By C. H. Plank

“I became a vegetarian because I was eating sausage for breakfast, and I realized that it was once a living, breathing creature, and I vowed never to eat [meat] again,” said Montrose, Pennsylvania ninth-grader Nikki Printz. She has been a vegetarian since the age of nine, and a vegan since February 2005.

People become vegetarians for a number of reasons. They may have concerns about cruelty to animals. Others have concern for the environment. It takes a lot more land to raise animals than it does to grow vegetables. And animal waste ends up polluting our water, destroying our topsoil and contaminating our air.

Personal health is another reason to be a vegetarian. Eating lots of whole grains, leafy greens, nuts, fruits and vegetables may help protect us against diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. Some people worry that a vegetarian diet might be tasteless, but Nikki disagrees.

“Anyone who tells you that vegetarian food [is bland] is lying to you,” said Nikki, “because vegetarian food is tastier, more flavorful, and healthier than meat.”

For more information on vegetarianism, visit www.goveg.com.

Be a Healthy Vegetarian

Nutrients that vegetarian kids need & where to find them:

•    vitamin B12: dairy products, eggs and vitamin-fortified products, such as cereals, breads, and soy and rice drinks

•    vitamin D: dairy products, calcium-fortified orange juice and vitamin-fortified products

•    calcium: dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli and chickpeas

•    protein: dairy products, eggs, tofu, dried beans and nuts

•    iron: eggs, dried beans, dried fruits, whole grains and leafy green vegetables

•    zinc: wheat germ, nuts, beans and peas

Types of Vegetarians

lacto-ovo vegetarian – eats dairy and egg products; no meat

ovo-vegetarian – eats eggs; no meat

lacto-vegetarian – eats dairy products; no eggs or meat

vegan – eats only food from plant sources