Becoming A Vegetarian For Health & Environment

Would it be best to start as a lacto-ovo vegetarian?

I am a college student attending a small private school. My reasons for wanting to become vegetarian are mostly health and environmental.

I first tried to become vegetarian in November, and have since then gone back and forth in spurts of a couple of days to trade in my carnivorous diet for something more environmentally friendly.

I have read that this is often the case with new vegetarians, but the desire to make the change has been with me constantly. I really want to do this, but in a way that is intelligent and healthy.

I'm on scholarship and have a tough course load. I work. I am an officer in my sorority, a member of a service and justice focused organization on campus, not to mention a friend, daughter, and sister.

My time is tight and I have had a really hard time trying to collect my bearings and understand the ins-and-outs of the vegetarian lifestyle, the nutritional facts, what kinds of food there are, etc. Also, I am a little overweight and trying to maximize my health.

I'm from a small-town, red-meat, fried everything family. So I have really just been building my knowledge and taste for whole grains, produce, etc over the past two years. I figure that it would be best to start as a lacto-ovo vegetarian ... any advice?

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Thanks so much for your letter. You've given me a clear picture of who you are and what's going on with you, which I appreciate.

You're becoming a vegetarian the way that I recommend, gradually and easily. You're quite clear about the challenges and limitations you face, and your desire is strong. I really admire how together you are - you do not remind me of myself at the same age at all! There are a few thoughts I'd like to add though, just to shake things up a bit.

Our circumstances dictate our diets, to a large extent, as you've experienced. So sometimes, to improve our lives (e.g become vegetarian), we need to help things along with lifestyle changes to support our desires. Often nature arranges things for us, if we start to move in the right direction.

Think about how things need to be for you to live a comfortably vegetarian lifestyle, imagine that life, and see what happens.

With regard to your weight and health: the more that you eat fresh, whole, organic produce, whole grains, legumes, and avoid saturated fat, processed food, fried food, junk food, the easier it'll be to reach a healthy weight. So, whenever you can, choose the healthier lower cal alternative.

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As to starting as a lacto-ovo vegetarian - if you are overweight, you should eat mostly vegan, and include some fish or chicken in your diet until you feel comfortable without them, rather than lean heavily on dairy and egg for protein.

Be aware of the calories and cholesterol involved, health issues, ethical and environmental concerns. Eat legumes when you can, to get used to including them in your vegetarian diet. Explore nuts and seeds, in moderation - they are high in good fats, but you don't need much.

Here's a link to download the SV nutrition report. I also recommend the book, The New Becoming Vegetarian, by Vesanto Melina and Brenda Davis - it's an excellent vegetarian nutrition guide.

Judith Kingsbury, Savvy Vegetarian

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