Although October is almost over, you can finish off the rest of the month by making a change – learn about becoming a vegetarian.
The North American Vegetarian Society said that vegetarians or people who abstain from eating all animal flesh including meat, poultry and fish, have existed throughout history and many people adopt a vegetarian diet for many reasons including the desire to decrease health issues, protect animals and improve the environment. Others may become a vegetarian for religious or economic purposes.
Erin Houge a member of the Indianapolis Vegetarian Society believes no matter the reason, becoming a vegetarian should be personal or else it won’t last.
“I actually went vegetarian because PETA came to my school. For whatever reason that stuck in my mind,” laughed Houge on how she got her beginnings as a vegetarian caring about animal ethics. “If you just transition because your friend did, when someone has pizza, you’re more likely to say ‘I’m going to eat this because I don’t really care.'”
As an adult, she went back to eating meat and about four years ago, Houge became a vegan, a vegetarian who also abstains from animals and animal products such as dairy or eggs.
As people become more health conscious, many are looking into vegetarianism. Anna King, registered dietician for Indiana University Health at Methodist Hospital said that those who renounce meat tend to get more vitamins and minerals and eat a better variety of vegetables overall than the normal population.
She believes most people become a vegetarian due to a lifestyle choice rather than health reasons, but making the transition can lead to decreases in obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer and other diseases.
Those seeking a healthier lifestyle don’t have to become a complete vegetarian and will get the same benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle by simply increasing their fruits, beans, whole grains and vegetables. There are also meat substitutes from companies such as Morningstar and Harmony Valley.
“This is a good way, however, to transition into being a vegetarian. Once you decide to give up chicken and beef you need things that are going to satisfy you and give you the nutrients you need,” said King. “Changing your habits is going to be the toughest part.”
She also warns that there is a myth that when becoming a vegetarian people automatically eat more fruits and vegetables, when in reality people consume more junk food and empty calories for the sake of not eating meat. The key to making this change is research and taking it one step at a time rather than stopping cold turkey.
There are also several different kinds of vegetarians such as a pescatarian, those who abstain from all meat except fish.
Houge said that she has become a more devoted vegan because she learned how to cook meals at home and then began planning her meals in advance.
Going out to eat can sometimes be difficult for vegetarians though. Houge has discovered that many ethnic restaurants have vegetarian options, and more traditional restaurants around Indianapolis are beginning to cater to this segment of the population.
In addition to a plan, having a support network can also increase the success of transitioning to a plant based diet.
There are hundreds of websites with recipes and different suggestions on how to make the transition. There are also forums where people can chat with others who are also in the process of becoming a vegetarian.
For more hands-on support, people can join the Indianapolis Vegetarian Society. Since 2001, the group has been a haven for those who refrain from meat. Currently the group is accepting more members and are in the process of increasing their programming and being more aggressive in getting awareness out to the masses, especially local restaurants.
“We’re not a politically charged group. We’re here to provide food and share our interests with each other,” said Houge. “We don’t want to get into the ‘why are you vegetarian.’ We just want you to come, hang out and eat with us.”
For more information, call (317) 962-2000 or visit www.iuhealth.org/methodist; visit www.indyvegsociety.org; visit www.navs-online.org.