Vegetarian vs. VeganVegetarian diets do not include any meat (and that means no chicken or fish). Vegan (pronounced: vee-gun) diets do not include any animal products at all--no meat, eggs or dairy products.
Why Vegetarian?There are many reasons that people decide to make the switch to a vegetarian diet.
For the animals
The federal Animal Welfare Act specifically excludes farmed animals from its protection and most state anti-cruelty laws exempt standard agricultural practices, no matter how painful. A vegetarian or vegan in the United States saves the lives of around 83 farm animals each year.
For your health
According to the Surgeon General, nearly 70% of all disease in the US is diet-related. The American Dietetic Association states that "It is the position of the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada that appropriately planned vegetarian diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases."
For the environment
The meat industry causes more water pollution in the U.S. than any other industry. Raising animals for food requires more than one-third of all raw materials and fossil fuels used in the U.S.
Try new foods
There is literally a whole world of foods out there for veg-minded people; not just Chinese or Italian, but Ethiopian, Indian, Middle Eastern--try them all! Some of my all-time favorite comfort foods are items that I had never even heard of until I went vegan. Try new brands of foods that you have already tried. The same type of item, made by different companies, can vary wildly in taste. Some people hate veggie burgers because they tried one once and it didn’t like it. If they never try another brand, they will be missing out on some great veggie burgers. My personal favorite is Boca Burger Vegan Original sautéed in a little olive oil and soy sauce. Yummy!
Vegetarians can enjoy variety
You don’t need to go far to try vegetarian convenience foods. Although stores like Whole Foods are a little slice of heaven for us vegan/vegetarian folk, most major grocery stores now have large health foods sections with everything from fake burgers to fake sour cream. They usually do cost a bit more at the large chain stores, so if you find something you like, look for it at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods to see if you can get a better deal.
Vegetarians can eat out
Most restaurants today offer at least a few vegetarian options. If you a trying a new restaurant, it helps to call the restaurant ahead of time to check what they offer. That way, if the vegetarian options are limited, you can pick another restaurant before you are stuck with an iceberg lettuce salad for dinner.
Vegetarians can visit friends
If you are invited to a dinner party, be sure to let the host or hostess know that you are eating a vegetarian diet and offer to bring a dish. By contributing to the party, you ensure that there is at least one thing you can eat, you take the pressure off the host/hostess, and you give others at the party an opportunity to sample delicious vegetarian food. If you aren't a great cook, buy something delicious from the local Whole Foods deli or a vegetarian-friendly restaurant in the area.
You don't have to go cold-unturkey
Keep in mind that this is an ongoing process. If you can't live another day without eating a hamburger (or cheesecake, or whatever your particular culinary Achilles heel may be), that’s OK. You don’t have to feel like you are a failure if you succumb to your cravings once in a while. You will be surprised at how, the longer you eat a plant-based diet, the less tasty animal products are, despite how good you remember them being.
Vegetarian in PhoenixYou can find vegetarian options almost everywhere. We've already mentioned Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods markets. There are even several all-vegetarian restaurants in the Phoenix area! Veggie Fun, The Vegetarian House, Udupi Café, and the Desert Greens Café all offer completely vegetarian menus. You'll also find a growing community of vegetarians that participate in monthly potlucks, restaurant outings and other networking opportunities.
Whether you are a life-long vegetarian, or have decided to try to incorporate one vegetarian meal a week into your life, Phoenix has a growing number of dining options and vegetarian resources for you.
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Kari Nienstedt is the founder of AZVegan.com. She is a native of Phoenix and has been vegan for over 12 years. Visit AZVegan.com for a growing list of local veg-friendly restaurants, an events calendar, and other local vegetarian and vegan resources.