Jan Goldfield

best-selling author of
A Practical Guide to Building and Maintaining Your Pond

Before you leap into vegetarian waters, knowing what a vegetarian is might be a good start...

a vegetarian eats no Jell-O.


Vegan or Vegetarian


You have decided to become a vegetarian. You have heard stories about mad cow disease, bird flu and mercury polluted fish and want none of that. You think eating no meat might help your health or it might help you lose weight. And in these days of higher and higher food prices, it might help your food budget. You would be right on all three counts.

Before you leap into vegetarian waters, knowing what a vegetarian is might be a good start.

• A vegetarian eats no meat. None. No fish, no chicken, no beef, certainly no filet mignon, no pork, no bacon, or pepperoni or salami, no organ meats, no shrimp, oysters, prawns, clams, crawfish or all those delicacies you have enjoyed all these years.

• There's more. A vegetarian eats no chicken broth, beef broth, fish stock or beans with ham hocks. Is it starting to sound a bit difficult? It is.

• Even more. A vegetarian eats no Jell-O. No Jell-O? No, Jell-O, like all gelatins, is made from leftover animal products like horses' hooves.

• And here's a big hurdle to overcome. Most prescription medication and over the counter medication comes in capsules. Gelatin capsules. Are you still interested?


So how do I start?

You have made the decision to become a vegetarian, knowing all the obstacles ahead. Giving up everything today is probably not the best way. Make it just a bit easy on yourself. Start by eating no beef. No burgers, no steaks, no meat loaf. No beef.

If you can't do all that at once and are used to eating meat at every meal, start by eating meatless one day a week. You can do that. Anybody can do that.
What used to be hamburger night is now macaroni and cheese night. Or beans and rice night. Try that. You will crave beef. You will be willing to push your mother aside to get to a piece of meat. Wait until tomorrow. C'mon, you can do it.

In three weeks, it will be easy to have your meatless dinner. You might even look forward to it. You have found you have more energy the next day and all around feel better. Hmmmm, there might be something to this vegetarian business after all.


What next?

Can you get to two meatless days and then three. Don't worry about Jell-O or medications yet. We will deal with that after stopping good old meat you can chew, that tastes great, is crispy and is just like your mother made.

In a few months you will be eating no meat at all. You will have more energy, feel better, sleep better and smile more. If you do eat meat, you will feel lethargic and want nothing but to take a nap after you eat.

You just couldn't' get all the way to meatless. That's OK. Those who are on their way to being vegetarian, but eat meat occasionally, have made up a wonderful word for themselves: Flexitarian. It means you eat meat once in awhile. A piscatorian eats fish, but no other kinds of meat. People must have labels for themselves especially when they feel they are doing something that sets them apart from everyone else. So if flexitarian fits, use it. If piscatorian fits, use that. When you are ready, you will become a vegetarian.

When being a vegetarian gets tough.

No gelatin. Now you have to start reading labels on every food you pick up in the store. It can say gelatin, animal products or the worst one, animal by-products. If it has any animal products it in, put the can or the box down. When you go to the drug store, you must not have any medications with gelatin in them. That means asking the pharmacist. They all know or will look it up for you. If you cannot find a medication not encased in gelatin, you must get your medications compounded at a special compounding pharmacy. The pharmacist puts the active ingredient in a rice capsule by hand. And it's not covered by insurance.

We are not finished yet.

There are lacto vegetarians. They don't eat meat, but do drink milk. Ovo vegetarians eat eggs, but not milk and no meat. Ovo-lacto vegetarians eat eggs and milk, but no meat. Try them. You might want to keep dairy and eggs in your diet.

You have made it. You are a vegetarian.

All your life you have heard of the food pyramid made by the federal government. You probably even saw them in school. It's now called the Food Guide Pyramid because meat is not recommended like it was a few years ago. It now indicates that you need 6 - 11 servings of bread, cereal, rice and pasta daily; 2 - 5 servings of vegetables; 2 - 4 servings of fruit; 2 - 3 servings of milk, yogurt and cheese; 2 -3 servings of meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs and nuts and only a bit of fats, oils and sweets.

What about protein? and vitamins?

We all need protein. Yes, we need it, but we can get it in many other ways beside meat. Any bean, like garbanzos, limas, kidney, navy, black-eyed peas, served over rice make a perfect protein. You may discover tofu, a soy product often used as a meat substitute. There are as many ways to cook tofu as there are to cook meat. You will not be deprived of protein.

What about vitamins?

Iron can be a concern. Get it from iron fortified breads and cereals. Beans, lentils, molasses and spinach are full of iron Calcium can be found in fortified breakfast cereals, soy and juices. Or if you choose, you may drink milk and eat cheese until you decide to give them up as well. Zinc comes from white beans, kidney beans and chickpeas (garbanzos) or zinc fortified breakfast cereals. Sprinkle wheat germ over your cereal. Eat pumpkin seeds. You will get your zinc.

B-12 can be difficult. Taken orally a supplement does little good. Many soy milks, some breads and cereals have b-12.

Use a sublingual  b12  [ carries them] tablet or give yourself an injection once a month.

Good luck on your road to being a vegetarian. You will not regret it.


I have been a vegan since 1993, vegetarian since 1976. I cannot imagine having an animal killed just so I can eat it. Or torturing a cow so I can have a drink of milk or hunk of cheese. I kill nothing, nor do I allow anyone to kill just because I wish it.

The road to becoming a vegan can be long and hard.

The road to becoming a vegan is long and hard. Eating vegan is much more difficult than eating vegetarian. Most vegans made the switch to being vegetarian long before they decided to become vegan.

A vegan not only eats no meat, fish, seafood, but also eats no dairy. That means good-bye to ice cream, cheese, and milk and say hello to Tofutti, soy cheese and soy milk.

Be sure of your reasons
before becoming vegan

Veganism is a philosophy as well as a way of eating. Vegans respect the sanctity of life and will not tolerate the exploitation of a cow just to drink milk or eat cheese. Vegans will not use leather for shoes or car seats. Vegans not only base their diets on respect for all living things, but their entire lifestyle. Be prepared to accept this if you wish to embrace the vegan philosophy.

Even if you still use leather or other animal products, eating a vegan diet is not easy. Research what a vegan eats, or doesn’t eat. Try it out for a few days or a week. You will find that although restricting, being a vegan can open up new eating possibilities that you may have never considered before.

Try Indian food. It’s not all hot or too spicy to eat. Try Thai or Chinese food. Delicious.


What do vegans eat?

The first thing we think of is what vegans can’t eat. We don’t like to be deprived of our favorite comfort foods like macaroni and cheese or mashed potatoes and gravy, but to be a vegan you must be prepared to say good bye to them. The list of foods vegans don’t eat is short. Dairy and eggs. Seems simple enough, but it isn’t.

Dairy and eggs are everywhere in prepared foods.
Most prepared foods have milk hidden in them somewhere. Whey is milk, so is casein. If you see that on a food label, put the food back on the shelf. Check your loaf of bread in your house right now. See, there it is--whey. That’s milk. There are one or two prepared breads that have no milk products, but you will have to search the shelves for them. As a general rule, if you see the word or prefix lacto, you are seeing milk as an ingredient.


Casein is next. It’s everywhere.
Just when you think you have this milk thing figured out, there is casein. It’s a milk protein and crops up where you least expect it. You think you have found a soy chicken product you can enjoy. You have a look at the ingredients and there’s that word. Casein. Put it back in the freezer case. You can’t have it.

Don’t even pick up a piece of cheese. Can’t have it. Even many of the soy cheeses, which by the way, taste nothing whatsoever like cheese hide casein in them. Look closely.

Eggs are off limits. That means your favorite pastry or dinner roll, otherwise dairyless and certainly meatless, has an egg white wash to make it shiny. Put it down. You can’t have it.


What about proper nutrition?

With all the restrictions, you must be sure you get the proper nutrition.

Grains, (brown rice, barley, quinoa, millet, oats, wheat and kamut berries) are great as a base for meals. Use whole grains to get the great vitamins and minerals in them.

Get your calcium with soy milk, your vitamins with fruit and vegetables. Include beans almost daily for protein.

Fill your meals with vegetables. They are filled with calcium as well.

Vitamins B-12 and D can be a problem area for vegans. Get your vitamin D by going outside in the sunshine for 20 minutes a day. B-12 might have to be added as a supplement. Because it is not absorbed well orally, get one that can be used sublingually. You can get iron from iron fortified breads and soy milk and all those green veggies you are eating.


So why would anyone want to be a vegan?

Many folks become vegan because they are acutely aware of animal welfare. They have a deep respect for life and realize that we must make changes to our eating habits because we are concerned for our environment. They can't imagine drinking the breast milk of another species or tearing a calf away from its mother just so milk can be in so many food products.

Other folks are vegan because of religious or spiritual reasons. Still others because being a vegan is a healthy way to live and you will feel so much better. One last thing: Think of all the money you will save at the supermarket.


  Jan's Book
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Jan Goldfield, Sage Companion SERIES






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