There are a growing number of people who say they are vegetarian when they simply do not eat meat. They do not substitute meat, they simply just eat around it or don’t eat it at all. The common misconception is that this makes them vegetarian. No, this makes them people who do not like to eat meat. There IS a difference.
Being vegetarian is a lifestyle. As a veggie I have to find many different ways to get protein and iron in my body, and I have to find ways to healthily substitute a meat product for something I can enjoy that is meatless. Meaning, I don’t just have cheese pizza while everyone else around me is gnawing on pepperoni. I choose goat cheese over the traditional cow’s (less fattening and more protein) and choose heavier sauce (rich source of vitamin C) and a wheat crust (wheat bread far outnumbers the nutrients in white bread any time). A meatless eater will simply pick the pepperonis OFF.
Being vegetarian is a symbol of HEALTH and natural well-being. I know a girl who called herself vegetarian for years but was always gaunt and tired. Her hair started falling out so she started eating meat again, claiming that being vegetarian just wasn’t healthy. I asked her how she was getting her protein and nutrients, iron and such, and she told me all she’d been eating for the last 4 years were pasta packets and cake with no frosting. Seriously?! How could she call herself a vegetarian! She claimed since she wasn’t eating meat that is exactly what she was-vegetarian.
No, ma’am. Unless you are scarfing down tofu and drinking soy milk like there’s no tomorrow, vegetarian you are not.
You don’t have to be a tree-hugger to be vegetarian. You don’t even have to love animals or stand for animal rights to be a veggie. But you do have to know the difference between choosing to not eat meat because you don’t like it and choosing not to eat meat because you are wanting healthier alternatives.
My vegetarianism started out with a skepticism of meat. At 13 I didn’t know what soy even was, nor did I assume protein and iron were essential to a healthy lifestyle. All I knew was I didn’t like to eat animals (it was mental as much as it was an actual distaste). It was a few years until I hit High School that I became a true vegetarian rather than a person who didn’t eat meat.
Once I got my first taste of chocolate soy milk, I was hooked. Tofu and boca burgers are my new favourite food stand-bys.
I’ll set the record straight- vegetarians are not unhealthy. We are not underweight, pale, gaunt, tired balding freaks who need a hot dog to nourish us. True vegetarians thrive and live much healthier lifestyles than even the average health-conscious person. Because we have to. It’s our way of life.
It’s those damn meatless eaters that give us veggies a bad name.
So yes, there IS a difference. Meatless eating and vegetarianism are not one and the same. The best way that it can be summed up is that one is a taste preference, while one is a lifestyle. One is just plain picky eating, while the other is a whole way of life.
Got it? Good.