Monday, June 15, 2009

Vegetables? What are those?

With all the processed and prepackaged foods out there, no wonder why it seems like everyone is gaining weight and becoming sickly. Many would think that vegetarians (and vegans) would be safe, with our healthy plant-based diets. However, after watching what my vegetarian friends eat, and analyzing my own diet, I have noticed that it is very easy to eat vegetarian without getting a lot of nutrients.Furthermore, it is quite possible to be a vegetarian and rarely touch a vegetable!

How can this be? Well, this concept has long been discussed in articles against teen vegetarianism, but most vegetarians brush it aside and say "That won't happen to me." After all, we've done our research, we bought that new avant-garde cookbook, and invested in foods we can hardly pronounce, like "tempeh" and "quinoa". Surely we're never going to be that vegetarian, who lives off cheese pizza and french fries. Heck, I don't even like fast food!

So maybe most of us are above pizza, fries, and cola, but I am willing to bet a lot of vegetarians aren't as healthy as they think they are. And yes, I am going to be honest, it was my own self who rudely awakened me to this predicament.

It wasn't all my fault that I wasn't eating great. I had finals to worry about, end of year projects and assessments to do, track and field was getting more and more competitive as the season went on, my animal rights group was doing a fundraiser, and I had about 5 different events for the National Honor Society. Plus my job, and my social life. My mom started working nights, which left me to make my own dinners (whereas when she was home there would always be some sort of vegetation as a side dish).

My diet wasn't exactly unhealthy, it just was missing things. I would eat a veggie burger at school most days for lunch, and if I was lucky I'd get a bit of iceberg salad on the side. If I had time to make lunch, I'd bring peanut butter and jelly (with wheat germ). Or if I was feeling ambitious, a faux ham and veggie sandwich (with a piece of lettuce, a slice each of tomato and onion, some mustard, and hots). For dinner, I'd make something quick. Quick meaning one dish, no sides. My main main always had to include protein (I need it for running), so it often focused around beans or pasta. I had carb-protein-fat down pat, but what about nutrients? And vitamins? And minerals? After a few weeks, I started to say "Hey, I'm a vegan, but I can hardly count on one hand how many vegetables I've eaten this week!"

And its not just me. At least I tried to make what I had healthy on its own for the most part. I have friends that get cheese pizza or a veggie burger with an ice pop and soda for lunch and eat oriental ramen noodles and mashed potatoes for dinner. Yay, no animals, but no nutrients either.

We are not safe from this obesity epidemic if we continue along this path. We cannot sit on this high horse if our bodies are being filled with the same crap of the people below (let's not break the horses back with out fat behinds, okay?)

Time is the big issue. Adults have it better off than students. Yes, they work, but we have school then sports and extra-curriculars (need em for college!), homework and projects. Oh and okay, Facebook & Myspace too, but still. Teenagers also have a hard time because we do not make a lot of money, and sometimes parents aren't the most helpful when it comes to eating healthily (and on top of that, veganly).

My summer goal is to get back on track. Tonight for dinner I made broccoli curry with quinoa. I wasn't left feeling tired and lethargic after eating (look how much I've written!) With the garden coming along, there will be fresh picked lettuce for salads, and tastier grilled veggie burgers and tofu pups (less fat then frying, plus if they taste better I'll ditch the white bread for whole wheat). Plus I'll have time to drive 30 minutes away to grocery stores with better vegan specialties (like quinoa, curry sauces, local vegetable specialties, etc).

Overall, I'm optimistic. I've identified my problem, the things that triggered it are gone, and I'm going to tackle it head on. Plus, this has only been a recent occurrence for me, I'm usually quite healthy. But I know not everyone who's fallen into this trap is going to be as lucky. Its a misconception that being vegetarian/vegan automatically equals healthy. I'd say about 7 out of 10 times it is, but especially for Generation Y and Generation Z, where a cardboard box or a can and a microwave are our best friends, it's not always so. Before we can tout that our diet is the best (besides for animal welfare), we need step back, take off our rose-colored glasses, and make sure it really is.


And if you do happen to have a rockin' veg diet, keep up the good work! (and let us know how you stick to it when the times get tough!)


ellie said...

I totally agree in that many think that being a veggie/vegan puts you out of danger for health problems. And it can but only if you avoid the pitfalls that are there for most dietary lifestyles.

Personally i am a long standing veggie and an aspiring vegan and i haven't touched fastfood or processed food for 9 years. To me there is nothing better than natural wholefood goodness and i tend to go by the season. Variety is really important to stave of boredom and just listen to your body. If your craving something take the craving apart and see if you can satisfy it without turning to fast food.

Sorry i'm rambling, i just think this post is such a good one and one a lot of veg/vegans should consider!

Thanks a lot!

Jeni Treehugger said...

Excellent post and so true for a lot of people. I'm lucky that I now have the time to cook lots of home cooked food and rarely eat processed food and NEVER buy from fast food places.
As an idea for you - when you do have time to make some delicious home cooked eats - try doubling or tripling - heck even quadrupling the amount and then freeze the rest in handy sized portions. This was my saving grace when I didn't have as much time to cook as I do now.

AKM said...

Great post. I'm still guilty of the drive-thru addiction somewhat. :-/ If only I could convince myself that french fries aren't vegan, then I wouldn't eat them.

I used to love to cook at home and in the last few years I seem to have just given up on it. I need to do it WAY more and not rely on Boca burgers and canned beans so much.

I'm lovin' your blog! I just discovered it a few days ago. You have such a mature, thoughtful voice...keep it up!

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I don't like vegetables they are not good at taste.

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No diet is ever complete than including a vegetable dish in it. This is a must for a healthy body.

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well....i just want to tell you that.... i just think this post is such a good one and one a lot of veg/vegans should consider......:)

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the talk about vegetables always made me exciting, as they add flavors to your food.

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