A vegetarian does not eat meat, poultry, game, fish, or shellfish. A vegan also excludes diary (cheese, milk, and butter), eggs, and anything derived from an animal, so honey (and quite a few other foods) is also out. A true vegan also does not wear or use any animal derived products.
Did a lack of understanding of what a vegan eats lead to me being offered black sausage? I am sure that was all it was. The barbeque host making the offer did say it did not contain any meat. I thought maybe he didn’t know what was in it, so I asked, and he told me it was made of dried blood. Needless to say, I declined his offer, but I was surprised that he could imagine I would eat something made from animal blood!
Many people do not know the difference between vegetarian, vegan, lacto-ovo vegetarian and other variations. As well as this, I have come to realise that many people starting out on a vegetarian diet do not understand what they need to eat to ensure they get the nutrients they need. It is not at all difficult, but it is a change of mindset and it involves a total change to the way you eat, not just an exclusion of animal products from your diet.
A vegan or vegetarian diet is unhealthy if:
You just exclude meat from your usual meals. Meat provides protein, iron and zinc. These nutrients can be obtained from plant foods such as beans and legumes. If you just exclude meat without including these foods, you will be missing necessary nutrition. Beans and legumes are also quite filling.
You eat a lot of meat substitutes. These are ok as an occasional part of your diet, but they are still processed foods and contain additives such as sodium that should be limited.
You do not eat enough fruit and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables provide vitamins and minerals packaged together in the optimal way for your body to absorb and utilise the goodness. A plate full of vegetables is attractive, colourful and wonderfully tasty.
You eat white bread, white pasta and white rice to fill yourself up. These food items have had the useful nutrients stripped out of them; if you eat them, you are eating empty calories that will increase your waistline without providing any goodness. Switch to whole grain varieties and you will be getting lots of good nutrition and fibre in your diet.
You eat too many chips and cakes. These may be vegan (chips cooked in vegetable oil, cakes made with vegan substitutes for butter and eggs), but they should still only be eaten in moderation. Vegan cakes and desserts are often made with maple syrup or agave; these are still sugars that have to be converted to energy, and an excess will convert to body fat.
Lacto-vegetarians or ovo-vegetarians may be tempted to eat too much cheese, or too many eggs. One of the hardest things for many people to give up is cheese. While cheese is still in your diet it can be tempting to eat too much, including it in salads, sandwiches, snacks and sauces. Some people may eat cheese or eggs for their protein content. This is unnecessary as long as you include beans and legumes in your diet. Too much cheese in your diet provides an excess of saturated fat and calories, too many eggs equals too much cholesterol. Nuts and tofu are excellent substitutes for cheese and eggs.
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In summary, your vegan or vegetarian diet needs to be a balanced diet. Your plate at each meal should include foods of a variety of colours. Include plenty of whole grains and a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables and you will be eating a diet that will put you on the path to optimal health.
Wishing you good health, commitment to caring for animals and the environment.