure to eat more grains and high iron foods like spinach and kale,” said Adkins.
According to Holly Alley, a nutrition specialist at the University of Georgia, the wide dietary habits of vegetarianism make it hard to generalize the benefits and risks of the vegetarian diet.
However, studies show that vegetarians in the U.S. have fewer incidents of heart disease than the general U.S. population.
“This may be because most vegetarian diets are low in total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol,” said Alley, “However, some lacto-ovo vegetarians eat a diet that is very high in fat and saturated fat. They might have a rate of heart disease similar to the general population.”
According to Alley, protein isn’t the main issue of vegetarianism; it is the lack of calories, minerals and certain vitamins that creates issues. As long as one is consuming enough calories and supplementing the missing vitamins, vegetarianism is a healthy diet.
The USDA has offered dietary tips for those pursuing vegetarianism:
• Build meals around protein sources that are naturally low in fat, such as beans, lentils, and rice. Don’t overload meals with high-fat cheeses to replace the meat.
• Calcium-fortified soy-based beverages can provide calcium in amounts similar to milk. They are usually low in fat and do not contain cholesterol.
• Many foods that typically contain meat or poultry can be made vegetarian. This can increase vegetable intake and cut saturated fat and cholesterol intake. Consider:
o pasta primavera or pasta with marinara or pesto sauce
o veggie pizza
o vegetable lasagna
o tofu-vegetable stir fry
o vegetable lo mein
o vegetable kabobs
o bean burritos or tacos
• A variety of vegetarian products look (and may taste) like their non-vegetarian counterparts, but are usually lower in saturated fat and contain no cholesterol.
• Most restaurants can accommodate vegetarian modifications to menu items (i.e. Hopper and Palms) by substituting meatless sauces, omitting meat from stir-fries and adding vegetables or pasta in place of meat. These substitutions are more likely to be available at restaurants that make food to order.

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