Contrary to belief, being a vegetarian does not innvolve a steadfast diet of lettuce and carrot sticks.
As many are beginning to make their New Year’s resolutions, some would encourage those with a carnivorous spirit to consider altering their diet.
A vegetarian is someone who does not eat any kind of flesh including fish.
For Lesley Johnson, becoming a vegetarian was a slow, but steady process. She stopped eating pork and beef about eight years ago. She then stopped eating turkey and fish two years ago and today considers herself a full-fledged vegetarian due to health and animal cruelty reasons.
“I tried to stop cold turkey, however I didn’t know anyone who was a vegetarian and I didn’t know what to eat. I was eating strange things and always feeling hungry because I didn’t know how to supplement the meat in my diet,” said Johnson.
Nancee Reeves, one of four founders of the Indianapolis Vegetarian Society states Johnson is not alone in discriminating against certain types of foods. Despite speculation and myths, becoming a vegetarian has its benefits.
“A vegetarian diet is a really low fat diet. Vegetarians on average eat 25 percent less fat than meat eaters. We have a lower body mass index,” said Reeves.
She goes on to say studies have shown vegetarians have lower cholesterol, blood pressure, lower rates of cancer, have equally strong bones and have an overall healthy life among other benefits.
Some vegetarians have nixed meat from their diet due to ethical reasons such as how animal are raised, slaughtering techniques and environmental effects.
A diet of fruits, vegetables and grains has also been found to be financially favorable. According to Reeves, studies show replacing meat with fruit and vegetables can save an average of $4,000 a year for a family of four.
Vegetarians may appear to have a limited diet, however many non-meat eaters state it’s possible to have a “full” diet and boosts culinary creativity.
Some of Shelby Combs’ favorite dishes is her mother’s meatloaf,, using textured vegetable protein and soy crumbles, Garden burger riblets, and Morning Star Farm’s bacon. She also enjoys dining at Abbasynia an Ethiopian restaurant on 38th St., Indian Garden in Broad Ripple and other Chinese, Greek, Egyptian, Moroccan, and Indian restaurants that offer vegetarian dishes.
For those who are considering transitioning from meat to vegetables and fruits, Reeves warns of the “junk food trap” (eating anything that’s not meat to satisfy hunger) and suggests researching, preferably from an unbiased source, the various benefits of vegetarianism.
“Wake up Black people! My granny got her legs amputated and my uncles have high blood pressure,” said Combs. “My family thinks I’m crazy. I’m not a vegetarian to be ‘white,’ it’s to live longer and healthier.”
Neither Johnson nor Combs was able to stop eating meat cold turkey (no pun intended), but suggest slowly working towards the goal.
“Just make modifications to the things you eat. I still eat ‘soul food’ but I don’t use ham hock or a turkey leg. I’ve learned how to make things taste good,” added Johnson. She also suggests to those who’s interest is piqued to find a support network.
If necessary, one should also consult a nutritionist or their physician.
“It’s fun to go to places like Whole Foods or Good Earth and see what kinds of stuff they have that you’ve never tried or find fun recipes,” said Reeves. “We’re so used to eating meat, but there’s a lot of options out there. When you make your mind up, it’s going to be part of your life.”
For more information, visit www.indyvegsociety.com.
On the cover
Celebrated author Alice Walker is a vegetarian. She’s even written a poem called “La Vaca” to help a struggling friend understand what being a vegetarian meant from the cow’s point of view.
Types of vegetarians
There are many kinds of vegetarians. Here are some of them:
Flexitarian or semi-vegetarian: A flexitarian is a term recently coined to describe those who eat a mostly vegetarian diet, but occasionally eat meat such as only fish and chicken.
Pescatarian or pesci-vegetarian: A person who abstains from eating all meat and animal flesh with the exception of fish.
Vegetarian or lacto-ovo vegetarian: A person who eats no meat, but will eat dairy products (milk, butter, cheese) and eggs.
Ovo-vegetarian: One who eats eggs, but no meat or dairy products.
Vegan: One who eats no meat or animal products such as milk.
Raw vegan: A raw vegan diet consists of unprocessed vegan foods that have not been heated above 115 degrees Fahrenheit.
Zesty Vegetable Lasagna
2 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 large egg
1 teaspoon (each) salt, pepper, crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound mushrooms
1 large onion, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 (each) red and yellow bell peppers, seeded and sliced into strips
12 ounces fresh baby spinach
4 1/2 cups marinara sauce
1 pound no-boil lasagna noodles
1 1/2 pounds mozzarella cheese
Make the fillings: Combine the ricotta and Pecorino Romano cheeses, garlic, herbs, and egg with 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper and the crushed red pepper in a bowl and set aside. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until golden, about 3 minutes. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil, onions, and peppers and cook until slightly softened, about 4 more minutes. Add the spinach and remaining 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Toss and cook until spinach is wilted and tender, about 2 minutes. Set aside.
Assemble the lasagna: Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Pour 1 1/2 cups sauce into a deep-dish lasagna pan. Layer 5 lasagna noodles over the sauce. Top with half of the cooked vegetables and a third of the mozzarella. Layer with 5 more noodles and spread half the ricotta mixture over the noodles. Top with 1 cup of sauce and add another layer of noodles. Add the remaining vegetables, another third of the mozzarella, and a layer of noodles. Spread on the remaining ricotta mixture, 1 cup of sauce, and the last layer of noodles. Add the remaining sauce and mozzarella. Cover with foil and bake until bubbly, about 1 hour, 20 minutes. Cool slightly before serving.