So you want to be a vegetarian?

I mull over the Swiss Chalet menu. My stomach grumbles. My mouth waters. My eyes take in the sumptuous pictures of dinner choices. Classic Hamburger, Chalet Chicken Wings, Smoky Barbecued Ribs and Rotisserie Chicken Combo .

Oh man…  A chipper young waitress with brown hair and freckles grins at me and draws out her notebook.   “May I take your order?” she chimes.

“Yes,” I say. “May I have the Caesar salad? And hold the bacon.”

That’s right—I’m a vegetarian. I’ve been one for all of two weeks. I decided to stop eating meat cold turkey (no pun intended) to answer common questions about what it’s like to be vegetarian. I still eat eggs and milk, but no fish or red meat of any kind. The experiment began well enough.

Then my dad fried bacon. The smoky scent soon filled the house and sent me staring helplessly into the frying pan.

According to the website “The Healthy Vegetarian,” vegetarians can be classified into four groups. There are vegans, who omit all animal products from both their diet and lifestyle. This means that vegans will not wear clothing derived from animals, such as leather or wool. Then there are lacto-vegetarians, who include dairy products in their diet, while lacto-ovo-vegetarian will consume eggs and dairy products. Finally, pesco or pollo vegetarians include fish or chicken respectively in their diets.

Some people think that since humans are omnivores, we should eat meat to stay healthy. This is debatable; vegetarians do not lack essential nutrients if a healthy diet is maintained. Meat nutrients such as iron and protein are not found solely in meat products, and taking daily vitamins and eating protein-rich foods like peanut butter, beans or milk will keep a vegetarian healthy. I have yet to turn into
the stereotypical sickly and pale

Then again, it’s only been a couple of weeks. Some scientists claim strict vegetarians may be at risk of nutrition deficiencies such as vitamin B-12, riboflavin, zinc, calcium, iron and essential amino acids.

People become vegetarian for various reasons, be it religious or ethical. Some religions or philosophies have been associated with vegetarianism. Buddhism, for example, considers vegetarianism a symbolic practice of discouraging violence.

Ethical reasons outside of religion include acting against animal cruelty in slaughterhouses. Others wish to help the environment by lowering the amount of land required to raise grazing animals. (According to the Toronto Vegetarian Association, livestock production is responsible for 30% of the world’s land use and 18% of human-induced greenhouse gas missions).

Lastly, others believe that vegetarianism is a healthier diet because meat can often be tainted with growth hormones like steroids, although this can be avoided by eating organic meat.   Stephanie Lafleur, a second-year concurrent teaching program student, had been a lacto-ovo-vegetarian for two years, but recently found her cravings for fish too hard to resist. However, Lafleur finds that eating red meat again after such a long time made her sick.

“When your body goes for so long without eating meat, it just turns you off of it for good,” says Lafleur. “I tried eating pizza after picking off the pepperoni and it still tasted gross to me.”  Despite the growth of the vegetarian movement over the years, Lafleur doesn’t feel that there are enough vegetarian food choices offered at UTM.

“It would be really cool if UTM started a fully-vegetarian restaurant,” says Lafleur.
In my case, I’m going back to eating chicken and fish. Though I plan to limit my red meat intake, I found it challenging to eat around others who
consume meat.

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