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Starting up a vegetarian lifestyle the right way

If you have ever had the idea of becoming a vegetarian, be aware that it likely won’t happen overnight. Like any lifestyle change you make, dedication and you will need to put in work to make the switch toward cutting meat and embracing the vegetarian diet.

While watching films such as “Forks Over Knives” and “Food, Inc.” might be the stepping points, there are also other factors that come into play.

“I’ve seen more students who are not eating meat because it is so expensive,” said Jessica Wilson, a dietitian at the University of Oregon Health Center. “Other reasons include animal rights issues, religion, and then health and identity.”

Wilson points out to not simply go cold turkey against red meat from the beginning.

Many times, people will go out and buy meat replacement products (think vegetarian salami and vegan cheese) that contain large amounts of sodium and preservatives that actually are doing more harm than good.

“I recommend a blog or a cookbook so you can learn to cook your staples from scratch,” Wilson said. “I think finding staples from a whole foods perspective is important, like whole grains, brown rice, beans and lentils, and to find ways to do those inexpensively.”

Wilson also advises that getting varieties of colors in fruits and vegetables and eating proteins will decrease the risks for cancer and heart disease.

There are certain health risks that come up, especially for those who live a vegan diet with no animal byproducts.

“Someone that gets zero animal products all the time will be lacking in B-12 vitamins, that’s the one main vitamin you cannot get,” Wilson said. “Iron is another. People sometimes absorb iron better in meat products than others, so it depends on the person and their ability to absorb it.”

Wilson also noted that people who tend to come to her office for advice for a vegetarian lifestyle have been more males who decide on the spot that they want to change after watching a film. She believes females already have a better idea on how to kick-start and don’t need advice right away.

For those interested in learning more about the vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, the Health Center will be hosting a cooking series during winter term. Also, do plenty of research online and find a vegetarian or vegan blog or cookbook that you like and can work with. There are plenty to choose from to help obtain a vegetarian lifestyle.

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