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Should everyone go veggie?

To kick off my portion of this new Delicious Living blog, I have a confession: I have never eaten a hamburger. I grew up on brown rice and tofu (or "toad food" as we affectionately called it) and steamed veggies. Yes, I am a lifelong vegetarian. Which is pretty much where my interest in natural living starts.

"Don't you miss meat?" people ask. Of course not, I say. "Do you miss eating ants or seal blubber?" I want to retort. Instead, I just smile and explain that—for me—the choice is easy. What I think they really want to know is: Do I believe that eating meat is inherently wrong? Do I think their diet stinks? Well, no.

In my lifetime, I've seen vegetarianism go from being considered a form of devil worship—not to mention from being bland and unappetizing—to a fairly widely accepted (even gourmet) option for healthy eating. But is it the only way to eat healthily? No. Can meat be part of a planet-conscious diet? In my opinion, sure.

As a mom of a toddler (with kiddo number two on the way in April), and as an editor who scours dietary studies on a daily basis, I often wonder if I am making the right choices. (A second confession: I cheat by taking fish oil supplements.) But several recent things have strengthened my dedication to eating vegetarian: First, an obituary for Peter Roberts, founder and director of Compassion in World Farming, a dairy farmer who spent his life promoting animal welfare around the world and who eventually became vegetarian himself. It's because of people like Roberts that we now ask: Where does this meat come from? Was the animal fed a natural diet? Let out to pasture and treated well? Was it pumped up with synthetic hormones and antibiotics?

Second, scientists like Udo Erasmus (the creator of Udo's Oils, plant-based essential fatty acids) assure me that animal products aren't a necessity for good health—and that given the state of the planet, such sources of nutrients (e.g. fish for EFAs) may be too polluted and overprocessed to be safe. That's not to mention issues surrounding sustainability. (Check out our January 2007 Evolve column, "Is Eating Seafood Sustainable?" page 50.) Right now, I'm still taking my daily fish oil supplements—but stay tuned.

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