ETVS Frequently Asked Questions

See also the Nutrition Page

Are Vegetarian Diets Limiting?

by Winston Miller

On the surface, it may seem that way. Actually though, the vegetarian diet is quite liberating--most vegetarians eventually become exposed to a wider range of foods--especially ethnic foods. You are no longer tethered to cow, chicken, pig or fish as your only choices as main entrees.

However, at first, many people wake up in the morning and wonder what they are going to eat. But soon, they learn the joy of not worrying so much about limiting fats and cholesterol. Instead of fretting about diet guilt, vegetarians explore the adventures of new and exciting foods. (Many people will be surprised by the number of foods that they have never heard of or tasted.) And, of course, meat "substitutes" help reduce any anxiety about dietary change.

Eating out? See Where Do Vegetarians Eat Out? on this page. Cooking at home? Then get a good vegetarian cookbook or magazine subscription. Better yet, get a couple. (There are so many to choose from!)

If you are taking the vegetarian diet out for a spin, you'll probably find that you don't like some of the new foods; others, you'll wonder how your taste buds ever managed without!

But Mom was right, try any of the new foods that you don't like at least a couple of times--you may just find that they grow on you. Often, a dislike of a new food is a reflection of the particular recipe used, the preparation, or the freshness of the food. (It can also be a sign of a closed mind.) It's common for the second time around to be an entirely different experience!

Is Vegetarianism Immoderate?

by Winston Miller

It has often been suggested, that the key to diet is moderation and that there is no need to become a vegetarian. However, the fact is, it is extremely complex and difficult to include meat in the diet and reduce the health risks associated with meat. It is extremely complex and difficult to get an appropriate amount of fiber and complex carbohydrates. It's extremely complex and virtually impossible to eliminate cholesterol consumption if you consume meat. (Cholesterol is, of course, not found in plant foods.) In addition, it's very, very difficult to avoid lots of saturated fat if one consumes meat.

We know (according to the American Dietetic Association and, of course, other sources) that there is a positive relationship between vegetarian diets and risk reduction for a number of chronic degenerative diseases and conditions, including major killers like obesity, coronary artery disease, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and some types of cancer. It seems prudent, then, to assume that, at best, the risk reduction is approximately linear with reduction of meat consumption. That is, if you cut out half of the meat in a diet, you MIGHT cut out half of the difference in risk between non-vegetarian and vegetarian diets.

It would be foolhardy to assume that low-meat diets are as beneficial as vegetarian diets. (More research is needed to finely quantify benefits across the spectrum of dietary practices.) If you reduce your meat consumption, you will reduce your risk of these diseases; if you further eliminate your remaining consumption of meat, it seems extremely likely that you will further reduce risk. (No diet, of course, will eliminate all risks.)

So, why stop with a small reduction in risks? Some people believe that there exists some magic dietary reduction level that, once reached, eliminates the meat-related risks. However, researchers have yet to find any such level as it relates to reduction of meat consumption--and it appears that even most Western vegetarians would do well to further reduce their consumption of protein (and possibly fat also). (Not convinced?)

So a better question might be: Do all vegetarian diets go far enough? The vegan diet (one that excludes all animal products), while still very slightly excessive in protein consumption, is closer to optimal levels of protein than the lacto-ovo vegetarian diet. The vegan diet also tends to produce weights closer to "desirable" standards set by health professionals.

In contrast to the complex challenge of reducing dietary related risks in a non-vegetarian diet, the vegetarian diet is very effective and simple--you just don't eat meat. Instead, you enjoy a variety of plant-based foods plus, if you're a lacto-vegetarian, dairy products. The diet may also include the so-called meat substitutes, which are usually lower in fat, cholesterol and other potentially harmful substances.

When you become a vegetarian you instantly join a group with an entirely different set of health statistics. That's a radical result for a simple, straightforward effort. There's nothing immoderate about that!

Where Do Vegetarians Eat Out?

(Most Anywhere--But Ethnic Restaurants Are Best)

by Winston Miller

Most anywhere! However, salad-bars, cafeterias and ethnic restaurants tend to be better. (Note: Cafeterias have a negative image with many, but many modern cafeterias have excellent food. Cafeterias are popular in Southern states and a few other areas but rare in other parts of the country such as the Northeast.) Most any ethnic restaurant will do--Chinese, Middle Eastern, Mexican, Indian, African, Italian--you name it. Although protein is not normally a concern in terms of nutrition, it may matter in terms of taste and "heaviness" in your stomach--ethnic foods tend to do the trick. (Some folks miss the "heaviness" and some folks are glad to be free of it.)

And when vegetarians eat out, they often enjoy foods that many have never heard of and never get the chance to savor.

Even many fast-food restaurants are beginning to have vegetarian items these days. Increasingly, they have to because so many people are limiting meat or avoiding it entirely. And there are always subs, pasta, and pizza. (Some vegans have been known to eat pizza without the cheese!--the trick, for some, is to order extra olives.)

One trick, if you're in a bind, is to mix fast foods: If there is, say, a fast-food Mexican restaurant in an area, there is usually another fast-food joint nearby with other items. So, mix and match when the choices seem too limited. If you're not careful, fast foods can tend to defeat some of the health benefits of vegetarian diets. However, staying with your vegetarian lifestyle is a crucial strategy--don't let on-the-road inconveniences get you off track! Here's a list of vegetarian friendly restaurants in the area.

Can Vegetarians Get Enough Protein?

(Yes, They May Get Too Much!)

by Winston Miller

Here's a blast from the past. It's protein information with a chart published by the North American Vegetarian Society in 1982 in "Facts of Vegetarianism / Vegetarianism Made Easy". The information originated from the Amer. J. Clin. Nutr. 2:73, 1954. (Talk about oldies!) The following text is from the NAVS publication:

"A study of average protein intake has shown that both lacto-ovo and total vegetarian diets are more than adequate for human protein requirements. It was noted that total-vegetarian men and women obtain somewhat more than the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA), which is deliberately set at twice the amount demonstrated to be adequate (Minimum Daily Requirement, or MDR). Lacto-ovo vegetarians obtained 1-1/2 times the recommended amount, or 3 times actual bodily needs. Non-vegetarians averaged an intake of nearly 1-3/4 times (women) and nearly double (men) the RDA, or nearly 3-1/2 and 4 times the MDR. (See chart..."

"Nor are essential amino acids found to be deficient in average vegetarian diets. Specific quantities ranged from 3 to 11 times the required amounts, in a lacto-ovo-veg. diet; and 2 to 8 times in a total-vegetarian diet."


Percent of RDA:



180------------------------------------------* *---------------

                                             * *   ***

160------------------------------------------* *---* *---------

                         ***   ***           * *   * *

140----------------------* *---* *-----------* *---* *---------

     ***                 * *   * *           * *   * *

120--* *-----------------* *---* *-----------* *---* *---------

     * *   ***           * *   * *           * *   * *

100--* *---* *-----------* *---* *-----------* *---* *----- RDA

     * *   * *           * *   * *           * *   * *

 80--* *---* *-----------* *---* *-----------* *---* *---------

     * *   * *           * *   * *           * *   * *

 60--* *---* *-----------* *---* *-----------* *---* *---------

     * *   * *           * *   * *           * *   * *    - MDR

 40--* *---* *-----------* *---* *-----------* *---* *---------

     * *   * *           * *   * *           * *   * *

 20--* *---* *-----------* *---* *-----------* *---* *---------

     * *   * *           * *   * *           * *   * *


     Men   Women         Men   Women         Men   Women

      TOTAL-VEG.          LACTO-OVO            NON-VEG

More precisely, the chart shows that on average: Total-veg. men get 128% of the RDA, 256% of the MDR Total-veg. women get 111% of the RDA, 222% of the MDR Lacto-ovo men get 150% of the RDA, 300% of the MDR Lacto-ovo women get 150% of the RDA, 300% of the MDR Non-veg. men get 192% of the RDA, 384% of the MDR Non-veg. women get 171% of the RDA, 342% of the MDR

(Note that even the MDR is set high by some scientific standards. Therefore, these percentages would be even higher if the MDR was lowered to match such minimum standards!)

This demonstrates that the meat industry has surely known, for over 40 years, that non-vegetarians consume far too much protein and that removing animal products from the diet leads to a more optimum (yet still excessive) level of protein consumption. Yet, the industry continues to stress protein as a selling point in connection with meat while, in truth, the excessive levels present health risks. (The health risks, according to the American Dietetic Association, are reduced calcium retention, reduced kidney function in individuals with prior kidney damage, and a possibly higher fat intake because foods high in protein are frequently high in fat. The ADA also cites a possible link between animal protein and colon cancer. And we thought the tobacco industry was bad!

What about the Danger of Mad Cow Disease in the U.S.?

by Winston Miller

Mad Cow Disease may or may not be an eventual problem in the U.S. However, it might be said that, so far, the British deaths from illness related to this frightening disease don't even began to approach the number of deaths in this country from food poisoning; and that food poisoning deaths are a far cry from U.S. cancer and heart disease deaths.

There is a strong correlation between these diseases and meat consumption. Too bad that these diseases don't have a scary collective name like "Animal Products Plague"--think of how many lives would be saved!

The English are cutting back on meat consumption. Ironically, Mad Cow Disease may actually save more lives than it ever takes (unless it gets far worse than it presently appears).