Teens turn vegetarian for health – their own and animals

By Edgar Sanchez
Teens in the Newsroom

Vegetarianism seems to be a rising and popular trend among teens. More and more every year are taking the pledge to be meat-free.

Some people may argue that a vegetarian diet lacks proper nutrition, but according to the American Dietetic Association, “vegetarianism is the way to live a healthy life, by beating heart disease, avoiding obesity and providing great sources of protein, iron and calcium.”

Recent studies have shown that vegetarians live an average of six to 10 years longer than meat-eaters.

Although dairy products such as milk contain high amounts of calcium, there are other sources where calcium can be found, such as orange juice, soybeans, soy milk and tofu.

It’s hard to find conclusive figures on the number of vegetarians in the United States. According to a 2007 story in USA Today, a poll by Harris Interactive in 2005 found that 3 percent of Americans ages 8 to 18 were vegetarian, up 1 percent from an earlier poll.

Many teens choose a vegetarian lifestyle for their health or because they want to save animals.

Kaydee Blickenstaff, a senior at Beyer High School, said she’s a vegetarian “because of my compassion for animals.”

“Most animals are confined in very small living quarters, are beaten, and are sometimes conscious when slaughtered,” Kaydee said. “I can’t have these images running through my mind.”

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals encourages teens to switch to a vegetarian diet, for the sake of the animals and for themselves. The PETA Web site — www.peta.org— offers testimonials, videos and facts about vegetarianism and the consumption of animal products.

“I always thought the idea of eating meat was terrible, but I didn’t see the cruel process until my sisters and I watched a video called ‘Meet Your Meat’ on the PETA Web site,” said Theresa Ramirez, a sophomore at Johansen High. “I was closing my eyes through half of it because it was so terrible!”

The video made her change her views on the slaughtering of animals for food. By going vegetarian, “I decided I would not support the meat industry and their horrid practices,” she said.

The American Meat Institute, a trade group, says that the health and welfare of animals is a key concern of the meat and poultry industry. And the California Milk Advisory Board’s Web site, realcaliforniamilk.com, includes a brochure on how dairy farmers care for their cows.

Becoming a vegetarian is a challenge. Some teens find the transition difficult for the first couple of months, but get used to it after a while.

Luis Valdovinos, a senior at Johansen High, said, “It was hard at first, but now the idea of eating meat is actually less appealing than it was before.”

Sometimes, teens find it too difficult of a challenge, and they break their pledge intentionally or accidentally.

“The transition was extremely difficult for me,” said Kaydee. “Once, I unknowingly ate some sort of casserole that contained meat. My stomach wasn’t used to so much grease, so I got sick.”

Judy Krizmanic, author of “A Teen’s Guide to Going Vegetarian,” encourages teens to try it for a few days a week and gradually transition to being a vegetarian full time.

Sareeka Prakash, a junior at Johansen High, said, “I have been a vegetarian on and off for the past eight years. I did it for my religion, but I wasn’t forced to. Certain things were difficult when I went out to eat because I had a limited choice of food.”

Many restaurants in Modesto, such as Fresh Choice and Denny’s, offer a variety of vegan and vegetarian foods, such as salads, soups, pizza, Boca burgers and tofu.

Some notable vegetarian celebrities teens look up to are Paul McCartney, Pamela Anderson, Natalie Portman and Tobey Maguire.

Another vegetarian and animal rights activist, Mike D’Antonio, bassist for metalcore band Killswitch Engage, said in a recent interview with PETA, “Why should somebody have to die if I need a snack?”

Edgar Sanchez is a junior at Johansen High School and a member of The Bee’s Teens in the Newsroom journalism program

Read more: http://www.modbee.com/life/buzzz/story/997527.html#ixzz0cM8nsVUm


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