August 27, 2008

Teenagers Have Reasons for Trying Vegetarianism

Vegetarianism is not as easy as just being able to give up meat.

"I feel vegetarianism is wonderful because I love animals," said Amanda Olson, 19, a sophomore at Augusta State University.

She could never give up meat because she is so used to the taste, but she said that a lot of people associate vegetarians with hippies, and that they often misrepresent vegetarians as vegans.

A University of Georgia study, written by Holly Alley, a nutrition specialist, said that the difference between vegetarians and vegans is what animal products are excluded in their diets.

Vegetarians can be lacto, meaning they consume dairy products, or ovo, which means they consume eggs. Vegans do no eat or use any animal products, sometimes including honey.

Laura Keating, 17, a freshman at Augusta State University, said she thinks a lot of people feel vegetarians are extremists. Chelsea Henson, 17, a vegetarian for three years and a home-school graduate, said that there is nothing extreme about boycotting something you hold close to your heart.

"People should get to know vegetarians as individuals before judging them based on their diet," Chelsea said.

Chelsea believes that vegetarianism is better for your health, animals and the environment.

"It's the compassionate choice," she said.

She had this to say for teens wanting to become vegetarians: "Stick to your decision and don't let anyone talk you out of it. You know why you want to be a vegetarian, and no one else can make that choice for you. Be prepared to help with cooking and answering questions about nutrition. It might seem hard at first, especially if you don't have any other vegetarians in your family."

She urges those considering vegetarianism to keep in mind their reasons for their decision to be able to stick with it.

"But it is very possible," she said.

You will not get sick if you give up meat. Billy Garland, the general manager of dining services at Augusta State University, said the protein needs are different for everyone - men, women, children, vegetarians and the elderly.

"It is important to be well-educated and to utilize trained personnel, such as doctors or dieticians, to get an understanding of an individual's protein and vitamin needs," he said.

B vitamins play a huge role in supplying protein to vegetarians and vegans, and he said that it is no simple matter; it takes some time to make sure that you do not do any harm do your body.

For more information about vegetarianism - including a free vegetarian starter kit - visit the Compassionate Action for Animals Web site at

Teen Board member Amber Forbes is a senior at Harlem High School.

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