Should I Go Veg?

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What can you do in your life to improve the environment, reduce your carbon footprint and influence other teens and adults in your world? Check out these stories, tips and resources.

Should I Go Veg?

teen going vegetarian - Girl Zone

By Beryl Frishtick

Jennie, a junior in high school, had never wanted to be a vegetarian before.  Yuck!  What would she do without hotdogs and hamburgers? Pepperoni pizza and her dad’s famous beef stew?  Not to mention her absolute favorite dish, chicken parmesan.  It was just too painful to think about.

But then one day Jennie watched a film in her social studies class, a documentary depicting the horrible treatment of animals who are raised and killed for their meat.  Suddenly the idea of becoming a vegetarian didn’t seem so bad.  Jennie and a group of her classmates decided to try out eating vegetarian for one month, to see if they could do it.  Then they would report back to the class with their experience.  Jennie was nervous that it would be difficult not to eat meat for an entire month.

But then something unexpected happened.  Jennie was really surprised with how easy it was to give up meat.  In fact, she stopped wanting meat after only a few days as a vegetarian.  Jennie did things a little differently than “true” vegetarianism—instead of cutting out meat altogether, she abstained from red meat, pork, and poultry, but still ate fish.  This is called pescetarianism.  Jennie told her parents and sister about her choice, and they helped her by cooking interesting dishes like Asian stir-fries with tofu and broccoli, spicy vegetarian bean chili, and tangy salmon pasta dishes. Jennie was surprised with how easy the transition was.  She had been worried about not getting the right amount of nutrients in her diet, especially protein, but she learned that protein also comes from many non-meat sources like eggs, beans, nuts, yogurt, and leafy green vegetables.

To this day, Jennie remains a pescetarian.  Even though her family and friends believe it’s just a phase, she doesn’t think she’ll go back to eating meat any time soon.

There are many reasons to become a vegetarian, or a pescetarian like Jennie:

Be More Humane: Some vegetarians believe it’s inherently cruel to kill animals for food.  Vegans are people who extend this logic and do not use any animal products of any kind (milk, cheese, honey, leather, etc).

Environment: Some vegetarians want to cut down their carbon footprint, and eating less meat is a good way to do this.  Meat production causes a lot of waste of resources, and contributes to overall pollution.  The less meat we produce, the healthier our planet will be.  According to the Humane Society, meat factories contribute in a major way to pollution and climate change.  The manure produced on site pollutes the nearby water and soil.  According to a 2006 U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization report, breeding beef cattle for meat and milk creates more greenhouse gases than the combined amount of cars currently on the road. That’s a lot of pollution!

Health Benefits: Some people find that eating vegetarian also has healthful properties.  Many health experts say that cutting meat out of your diet can lower your risk for heard disease and some cancers.

Meatless Mondays

Not ready to try vegetarianism?  How about Meatless Mondays?  This is a growing movement followed by such celebrities as Oprah, Bill Clinton, and Emily Deschanel.  Instead of cutting out meat altogether, which can be a big commitment for some people, Meatless Mondays fans go vegetarian for one day each week.  It might not seem like much, but this small change in your diet can have big health benefits, and even bigger environmental benefits for the planet.

Check out http://www.meatlessmonday.com/ for more information about Meatless Mondays.

Do you eat meat?  Do you know any pescetarians, vegetarians, or vegans?  Tell us what you think about this dietary choice.

For more information, check out these sites:

http://brown.edu/Student_Services/Health_Services/Health_Education/nutrition_&_eating_concerns/being_a_vegetarian.php

http://www.womenshealthmag.com/nutrition/vegetarian-benefits?page=2

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