Monday, February 19, 2007

Green Eating

While driving a hybrid Toyota Prius instead of a “regular” car saves the equivalent of just more than 1 ton of carbon dioxide a year, a vegan diet generates at least 1.5 fewer tons of carbon dioxide than does the average American diet. According to a University of Chicago study, adopting a vegan diet is more important than switching to a “greener” car in the fight against global warming.

Does that mean we all need to adopt a vegan/vegetarian diet? Well the die hards will say yes, but the bigger message is understanding the connection between the food we eat and the impact on the environment. In Michale Pollan's book The Omnivore's Dilemma he brings an important voice to how our food is being produced in the United States today, and how our food choices potentially can make a positive difference in the world. The vegetarian community is a passionate one - for good reason. But beyond the cruelty factor, there are numerous reasons that people choose to become vegetarian including the health benefits. Going green in our eating can no longer be denied as the gateway to health.

A recent study announced that red meat may be the cause of specific forms of cancer. Now I don't want to be the buzz kill to a good hamburger. The truth is, there is a range of diets and lifestyles all promoting healthier/organic ways of eating including: The Raw Foods Detox Diet, The 3 Season Diet and The Detox Diet just to name a few. The list can go on with the experts to support them. The days of denying the benefits of eating organically are slim and there are ways to still embrace meat within this manner. However, at the end of the day, it is about becoming conscious of our choices.

In my mind there is room for both Turducken (although an animal within an animal within an animal does seem extreme) and Tofurkey. And just like anything, before making a judgement regarding a certain lifestyle, it is best to educate ourselves to have a wider perspective and ultimately a better understanding to make more informed choices in our lives.

I realize this is a big statement and I am not pushing a vegetarian agenda. But when the connection between the food we consume and the impact that has on our environment becomes abundantly clear, it is important to take note.

While the vegan lifestyle is one option and describes a person that does not consume any animal products or by products, the vegetarian diet describes a person who does not consume meat, poultry, fish, or seafood. This grouping includes vegans and the various sub- categories of vegetarian; however, it generally implies someone who has less dietary restrictions than a vegan. While the vegan/vegetarian lifestyle is one alternative you can take, there are multiple ways to keep meat in your diets in an organic friendly way. If however you are curious to make the switch to the vegetarian lifestyle, The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine recommends the following tips for making the switch to a vegetarian diet:

1. Convenience foods cut cooking time. Supermarkets and natural foods stores stock a huge array of instant soups and main-dish vegetarian convenience items.
2. Ask for it! Even restaurants that don’t offer vegetarian entrées can usually whip up a meatless pasta or vegetable plate if you ask.
3. Order your next pizza without cheese but with a mountain of vegetable toppings.
Texturized vegetable protein (TVP) is fat-free, has a texture like ground beef, and is wonderful in tacos, chili, and sloppy joes. Look for it in the bulk food section of the grocery store.
4. The simplest dishes are often the most satisfying. Brown rice, gently seasoned with herbs and lemon and sprinkled with chopped nuts or sunflower seeds, is a perfect dish.
5. When traveling, pack plenty of vegetarian snacks like instant soups, fresh fruit, raw vegetables, trail mix, granola bars, and homemade oatmeal cookies. Fill a cooler with sandwiches and individual containers of juice and soymilk.

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