Vegetarian Starter Guide

Indian Summer

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This guide is for anyone considering adopting a vegetarian lifestyle. The change it can bring to your life can be very rewarding. This guide is meant to help you get off to the right start and give you information on the basics of vegetarianism.

What you will find here are: distinctions between the vegetarian classes, myths & facts about vegetarianism, reasons why you should go vegetarian, food ingredients you should avoid, transitioning to vegetarianism, miscellaneous things you should know, and resources to learn more on this subject.

The classifications of vegetarians may be confusing. Therefore, we will define the different levels of vegetarians for clarification:

Vegetarian (or lacto-ovo vegetarian): someone who eats no meat at all but might consume dairy and eggs.
Lacto-vegetarian: a vegetarian who consumes dairy but not eggs.
Ovo-vegetarian: a vegetarian who consumes eggs but not milk/dairy.
Strict vegetarian: a vegetarian who doesn't consume any dairy or eggs.
Vegan: a vegetarian who tries to avoid, as best as possible, all products and byproducts derived from animals, such as eggs, dairy, honey, leather, silk and wool.
Raw Vegan: a vegan who generally does not cook food over 115° Fahrenheit (46° C). The reason why someone would choose this diet is because many vegetables lose nutritional value when cooked at high temperatures.
Fruitarian: a vegan who consumes only fruits and vegetables that can be picked from the plant without destroying it. The term fruitarian is commonly misunderstood because it is assumed they will only eat fruit.

Some people claim to be vegetarian even though they eat seafood. Although well intended, they are not vegetarians because vegetarians do not eat animals. The correct label is 'pescetarian'. Their diet choice is similar to flexitarians, which is someone who mostly eats a vegetarian diet but occasionally eats meat.


Reasons Why You Should Go Vegetarian

[FLOAT_RIGHT]Recycling_symbol.svg.png
A vegetarian diet requires
less resources.
[/FLOAT_RIGHT]
1. The environment. Only a small fraction of the calories consumed by farmed animals are actually converted into the meat that people eat. This means that by raising animals for meat, we are literally wasting about 130 times as much excrement as the entire human population of the United States, and since factory farms don't have sewage treatment systems as our cities and towns do, this concentrated slop ends up polluting our water, destroying our topsoil, and contaminating our air. Raising farm animals is responsible for the production of 86,000 pounds per second! Whether it's the overuse of resources, unchecked water or air pollution, or soil erosion, raising animals for food is wreaking havoc on the Earth.

[FLOAT_LEFT]218px-Peta_Italia_en_Pamplona.jpg
Peta Italia in Pamplona.[/FLOAT_LEFT]
2. Animal welfare. Farm animals do not have any legal rights. They cannot speak for themselves. They are almost always housed in horrible conditions with almost no room to move. Sanitation is ignored as well. They must sleep in their own feces. And then they are systematically killed by the cheapest methods possible. Often times, the cheapest methods of death are also some of the most painful ways to die. It’s no wonder why there are so many recalls on meat for being diseased.

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A vegetarian diet can lower blood
pressure, reduce the risk of heart
disease and profoundly decrease
the risk of some cancers.
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3. Your health. Vegetarian diets are generally healthier than meat based diets. A vegetarian diet can lower blood pressure and reduces the risk of heart disease (which is the #1 killer in the US). Your calorie intake will probably be reduced, thus you will probably lose some weight (if you eat healthy foods, not vegetarian junk foods). Usually, vegetarians consume more fiber than meat eaters, which profoundly decreases the risk of colon cancer. There are many more health benefits.

4. You may discover a whole new world of foods. There are so many wonderful ingredients that people completely overlook like seitan, tofu, nutritional yeast, curries, tempeh, exotic spices, lesser known veggies, etc. Similarly, there are so many cultural cuisines that most people don't even try that are full of flavor and have a good selection of vegan choices like Thai, Indian, Moroccan, Vietnamese, Ethiopian, Bengali, and Mediterranean. You may encounter chefs preparing vegetarian feasts concentrating on perfecting the balance of ingredients and spices to optimize the taste of food. When well prepared, vegetarian meals can be quite astounding.
220px-Vegan_Gardein_Tofu_Foods_Display_(cropped1).jpg
Tofu.

Common Non-Vegan Ingredients (not a complete list):


For a more thorough list of non-vegan ingredients, check out our Non-Vegan Ingredient List.

BETA CAROTENE: Provitamin A. Carotene. Found in many animal tissues and in all plants. There are plant based sources of beta carotene, so you should contact the manufacturer of your product to confirm whether it is vegan friendly.
CARMINE: Red pigment from the crushed female cochineal insect. Also goes by the names Cochineal, E120 and Red #4 (not to be confused with Red #40 which is vegetarian). Used in fruit drinks, yogurt and often in strawberry flavored items.
FATTY ACIDS: Can be one or any mixture of liquid and solid acids, caprylic, myristic, oleic, palmitic, stearic , behenic. Used in bubble baths, lipsticks, soaps, detergents, cosmetics, shampoos, foods.
GELATIN: Protein obtained by boiling skin, tendons, ligaments or bones with water, from cattle and hogs. Used as a thickener for fruit gelatins and puddings, candies, marshmallows, cakes, ice cream, yogurts, medicines, shampoos, face masks, other cosmetics.
GLYCERIN: A byproduct of soap manufacture (normally used animal fat). Also known as Glycerine. Glycerol. Polyglycerol. Polytethylene Glycol (PEG). Used in cosmetics, foods, mouthwashes, toothpastes, soaps, ointments, medicines, lubricants, transmission and brake fluids, plastics.
ISINGLASS: A form of gelatin prepared from the internal membranes of fish bladders. Used in foods and sometimes used in "clearing" wines and beers.
LARD: Fat from hog abdomens. Used in shaving creams, soaps, cosmetics, baked goods and other foods.
LEATHER: Suede, Calfskin. Sheepskin. Alligator.
MUSK: Obtained from the genitals of the Northern Asian small hornless deer. Used in perfumes and food flavorings.
NATURAL FLAVOR: This elusive ingredient can (but not always) be meat derived. It can pretty much be anything.
PALMITATE: Palmitic Acid. Fatty Acids. From fats, oils, mixed with stearic acid. Occurs in many animal fats and plant oils. In shampoos, shaving soaps, creams.
PEPSIN: Obtained from the stomachs of hogs. A clotting agent. In some cheeses and vitamins.
RENNET: From calves' stomachs. Used in cheesemaking, rennet custard (junket) and in many coagulated dairy products. Also known as Rennin.
SHELLAC: Obtained from the bodies of the female scale insect Tachardia lacca. Shellac is used as varnish, as a coating on wood and plaster, in electrical insulation, and in sealing wax.
SILK: Shiny fiber made by silkworms to form their cocoons. They are boiled or roasted in their cocoons to get the silk. Used in cloth and silk screening.
TALLOW: Rendered beef or sheep fat. May cause eczema and blackheads. In wax paper, crayons, margarines, paints, rubber, lubricants, candles, soaps, shampoos, lipsticks, shaving creams, other cosmetics. Also known as Tallowate, Tallow Fatty Alcohol and Stearic Acid.


Transitioning To Vegetarianism

The transition to vegetarianism may or may not be difficult for you. We will discuss ways to manage this change and make it easier for you.

Some people can quit eating meat immediately while other people reduce meat consumption and gradually eliminate it from their diet over a few months time. Do whatever works best for you.

Many people experience constant hunger or a lack of feeling full for a short period of time when first going vegetarian. This will pass. Your body gets used to what you feed it and it needs time to readjust. Generally, vegetables are very low in calories. You may need to eat more of them to compensate for that lack of high calorie foods. This is an excellent opportunity to cut down on high fat foods and eat those veggies you mother kept telling you to eat when you were a kid.

You may want to consider joining a vegetarian group. They could give you one on one support and down to earth answers to your questions. Check with a local group in your area. Ask them what they do, how often they meet, etc. Groups are independent of each other, so not all groups do the same thing. In the process, you may end up making some new friends. Here’s a website that has a fairly large listing: Vegetarian/Vegan Societies and Organizations

Arm yourself with knowledge. Knowledge helps you understand why vegetarianism is such a good choice on so many levels. Join forums and browse around. On Veggie Views, you will find topics ranging from animal rights to recipes and a lot more in between.

Restaurant trips with friends, family and coworkers may go much smoother if you research their vegetarian options before you go. These days, many restaurants have their menus posted on their website. If the restaurant does not have a website, try searching third party websites for the menu. If all else fails, you can call ahead to ask what vegetarian options they offer.

Attitude is everything. Don’t look at vegetarianism as a chore. It really isn’t. There are meat substitutes that are amazingly realistic. Restaurants and food manufacturers are catering to vegetarians now more than ever in history. You won’t miss out on anything because all your old favorites are readily available. Being vegetarian is what you make of it. Have fun with it!

This article was previously published on our wiki and was authored by @sleepydvdr.

Images from Wikimedia Commons:
  • "Recycling symbol" by Krdan - Own work. This vector image was created with Inkscape. (Public domain.) (Original)
  • "Peta Italia en Pamplona" by A. (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.) (Original)
  • "Red Cross" (Public domain) (Original)
  • "Vegan Gardein Tofu Foods Display (cropped1)" by Zeetz - originally posted to Flickr as Vegan, Gardein and Tofu. (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.) (Original)
 
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Blobbenstein

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I'm a fairly strict vegetarian, but if I told most people that, they would think I eat the odd bit of meat. So it's not an ideal term.
 
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Dropkick

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I'm a fairly strict vegetarian, but if I told most people that, they would think I eat the odd bit of meat. So it's not an ideal term.
Maybe you could use "pure vegetarian" instead - then if they misunderstand they'll just think you're saintly.
:angel:


I thought a strict vegetarian was just a vegetarian.

It was my understanding that the addition of "strict" was being incorrectly used by those (like myself) who are ovo-lacto and use the word strict to differentiate our diet from that of a true vegetarian, instead of correctly using ovo-lacto for ourselves.

Or pescetarians or pollotarians (term? chicken eaters) also use it when they incorrectly try to group themselves in with vegetarians.
 
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ledboots

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This was a great idea!
Absolutely! I really like the tips about restaurants and non-veg people. I think social reasons are common for giving up veg*nism, so the easier, the better. A quick perusal of online menus, as suggested, makes eveything a million times easier.

Good work! [emoji122] [emoji324]
 
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Indian Summer

Indian Summer

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I've added "strict vegetarian". I'm not sure whether the addition of "strict" is incorrect, but I believe it's used enough that it's helpful to mention.