By Kristen Johnson
According to a recent statement by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a vegetarian or vegan diet is appropriate for all stages of life – from infancy and childhood through pregnancy, adulthood, and old age. People who choose plant-based diets have a tendency to eat more fruits and vegetables, and choose less sweet and salty snacks, as well as snacks with saturated fat. People who adopt these diets have been proven to have a reduced risk of diabetes, heart disease, obesity and some cancers. (Reuters).
The health benefits of choosing a vegetarian and vegan diet have been proven over and over again in study after study over many years. So, why do people continue to eat meat and dairy products? Why are we still dying from preventable diseases? I think it’s partly due to culture and convenience, but I also think it’s due to common misconceptions. Here are a few questions that I get from my meat-eating friends and some answers:
How do you get enough protein? As a vegan for more than 9 years now, I always find this question bizarre because I can’t imagine asking a meat-eater this question. (Perhaps I should counter this question by asking all meat-eaters “how do you get enough fruits and vegetables?”) Anyway – with enough planning, it’s really, really easy to get all the protein you need on a vegan diet. (And, if you eat dairy, which I don’t, then it’s even easier……but dairy is horrible for animals and the environment, so I abstain.) I eat quinoa (my absolute favorite source of “complete” protein) as well as beans, lentils, amaranth, millet, oats, nuts, seeds, and more. As an example, yesterday I ate 61 grams of protein (according to my wonderful MyFitnessPal tracker). The “Dietary Reference Intake” dictates that the average sedentary woman needs 46 grams of protein a day. So, as one who works out for 30 minutes a day on a elliptical machine (barely above “sedentary” really) – I’m clearly getting more than enough protein in my day.
Isn’t it expensive to buy vegan food? A 16 ounce bag of beans at Vons (Safeway) costs $1.25, a bag of lentils $1.50 – both make at least 5 servings a piece. The most expensive thing is a bag of quinoa at $8.99 a bag which still makes at least 3 servings. Porterhouse steak is $13.49 a pound, T-bone steak $14.59 a pound, and a bag of boneless, skinless chicken breast will put you out $12.39. Yes, fruits and vegetables can be pricey – but meat-eaters have to eat fruits and vegetables just like we vegans do.
How do you eat out? Order a salad – I’ve done it at steakhouses. When it’s your turn to pick the restaurant, take your friends and family members to a vegan restaurant. They just might be surprised to find out how tasty it is.
Why do you care about farm animals – it’s just a bunch of cows, chickens, and pigs? Animals are my friends and I don’t eat my farm friends any more than I would eat one of my dogs. Pick up a copy of The Omnivore’s Dilemma by one of my favorite authors, Michael Pollan. Cows, chickens, and pigs do, in fact, feel pain and they are tortured in unbelievably cruel conditions on factory farms, before meeting a murderous end. We have no more right to eat these wonderful creatures than we do our dogs, cats, and horses.
Meat isn’t prohibited in the Bible, but when we read the story of the Garden of Eden (which to me represents God’s ideal for our world before sin came into the picture) – we were designed to be plant-eaters.
Genesis 1:29-30 (NRSV): 29 God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.
Once upon a time, I was a 3-meal-a-day meat-eater who actually openly mocked my vegetarian friends. (I am extremely ashamed of it now and would like to publicly apologize to those I hurt and offended with my words and actions.) But, once I knew the truth of what really went on behind the scenes at factory farms, as well as the horrible effects that it has on the environment, I could no longer stay silent and be a part of the problem.
Be the change you want to see in the world. Stand up for what is right.
Serve all with love.
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