How to become a vegetarian

Knowing the power of plants (and what they lack) can fuel your mind and body

By Waheeda Harris

Not really into eating meat anymore? You’re not alone. According to recent studies, almost 10 per cent of grade nine girls have made the choice to become vegetarians.

Many teens turn away from eating meat because they either don’t like the taste, or they may have ethical, environmental or social reasons. Once you’ve made the decision, you need to make smart choices about changing your eating habits. Get informed by searching web sites, visiting the library or talking to your doctor to find out as much as you can. According to Leslie Beck, a Toronto-based registered dietician and author of Healthy Eating for Preteens and Teens: The Ultimate Guide to Diet Nutrition and Food, this interest in vegetarianism is not a passing phase. “Generally these young women are making a well-informed decision about what they want to do for themselves for various reasons,” says Beck.

Eating 5–8 servings per day of anti-oxidant rich fruits and vegetables can benefit your health in a huge way! You’ll find more SUPERFood Facts in future issues of vervegirl!

SUPERFood: Sweet Potatoes
According to the web site whfoods.org (World’s Healthiest Foods) this root vegetable qualifies as an EXCELLENT source of vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene), a VERY GOOD source of vitamin C and manganese, and a GOOD source of copper, dietary fiber, vitamin B6, potassium and iron.

The Antioxidant Factor: Sweet potatoes have healing properties as an antioxidant food. Both beta-carotene and vitamin C are very powerful antioxidants that go to work in the body to eliminate free radicals (those nasty chemicals that cause premature aging and cell damage). Try a small, baked sweet potato with a big salad for a lunch or dinner. Simply cover the skin in olive oil, place on a tray and bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes (or until fork-tender). Delicious even when served cold and therefore makes a great to-go food!

How do I get started?
Get a support network. “The family has to get involved, since generally a parent is still making the choices for what the family eats at every meal,” says Beck. You need to get involved in the food shopping and cooking. A family can then work towards having one or two plant-based meals a week, in order for the new vegetarian to avoid being ostracized by the rest of the family.

School can also affect food choices. As Beck suggests, “Often the vegetarian options in school cafeterias are high fat, such as cheese pizza or mac-aroni and cheese. Teens need to make healthier choices for their lunches and snacks.” There are concerns that some young people choose vegetarianism as a way to lose weight, or to hide an eating disorder. So be certain that’s not your motive! If it is, talk to your parents or a nutritionist to set up a healthy way to slim down veggie-style.

All that aside, if you are serious about making vegetarianism a lifestyle choice, you owe it to your growing body to learn what to eat daily and why.

According to recent studies, almost 10% of grade nine girls have made the choice to EAT plant-based foods.
*From The What’s On Your Plate? Highschool Nutrition Survey by Greene—Fineston, LS, et al. Prev Med 2005

So what exactly is vegetarianism? It’s the practice of not eating animal based foods. Categories include:
Lacto-ovo Do not eat meat, but do eat eggs and dairy products Vegan Do not eat meat, eggs, dairy products and any products from animals (sometimes including honey) Raw food Similar to vegan (no fish, meat, eggs or dairy products), but all ingredients are raw, organic and vegan and nothing is heated above 118 degrees.