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FAQ about Vegetarianism/Veganism

So many questions! From new vegetarians/vegans and from others, either well-meaning…or not. Find plenty of good responses here you can use for FAQ about vegetarianism/veganism.

Where do you get your protein from, if not from animal sources?

Most plant foods contain protein. It would actually be very difficult to suffer from protein deficiency on the average vegetarian or vegan diet. Combining all amino acids at each meal is not necessary as a variety of plant foods over the course of a week will supply all that is required, particularly if you are utilising all four food groups, ie grains and legumes, as well as fruits and vegetables. If you would like an information leaflet sent to you about protein, email us at the address below.

Where do vegetarians and vegans get Vitamin B12 from?

Vitamin B12 is available in fortified foods such as fortified soya or rice milks, as well as marmite as well as in eggs and dairy. To find out about vitamin B12, go to our B12 information page or if you would like an information leaflet about B12 sent to you, email us.

Where do vegetarians and vegans get iron from?

Iron is readily available from most plant foods in sufficient quantities to supply us with all that we require. Despite what’s said in common advertising in red meat commercials, animal sources are not necessary. While haem iron (from animal sources) is more readily absorbed than non-haem iron (from plant-based sources, eg dark green leafy vegetables, legumes, dried fruit), it is easily possible to get all your iron needs met without animal products or iron supplementation. Remember too, that vitamin C helps with the absorption of iron. To find out more about iron, go to our Iron page.

Is it safe to raise babies and children on a vegetarian or vegan diet?

Absolutely! We now have fourth generation vegetarians in New Zealand, having been raised as vegetarians from birth. Support and helpful hints about raising vegetarian/vegan babies and children can be got from joining our Vegetarian Families groups. Further information can be found here.

Help! My teenager has stopped eating meat!

Congratulations on having raised a teenager who has sensitivity, intelligence and the backbone to make a stand for what they believe. Now all they need is your support and interaction with other vegetarians and vegans. Encourage them to join the NZ Vegetarian Society for up to date nutritional information, and access to youth activities and groups. Go to our vegetarian/vegan teenager page.

Don’t vegetarian meals take a long time to prepare? And isn’t it hard to learn what to make anyway?

The initial learning stages of making changes of any sort to your lifestyle and diet can often require more time as you assimilate the necessary knowledge. A good way to stay enthusiastic is to look at the whole process with an adventure mind-set, just as you would if you were learning about the cuisine from a different country. There are also more and more convenience foods available to help both the transition to a vegetarian or vegan diet and to assist with quick meals. Look in the frozen and chilled foods section of your supermarket for ‘mock’ meats and the canned foods section for beans, chick peas and lentils.

Between the thousands of vegetarian and vegan cooking books available, and recipes on the internet, you won’t go short of ideas. Research has shown that most of us build up a repertoire of about a dozen dishes that we use most of the time. Once you have built up your basic repertoire, you are set.

If I become vegetarian, won’t I end up eating more dairy products, which are high in saturated fat?

During the transition stage you may possibly find that you use more dairy products to compensate for the exclusion of meat. As your knowledge of vegetarianism increases, however, and your recipe repertoire expands, you will find that you will rely on dairy products less and less to make tasty, interesting meals. There’s a huge range of plant foods available in the world, and so many ways to use them just waiting for discovery.

I love animals and do a lot for them without becoming vegetarian too – how far do I have to go if I already support charities and only buy organic meat?

You may like animals and feel good about helping them, but by eating them you may also be personally responsible for the brutal slaughter of an average of 22 warm blooded animals per year. Since you already have an awareness of animal welfare, why not take the next logical step?

I already do my bit for the environment without being vegetarian; isn’t that enough?

Being environmentally aware is a big step in the right direction, but consider this too – changing to a meat-free diet, or reducing the amount of animal products we eat, makes the greatest positive impact on our environment.

Meat production requires a great deal of water, fuel for transport and electricity for refrigeration. Waste from excrement, slaughter and saturated fat is constantly deposited into our drainage systems. The demand for cheap meat is a major reason for the destruction of Central American rainforests. This deforestation contributes to species extinction and to carbon dioxide pollution, a significant factor in the greenhouse effect. Tropical rainforests provide a substantial part of the earth’s oxygen, house 80% of the planet’s vegetation and are home to more species of plant and animal life than the remainder of the earth. It takes five square metres of rainforest for each quarter-pound hamburger made from imported cattle.With every acre of rainforest destroyed, species become closer to extinction, the greenhouse effect increases and the atmosphere is robbed of oxygen. Also contributing to the greenhouse effect is methane, and ruminant livestock account for 15 to 20% of global methane emissions.

What about fish?

Fish are also sentient beings. Recent research has discovered that fish are much more sensitive and cognitive than we have ever given them credit for. Fish talk to each other, enjoy physical contact, and in some species form permanent monogamous bonds.

As well as this, fish and shellfish carry more environmental pollutants than land animals, particularly ‘persistent organic pollutants’ (POPs) – synthetic compounds created as industrial chemicals or pesticides. In addition to chemical pollutants, fish can contain heavy metals such as mercury, cadmium and lead.

We have a series of nutritional leaflets available, along with additional reading material in our library. Feel free to email us to request further information.