Why I'm a Vegetarian and more
Firstly, I want to give a definition of what a vegetarian is, as there are many common misconceptions about vegetarians:
A vegetarian is someone living on a diet of grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits with or without the use of dairy products and eggs (preferably free-range). A vegetarian does not eat any meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish or crustacea, or slaughter by-products such as gelatine or animal fats.
For further details on vegetarianism visit the Vegetarian Society website. There you can find information on labelling, shopping and eating out, recipes, health and general info that will help you become a vegetarian (if that's what you are looking to do! If you’re not, the site will at least help you understand the vegetarians in your life).
One thing I have to do being a vegetarian is read the ingredients of food products before I buy them. There are some ingredients that can act as stumbling blocks:
Many foods contain ingredients derived from the slaughter of animals. Gelatine is made from animal ligaments, tendons, bones etc., which have been boiled in water. It is often found in confectionery, ice cream, and other dairy products. Animal fats refer to carcass fats and may be present in a wide range of foods, including biscuits, cakes, and margarines. Suet and lard are types of animal fats. Certain food additives (E numbers) may be derived from animal sources. Cheese is generally made with rennet extracted from the stomach lining of slaughtered calves. Vegetarian cheese is made with rennet from a microbial source. (Taken from the Vegetarian Society)
I also try and buy organic and free-range eggs when I can as I object to the battery farming of hens.
Vegetarian food groups are:
Cereals/grains - wheat (bread & pasta), oats, maize, barley, rye, rice, etc.
Pulses - kidney beans, baked beans, chick peas, lentils, etc.
Nuts & Seeds - almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, etc.
Fruit & vegetables
Dairy products or Soya products - tofu, tempeh, Soya protein etc
Vegetable oils and fats - margarine or butter
A typical vegetarian diet closely matches expert dietary recommendations for healthy eating, being low in saturated fat and high in fibre, complex carbohydrates, and fresh fruit and vegetables. One thing you have to watch though is not to eat too many high fat dairy products. You can read more about this problem here
It is also important in any diet to make sure you have enough vitamins and iron. Good sources of iron for vegetarians include wholegrain cereals, leafy green vegetables, blackstrap molasses, pulses such as lentils and kidney beans, and some dried fruits (such as apricots). Read more here. I have been a vegetarian my whole life and never been iron deficient or anaemic.
For further info on basic vegetarian nutrition read here
Ok, so I've been a vegetarian my whole life. My parents decided to become vegetarians in the 1970s and brought us up eating healthy food (organic where possible). Eating didn’t just mean a vegetarian diet - it meant wholefoods and no 'junk' food (though that rule lapsed as we approached adolescence). I have many fond memories of home baking and trips to local farms for the freshest milk and vegies. I was lucky to have a mother who was an excellent cook and teacher.
So the first reason I am a vegetarian is that I was brought up that way and it's what I'm used to. My body isn't used to processing meat and if I eat a little by mistake I usually end up feeling sick. We were always given the option to eat meat if we wanted to, as we grew older.
As I got older I made a more conscious decision to continue to be a vegetarian. I continue to not like the taste of meat. The smell of the blood and the flesh (esp. when it's not fresh) makes me feel sick. I also choose not to eat meat for health reasons. A high meat content diet has been shown not to be a healthy choice. It has also been shown that you can lead a perfectly healthy life as a vegetarian. In the society I live in it is an option to be a vegetarian - I don't have to eat meat to survive. I know I'm lucky to have that choice and privilege.
Many people become vegetarian because they believe it is wrong to slaughter animals for food (I don't like the MASS slaughter and wastage) and because they are opposed to the cruelty and suffering inflicted upon the billions of animals reared for food. I hate walking past the meat aisle in the supermarket; masses of packages of meat that no one associates with once being a living being.
Another reason people cite for becoming vegetarian is the effect of meat production on the environment, such as the destruction of vast areas of rainforest for cattle ranching, is another reason commonly cited for becoming vegetarian. Others may become vegetarian because of the links between meat production and poverty and famine in developing countries. Religious reasons are also a factor for some people.
I would like to see the day when most people were vegetarians, and we only ate meat on occasions or to survive. If people must eat meat I’d prefer they hunted and killed the animals themselves, or at least ate meat sourced from local farmers and butcher. At the moment people are too divorced from the killing process. I often say to people, "Could you kill an animal?" I know that I could kill a chicken or a fish, if I had to, so I feel I could eat either if I needed to (unfortunately or fortunately I still don't like the taste of them). I couldn't kill a pig or cow or lamb on an average day - I hope I never have to!
Below are some great Vegetarian recipes (you can find many more on the Vegetarian Society website including Christmas recipes, Halloween & Bonfire Night and Flaming Hot Veg BBQs )
Courgette Latkes with Cream Cheese and Grated Beetroot
Goats’ Cheese and Cranberry Parcels
Aubergine, Potato and Chick Pea Balti (Birmingham Balti)
Individual Mushroom & Artichoke Tarts
Marinated Halloumi Cheese Skewers with Mediterranean Vegetables