Being a vegetarian is a matter of choice |

Being a vegetarian is a matter of choice

Kathryn Reed, Tahoe Daily Tribune

Retailers have long known teenagers have what appears to be an endless supply of disposable income. Now they are realizing they have discriminating tastes — literally.

About 20 percent of teens ages 12 to 19 are going non-meat, according to Teenage Research Unlimited. National Cattlemen’s Beef Association is being proactive with a campaign targeting girls 8-12 with a promotion touting beef as a healthy choice.

It has been nearly 10 years since I stopped eating meat. It is a personal choice. The only way I foist my dietary choice upon family and friends is when I cook for them — there is no meat in my house. I am vigilant about what I will not eat, but tolerant of those around me who choose something different.

There are times when friends are fretful about cooking for me. Most people do not eat meat every night. I tell them to fix me one of those meals. And you can never go wrong with a salad.

There has never been a Thanksgiving when I’ve gone to bed hungry. There are so many side dishes and desserts that there is no room for turkey even if I would eat it.

I’m not a fanatic. I will eat dairy products — I can’t give up ice cream. There are a variety of ways to define a vegetarian. Some eat fish, some dairy products, some don’t eat anything thing that comes from any part of an animal.

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To be honest, I still like the smell of steak and chicken on the barbecue. Maybe it’s the nostalgia … it brings back fond memories of times gone by. However, fry up some bacon and my stomach will turn.

I had a boyfriend who didn’t understand my desire to eat “fake” burgers. It isn’t the flavor that we don’t want. It’s the animal we don’t want. But I must admit I tried a “fake” chicken nugget last summer and nearly gagged. It tasted like chicken and after all this time it’s something my palette rejects.

Will I ever eat meat again? I don’t know. I could see health reasons dictating that I resume such a diet. And maybe I’ll just get a hankering to sink my teeth into a juicy steak — though I doubt it.

What bothers me are the people who for whatever reason find it necessary to attack me for not eating meat. I have had people get in my face because I’m a vegetarian. They tell me how it is unnatural to be a vegetarian. They tell me how we have canine teeth to gnaw at meat. That we evolved from hunter and gatherers. They tell me I am unhealthy. They tell me I am a radical, a liberal. They demand a reason why I don’t eat meat. They take it personally, as though my eating habits are an affront to them.

It is all very strange to me. I don’t understand how my not eating meat has anything to do with anyone else. I don’t tell others what to eat.

I’m a vegetarian. Throw out the other labels. We are not some strange group that dropped in from another planet. There are a slew of reasons we are this way. But we should not have to defend those reasons, not explain them.

My only advice to teens who are thinking about giving up meat is to remember being a vegetarian does not mean you are automatically eating healthfully. You need to make sure that meat is replaced with another protein. And you need to make the decision for yourself, not because it is the trendy thing to do.

Kathryn Reed is managing editor of the Tahoe Daily Tribune. She may be reached at or (530) 541-3880, ext. 251.