“Personally, I think it’s easier for my stomach to digest a plant-based diet,” Elizabeth “Liz” Mozi, a senior at Pope John Paul II High School who has been a vegetarian for around two years, said. “I feel like a lot of the times after eating out with my friends, who are like, ‘oh my gosh I’m so full.’ I just don’t feel like that…I just don’t feel gross.”
Mozi did not just quit meat cold turkey. She experimented with the removal of some meat products from her diet for three years before taking the plunge into full-on vegetarianism. She first became interested in vegetarianism during around seventh grade when she had viewed some documentaries online that depicted animal cruelty and mistreatment. A documentary she remembered in particular was one called “Earthlings.”
According to mayoclinic.org, there are five different types of vegetarianism. The first is lacto-vegetarianism, which is where meat, fish, poultry and eggs are avoided, but dairy products are allowed. The second is ovo-vegetarianism, where meat, poultry, seafood and dairy products are avoided, but eggs can be eaten. Next is lacto-ovo vegetarianism, where meat, fish and poultry and not allowed, but dairy and eggs are. The pescatarian diets allows for fish to be consumed but not the rest of the aforementioned foods. And finally, vegans avoid animals products of any kind.
Liz Mozi would be classified as a lacto-octo vegetarian. She said that since eggs are not fertilized, they are not considered an animal, so she has no problem with eating them. On a similar note, she consumes dairy because it is simply an animal by-product so its consumption would not count as eating an animal.
Though she has considered going vegan, Mozi does not feel like it would be the best decision for her to make because she already considers herself a “picky eater” as is.
Mozi has also found that vegetarian options are fairly hard to come by while eating out. She said that at most restaurants there are typically only a few options to choose from. Even at her high school, she feels that the meat-free options are limited. She said there are typically only a wide variety of meals choices for the plant-based individual at vegan/vegetarian specific restaurants.
One major concern associated with meat consumption is that of the environmental impact it has. According to a study published last year, the foods we eat not only have a massive and lasting impact on our own health, but also on the environment as a whole. This study found that the foods that have the most negative impact on the health of the individual, also have the greatest negative impact on the environment. One type of food, in particular, that was found to fit into this category is unprocessed and processed red meat.
The same study found that plant-based foods that have already been associated with good health, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts all had much less negative environmental impact than their animal-based counterparts.
According to Dr. Maria Hallion, chair and associate professor of health and exercise sciences at Cabrini University, the amount of vegetables and fruit in one’s diet should be viewed as a sort of “continuum.” At one end there is the individuals who consume absolutely no fruits and vegetables, and at the other is vegans, who consume nothing but those foods. She said that many people are discouraged by the fact that they cannot commit to a completely meatless diet, so they just disregard eating fruits and vegetables all together.
The better way to look at diet, in Dr. Hallion’s opinion, is that each step toward better nutrition has a positive impact on one’s health. Even having one more fruit or vegetable a day is better than not doing so. For those interested in learning more about the science of nutrition, considering taking on Cabrini’s brand new undergraduate degree in nutrition.
Despite her own purported benefits from the diet, Liz Mozi does not believe in forcing vegetarianism on other people.
“I feel like if it’s something you want to do you should do it, and it shouldn’t take other people’s influence,” Mozi said.