• I recently came across something online (where else) called a “Vegan Challenge.” No meat, no milk, no animal anything for 30 days. This got me thinking… Is it really a “challenge” to be vegan?

    There are many types of vegetarianism, but people don’t always know that. When someone tells me they are vegetarian, I respond, “What kind?” Sometimes I get funny looks, but there are several types and people have their own twist on vegetarianism that doesn’t meet the true definition. Here are the types:

    • Vegan: eat no animal products; no meat, poultry, fish, dairy, or eggs. Some do not eat honey either and technically shouldn’t wear silk, leather or wool. It takes some work initially as well as you being a part-time investigator, but it can be a healthy.
    • Lacto-vegetarian: no meat, poultry, fish or eggs, but will consume dairy products.
    • Ovo-vegetarian: no meat, poultry, fish or dairy, but will eat eggs.
    • Lacto-Ovo vegetarian: no meat, poultry, fish, but will eat eggs and dairy products.
    • Pescetarian: no meat or poultry, but will eat fish, eggs, and dairy products. This is not really vegetarian, but some pescetarians call themselves vegetarians.
    • Semi-vegetarian: no “red” meat, but will eat poultry (sometimes called a pollotarian). Not really vegetarianism, strictly speaking.
    • Flexitarians: meat-eating vegetarians. It seems like an oxymoron, but it refers to people who eat mostly a vegetarian diet but will include meat once in a while. For example, if they are a guest in someone’s home or at an event with a meal, they don’t put up a stink about meat in the sauce. So, NOT REALLY vegetarian.

    People choose to be vegetarian for many reasons, from ethics, religious, animal rights, and health. However, health can be compromised if one does not carefully plan their vegetarian ways. Becoming vegetarian, in any form, does not ensure a healthy or healthier diet. Even a vegan can have a very unhealthy diet.

    Years ago, I did an analysis for a vegan client. He had energy bars three to four times a day, dozens of pieces of hard candy, and 48 ounces of orange juice. Occasionally he would get mashed potatoes or a vegetable from the cafeteria at work. He never had any more fruits or vegetables, any grains, and any protein other than the minimal amount in the energy bars.

    Going from being a meat-eater to some form of vegetarianism, whether a semi-vegetarian or a vegan, I have found for many people is best tackled in stages. Start with cutting back on meat and poultry and including more beans, nuts, and meat alternatives such a veggie crumbles and tempeh. Including fish, dairy and eggs help ensure enough essential nutrients. After several weeks or several months, cut back or remove fish, and if you choose, cut back on eggs and dairy. Always make sure you include lots of fruits and vegetables.

    Going vegan takes some practice if you are used to high or regular meat consumption. It is a choice. And, as mentioned it takes being a part-time investigator. Not everyone understands or respects the vegan diet choice, so they may tell you something is vegan when it isn’t. You need to be informed if being 100% vegan is of utmost importance. I broke it to a vegan friend that Guinness is not vegan-friendly. She was immensely disappointed.

    Could you be vegan? Would it be a “challenge” for you?

    Get a copy of my Vegetarian Cheat Sheet – listing the types of vegetarians and the health benefits.