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Vegetarian variations stem from preference, health and more PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brenda Johnson Brandt   

No fish, poultry or red meat is a basic way to describe a vegetarian diet.

However, the variations on the diet are multiple, as researched during this month of October, which is designated as Vegetarian Awareness Month.

For Dr. Patricia Coyman and Erica Ayoub, both of Holyoke, their vegetarian diets also include fish. Wikipedia defines them as pescetarians.

There are other types of vegetarians, as well. Those who eat chicken or other poultry but not meat from mammals are called pollotarians, and those who eat fish and poultry but not red meat are pollo-pescetarians.

Lacto ovo vegetarians do not eat beef, pork, poultry, fish, shellfish or animal flesh of any kind but do eat eggs and dairy products.

A lacto vegetarian doesn’t eat eggs but does consume dairy products. And an ovo vegetarian doesn’t eat meat or dairy products but will eat eggs.

One who doesn’t eat meat of any kind nor eggs, dairy products or processed foods containing these or anything else that comes from an animal in any form, such as gelatin, is defined as a vegan.

If the thought of a turkey-free Thanksgiving is not palatable, a vegetarian diet is probably not the ticket.

Personal preference, health concerns, weight loss and religious reasons all provide rationale for adapting to some form of vegetarian diet.

Health issues led Ayoub to a vegetarian diet 22 years ago. She said she felt bogged down by meat, but it took about two full months to completely give it up.

Vegetables catch the eye of those on a vegetarian diet, as do beans, rice and more.

After seven years of eating no meat whatsoever, Ayoub made the personal decision to add seafood to her diet.

There are a lot of ways to get lean, healthy proteins into one’s diet without meat, said Ayoub. She cited fish, beans, nuts, seeds and, of course, soy.

Ayoub said she doesn’t normally talk to people about being a vegetarian. “It’s just a personal decision. I don’t try to talk people into it.”

Since moving to Holyoke 11 years ago, Ayoub said she’s noticed people in the food industry are trying to be more cognizant of diet variations.

Local restaurants are trying to accommodate people with vegetarian or gluten-free or other diet variations, said Ayoub, and she’s noticed a difference.

“I’m encouraged that restaurants are trying to offer more,” said Ayoub. She noted that several hospital employees are vegetarians, and the dietary staff attempts to prepare something without meat to accommodate their dietary needs.

“I’m not as strict with myself as I used to be,” admitted Ayoub. “I try to do the best I can,” she added.

She said vegetarians have to do their homework when not preparing food themselves.

When dining out, she will kindly ask a server to check with the chef to see if soup is made with chicken broth. “You can’t just ask if it has meat in it,” explained Ayoub, or the answer could be different than if one asks if it contains chicken broth.

She also noted that marinara sauce usually has some kind of meat or beef bouillon in it, making it meat-based as well.

Coyman has been a vegetarian for 32 years, since 1981. She said she initially stopped eating meat because it didn’t taste that good to her. Also, she didn’t like the way they slaughtered animals.

“I’m an animal rescuer,” said Coyman. “Animals are my friends, and I don’t eat my friends.”

Her emphasis on a vegetarian diet was solidifed when she was in a surgery rotation while in medical school. While she was observing, the surgeon pointed out the difference between the colon of a vegetarian and that of a meat-eating person. The vegetarian colons looked much healthier, she said.

Some of today’s meats are so loaded with chemicals and antibiotics that they’re not safe, said Coyman.

Some people raise their own meat and slaughter them, which is better, according to Coyman. “But limiting meat is the healthier way to go,” she added.

Coyman eats fish as it has good protein and good fatty acids. She acknowledges that fish is good in moderation. Anything eaten should be taken in moderation, she added.

Coyman raises her own chickens. She eats their eggs but not their meat. She emphasizes the importance of getting varied proteins in one’s diet.

Kyla Steinman, 16, stopped eating meat when she was 12. She said beef has made her sick since she was very young, and she just doesn’t care for the taste or texture of chicken, turkey, pork or fish.

She loves vegetables and eats lots of beans and rice, as well as potatoes. When her family has hamburgers, she opts for black bean burgers. “If I have a choice, I always choose no meat,” said Steinman.

She and her family—Jeff, Tricia, Kaylee and Aaron Michael—will be going to Africa in January, and Steinman said she’ll just eat what they feed her.

She said she’s up to trying everything once, but if she doesn’t like it, she won’t try it again.

Steinman said friends around her are very curious about her vegetarian diet and ask many questions.

Another lady in Wray has followed a vegetarian diet for about 35 years. She said she did add some fish for a little extra protein when she was pregnant about 30 years ago.

She used to eat eggs, but not often. If eggs are part of a cooked dish, she might eat it now, she explained.

She chose the vegetarian approach to diet for health issues. “I thought it would give me more energy, and it did.”

She said as a child she didn’t really care for meat, and when she became an adult, she found she didn’t have to eat it.

She shares the sentiment of Ayoub. They both note they have nothing against people eating meat. They’re not judgmental in any way.

Ayoub and the Wray resident both said their husbands are not vegetarians, so they cook meat.

“But he eats a lot more fish and salads than he ever used to,” said Ayoub.

For family holiday dinners in Wray, the vegetarian makes both a vegetarian gravy and a meat gravy. They make vegetarian stuffing, as well. When spaghetti is on the menu, two sauces are served.

“Over the years, my husband enjoys vegetarian things too.” But that didn’t happen immediately, she admits.

For those who have spent time in India, a vegetarian diet can easily be established.

Half of India’s population adheres to a vegetarian diet, usually because of Buddhist, Hindu or Jain religious values. Beef and pork typically aren’t used in Indian food because cows are sacred in the Hindu religion, and pork is forbidden in the Muslim religion.

World Vegetarian Day was established in 1977 and is observed annually on Oct. 1, initiating the month of October as Vegetarian Awareness Month.

Healthy food selections can make a vegetarian diet quite acceptable for dietary guidelines. But like any diet, it requires good choices. After all, doughnuts and potato chips are non-meat choices.

Research has shown that healthy vegetarian diets with few saturated fats lead to reduced cholesterol, blood pressure and the risk of heart disease.

Holyoke Enterprise October 31, 2013