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What Is a Vegetarian? A Guide for Curious Kids

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Do your kids know any vegetarians? Perhaps they're interested in eating less meat. Or, maybe they're vegetarian and want to learn more! Read on for an overview and a meat-free recipe that's perfect for chilly fall days.

A guide to vegetarianism

A vegetarian is someone who does not eat meat, poultry, fish or sea creatures of any kind. A vegetarian eats mostly plants, and sometimes food products like milk, eggs and honey.

Why are people vegetarian?

There are many reasons. Some people do not like to eat meat because of its taste and texture. Others may want diets that promote leaner sources of protein like lentils or tofu. Some people have feelings about animals and do not want to eat them. Some people feel that being a vegetarian is kinder to the environment, since it takes so much grain to feed animals and energy to turn them into food. Some different religions like Hinduism and Buddhism promote vegetarianism as a non-violent way to live. Meat also costs more money than most fruits and vegetables, so some people cannot afford to eat meat.

There are four different types of vegetarians:

•Ovo-vegetarians eat only plants and eggs.

•Lacto-vegetarians eat only plants and dairy.

•Ovo-lacto vegetarians eat plants, eggs and dairy.

•Vegans eat only plants, and usually do not eat food made by animals, like honey.

Is being a vegetarian healthier?

Eating lots of fresh vegetables and fruits is definitely healthy, but a vegetarian diet does not necessarily mean a healthy one. For example, sugar comes from a plant, and eating a pound of sugar with a spoon is vegetarian, but not healthy or terrifically smart. One challenge for vegetarians is getting enough protein in their diets. Protein is extremely important because the human body breaks it into basic building blocks called amino acids. These amino acids all have special jobs to do, such as keep muscle tissue in our hearts strong or help our immune systems ward off colds. Vegetarians need to be sure to eat a wide variety of foods to get all the amino acids that the body needs. The human body is very smart, though, so it can grab and store amino acids anytime a person eats protein.

Veggie tips and tricks

No single food type provides all the nutrients that our bodies need. Fruits and vegetables alone are not enough; the human body needs protein from foods like meat, beans, eggs and nuts. Eating a variety of foods is incredibly important to make the body be its very best.

Try swapping out meat for other proteins in dishes like soup, stew and lasagna. Tofu, beans and extra vegetables can make meals without meat be satisfying and filling.

How can eating no meat or less meat make a difference?

By reducing the amount of meat they eat, families can save money, reduce their fat and calorie intakes, and boost the amounts of fiber, minerals and antioxidants that they consume. Your family might try a meatless meal by swapping a plant protein for an animal one, like making stir fry with veggies rather than chicken or shrimp. Or, try using less meat and add more veggies and still get a flavorful meal.

Meatless chili recipe

There are many ways to make chili. Chili is a stew that combines peppers and other ingredients. Some people like chili con carne, which is Spanish for “peppers with meat.” The recipe here is for chili sin carne, or chili without meat. Actually, this recipe is vegan because the ingredients are all only plant products. The recipe includes four types of beans to provide protein to give you energy and make you feel full.

Ingredients

Serves about 8

•1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
•1 (15 ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
•1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
•1 (15 ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
•1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
•1 (15 ounce) can corn, drained
•1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
•½ cup onion, chopped
•¼ cup celery, chopped
•¼ cup green bell pepper, chopped
•2 cloves garlic, minced
•2 teaspoons chili powder
•2 teaspoons dried parsley
•1 teaspoon salt
•½ teaspoon cumin
•¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
•¼ teaspoon black pepper
•¾ cup water

Instructions

Combine all ingredients in order listed in a slow cooker. Cook on high heat for 3-4 hours or until vegetables are tender.



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