Do you love vegetables? We do! Golden ears of corn standing tall in the fields…green, leafy heads of lettuce sitting in a row…sweet peas nestled in a pod…these are the things we look forward to eating when the harvest comes!

Did you know that there are some people who eat a diet that consists only of plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, nuts and grains? We call these people vegetarians. Vegetarians make a choice — for a variety of reasons — not to eat meat.

Some people, though, take vegetarianism one step further. Not only will they not eat meat, but they refuse to eat any type of food (and sometimes even refuse to use any type of product) that comes from an animal. We call these plant-based eaters vegans.

For example, a vegetarian might pass up a slice of pepperoni pizza and have a slice of plain cheese pizza instead. A vegan, however, will pass on the plain cheese pizza, too, since cheese is a dairy product that comes from a cow.

Likewise, vegans will avoid other non-meat foods that come from animals that vegetarians might otherwise eat. Examples of such foods include eggs, butter and milk.

Many vegetarians choose to eat only vegetables, fruits, nuts and grains for health reasons. A vegetarian diet is usually low in fat and cholesterol. It’s also often high in fiber and low in calories.

Vegans might choose to avoid all animal products for health reasons, too, but many of them have other concerns. Vegans often choose their diet based upon a belief that animals should not be used by people for food or to make consumer products of any kind.

Have you ever thought about being a vegetarian or a vegan? Before making any kind of a choice to follow a specific type of diet, make sure you discuss it with your parents, as you’ll need their help.

In addition to buying the right kinds of foods, you’ll also need an adult’s help to make sure your body is getting all the nutrients it needs. Meat provides protein, iron and other important vitamins and minerals. These nutrients may be missing in a vegetarian or vegan diet if you’re not careful to replace them with non-meat foods or nutritional supplements.

Today, veganism is becoming more popular and mainstream. More and more vegan restaurants are opening and many professional athletes have turned to a vegan diet to improve their health and performance. Studies have shown that vegan diets can help to reduce many health conditions, such as heart disease.

Most grocery stores also now offer a variety of vegan alternatives to popular products. For example, cow’s milk is often replaced by almond milk or soy milk. These alternative types of milk also can be used to make vegan versions of cheese. You also can find soy used to make meatless versions of traditional meat products, like hamburgers.

 

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