How do you ask someone if they’re a vegetarian?
You don’t, they automatically tell you.
Today marks the first day of US VegWeek 2014. Running from April 21 to April 27, US VegWeek is a week long meat-free pledge. Beneficial for your health, the planet, and of course animals, this is a week to test out the vegetarian waters.
Being a vegetarian now-a-days is an easier feat than before. With more vegetarian and vegan restaurants popping up, the many veggie recipes swarming the internet, and the discovery of kale chips, being a vegetarian is the new trend of the season. Animal Culture is a promoter of vegetarianism and veganism, and we are pleased more and more people are jumping on that bandwagon. However, it is not something that should be taken lightly.
Being a vegetarian is a lifestyle change. Whether you do it for your own personal health, or for the suffering of animals (and just as a side note: if you do it for the animals, you shouldn’t order a salad while you’re wearing a leather jacket), you need to know what to eat in order to keep both your body and mind healthy.
So why is it so important to take this 7-day VegWeek pledge, and possibly alter your life to become a full-time vegetarian? Well, let’s just jump right in and see why you should, how you should do it, and the benefits it provides.
Did you know that about 10 billion land animals are slaughtered for our consumption every year in the United States, and about 58 billion worldwide? And remember, these numbers are just for animals killed for food, not for the numerous other reasons animals are murdered. Going vegetarian for the animals means taking a stand against the abuse and inhumane killing methods these creatures endure in slaughter houses. And just think how nice it would be to sit down to eat, and not wonder what torture your meal had encountered before it reached your plate.
With the rise of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and the many other illnesses that plague the United States and beyond, going vegetarian can reduce and even prevent your risk of encountering these medical problems. According to the American Dietetic Association, as cited on the website of US VegWeek, “appropriately planned vegetarian diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.” So simply, why not reduce your risk and go veg?
We all want to help reduce our carbon footprints on this earth. Choosing a vegetarian lifestyle can assist with that. Animal agriculture results in 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions, mostly due to the three climate change-affecting gases that factory farms produce: carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. Eating veggie can help make your positive mark on the planet as you discourage the consumption of factory farm meats.
In order to be a full-time vegetarian, or even to partake in VegWeek, you need to know what kinds of food to eat to keep yourself healthy.
The phrase above, “where do you get your protein?”, is one thing vegetarians and vegans hear the most from meat-eaters. Women need about 46 grams of protein a day, while men need about 56 grams, and protein should fulfill 10-35% of a person’s daily calorie intake. It’s no secret that meat is the number one source of protein, and without meat, vegetarians and vegans need to find other ways to get their much-needed protein.
A normal 8-ounce piece of meat has 50+ grams of protein. In order to substitute meat, vegetarians and vegans need to know which foods are high enough in protein to give them the recommended daily amount. Quinoa, dubbed the “queen of whole grains”, is an excellent source of nutrients, and 1 cup contains 18 grams of protein and 9 grams of fiber. Beans, lentils, peas, tofu, soy, nuts and many dairy products (which vegetarians include in their diet, but vegans exclude) are also high in protein. These foods, along with fruit and leafy greens, help make a balanced veggie diet.
For those of you who are wondering what’s up with the header of this post, it’s a funny, and very true, joke. Being a vegetarian or vegan is not about impressing your friends or being “cool”. It is about altering your life for the better, and something to take very seriously. Some people may say “oh, it’s not that hard to be a vegetarian/vegan”, but it is. Getting the nutrients you need, standing up for a cause you believe in, and being taunted by meat everywhere can be very difficult. One major risk vegetarians/vegans face, especially those that have just started, is not eating right. This can turn into a serious problem, and can even make you sick – you can’t live off of Mac & Cheese and stir-fry.
Most veggie-promoting sites will list only the benefits of being a vegetarian/vegan, but at Animal Culture we strive to not only be informative but most importantly honest. It may sound like we are turning you off of going veggie, but it’s far from that. In Animal Culture‘s perfect world, eating meat would be obsolete. However, we understand what it takes to be a vegetarian/vegan, and it is something that potential veggies should be prepared for.
Partaking in VegWeek is a great start. It will test you and help you prepare if this is something you want to do full-time. And if it is, there are many sites out there that can help you with healthy and practical veggie meals. Some of Animal Culture‘s favorites include PETA, VegKitchen, and AllRecipes.
If being a vegetarian or vegan is something you are interested in, or even if you just want to do it for a week, make sure to pledge at US VegWeek. Whether you do it for yourself, for the animals, or for the planet, being a vegetarian/vegan is all about health. And if you know what to eat, being one can lead to a very fulfilling life choice.
So, go VEG!