Vegetarian or Vegan – Which Choice is Right For You?
Perhaps you’ve been given a medical ultimatum, or entered into a relationship that will restrict your dietary options for the foreseeable future. Maybe you’ve decided to give up meat and animal products for Lent and the changes are temporary. Whatever your reasons, there is little in the way of dispute from the rest of the world that traversing the dietary stage from omnivore to vegetarian or even vegan is difficult and often takes a great deal of time and adjustment to adapt properly. If the question on your mind is, “should I go vegetarian, or vegan?” – you’re right where you should be.
Giving up steak, chicken, and pork is what ends up separating you from a large part of the population – and the divide only gets bigger as you give up things like fish, dairy, and even gluten (albeit gluten is not really part of being vegan or vegetarian). What’s the difference, on a “daily driver” basis between vegetarianism and veganism? Why is giving up a few other things on top of already giving up on primary foods like the big three meats so radical and different that it had to be given its own word?
Are you a ravenous meat eater? Is steak found in your diet more than once a week as it stands? Are you familiar with dietary supplements, farmer’s markets, and keen on reading food labels? These are the questions one must ask his or herself before committing to a vegetarian or vegan diet. For example, vegans tend to be deficient in B vitamins, and often have difficulty finding a good source of protein that they can rely on every day to meet their minimum requirements – especially when they’re active or involved in athletics.
New vegetarians, however, tend to have issues with adjusting to newer or often underutilized sources of protein. Part of “the struggle” lies in the general reliability of the state of man, and that is that “if I don’t have to think about it, I won’t” that plagues most of us, and only really comes to light in the midst of a big change – changes like giving up meat are a great example, when, say, an omnivore decides to become a vegetarian and isn’t particularly big on greens or tofu, and suddenly things like anemia and an inability to recover from workouts become very serious and very real.
The difference between becoming a vegetarian or becoming a vegan lies in what kind of lifestyle is going to be doable and what one’s physician recommends. If your job involves meat (e.g. chef, food production, taking clients to lunch/dinner), becoming a full-fledged raw, gluten-free, soy-free vegan is going to be extremely difficult to maintain, especially if you’re accustomed to entertaining guests – given that most of those guests usually aren’t vegan. If you aren’t prone to eating vegetable sandwiches or are an incredibly picky eater, it simply might not be for you. Experienced dieters, on the other hand (particularly athletes in weight-specific sports) are much more likely to find a way to make any dietary situation much more survivable due to their conditioning to read labels, research their food (macro and micronutrients), and find ideal sources of protein and “slam them down” – so to speak.
Deciding one day that you’re not going to eat meat, eggs, or dairy, having never tried quinoa or taking vitamins and minerals, for example, is not a situation that will result in a high probability of success. One must work within their comfort zone and be honest with themselves as to what type of person they are, as that’s the true key to identifying the best case scenario and succeeding within those boundaries.
A lot of work goes into making a large dietary leap, and a big part of it is research; both nutritional and personal. Just remember – failure is relative term, and is absolutely an option. One may find it best to slowly adjust to these decisions, even starting as a vegetarian-in-training with the end-goal being veganism, once he or she has found that they can properly maintain difficult nutrients like B vitamins and iron, that which was once a simple steak away from satisfaction. It’s all relative, and it’s all about you in the end.