Vegetarianism: My 15 year journey


Kathy Fang

Veggie Grill, a popular vegetarian restaurant, serves a variety of meat-free dishes to customers in 29 locations across four states.

by Saloni Shah, Asst. Humans of Harker and Columnist

My eyes filled with shock as I stared wide-eyed at the seemingly endless line stretching from the door of Veggie Grill. The dim lighting inside the restaurant added to the ambiance, and the place looked similar to many other restaurants, with one exception: in the menu, vegetables are the rockstars.

Since the day I was born, I have been a vegetarian. My parents raised me as a vegetarian for ethical and religious reasons; born in an Indian Jain family, “ahimsa” or nonviolence is the prime tenet of our religion.

I spent much of my childhood seeking a perfect answer to the following question: “Why am I a vegetarian?” After asking my parents many questions as well as exploring for myself, I finally narrowed down several reasons as to why I am vegetarian: religious and cultural factors, environmental concerns and global warming, health benefits and compassion for animals.

I had to learn the hard way that the vegetarian soup is not really vegetarian since it is made with chicken broth and the veggie burger is not really vegetarian since the patty could be meat. While filling summer camp forms and travel forms, I learnt that writing vegetarian under special dietary needs does not suffice: I have to specify vegetarian with no seafood and no fish. Since meat is such an integral part of everyone’s diet, my family feels obligated to announce beforehand that we serve vegetarian food when we are hosts.

I have repeatedly assured people that I am healthy even though I am a vegetarian. When others find out that I am a vegetarian, their first concern is the following: “Where do you get your protein from?” In reality, a person’s protein needs is actually much lower than what is consumed by an average non-vegetarian. It is an eye-opener to note that two cups of lentils, two cups of yogurt or a single 4 ounce steak can fulfill a whole day’s protein requirement: 40 or 50 grams of protein.

I was blown away by the benefits of a vegetarian diet which comes from lower intakes of saturated fat and cholesterol and higher intakes of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, soy products, fiber,and phytochemicals.

I express my gratitude to the Meatless Monday team proposal by the Green team members for spearheading the project and Head Chef Steve Martin for implementing it at school. Diana Moss, Green Team club advisor, believes strongly in bringing Meatless Mondays back.

“We felt like it’s not asking a lot of people to try to not eat meat for one meal out of the 21 that you eat in the span of a week,” she said.

I, along with the members of the Green Team, were quite disappointed when the program ended after the trial run.

I encourage all of you to listen to your conscience, apply your moral compass and embrace an ecological friendly change in lifestyle. The revival of Meatless Monday is a more manageable goal to skip meat for a day or consciously reduce consumption of meat than to totally eliminate meat. I look forward to a day when being vegetarian is the normal, and our environmental impact has lessened due to the change.