Since a family member announced plans to go “vegan,” I’ve been challenged to acquire more knowledge about a diet that centers on plant foods that include fruits, vegetables, dried beans and peas, grains, seeds and nuts. While researchers estimate that only two percent of the adult population follows a vegetarian diet, the numbers are rising due to the concerns of folks coping with conditions such as food allergies, food intolerances, heart disease and diabetes, to name but a few. Besides for reasons relating to health, others embrace vegetarianism due, in part, to religious, moral and ethical issues, such as those surrounding animal rights and the environment. And, just as a person’s motive for being vegetarian differs, so does the extent to which people adhere to their diets. In very general terms, vegetarians are classified as a group of people who do not eat meat, with vegans observing the strictest of rules, refusing to consume all animal products such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, as well as some other foods, like honey. From being vegan, the lifestyle gets less restrictive, with “lacto vegetarians” adding dairy to their meals plans and “lacto-ovo vegetarians” including both dairy and eggs among the foods they choose to eat. Another group of vegetarians who skip eating meat and poultry, but who do eat fish, are called “pescetarians” (pesce means “fish” in Italian), with others being called “flexitarians” (or “semi-vegetarians’), who, says National Institute of Health (NIH) nutritionist and registered dietician Jody Engel in the organization’s July 2012 “News in Health” newsletter, “tend to follow their own rules.” If you are contemplating a significant change in diet, it is always wise to speak to an expert for guidance, and visiting your healthcare provider is a good place to start. He or she may refer you to a registered dietician, and together a determination may be made on what meal plan is best for you. Current cookbooks, such as the fine titles featured here from Andrews McMceel Publishing (www.andresmcmeel.com), offer recipes and up-to-date information that can help make transitioning into news ways of eating both delicious and satisfying. Additionally, excellent material and resources can be found on the NIH website at http://newsinhealth.nih.gov/issue/Jul2012/Feature1 for plant-based eating and at http://www.niaid.nih.gov/ for information on allergies and food intolerances.
Sue Ade is a syndicated food writer with broad experience and interest in the culinary arts. She has worked and resided in the Lowcountry of South Carolina since 1985 and may be reached at email@example.com.