It is great that so many people are investigating vegetarian and vegan lifestyles these days. Books like "The China Study" are helping, people like Guro Fred are helping, and I think overall a new age of vegetarianism is becoming widely accepted as more of an intelligent, compassionate choice than a hippie/beatnik/pacifist overreaction.
But before we all go and pat ourselves on the backs with broccoli florets, we need to be very honest about what we are doing. There are loopholes in any doctrine and always a way of justifying something bad if we really, REALLY want to do it (just ask either of my boys).
Here are a few of my favorites slips:
1) Snack Foods (especially potato chips and chocolate)
potato chips, pretzels, corn chips, donuts, pies, cakes, and a host of other sugary/salty goodies may not contain any animal products per se, but despite the fact that they are "technically" vegetarian hardly makes them good for you. Come on, be honest with yourself. If you are hip enough to be a vegetarian, you are smart enough to know this stuff, right?
What is the point of being vegetarian and then getting cancer/heart disease/diabetes anyway??
2) Deep-Fried Foods (especially French Fries)
Anything that is deep-fried is bad for you, but french fries are by far the most popular culprit in this category. Many vegetarian friends of mine LOVE french fries (and rationalize it by saying it is vegetarian). That's not the point. Just because it is made from potatoes does not make it healthy. McDonald's and all other fast food places are off the list.
IT IS CALLED "FAST FOOD" BECAUSE IT SPEEDS YOU TO THE GRAVE
3) Coca Cola
Maybe Coke does not have animal products in it. That does not mean it is not "cancer in a can". Mineral water or tea, please.
The Starbomb usually includes shockers like whipped cream, milk, sugar, etc.
If the price alone does not kill you, the drink surely will.
5) Vitamin Water and Other Sports Drinks
Maybe technically vegetarian, but very bad for your health and packed with sugar and calories. Mineral water or tea, please.
"But beer is vegetarian"...yah, I know. So is marijuana...oh, and heroin.
Don't get me started.
Just shoot yourself.
I am sure I am missing some other big ones. The basic idea that top vegetarian nutritionists are getting at is that a whole-foods, plant-based diet is best. That said, raw whenever possible is the best rule of all. Spending every day making deep fried salad dripping with salt and sugar will not get you where you want to be. Living your life mostly vegan means you can occassionally break the rules if needed (your well-tuned healthy body will make you suffer for it, though). Sadly, I know many self-professed vegetarians/vegans for whom the above list is pretty common fare. Despite being vegetarian/vegan, they are overweight and unhealthy.
If you are not vegetarian or vegan, that's OK.
(Actually, it isn't...but it is everyone's personal choice).
If you are vegetarian or vegan, please do the right thing and don't make true vegetarians/vegans look like fools by overeating foods you know are unhealthy and justifying them by saying "they don't contain animal products".
You will feel better (and better about yourself) when you follow the plan correctly.
If you find these temptations impossible to resist, talk to someone you can trust. You probably have some unresolved things you need to let go of before you can truly make the commitment to be vegetarian or vegan.
I think veganism is a lifestyle choice that can be physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually rewarding. But you got to do it right.