Back in the late eighties my best friend Cassie and I decided to become vegetarian. Cassie’s older sister Allison was vegetarian and really passionate about animal rights. She opened our eyes to where our food actually comes from, and from there I was set on a this path of learning everything I could about health, nutrition and alternative lifestyles. I remember thinking, all I have to do is stop eating meat, easy, but then I learned about all the different foods animal products hide in. As a twelve year old, jello got ruined for me! Back then it wasn’t as easy to be vegetarian, most grocery stores didn’t carry alternate protein options like tofu or tempeh, and the wave of the “veggie” burgers hadn’t hit yet. I got questioned constantly and I remember the kids at school thought I was totally weird. Thankfully, I grew up in San Diego, California, an easy place to have a healthy lifestyle. We did have a couple health food stores that carried great options, but on my $5 a week allowance, I wasn’t buying much from them. My first job though, a few years later, was a cashier at a health food store called Greentree Groceries, and I got an employee discount!
Being healthy wasn’t anything new to my family, my mom was a huge advocate of healthy… some would say hippie… choices. We weren’t allowed sugar, we never had any kind of junk food and fast food was never an option, we even drank wheat-grass and ate carob as a sweet treat. My sister still to this day cringes at the thought of carob. Telling my parents I wanted to be vegetarian when I was twelve didn’t come as a huge shock, instead they really supported me. My dad did tons of research to make sure I had proper protein, and it opened up a whole new world of cooking for him. He has always been the main cook in our family, my mom is an amazing cook as well, but my dad, being italian, just takes charge in the kitchen. Both my parents definitely passed along the passion for cooking to my sister and I, and we are forever thankful to them for that! Family dinner at our house is AMAZING! Don’t even get me started on the Holidays!
I since have altered my lifestyle, in my early twenties I started to include some meat into my diet. I eat a high amount of vegetables, fruits & whole grain, and a limited amount of yogurt, eggs, fish & lean meat, according to Wikipedia, that makes me a “flexitarian”. Since I live my life traveling, I like to keep my options open and well, flexible, especially when experiencing new cultures and cuisine. I am on the “everything in moderation” boat, but very rarely indulge in anything sugar laden or processed. I am also lucky that I don’t have any known food allergies and I get to enjoy everything mother nature has to offer.
Vegetarianism may still seem weird and possibly new to some, but it’s actually been around for centuries, starting in India and Ancient Greece. In India the diet was closely connected to the nonviolence of animals called Ahimsa. People decide to be vegetarian for many reasons including ethical, health, religion, and environmental reasons.
There are so many different types of lifestyles and diets out there, it is hard to keep track. There are different hybrids of Vegetarianism, Raw diets and now Paleo. Below is a list of popular diets and lifestyles with general descriptions of what they are. I am in no way an advocate of any of these diets. The information below is strictly definitions of the different types of plans out there.
Completely Meat free diets: (no meat, fish, fowl, or any animal tissue)
Ovo Vegetarian: Does not eat meat, fish or fowl. Does not eat dairy, but eats eggs.
Lacto Vegetarian: Does not eat meat, fish or fowl. Does not eat eggs, but eats dairy.
Ovo-lacto Vegetarianism: (most common) Does not eat meat, fish or fowl. Does eat dairy products such as eggs, milk, and honey.
Raw Vegetarianism : Includes raw uncooked fruit, vegetables, sprouts, nuts, seeds, grains, legumes, dairy, eggs and honey. Raw plant foods that has not been heated above 40 °C (104 °F).
Vegan (dietary): Excludes all animal flesh and animal products, including milk, honey, and eggs.
Vegan (ethical): Excludes all animal flesh and animal products, including milk, honey, and eggs as well as excludes any products tested on animals, or any clothing and products made from animals, including leather, wool and even silk.
Raw Vegan: Includes only fresh and uncooked fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and sprouted grains and legumes. Raw plant foods that has not been heated above 40 °C (104 °F).
Fruitarianism: Permits only fruit, nuts, seeds, and other plant matter that can be gathered without harming the plant.
Buddhist Vegetarianism (Su vegetarianism): excludes all animal products as well as vegetables in the allium family: onion, garlic, scallions, leeks, or shallots.
Jain Vegetarianism: Includes dairy but excludes eggs and honey, as well as root vegetables.
Diets that include meat:
Pescetarianism: Includes fish and some other forms of seafood, dairy products such as eggs, milk, and honey. Excludes all meat & fowl.
Pollotarianism: Includes poultry, dairy products such as eggs, milk, and honey. Excludes all seafood and meat.
Pollo-pescetarian: Includes poultry and fish, dairy products such as eggs, milk, and honey. Excludes meat.
Raw Animal food diet: Includes uncooked, unprocessed raw muscle-meats, organ-meats, eggs, raw dairy, and aged, raw animal foods such as century eggs, fermented meat, fish, shellfish, and kefir. As well as raw vegetables, fruits, nuts, sprouted grains and legumes.
*Raw animal foodists believe that foods cooked above 40 °C (104 °F) have lost much of their nutritional value and are harmful to the body. They also believe that raw meats should come from sources such as raw, grassfed meats or raw wild game rather than raw grainfed meats.
Gluten Free: Excludes all foods containing gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, kamut, spelt, barley, rye, malts and triticale. It is often used as a food additive in the form of a flavoring, stabilizing or thickening agent, often as “dextrin”. Most people have to choose gluten free diets due to allergies or celiac disease.
Mediterranean Diet: Emphasizes fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, nuts, legumes, olive oil, and herbs and spices; eating fish and seafood at least a couple of times a week; moderate poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt; and avoid or greatly limit sweets and red meat.
Paleolithic diet (Paleo Diet): Often referred to as the caveman diet, Stone Age diet and hunter-gatherer diet. Paleo consists mainly of fish, grass-fed pasture raised meats, vegetables, fruit, roots, and nuts. It excludes grains, legumes, dairy products, salt, refined sugar, and processed oils.
Macrobiotic diet: Whole grains—brown rice, barley, oats, rye, buckwheat—make up the bulk of your day’s foods. Vegetables, legumes & soybeans encouraged. Fruit, fish, seafood, seeds, and nuts are limited. Exclude all dairy, eggs, poultry, red meat, and anything artificial, processed, or with chemical additives.
There are a plethora of different diets out there, Low Glycemic Index, Low Sodium, Whole Foods, etc. One thing that ALL of the above diets have in common is that NONE of them promote highly processed, chemically treated, artificial, calorie laden foods. Coincidence? Yeah… that stuff is crap for you. Eat clean, eat local, eat fresh, and eat your veggies!
Soon I will touch on all of my favorite and least favorite diet plans. Stay tuned!
Sources: wikipedia and usnews.health