Many people have e-mailed me with questions ranging from general to specific. Below, I’ve included some of those questions. Each question contains a brief answer as well as an indication as to which chapter in the book you can go to in order to find more detailed information. My goal in writing this book was to offer you a genuine and feasible reason to switch to vegetarianism and give you the keys on how to make the transition as easy as possible. I hope you have enjoyed this book as much as I enjoyed writing it. But more importantly, I hope I have given you many reasons to become a vegetarian.
Q. My child is fourteen years old and recently decided to become a vegetarian. How can I be sure that they will grow up healthy and strong?
A. Getting all the vitamins, nutrients, and protein your body requires as a vegetarian adolescent is a lot easier than people think. Read chapter 17 for more information on raising healthy vegetarians.
Q. How do you know if food contains dairy or meat?
A. It’s not always easy to know whether the food you are eating contains dairy or meat products, especially if you don’t cook the meal yourself. Browse chapter 8 for more information on identifying hidden animal products.
Q. What do I buy at the grocery store besides salad for vegetarian meals?
A. There are far more food options for vegetarians than people think. Browse chapter 12 for more information on stocking your meatless kitchen with healthy, tasty, and nutritional vegetarian items.
Q. How can I be sure that my body is getting everything it needs on a vegetarian diet?
A. This is probably one of the biggest concerns for people who convert to vegetarianism. You can easily get everything your body needs (even protein!) on a vegetarian diet. Just take a glance at chapter 5, and brush up on vegetarian nutrition.
Q. Can I lose weight on a vegetarian diet?
A. There are many different reasons why people choose to become vegetarians. One of those reasons is to live a healthier lifestyle and lose weight. Browse chapter 10 for key tips on how to lose weight and balance your eating habits on a vegetarian diet. You can also take a look at chapter
11 to read up on the importance of exercise.
Q. What do I do if I crave meat?
A. Sticking to a vegetarian diet can be hard for those individuals who are just starting out on their vegetarian lifestyle. For tips and advice on how to stay on track, take a look at chapter 4 on how to get started on your journey and at chapter 8 on how to avoid setbacks, find support, and resist
Q. I’m a high school student and a vegetarian. What can I do about eating lunch in the cafeteria?
A. Maintaining your vegetarian lifestyle at school and/or at work can be somewhat of a challenge, especially if your food options are limited. Browse chapter 9, and you’ll find ways to enjoy vegetarian options at restaurants, on the road, at work, and in the school cafeteria!
Q. How can I make vegetarian meals that taste good?
A. There is a common misconception that all vegetarian meals are tasteless. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Browse chapter 13 for some great (and delicious!) vegetarian recipes to get you started!
Q. How can I stay an active and competitive athlete on a vegetarian diet?
A. Athletic vegetarians are often concerned about not being able to perform at a high level without the added protein from meat and eggs. Take a look
at chapter 16 on how to eat well and be active at the same time. There are vegetarian athletes all over the world!
Q. How can I get my whole family involved?
A. Involving your entire family can be a bit of a challenge. When it’s just you, sticking to a vegetarian lifestyle is much easier. But when you have a spouse and/or kids to think about, you have to be able to compromise. Browse chapters 8 and 17 for tips about coping in a meat-eating family and raising a family on a vegetarian diet.
Q. Is drinking milk against vegetarian principles, and are dairy products good or bad?
A. No, there are vegetarians who still eat dairy products. For more information about the pros and cons of dairy, take a look at chapter 15. I would advise you to stay away from dairy products whenever possible. If you’re just starting out, it’s okay to consume it sometimes, but later your body will learn to reject dairy because it’s just not for human consumption! That’s the reason why vegans don’t consume dairy products either.
Q. How do you make your co-workers accept your vegetarianism?
A. Managing your vegetarianism at work can be tricky. Read up on this and other social/work situations in chapter 19. You can learn how to create a support environment both at home and at the office.
Q. What does it really mean to be a vegetarian, and how will it benefit my overall health?
A. Being a vegetarian will not only be healthy for you physically, it will also be healthy for you on a mental, spiritual, and emotional level. Read chapter
2 to gain a better understanding about the history of vegetarianism. Then,
read chapter 3 to learn how being a vegetarian is not only beneficial to you but also to our planet. Chapter 7 will also give you a better understanding on how you will be a healthier and happier individual by becoming a vegetarian.
Q. What if I want to have my family and friends over for a holiday meal? As a vegetarian, how can I cook something that we all can enjoy?
A. Holiday meals present a great opportunity to experiment with different vegetarian recipes. Read chapter 18 to learn more about planning dinner parties with friends or cooking a holiday meal that the whole family is sure to enjoy. You’ll quickly see that it’s not as difficult as you may think!
Q. Are soy products bad for you?
A. Soy products have been the subject of many scientific studies lately, and the results are not good. While tempeh is fine to eat in moderation, other soy products (like soy milk) should not be consumed on a regular basis. Read chapter 14 to learn more about soy products and why you should avoid them and choose other meat alternatives instead.
Q. How do I deal with this argument from a friend: If we don’t kill the animals, there would be too many of them, and they will roam the world!
A. The reason why there are now trillions of animals in our planet is because we made them. The cows are inseminated again right after they have done giving birth; if humans are treated this way, each family would have probably twenty to thirty children. No wonder there are so many animals on this planet. The same applies to chicken, fishes, ducks, pigs, and all meat-factory animals.
Remember, our resources are being used on them, instead of on humans. The more animals there are, the less we can use our resources to solve our planet’s problems.
Q. Whatever the question is …
A. Always answer the question with a common ground, using examples such as the water problem that we are currently facing in this world and the changing climate that comes down hard on food production and adversely affects our future. Explain that meat industry is one of the most destructive industries on the planet because it clears more than 50 percent forests around the world. A major portion of the world’s crops are being fed to animals instead of humans.
You can also explain how going vegetarian could save people’s lives and help them avoid huge hospital bills. Looking at the statistics, it is clear that if we do what others do, we will end up like them. Only by changing our diet is it possible to avoid becoming one of the statistics.
If you explain it like this, the listener would have to agree with you because there’s nothing that they can debate on. Never start with the issue of killing or not killing animals because if you do so, people can get aggressive.
Actually, even as vegans, we kill animals all the time. There are thousands of insects and other small animals that get killed in the process by which we get our fruits, vegetables, and other natural foods. The most we can do is just minimize the killings, but not stop it altogether. It’s impossible to live without somehow killing small living beings. Therefore, don’t use the above argument.
Answer in a way that creates mutual understanding between you and your listener. By explaining the health benefits they would get by eating more fruits and vegetables, you are helping them to live healthier and be less vulnerable to chronic diseases. They’ll be thankful to you as long as you answer any questions they have in a nonjudgmental way. Nobody likes to be judged! Nor should we presume to do so!
Remember that every time you answer questions about being a vegetarian, you are actually making others’ lives much better, for many people don’t know that what they consider their “normal” diet is actually harming them!
So be happy about it !
One way to manage this is to try and incorporate activist activities into the existing areas of your life. You can share a video on factory farming practices with your church group, for example, or ask your employer if they would consider supporting an animal rights organization at a local event.
Always pick your battles carefully. There are a lot of terrible things going on in the world, and you’re just one person. It’s better to make a real difference on one issue than to spread yourself so thin that you’re ineffective at all of them. Your activism could be as simple as starting a vegetarian support group or helping out at an animals rescue group, or as intensive as becoming a full-time PETA volunteer. But choose your fight, and devote yourself fully to it.
The important thing is to think carefully about how you can realistically work activism into your life. You’re going to be a vegetarian for years, and excited as you may be right now to jump into serious activism, if you burn yourself out by adding even more activities to a busy life, you’ll be shortchanging yourself and everyone else. You have a lot of time; do what you can, when you can, and you’re still doing a lot more to help the world than most people!
Consider Other Ways You Can Go Green
Once you start eating ethically, it’s a short hop to thinking about your other habits that harm the earth. You may not want to adopt a 100 percent sustainable lifestyle—and, frankly, in today’s world, it’s almost impossible to do so—but there are a number of ways that you can lessen your impact on the environment in addition to your vegetarian lifestyle:
Reduce, reuse, recycle. When you buy new products, ask yourself: Do I really need this? Is there another product which would do the same thing but with less impact on the environment? Will this last a long time? Are the materials used to make this renewable? Buy items that are durable, maintain them, and have them repaired if possible. If you don’t need something that’s taking up space in your home, give it to someone who does! And recycle whenever possible to cut down on matter going to landfills.
Treasure your resources, and cut back on waste. Fix your leaky faucets, toilets, or water pipes, and install water-saving faucets. Conserve fuel by turning down the heat at night and when you’re away from your home, or install a programmable thermostat. Insulate your home against heat loss, and periodically check insulation. Avoid driving; walk, cycle, or
use public transportation whenever possible. Use recycled batteries for appliances that require them. Buy locally; it’s good for the local economy, and it saves energy because it hasn’t traveled far to get to you.
Use less toxic substances in your home. Use nontoxic cleaning alternatives in your home. Buy furniture made from natural fibers, wood, metal, and glass. Avoid the use of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) in your home, including shower curtains, flooring, and children’s toys. Avoid the use of aerosol sprays.
Be responsible with your waste. Don’t put toxic household wastes such as paint, paint thinner, and antifreeze in the garbage or down the drain. Check with your local waste facility for proper disposal. Take your own bags to the grocery store, and use plastic bags until they’re completely worn out. Avoid excess packaging, and always use reusable products rather than disposable ones—plates, napkins, mugs, lunch containers, batteries, pens, and razors.
Go green at work. Print on both sides of the paper you use, and reduce the number of copies you print. Buy recycled, chlorine-free paper, and have a recycling box under your desk for used paper goods. Buy a permanent mesh coffee filter instead of buying disposable paper filters. Encourage your workplace to use alternative cleaning materials. Use refillable pens and pencils rather than disposable ones. Walk, ride a bike, use public transit, or carpool to work.
Conserve in the kitchen. Your refrigerator uses more energy than any other appliance in your home, so try to keep energy use to a minimum. Keep the temperature of the main body between 38–42°F and that of the freezer at 0–5°F. Open the refrigerator door less frequently, and clean the condenser coils at least once a year. Use electric kettles to boil water— they use half the energy as boiling water on the stove. Avoid storing food in plastic; use reusable glass containers for storing food in the refrigerator. Never microwave food in a plastic container; even microwavable plastics can leech chemicals into your food when heated. Buy food in bulk whenever possible, as it’s cheaper and uses less packaging. Look for products made from recycled materials, and use cloth instead of paper napkins and towels.
You’re On Your Way!
Thomas Edison once said, “Nonviolence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages.”
You’ve made a wise decision by choosing a vegetarian lifestyle. Enjoy the new world of interesting foods that you’ll discover, and be proud of yourself for taking an ethical, responsible path through life’s great journey. It will be a fulfilling and healthful adventure that you’ll enjoy for years to come. You will look back at this decision and be glad that you made it!
You realize that instead of spending your money on hospital bills, you can enjoy your golden years with your loved ones with great vitality! Not so many people are this fortunate!
You realize that the planet is in better shape because of your decision. You can look at younger generations in the eyes, without saying, “I’m sorry I made this mess.”
You realize that more food and water is available for humans because of your decision. And they’re grateful for it. So are the animals!
You just know that you made a really good decision. And you can’t hold your smiles every time this comes to your mind. It’s a victory for you, your loved ones, the planet, and the animals. And I want to congratulate you for that.
Congratulations, my friend!
May God blesses us all
Congratulations! If you’ve followed all the steps and taken the advice presented to you in this book, you’re a vegetarian! Now you have one more decision to make: whether or not you want to use your knowledge to reach out to other vegetarians and educate nonvegetarians about the vegetarian lifestyle. You don’t have to do this, of course. You can live your vegetarian life quietly and on your own, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But now that you know what you do about vegetarianism’s value to individuals and the world, you may find you want to become a bit more active.
You don’t have to do it right this minute, of course. But many, many vegetarians find that it’s easier to maintain their lifestyle if they have the support of others who share the same values. As you now know, there are many reasons for becoming vegetarian, and people have all sorts of different reasons for making the switch; and you may find that there’s a lot to learn by discovering the viewpoint of other vegetarians.
Even if you choose to travel this path alone, you’re an ambassador for vegetarianism. Your family, friends, co-workers, and even strangers will see you as an example of meatless living, and as you meet more people and have more unique experiences of your own, your outlook, appearance, and behavior will—for better or worse—be seen as that of a vegetarian person. So, why not become the best vegetarian that you can be?
Whether we like it or not, our appearance and actions are judged by others. If you’re telling a co-worker about the barbaric treatment of cows in factory farms while eating a cheese sandwich or discussing karma and you’re wearing leather shoes, your audience may see you as a hypocrite. That’s not to say that you can’t be a good vegetarian and eat cheese or wear leather, but that you need to be aware of when your actions and your words aren’t in alignment.
Always practice good hygiene and dress neatly. Don’t play into society’s prejudices by exemplifying the stereotype of the dirty hippy. If you’re clean, neat, and appropriately dressed, the people that you deal with will think, “Hey, you’re just like me!” They’ll hear your message because they relate to you, rather than being turned off due to their own preconceptions.
Making the Connection
If you live in a small town, it may be difficult for you to find other vegetarians to talk to about the lifestyle. But don’t give up! If you have a college or university in your town, there’s probably a vegetarian group on campus—higher education and vegetarianism often go hand-in-hand. Watch for notices of vegetarian group meetings posted on bulletin boards at colleges, schools, and community centers, as well as libraries, supermarkets, and other public places. Check out the ads in your local newspaper and look for natural food stores, bookstores, or other shops that support alternative lifestyles. Visit them, and ask questions; in a small town, word of mouth is invaluable.
The Internet is also a great resource for vegetarians. There are hundreds of online groups, including message boards and recipe-swap sites, geared toward vegetarians. Not only are they a good source of discussion and community, they may be able to connect you with vegetarians in your own area. If you aren’t aware of it, Seventh-Day Adventists are vegetarian, so if there’s a vegetarian group in your area, the church probably knows about it.
If you still find yourself coming up short, take the initiative and start your own group! It’s highly unlikely that you’re the only vegetarian where you live, even in a rural area or a very small town. Take out a newspaper ad and throw a potluck at your home or local community center. You may be pleasantly surprised by how many people show up! Once you’ve got a group together, start a regular event where you all eat out at local restaurants. You’ll not only help your community by supporting restaurants that cater to vegetarian diners, you may also encourage other local businesses to take vegetarians into consideration when planning their menus.
As a newcomer to vegetarianism, you’ll probably find it helpful to socialize with others who share your point of view. Even the most well-meaning friends can be less than supportive of a lifestyle change, because they think they already know who you are and what you like. But by making connections with others who feel the same way, you’ll not only broaden your own social network, you’ll have a valuable resource for asking questions, sharing ideas, and learning about other approaches to vegetarian eating.
Some Buddhists, who believe in the concept of karma, are not vegetarians. It’s certainly recommended for them to avoid eating meat, but not required. Many Buddhists around the world choose a vegetarian lifestyle, though, because they feel strongly that it connects to the laws of karma.
In a nutshell, karma is the concept that what goes around comes around. If, as individuals, we want to bring peace, harmony, and unity to the world, it simply doesn’t make sense to contribute to the world’s violence by killing animals. Violence breeds violence, whether it’s the killing of animals, muggings in the street, murders, or wars between nations. The Nobel Prize winner Isaac Bashevis Singer once asked, “How can we pray to God for mercy if we ourselves have no mercy? How can we speak of rights and justice if we take an innocent creature and shed its blood? I personally believe that as long as human beings will go on shedding the blood of animals, there will never be any peace.”
Buddhists believe that we affect and are affected by a collective karma. Karma works like a spiritual bank account— if you’ve caused bad karma, you’ll be reborn as a lesser being, like an animal or a demon. If you live a moral life, however, and spread good karma during your time on earth, you’ll be reborn as a human—or even, should you attain enlightenment, a Buddha. The Buddha once said, “… if in the process of repayment, the lives of other beings were taken or their flesh eaten, then it will start a cycle of mutual devouring and slaughtering that will send the debtors and creditors up and down endlessly.”
As one story goes, a disciple of the Buddha asked a man why he kept buying meat from the butcher. The man replied that he bought meat because the butcher kept selling meat. So the disciple then asked the butcher why he sold meat, and the butcher answered that he did so because the man kept buying it. The Buddha said that both men were lacking in compassion and wisdom.
Supply and demand is the foundation of economy. The cycle of meat consumption and animal slaughtering is a complex network of interdependence. By becoming a vegetarian, you’re doing your part to stop the violence.
Making Healthy Food Choices for the Planet
Everything—every animal, plant, and person—is interconnected. What you choose to eat not only affects your body, it affects the planet and every living thing on it as well. We may believe that it is the economy that provides us with food, air, water, and energy. The truth is that it’s the earth that provides us with all of these things. And if we continue to abuse the earth in such a way, those things that we have taken for granted will eventually cease to exist. We will undermine our own survival if we continue to pollute the air and water, destroy natural rain forests, and produce destructive greenhouses gasses. Thankfully, an environmental awareness movement is taking place. People are more aware of how they treat the planet, and this includes what they choose to eat.
Consider this: is a quarter pound of hamburger worth a half ton of Brazil’s rain forest? Or perhaps 67 square feet of rain forest is a little too much to pay for one hamburger. Put in that context, that one hamburger pales in comparison. We need the earth’s forests more than we need a hamburger fix. They are the source of oxygen for every life on the planet. They regulate our climates, prevent floods, and check soil erosion. They recycle and purify our water. They provide wood for paper and buildings and fires. We need our forests to survive. Recycling is only half of the battle. Cutting down meat consumption from cattle farms and the like, is the other half.
If we eat less meat, the majority of land out west in the United States could be used as a sustainable, environmentally friendly resource, rather than for cattle farming. Large solar energy and wind-power facilities could be built instead, generating enormous amounts of energy without the side effect of pollution. Land that isn’t used could serve as a natural wildlife refuge and habitat. Any shift toward a vegetarian lifestyle would have an immense positive impact, not only on the country but also on the world. Life would continue for many species on the cusp of extinction.
The Future for Food, People, and Earth
There is far more at stake here than some people care to realize. Becoming a vegetarian is only a key element to the overall picture. Whether we embrace what is occurring or not, the choices we make (as individuals and as a whole) will have a profound effect on the future of our species and on earth. When you make the choice to respect the food on our planet, you are choosing to help uphold the spirit, natural beauty, and interconnectedness of the earth. You become an integral part in the preservation of all life forms and will help to build a healthier and more sustainable future for generations to come.
Unfortunately, we do not have the luxury of time to turn things around for our planet and our human race. According to many scientific research studies, and a documentary called Home, we have only until 2019 before we pass the point of no return. This means that we have to act now. Every time you choose to eat plant-based foods instead of meat, you are making a conscious choice to help the environment. It is as if you are taking the time to plant trees every day of your life in order to create a greener and a much healthier future for life everywhere. Choosing to eat consciously now will allow the children of the future to learn to live harmoniously with the natural ecosystems of the world. We can save the world, one vegetarian at a time.
In reading this book, I hope that you’ve garnered some important ideas about why it makes good sense for your health and for the environment to live a vegetarian lifestyle. But there’s another, very important reason: eating meat is, for lack of a better word, immoral.
All animals are living creatures with thoughts and emotions. They feel pain, just like you do. Vegans and vegetarians believe that animals are sensitive beings, not just things to be grown and slaughtered as we see fit. Vegans follow the strictest lifestyle in this regard and, even if you’re not yet ready to take that path, it’s worth considering the choices they make. Vegans don’t eat anything from animal origin, including meat, eggs, dairy products, and honey. They don’t wear leather or wool, and they don’t use products made by companies that experiment on animals. They “walk the talk,” as the saying goes, living by their principles and eschewing all products that involve the death and suffering of animals.
Every year, billions of animals—sensitive, sentient beings that feel intense pain and suffering — are transformed into food products in a world where we can very easily get all the nutrition we need from plant foods. Their misery is completely unnecessary. We do not need to kill animals to live, we kill animals simply because we believe we have the right to do so. Vegans and vegetarians can’t stop these atrocities from happening, but they can refuse to participate in the process.
It’s no coincidence that many of the world’s great religions have espoused vegetarianism as part of the journey to enlightenment. There are stories of great spiritual leaders who had the road in front of them gently swept as they walked so that they wouldn’t accidentally step on an insect on the road. Some spiritually advanced Yogis have evolved their morals to the point where they can’t bear to swat a mosquito. The progress of moral values is a long evolution, begun when a small minority of people adopted values which would eventually be adopted by the rest of society. If you have natural empathy for animals and if you can’t bear to eat their flesh, then live by the courage of your convictions; display your feelings and empathy for animals by refusing to contribute to their suffering.
Beautiful Inside and Outside
Eating a vegetarian diet will help you live longer, as you’re avoiding foods that create free radicals in your system which hasten the aging process. You’ll look younger longer because of this, and your skin and hair will glow with good health. But the biggest beauty benefit is the one that comes from within—the radiance that comes from living an ethical, more spiritual life.
You don’t have to be religious to be spiritual. You don’t even have to believe in any sort of divine power. But take a moment to think about the connection between the great religions and respect for animals.
There’s a reason that so many people who are concerned about man’s warring nature are also vegetarians. When you are conscious that animals have souls—that they’re alive, and conscious, and feel pain— how can you kill them unnecessarily? If you believe that animals think and feel and suffer, then you believe in the soul and, therefore, that all living things are spiritual in essence.
On a more pragmatic note, animals are tortured in terrible ways in slaughterhouses. Pigs scream in fear, often dropping dead due to heart attack because of the terror they experience on the killing floor. The adrenalin produced in these animals’ bodies when they’re under such intense stress permeates every part of them, producing toxins that are passed on into the animal products that nonvegetarians consume. People who eat meat produced under such conditions can’t help but be affected by them—and they, in turn, interact with the people around them while these substances are in their own bodies.