My latest Environmental Nutrition (June 2010, Volume 33, Number 6) was packed with great information. The front page really caught my eyeFDA Cracks Down on Food Labeling In an unprecedented move, the FDA issued 17 warnings to food companies for misleading labels. The companies include POM Wonderful, Beech-Nut, Spectrum Organic Products, Pbm Products, Redco Foods, First Juice, Sunsweet Growers, Dreyer's Ice Cream, Diamond Food and Gerber. Some offending product labels conveyed nutrient content claims that did not meet FDA requirements. For example, the term "cholesterol-free" was used even though the product contained higher levels of saturated fat than allowed when this claim is made. Other food labels referred to websites that made claims establishing the product as a "drug" that might cure, mitigate, treat or prevent disease. In some cases, websites referred to scientific studies that reported benefits linked with the food, such as lowering cholesterol or blood pressure. The crackdown sends a message to the food industry that they need to adhere to the established rules for food labeling.
Do you buy a food based on what you read on the front of the box? Are you more likely to not read the nutrition facts and ingredients because of what the advertising claim on the package of the food you are buying?
I recently received a newsletter/magazine from Mercy for Animals. The front page said "Vegetarian Starter Kit: everything you need to know to adopt a healthy and compassionate diet". I was really excited to see what was inside but I did not enjoy reading about the specific details (and pictures) of the transformation of animals to food. I am not That type of vegetarian. Although I know I have a voice in this world, there is nothing beneficial for me to see what happens to chickens, pigs and cows and how they are treated. It makes me cry and I do my best to be the healthiest vegetarian I can be. As you know from reading past-blogs, I have such love and compassion for all animals but I can not afford organic and cage-free products. I am proud of where I am right now in my life and I stand by the choices that I make and I only hope to become healthier as I become more educated in my field.
You are entitled to your opinion of why you are a vegetarian/vegan. However, based on many scientific studies, vegetarians are associated with a number of health advantages, including lower blood cholesterol levels, lower risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure levels, and lower risk of hypertension and type 2 diabetes. Vegetarians tend to have lower BMI and lower overall cancer rates. Vegetarian diets tend to be lower in sat fat, cholesterol and have higher levels of dietary fiber, magnesium and potassium, vitamins C and E, folate, carotenoids, flavonoids and other phytochemicals. Certainly there are plenty healthy meat eaters and many unhealthy vegetarians. A healthy and active lifestyle is all about balance no matter if you are eating lean animal meats and fish rich in healthy fats or eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. To me being a vegetarian is more than just loving animals....and oh do I love animals and all creatures. Based on the definition, a vegetarian is someone chooses for health, environmental, ethical or religious reasons to abstain from the consumption of animals.
Depending on the type of vegetarian you are, based on your personal beliefs, you have every right to be flexible with what you choose to or not to consume. I can not stress enough that no matter what diet you choose, you must think about your lifestyle and activity needs. More than anything, your diet must be balanced to meet your daily macronutrient and vitamin and mineral recommendations. On pg 18 of my newsletter, I really enjoyed reading about "The Switch: 5 helpful tips to going and staying veg". 1) Enjoy vegan versions of your favorite foodsBecoming a vegetarian doesn't mean you have to give up the tastes you love. Next time you go to the grocery store, check out healthy and humane alternatives to your favorite meat, dairy and egg products (with all the flavor but without animal suffering and environmental degradation). 2) Think globally, eat locallyMost new vegetarians find that they really have more food choices, not fewer. Think of offerings from around the world; Chinese - veggie stir-fry. Thai - Tofu coconut curry. Japanese - veggie sushi, miso soup. Ethiopian - lentils, collard greens. Indian - veggie samosas. Mediterranean - hummus, falafel, bab ganoush, jasmine rice. Mexican - bean burritos, tacos. 3) Visit veg-friendly establishments: Visit VegDining.com or VegGuide.org for global listing of veg-friendly restaurants. Most chefs are happy to show off their skills by making you a tasty vegetarian dish that will make your dining companions green with envy. 4) Grab a veggie cookbookCountless vegetarian cookbooks, offering mouthwatering recipes ranging from grandma's traditional "meat and potato" type meals to colorful and exotic foods from around the world are just a bookstore or library away. Visit Cookveg.com and Vegan-Food.net. 5) Attitude, attitude, attitudeBecoming a vegetarian is a process. Give yourself time to develop new eating habits. Soon your new diet will become second nature as you learn where to find wonderful vegetarian choices. Having other vegetarians in your life will make your new compassionate way of eating easier. Get involved with groups and like-minded friends. Remember you are making a big difference in your own life as well as in the lives of countless animals.