Exploring Vegetarianism

by Kari Hartel, RD, LD
Program Coordinator, Operation Backpack and Cooking Matters
Operation Food Search


World Vegetarian Day and Vegetarian Awareness Month occur in October of every year, and even though October has come and gone along with the tree leaves, you can continue celebrating well beyond the month of October. According to the organization that founded the celebratory day and month, they were established to promote the joy, compassion and life-enhancing possibilities of vegetarianism.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) says, “It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.”

Research has shown that vegetarian diets are associated with lower risks of heart disease, stroke, and many types of cancer. Although a diet that includes animal products can certainly be healthy, moving towards a more plant-based diet can bring a number of health benefits.

For individuals who are not completely vegetarian but want to begin to explore a more vegetable-centered diet, try one or more of the following ideas:

• Rather than committing to an entire week or month of meat-free meals, aim to go meat-free for just one day a week. “Meatless Mondays” have really caught on, and this trend could benefit both our waistlines and our environment. If committing to an entire day without meat is still difficult for you, try having one meat-free meal or making the meat portion of your meal smaller and more of a flavor-enhancing element, shifting the main focus of the dish to the non-meat ingredients.

• Order a meatless dish when dining out at your favorite restaurants.

• Host a vegetarian-themed dinner party and discuss vegetarianism with your friends, family members, or coworkers who are interested in hearing more about the topic.

• Research how a vegetarian diet may be beneficial in your life and share this information with others.

• Focus your meals around seasonal, local tasty fruits and vegetables. Delicious produce that is in season in Missouri during the fall includes apples, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, garlic, leeks, lettuce, okra, parsnips, pears, peppers, persimmons, pumpkins, radishes, shallots, turnips, watercress and winter squash.

Kari Hartel, RD, LD, is the Program Coordinator, Operation Backpack and Cooking Matters at Operation Food Search, Phone: 314.726.5355 ext. 25. email: kari.hartel@OperationFoodSearch.org.