What does the word “vegetarian” really mean? Well, according to Vegetarian Nation, there are SIX levels of vegetarianism. First, there’s vegan. Vegans do not consume any meat, fish, meat by-products, or animal by-products. Then there’s the lacto vegetarian, meaning no meat, fish, or eggs. And then the ovo vegetarian, meaning no meat, fish, or dairy. Then there’s the lacto-ovo vegetarian, which means exactly what is implies. Then the pollotarian, the pescatarian, and the flexitarian….have I lost you yet? With so many different levels of this word “vegetarian” that gets thrown around, it’s easy to get confused by what people mean when they say they have “turned vegetarian”.
I was sitting in a summer class, about a week after the spring semester of my junior year of college ended, getting to know the other students around me. Being nutrition majors, we quickly made the conversation about food. One of the girls at my table claimed she had been “vegetarian” for many years now and loved it. I asked her why and her answer stuck with me. She simply stated, “Because I like how it makes me feel”. Other times that I have heard people talk about their vegetarian diet, they have been driven by other reasons such as the manufacturing process after watching a documentary. The word feel in her short reply changed my mindset on the whole idea of becoming vegetarian. I decided soon after that conversation that I wanted to at least give this whole “vegetarianism” thing a try.
I sit here now, almost two months later, still following the vegetarian lifestyle and loving every bit of it. According to the levels of vegetarianism that I listed above, I am considered a lacto-ovo vegetarian. Just to reiterate, this means that I have cut meat, red and white, out of my diet. I already don’t really like fish or seafood so this lacks on my plate as well. I still consume eggs and dairy products. Why have I kept it up? “Because I like how it makes me feel”.
So here’s the inside scoop. The actual truth without the confusing fluff. My personal thoughts and understanding of this multi-dimensional word “vegetarian”. Just a few simple ideas from someone who used to enjoy a burger and now appreciates a plate of veggies…
1. It’s all about the feel. What do I mean by this? Energy. Mood. Lightness. Crispness. By adding more vegetables and fruits in my diet, I truly believe my overall state of health, physical, emotional, and mental, has been sharpened.
2. I’ve lost a little weight. That’s always nice, right? I wasn’t looking to make any drastic changes but along with the plant-based diet came some added benefits. I don’t think I am necessarily seeing these changes from eliminating meat but I think instead from the ways in which meat is cooked (i.e. fried).
3. I’ve been more in touch with my body’s needs. There are days that I wake up and know I need to make an egg in the morning. When I was eating meat, I was constantly in a state of grogginess that I only realized now, which made this ability nearly impossible. It’s actually really neat!
4. I’ve learned a lot of new recipes and started to enjoy the naturalness of real food.
Like I said, these are only a few simple ideas from my journey thus far. I would definitely recommend a vegetarian diet for your own experience. I would suggest that if you want to try it out, do it for about two weeks to see how your body feels. I recall the two-week mark is about when I started to feel the refreshing effects and was sold on this new lifestyle.
Guest Blog by Kaitlyn!
Kaitlyn is a senior Nutrition and Dietetics major at Miami University. She is a summer intern for Grass Roots Nutrition and will be co-hosting the -Day Real Food Challenge. She loves finding new, healthy foods to enjoy but her go-to favorite vegetables are mini sweet peppers!