Trendy Dieting

Check out my latest article published in the Temple News.

Grace Dickinson: Trendy dieting

Ellen DeGeneres’s is doing it. Ex-pres. Bill Clinton’s doing it. Beautiful Black Swan star Natalie Portman’s doing it. Alicia Silverstone’s promoting it.

Will you be next to hop on the meat-free, dairy-free vegan bandwagon? Veganism and vegetarianism aren’t only for peace-loving hippies who love the slimy white stuff known as tofu.

The diet is also for “Skinny Bitches” according to the authors of the best-selling book by the same name, Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin, macho pro athletes, like Mike Tyson, suburban moms who care about their kids’ health and hipsters striving to keep their legs stick-like for their skinny jeans.

All types of people seem to be moving towards a meat-free lifestyle, with many attempting to rid themselves of diary, as well. And it’s for good reason, too.

“I decided to become a vegetarian to have a healthier diet and to inspire me to experiment with new healthy options for cooking,” said junior advertising major Grace Raffensberger, a newly-turned vegetarian. “Being vegetarian seems like a healthier option for both my budget and lifestyle as a college student.”

“And it’s easier than going on a diet where you have to buy certain foods or tons ofspecial books,” she added.

A vegetarian diet, full of fiber-filled plants and low-fat proteins, is definitely a good option for anyone looking to slim down or boost his or her health.

According to the American Heart Association, vegetarian diets are usually lower than non-vegetarian diets in total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol –– all the elements dangerous to your health and bod.

However, as Dr. John Briffa points out in a Jan. 14 Epoch Times article, a meat-free diet doesn’t necessarily signify perfect health.

There are those who become vegetarians entirely for moral reasons

and who could care less about nutrition. These vegetarians live off pizza, chips and mac and cheese, and have far less nutritional value than many of their carnivorous peers. Even vegans, who don’t consume fatty cheese or heavy creams, could essentially have a trashy diet if they gorged daily on French fries or other fried or convenience-based foods.

In general, vegetarians tend to be healthier and vegans even healthier, because a well-balanced meat-free diet far surpasses one filled with meat.

Animal flesh, often full of artery-clogging fat and cholesterol, is inherently unhealthy. No matter how many hardcore, meat-loving people out there like Britta believe otherwise, the facts are clear. Numerous studies have proven meat’s harmful effects on the body.

A Sept. 2010 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that diets rich in animal-based proteins and fats are linked to higher mortality rates. After studying over 100,000 individuals over the course of 20 to 26 years, researchers found that frequent consumption of animal protein is linked to higher date rates, including those caused by cardiovascular and cancer-related issues. The study also found that individuals whose diets were based off of plant-based fats and proteins had lower mortality rates.

For further proof, read the “China Study,” a book detailing a comprehensive, 20-year study on the detrimental effects of meat on health. One part of the book linked animal protein consumption with activation of cancer cells in the body.

One might wonder, as much as vegetarianism and veganism is becoming the hottest new trend, why aren’t these types of studies more well-known? It boils down to politics. In short, our nation is largely run by business and politics. Co-author of the “China Study” and Cornell University professor emeritus T. Colin Campbell told the New York Times in Jan. 7 article it’s primarily the meat and dairy industries funding medical research and nutrition education in schools.

And who receives money for the surgeries and treatments required to fix the problems of these two food groups? Doctors, who, according to Campbell, only receive an average of two measly credits in the field of nutrition during medical school.

However, while the health benefits of a meat-free diet have yet to fully go mainstream, vegetarianism and veganism is clearly on the rise. Making the switch to a vegetarian diet has become even easier.

Tofu’s no longer one of those UFOs (Unidentifiable Food Objects). It can be found pretty much anywhere. The Fresh Grocer sells packages for $2.69, alongside tempeh, another soybean-based, vegan staple. You can even get some late night general tso’s tofu at the local Temple Garden, although I highly advise against this. (Hit Whole Foods’ instead if delicious vegan general tso’s is what you’re looking for.) Or you can trek to Seventh and South street for amazing dishes at Horizons, one of Philly’s completely vegan restaurants.

According to the Washington Post, more than half the 1,500 chefs polled by the National Restaurant Association for its new “What’s Hot in 2011” list included vegan entrees as a hot trend.

And the vegetarian/veganism trend is one that’s likely to stay. For one, it’s spawned by so many different reasons. Not only is a well-balanced vegetarian diet nutritionally healthier, it’s also more humane for both animals and the environment.

Large-scale meat production presents a horror show in terms of ethical treatment of animals and is also a leading source of greenhouse gases.  The evolution of tasty, meat-free food shows that this movement is likely one that won’t quickly fade.

Grace Dickinson can be reached at

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  • Reply
    Nicole, RD
    February 7, 2011 at 7:25 am

    I am not opposed to vegetarian, or even vegan diets, if they are done properly. Unfortunately, vegans require certain supplements (e.g. B12 – a vitamin found exclusively in animal products) to maintain proper and avoid a B12 deficiency leading to pernicious anemia. I think a blanket statement of “vegetarian and vegan diets are healthier” will never be true. Cutting out 1-2 food groups can have very negative nutritional implications that people need to 1) be aware of, 2) work to avoid, and 3) stay very on top of their health and nutrition status with a medical professional and regular lab work. Just my $0.02! Of course I know all of the -potential- benefits of a vegetarian/vegan diet, but it’s important for people to understand both sides of the decision before jumping in blindly and uneducated. Great post, Grace!

  • Reply
    Simply Life
    February 7, 2011 at 7:33 am

    Great info!

  • Reply
    The Candid RD
    February 7, 2011 at 8:38 am

    I gotta say, you should read the book Good Calories, Bad Calories, which tends to say the opposite as the China Study. Basically, you can find evidence on both sides. Whatever you want to find, you can find it. I have a very healthy diet and feel great about what I eat, and I do eat meat. It’s those who eat a ton of it, and the wrong types, who are doing their bodies a disservice. I do not feel I would be an healthier if I were a vegan. IN fact, I think it would be difficult for me to find ways to get my calcium (I learned this the hard way win my ONE week elimination diet). While it may be easy for some, it wouldn’t be easy for others. I appreciate this post and your opinions, but I guess I just don’t agree 100%.

  • Reply
    Trendy Dieting | CookingPlanet
    February 7, 2011 at 8:42 am

    […] Trendy Dieting […]

  • Reply
    February 7, 2011 at 10:18 am

    My husband and I, both in our sixties, became convinced after reading Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn’s “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease” that we could maximize our potential for good health by giving up as much as possible meat, fish, dairy, refined grains, oil. The China Study provided further encouragement. We have enjoyed discovering wonderful new recipes and feel great. And our cholesterol has lowered dramatically without medication.

  • Reply
    February 7, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    It’s really important that people realize it does not equal a healthy diet. Vegan organic junk foods are still junk foods. There is also more planning that goes into a veggie diet because you can’t take for granted you will get in everything you need each day. At least the planning is only at the start because you learn and it comes naturally after that. But it is not an easy switch if you don’t have the right education, especially if you do not like vegetables. You need to learn to try new things.

  • Reply
    February 7, 2011 at 11:15 pm

    I think there is lots of evidence that too much meat and animal products aren’t good for us. And the production of meat and dairy products has huge effects on the environment. And of course there is the ethical question whether we should eat meat and animal products.

    I think everyone should ask themselves what they choose to eat on a daily basis and why they choose to eat what they eat. I think the goal should be for people to really think about what they eat (after gathering enough information about what’s healthy and how their food is produced, etc.). In my opinion, making a connection with your food, buying, preparing, and enjoying real food, if possible with friends and family, should be the goal.

    I like that you point out that vegetarian and vegan diets are not always healthy. Yes, you can live off vegan junk food. But if you ask yourself why you choose a particular food, that’s not what you would choose…

    So in my opinion, if everyone makes more conscious decisions when it comes to food, people would be a lot healthier and the environment and animals would be in better shape. I also think that there should be mutual respect for what people choose to eat (especially if they make a conscious decision). We have greatly reduced our consumption of meat and dairy over the last few years, and I’m not quite sure yet where we will end up on our journey. I buy most of my eggs from a friend of a friend who raises free-roaming chickens on a little farm. I buy the little meat we eat from local farms that raise animals on pasture. (Writing these words makes me question, once again, if I want to continue eating meat however…). I also buy some raw milk, raw milk cheese, and raw milk butter.

    Anyway, great post! You made me think! 🙂

  • Reply
    Angela (the diet book junkie)
    February 8, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    excellet article, Grace! i don’t know how many times it’s been proven that people who eat less meat are healthier and live longer. the Mediterranean diet, for example, is largely plant and legume based, and supposedly one of the healthiest diets in the world. (and they drink lots of coffee to boot.) the China Study sounds interesting, i’ll have to look into that!

  • Reply
    Dario Y. Ortiz
    February 9, 2011 at 10:05 am

    ……………….More general information on following a nutritious vegetarian diet can be found…on the following websites ………Vegetarian Society …Vegan Society …British Nutrition Foundation …US Vegetarian Resource Group ………

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