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Commond Questions About Meatless Eating

What do vegetarians eat?
The same foods everyone else eats, with the exception of animal flesh of any kind, whether meat, fish, or poultry, as well as broth, gelatin, and products made from animal flesh. Vegetarians who are called vegans (vee-guns) do not eat dairy products, eggs, or any other foods from animals. Some vegetarians like to include fake meats in their diet— veggie burgers and hot dogs, vegetarian deli “meats” and “chik” nuggets. Other vegetarians prefer the many meatless dishes from ethnic cuisines like Chinese, Mexican, Italian, Middle Eastern, or Indian. Some vegetarians eat a mostly raw diet of fruits, uncooked vegetables, sprouts, nuts, and seeds. Others are gourmet cooks who have won Gold Medals at the International Culinary Olympics. Whether you are a junk-food junkie, “health nut,” or anything in between, you can find a vegetarian diet that suits the way you like to eat.

What if I don’t have time to cook?
You don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen preparing vegetarian foods. For dinner you could sauté a bag of fresh or frozen Stir-Fry Vegetables with some tofu cubes, add a homemade or bottled Chinese seasoning sauce, and eat with rice. Dinner in twenty minutes! You could heat some canned or cooked pinto beans with taco seasonings, mash them, and wrap in flour tortillas. Top with salsa for an easy main dish. Most supermarkets now carry frozen vegetarian foods and the selection is even larger at natural foods stores. You can spend as much or as little time cooking as you feel like.

How can I get enough protein?
Plant foods contain enough protein to meet the needs of both adults and children. Contrary to popular misconceptions, you do not need to carefully combine foods in order to get the right balance of amino acids. The American Dietetic Association states, “Plant sources of protein alone can provide adequate amounts of essential amino acids if a variety of plant foods are consumed and energy needs are met. …[C]omplementary proteins do not need to be consumed at the same time.” (from the American Dietetic Association's Position Paper on Vegetarian Diets, http://www.eatright.org/adap1197.html) Foods like dry beans and peas, tofu, seitan (“wheat meat”), sesame seeds, and peanut butter contain large amounts of protein.

Do I have to make the change all at once?
You can if you want to. Some people find it is easiest to make a quick, clean break with the past. Others prefer to make changes in steps, perhaps eliminating red meat first, then chicken, then fish. Do whatever works best for you.

Don’t children need to eat meat and drink milk in order to grow up strong and healthy?
The American Dietetic Association confirms that appropriately planned vegetarian and vegan diets can supply the nutrient needs of children from infancy through adolescence (http://www.eatright.org/adap1197.html). This means a variety of nutritious foods in quantities sufficient to meet a child’s energy needs. Fortified foods or supplemental vitamins and minerals can help when a child is a picky eater.


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