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What is a vegetarian?

Vegetarians do not eat meat, fish, or poultry. An increasing number of vegetarians also abstain from using any animal products, including dairy, eggs, and honey. These vegetarians are called vegans (pronounced VEE-guns). Among the many reasons for being a vegetarian are health, environmental, ecological, and religious concerns, dislike for meat, compassion for animals. economics, world hunger, and belief in non-violence. The American Dietetic Association has affirmed that a vegetarian diet can meet all known nutrient needs and be healthful for people of all ages. The key to a healthy vegetarian diet, as with any other diet, is to eat a wide variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, plenty of leafy greens, whole grain products, nuts, scads, and legumes.

Why vegetarianism?

Individuals may choose to become vegetarians for many reasons. Among these are health, compassion for animals, religion, economics, ecology, and world hunger.

What do vegetarians eat?

A well-balanced vegetarian diet is based on whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds, and sometimes dairy products and eggs. Everything needed for meals can be found in the supermarket: bread, pasta, rice, nuts, fresh produce, frozen foods, etc. Vegetarians may also eat such foods as tofu, tahini, tempeh, bulgur, millet, and others found in the health food store. Meals can be fast and easy, or gourmet, depending on the taste and skill of the cook. Cookbooks with easy recipes are available from the Vegetarian Society of South Jersey.

How do vegetarians get protein?

Most plant foods contain more than 10% of their calories as protein. Vegetarians can easily get enough protein from a varied diet by eating enough food to meet their daily calorie needs. No special planning or food combining is necessary. And of course, plant foods are also a rich source of vitamins and minerals.

Reasons for becoming a vegetarian

Health: Scientific studies have shown vegetarians to be at lower risk than meat-eaters for heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, and various cancers. On average, vegetarians have less cholesterol and more fiber in their diets than do meat-eaters.

Ecology: Livestock production contributes greatly to water pollution, soil erosion, ground water depletion, and deforestation. Much of the world's tropical rain forests are being destroyed to make room for cattle grazing.

Economics: On a personal basis, vegetarians can spend less money on food than meat eaters. On the larger scale, raising animals for food is a wasteful and inefficient way to use our land. In the U.S., we feed livestock an average 7 pounds of grain and soy to get only 1 pound of meat in return. The grain being wasted on livestock could be put to better use feeding the hungry people of the world.

Compassion: Billions of animals are slaughtered each year for meat consumption. The process involves much misery and suffering to the animals due to the factory-like conditions in which they are raised.

Ethics: A vegetarian diet is a humane, non-violent diet. Many people believe that all life is sacred and that we should cause the least amount of injury or suffering to others as we can. Becoming a vegetarian is a way of putting these beliefs into action.