How to be a quasi vegetarian

How to be a quasi vegetarian

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An estimated 31 million Americans identify themselves as semi- or quasi-vegetarians, according to the Vegetarian Resource Group. As “quasi” means “resembling,” people who follow this diet eat in a manner similar to vegetarians. However, quasi-vegetarians range from being extremely similar to pure vegetarians to indistinguishable from meat eaters.

Quasi-Vegetarian

Quasi-vegetarians do not eat red-meat products. Some of them pursue pescetarianism, which allows fish and seafood into an otherwise vegetarian diet. Pollotarians eat poultry, while pesce-pollotarians eat seafood and poultry products.

Flexitarian

Quasi-vegetarianism shares similarities with flexitarianism. This growing dietary trend involves no clear distinctions between acceptable and unacceptable foods. Instead, flexitarians generally adhere to a vegetarian diet but occasionally eat other foods. Some people following a flexitarian diet may be no different from those eating a quasi-vegetarian diet, or they may differ only in that they eat less fish and poultry. Other flexitarians may be hard to distinguish from non-vegetarians.

Vegetarians and Quasi-Vegetarians

Vegetarian societies, associations and resource groups around the world do not view quasi-vegetarianism as a true vegetarian diet. Both the North American Vegetarian Society and the Vegetarian Society of the U.K. define a vegetarian as someone who eats no meat, seafood or poultry. In addition, neither society provides a statement on or information for quasi-vegetarians. As a result, terms such as pescetarian, flexitarian and pollotarian are more accurate and clearer descriptions for quasi-vegetarian diets.

Benefits and Risks

One of the main reasons for adopting a quasi-vegetarian diet is its apparent benefits. For avid meat eaters, the reduction in meat consumption is associated with decreased risks for obesity, cancer and cardiovascular health problems. The addition of small amounts of meat to a vegan or vegetarian diet also has benefits, including increased protein, omega-3 fatty acids and essential amino acid intakes. However, as noted by nutritionist Reed Mangels and colleagues, people who adopt a quasi-vegetarian diet are more likely to suffer from diabetes and high blood pressure than their vegetarian counterparts. Because of these potential risks and benefits, you should consult a dietician before deciding to adopt a quasi-vegetarian diet to be sure it is right for you.

Confession of a Quasi-Vegetarian

First fish, then crab, what next?

I have a friend who is trying to get her three-year-old daughter, Katie, to taste new foods. The mantra at the table is: “You don’t have to like it, but you should try it.” Katie seems to take it to heart, which I witnessed firsthand: As I munched on some garlic pita chips, she asked for a tiny piece to try. She deemed it tasty enough because before I knew it, she had eaten at least a handful of the chips. I figure, if a toddler is trying new foods, then I ought to as well.

How to be a quasi vegetarian

With that in mind, this summer has been full of leaps and bounds for this quasi-vegetarian (quasi since I consume dairy products, eggs, and some fish; my ultimate guilty pleasure is French onion soup made with a beef broth). So for the very first time ever, I tried caviar (a future pass) and lamb (surprisingly tender). Most recently, some friends and I had a crab boil. The last time I’d eaten crabs was more than 15 years ago. I’d say that I more than made up for lost time.

I’m not sure that I’ll revert to my meat-eating days, but as Katie kept telling me, “I don’t have to like it, but I should try it.” And since my stomach hasn’t yet revolted, I’m willing to give seafood a wider range. That being said, any suggestions as to what I should try next?

>But I think to try chicken or veal >that’s been raised as humanely as >possible doesn’t mean that I’ll >forgo a vegetarian diet.

I’m not trying to be obnoxious but I think technically eating meat is forgoing a vegetarian diet.

I think I’m in the same boat as you, I don’t eat any meat or poultry but occasionally I eat fish. My weakness is sushi. Worth a try. They also have vegetarian rolls at Sushi bars if you want to start gradually. I live in Japan right now and the sashimi is phenomenal.

To all: your comments are very much appreciated!

earthanyc, thanks for the fish & shrimp suggestions. And yes, I’ll definitely want to buy locally/domestically.

checkerbird, the foray into seafood – and maybe into the meat/poultry arena – is driven mainly by curiosity, and not for health reasons. Although, when I first started eating fish a few years ago, that was for health reasons.

yummyninja, ah, duck. That seems like something I’d have to go out of my way to eat. Maybe one day.

teachica, mussels and other shellfish, I’ll probably have the opportunity to try this summer. I wonder if they’ll be rubbery.

jfain, I used to enjoy eating octopus, so I look forward to trying it grilled with tzatziki. thanks for the suggestion!

soledad2, I didn’t become a vegetarian to protest the treatment of animals. If that had been my primary concern, I would have chosen a vegan lifestyle. I am not planning to stop eating vegetarian dishes/meals, and there are certain things I won’t eat – like foie gras. But I think to try chicken or veal that’s been raised as humanely as possible doesn’t mean that I’ll forgo a vegetarian diet.

bluedev03, you’re right, there are many delicious vegetarian dishes, many of which I haven’t tried, but I am curious.

You shouldn’t try any other meat. Why revert back to eating meat when there are plenty of delicious vegetarian foods out there??

Not to be an ass, but tofu lasagna is also delicious, as are portabello mushroom burgers. I don’t think three chickens stuffed in one cage, force-fed ducks, or penned in baby cows who are killed before ever getting to see their mother are very delicious. I know this sounds self-righteous, but I think sometimes everyone should be reminded of these things-of why one would become a vegetarian in the first place.

Grilled octopus tentacles with tzatziki are delicious! That would be something adventurous for you to try.

If you’re looking to try more seafood, you might go for mussels. If they’re available to you fairly fresh – usually in late summer and fall – they can be quite good. My favorite preparations are with a butter and white wine sauce or a tomato based clam juice sauce over pasta. If it helps, some people regard mussels, clams, and scallops as ‘not-animal’ because they lack central nervous systems. Either way, they’re mild, easy to prepare, and delicious.

If you like lamb, try duck. It’s also much more tender and sweet-flavored than most meat. Like you I started as an occasionally-seafood-eating vegetarian just because I’ve never liked meat. However, I found that I do enjoy lamb and duck. As for seafood, scallops are my favorite, but it was actually sashimi that first turned me on to fish – if you’ve never had it, go to a good sushi restaurant right now and ask the chef to give you whatever he thinks is freshest and best.

I’m curious as to why you’re dropping the (quasi-)vegetarian lifestyle.

I’m not a militant vegan–I’ve known those. They play a game of “I’m a better vegetarian than you!” (the classic Simpson’s episode comes to mind: “I’m a fifth form vegan–I don’t eat anything that casts a shadow.”)

I do it for health, and I mind my own business. I’m just curious. (I was a full-blown “I’ll eat just about anything foodie” once upon a time.)

BTW, I’ve heard that a person’s body stops making enzymes to digest certain things if they aren’t needed. I haven’t researched the idea, but I’d beware of jumping full-force into meat-eating again. Could be unpleasant in the digestion department.

Mild white fish like cod and tilapia would be good for first timers. Also, there’s nothing better than shrimp. Just try to make sure that it’s wild-caught US shrimp, preferably from the Gulf. They’re tastier and way cleaner than pond-farmed shrimp from SE Asia.

One aspect of living in a small creek side village in Guyana with only solar power happens to be the lack of a refrigerator. For most things it’s fine. I can store leftovers for a few hours before cooking them over and having them for dinner, or breakfast or lunch or all of the above. We don’t use the same growth-enhancing products as we do in the U.S. so the vegetables tend to be of manageable size. And, if nothing else, Guyana grows everything, everywhere, all the time! Stay tuned for the inevitable, up-coming posts about composting and gardening. Currently all I’m growing is green onions, but hey! It’s a place to start.

However, no refrigerator means no raw meats or dairy products. Sure, I can have ridiculously processed meats, canned meats, dried meats or salted meats, but I’m not too excited about any of those, and given the chance I’d much prefer produce to processed. Likewise cheese and dairy are hard to find. I have non-dairy milk powder, which I use sparingly. I can buy “cheese” that is actually made from processed vegetable oil. And, sure some cheeses could survive a limited amount of time without refrigeration, but sadly I haven’t seen any of those cheeses here yet and if I do see them, I’m going out on a limb and saying I can’t afford them.

That leaves “staples” like rice and pasta, and what is locally grown. Santa Mission is actually a logging community and I’ve seen surprisingly little in terms of fresh greens, veggies or fruit. Some people raise chickens and ducks, but they are for personal use, not to mention I can’t bring myself to kill one on my own, nor can I eat an entire chicken before it goes bad. I do get eggs here which is quite nice, and margarine that does not require refrigeration, but that’s it.

So minus the “butter” and eggs, I’ve basically gone vegan. I mean I still love eating meat—looking forward to a giant cheeseburger with extra cheddar or 7 when I get somewhere that sells them, and oh my don’t get me started on bacon (I actually have dreams about these foods). I’ve had friends who dabble in the vegan/vegetarian world, and I never thought I’d be among them, but the things they say are true. I’m not sure if it’s the constant sweating, the fact that I now live on a sandy hill which offers a workout whether or not you want one, or the lack of animal products in my diet, but I feel great!

It’s amazing how getting rid of all the options made me focus on what makes me feel healthy. I never would have thought that I’d start a garden or mess with composting just to have some of my favorite veggies on a regular basis. I’m learning new recipes and the different things you can do with a basket of produce, no central meat main dish needed.

Perhaps the biggest adjustment for me has been the cheese. I love cheese—all kinds. I never knew how much of it I was actually eating. Cheese is still one of my favorite snacks/ dishes/ ingredients/ food items. Actually writing this is making me pretty hungry, but I’m also acutely aware of what makes my body feel good, and what makes it feel bad. For example, I don’t drink while I’m at site (partially because no fridge means hot beer, and nothing says hangover like a tin roof, 4 degrees off the equator) but also because it makes me feel awful. Not just the morning after drinking, but for several days after I feel less than my best. The same thing is true with soda. I occasionally buy a cold soda from the craft shop, but even then I don’t feel great because it adds to my dehydration. The empty calories make me feel sluggish. I’ve tried to completely cut out caffeine as well. For the most part I’m okay without it, but on the days I teach the youngest class, I need a little extra pick me up, but I don’t get headaches if I don’t have it. I can make it through a whole day just fine without it, and I for the most part one cup of tea a day makes me relax a little.

I realized I’ve never really been in a situation where I need to moderate my food (or budget) like this. I’ve never thought so hard or planned ahead or even thought about how long food keeps sans refrigerator. Thanks to PC budget, I’ve also learned bargaining and really despise more than anything throwing out food (even potato peels and eggplant stems that could be used in composting or to make veggie stock or somehow feed Meeko). It’s like killing the chicken all over again in terms of opening my eyes.

The Peace Corps gives you a very basic version of living. You know exactly how each food makes you feel. I’ve eliminated the variables. I know that if I feel crummy it’s because I’m eating poorly or not sleeping much or not exercising (love Sunday morning yoga). It’s on me (minus the times I’m actually sick), and it’s refreshing. I understand why my friends live a vegan lifestyle or a vegetarian one. I probably won’t choose it when I can get back to eating foods I love, but I have a new appreciation for it. And, I think my days of frozen meals and Taco Bell are safely in the past. Even though I will probably add animal products back into my life, I will definitely take pieces of what I’ve learned with me when I leave here (which seems about a life time away). The quasi-vegan experience like many others I will have in the upcoming months will take some getting used to, but I also appreciate the effects.

How to be a quasi vegetarian

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While at first glance the paleolithic diet and the vegetarian diet may seem to be opposites, they do have some similarities. Depending on the exact mix of foods you choose, each of these diets may also provide health benefits. However, some people may find them too restrictive to follow for long.

What to Eat

The paleolithic diet involves eating like the hunter-gatherers of this era — meaning meat, poultry, eggs, fish, vegetables and fruits. What is allowed on a vegetarian diet depends on the type of vegetarianism you choose. Vegans only eat plant foods, while other vegetarians may eat eggs or dairy products as well. Both diets recommend you eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.

What to Avoid

People following a paleolithic diet can’t consume dairy products, grains, legumes, salt or sugar, which means eliminating most processed foods from your diet. Vegetarians avoid meat, fish, poultry and sometimes honey, eggs and dairy products as well. It is extremely difficult to be a vegetarian and follow a strict paleolithic diet since dairy, grains and legumes provide much of the protein in a typical vegetarian diet. Quinoa, which contains all of the essential amino acids and is technically not a grain would probably play a role in providing protein, as would nuts, eggs and vegetables, but you would need to be very careful to get enough of all of the essential amino acids. Vegetarians sometimes follow a modified version of the paleo diet and include some soy.

Potential Health Benefits

After 10 days of following a paleolithic diet, participants in a study published in the “European Journal of Clinical Nutrition” in August 2009 had decreased their blood pressure and cholesterol levels while improving their insulin sensitivity and blood glucose levels. However, this study only involved a small number of individuals for a short length of time, so further studies are needed to verify these potential benefits. A vegetarian diet may also improve your health, since vegetarians tend to have lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels and be less likely to suffer from Type 2 diabetes than non-vegetarians, according to an article published in the “Journal of the American Dietetic Association” in 2009.

Considerations

To get health benefits from either of these diets, the diet needs to be well planned to meet nutrient needs. The paleolithic diet can be too high in fat and too low in carbohydrates, calcium and vitamin D, and vegetarian diets can be low in vitamin B-12, calcium, iron, omega-3 fats, vitamin D, iodine, zinc, calcium and protein. Both diets can make it more difficult to eat out, and the paleolithic diet can be expensive and require a lot of cooking since you can’t eat most processed foods.

  • Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Should We Eat Like Our Caveman Ancestors?
  • European Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Metabolic and Physiologic Improvements From Consuming a Paleolithic, Hunter-gatherer Type Diet
  • Journal of the American Dietetic Association: Position of the American Dietetic Association: Vegetarian Diets
  • MayoClinic.com: Vegetarian Diet: How to Get the Best Nutrition

Based in Massachusetts, Jessica Bruso has been writing since 2008. She holds a master of science degree in food policy and applied nutrition and a bachelor of arts degree in international relations, both from Tufts University.

Confession of a Quasi-Vegetarian

First fish, then crab, what next?

I have a friend who is trying to get her three-year-old daughter, Katie, to taste new foods. The mantra at the table is: “You don’t have to like it, but you should try it.” Katie seems to take it to heart, which I witnessed firsthand: As I munched on some garlic pita chips, she asked for a tiny piece to try. She deemed it tasty enough because before I knew it, she had eaten at least a handful of the chips. I figure, if a toddler is trying new foods, then I ought to as well.

How to be a quasi vegetarian

With that in mind, this summer has been full of leaps and bounds for this quasi-vegetarian (quasi since I consume dairy products, eggs, and some fish; my ultimate guilty pleasure is French onion soup made with a beef broth). So for the very first time ever, I tried caviar (a future pass) and lamb (surprisingly tender). Most recently, some friends and I had a crab boil. The last time I’d eaten crabs was more than 15 years ago. I’d say that I more than made up for lost time.

I’m not sure that I’ll revert to my meat-eating days, but as Katie kept telling me, “I don’t have to like it, but I should try it.” And since my stomach hasn’t yet revolted, I’m willing to give seafood a wider range. That being said, any suggestions as to what I should try next?

>But I think to try chicken or veal >that’s been raised as humanely as >possible doesn’t mean that I’ll >forgo a vegetarian diet.

I’m not trying to be obnoxious but I think technically eating meat is forgoing a vegetarian diet.

I think I’m in the same boat as you, I don’t eat any meat or poultry but occasionally I eat fish. My weakness is sushi. Worth a try. They also have vegetarian rolls at Sushi bars if you want to start gradually. I live in Japan right now and the sashimi is phenomenal.

To all: your comments are very much appreciated!

earthanyc, thanks for the fish & shrimp suggestions. And yes, I’ll definitely want to buy locally/domestically.

checkerbird, the foray into seafood – and maybe into the meat/poultry arena – is driven mainly by curiosity, and not for health reasons. Although, when I first started eating fish a few years ago, that was for health reasons.

yummyninja, ah, duck. That seems like something I’d have to go out of my way to eat. Maybe one day.

teachica, mussels and other shellfish, I’ll probably have the opportunity to try this summer. I wonder if they’ll be rubbery.

jfain, I used to enjoy eating octopus, so I look forward to trying it grilled with tzatziki. thanks for the suggestion!

soledad2, I didn’t become a vegetarian to protest the treatment of animals. If that had been my primary concern, I would have chosen a vegan lifestyle. I am not planning to stop eating vegetarian dishes/meals, and there are certain things I won’t eat – like foie gras. But I think to try chicken or veal that’s been raised as humanely as possible doesn’t mean that I’ll forgo a vegetarian diet.

bluedev03, you’re right, there are many delicious vegetarian dishes, many of which I haven’t tried, but I am curious.

You shouldn’t try any other meat. Why revert back to eating meat when there are plenty of delicious vegetarian foods out there??

Not to be an ass, but tofu lasagna is also delicious, as are portabello mushroom burgers. I don’t think three chickens stuffed in one cage, force-fed ducks, or penned in baby cows who are killed before ever getting to see their mother are very delicious. I know this sounds self-righteous, but I think sometimes everyone should be reminded of these things-of why one would become a vegetarian in the first place.

Grilled octopus tentacles with tzatziki are delicious! That would be something adventurous for you to try.

If you’re looking to try more seafood, you might go for mussels. If they’re available to you fairly fresh – usually in late summer and fall – they can be quite good. My favorite preparations are with a butter and white wine sauce or a tomato based clam juice sauce over pasta. If it helps, some people regard mussels, clams, and scallops as ‘not-animal’ because they lack central nervous systems. Either way, they’re mild, easy to prepare, and delicious.

If you like lamb, try duck. It’s also much more tender and sweet-flavored than most meat. Like you I started as an occasionally-seafood-eating vegetarian just because I’ve never liked meat. However, I found that I do enjoy lamb and duck. As for seafood, scallops are my favorite, but it was actually sashimi that first turned me on to fish – if you’ve never had it, go to a good sushi restaurant right now and ask the chef to give you whatever he thinks is freshest and best.

I’m curious as to why you’re dropping the (quasi-)vegetarian lifestyle.

I’m not a militant vegan–I’ve known those. They play a game of “I’m a better vegetarian than you!” (the classic Simpson’s episode comes to mind: “I’m a fifth form vegan–I don’t eat anything that casts a shadow.”)

I do it for health, and I mind my own business. I’m just curious. (I was a full-blown “I’ll eat just about anything foodie” once upon a time.)

BTW, I’ve heard that a person’s body stops making enzymes to digest certain things if they aren’t needed. I haven’t researched the idea, but I’d beware of jumping full-force into meat-eating again. Could be unpleasant in the digestion department.

Mild white fish like cod and tilapia would be good for first timers. Also, there’s nothing better than shrimp. Just try to make sure that it’s wild-caught US shrimp, preferably from the Gulf. They’re tastier and way cleaner than pond-farmed shrimp from SE Asia.

How to be a quasi vegetarian

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Replacing the flavors, textures and nutrition of meat, poultry, fish and seafood is one of the major challenges of beginning a vegetarian lifestyle. Gradually reducing your intake of these foods while substituting nutritionally similar vegetarian foods can ease your transition from meat-eating to pure vegetarianism. Although the challenges of a vegetarian lifestyle do not end with abstaining from meat, poultry, fish and seafood, the nutritional benefits outweigh the minimal costs.

Semi-Vegetarian

The semi-vegetarianism dietary movement, also known as flexitarianism, is rapidly growing. There is no strict definition of a flexitarian diet, but it typically involves eating at least one vegetarian meal a week. Introducing vegetarian meals — and entire vegetarian days — into your diet is a good first step toward vegetarianism. This also helps you to gradually become comfortable with replacing meat with vegetarian protein sources, such as soy products, beans and seitan. The federal 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend eating a variety of protein sources each day, so this first step toward vegetarianism is also a great way to immediately improve your diet.

Pesco-Vegetarian

The Dietary Guidelines state that most people should replace at least two servings of meat per week with fish and seafood. Replacing all meat and poultry in a semi-vegetarian diet with fish and seafood helps to accomplish this. In addition, this serves as your second step toward adopting a fully vegetarian diet. With only one animal food group remaining, you can now drop the “semi-vegetarian” label and identify yourself as a “pescetarian” or “pesco-vegetarian.” This step has the added benefit of reducing your fat and caloric intake, as fish and vegetable protein sources are generally leaner than meat and poultry.

Vegetarian

Once you become comfortable with eating no meat or poultry and regularly having fully vegetarian days, you should start to eliminate fish and seafood from your diet. An easy way to do this is to drop one serving of fish per week. However, you can move more quickly if you make sure to continue eating sources of all essential nutrients. To ensure that you do not simultaneously eliminate some essential fatty and amino acids from your diet, replace fish and seafood with plant sources of these nutrients. You can accomplish this by eating soy products instead of fish and regularly adding flax seeds to your meals.

Considerations

Meat, poultry, fish and seafood are some of the best natural sources of essential amino acids, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc and vitamin B-12. Therefore, you should consult with a dietician to ensure that you are not lacking in any nutrients as you begin to eliminate these foods from your diet. Although abstaining from meat, fish, seafood and poultry forms a large part of a purely vegetarian diet, animal products are present in a variety of seemingly vegetarian foods. Examples include the fish oils in Asian “vegetarian” dishes, animal-based rennets in cheese, meat stocks in vegetable soups and gelatin in candies and desserts. As vegetarianism is a lifelong process of learning and discovery, do not be discouraged if you accidentally consume these products. Instead, treat each as a learning experience on your path toward an entirely plant-based diet.

I’m going to be traveling to Japan with my family. What do I need to know about being vegetarian in Japan?

Japan has a lot of foods like tofu or miso, which are globally well known especially among vegetarians, however, it is actually far from a vegetarian friendly country. Though Japan had a vegetable-oriented eating style in the past, food-westernization completely changed the landscape. Now meat is found everywhere and many people believe that having meat, fish and dairy products is good for their health. Therefore, it can be challenging to be a vegetarian in Japan. In a society where animal product consumption is strongly encouraged, people tend to be prejudiced against a vegetarian way of eating.

However, we, who used to be rarely meat eaters, have developed very healthy and nutritious vegetarian food. Tofu and soy lovers will definitely get excited to see shelves filled with a variety of tofu and unique traditional soy products such as natto or yuba in supermarkets. (Natto is soybeans fermented by natto bacillus, it is sticky and has strong smell and taste. Yuba, also known as bean curd skin, is the skin that forms on soy milk when it is heated. Both are highly nutritious and good sources of protein.) These products are often served with fish and seaweed stock called “dashi” in restaurants, but when you buy and cook them by yourself, you can enjoy them without dashi. In fact, these products are delicious when you use only salt or soy sauce for seasoning. If you stay in a ryokan (Japanese traditional hotel with tatami and futon) or a hotel with cooking facilities, you can also try cooking Japanese noodles without dashi. You can season them with soy sauce and sweet sake.

Since many Japanese dishes are cooked with dashi or any kind of animal products (mainly fish and seafood), it is actually very difficult to find vegetarian dishes in Japanese restaurants. I have to tell you that the availability is limited, still, there are some. At first, you can order a bowl of steamed rice, the everyday must for Japanese. Then as side dishes, try vegetable pickles, fried tofu, grated radish, vegetable tempura, fried noodles or okonomiyaki without meat and sauce. (Okonomiyaki, or vegetable pancake, is usually made with eggs, but you may be able to ask for them prepared without eggs. You also need to ask not to put sauce, which usually contains animal products.)

It may be difficult to explain to Japanese people what you cannot have, because the concept of vegetarianism is not widely understood. For example, if you say you are vegetarian, they may offer you beef or chicken soup without meat itself. If you want to avoid meat or fish stock, you have to be very careful– especially hidden dashi. From yu-tofu to miso-soup, quasi-vegetarian dishes served in Japanese restaurants almost always contain this stock made with fish and seaweed. The same is true for Japanese noodles such as udon and soba. Unfortunately, it is impossible to ask to cook these Japanese dishes without dashi at restaurants, because dashi is what makes the bases of Japanese dishes. Since soups for noodles or some dishes are already prepared (because it takes time, sometimes a few days, to make soups and other dishes), it is difficult to ask for individualized preparation. You will have to expect that many things offered at Japanese restaurants contain animal stock, even if it is not apparent.

If you wish to avoid the fear of hidden dashi, you can visit Japanese-Western or Japanese-Italian restaurants, where you will find Japanese arranged pizza or pasta. They would have some vegetarian options and are probably more flexible about cooking individualized foods like pizza without cheese, since, unlike Japanese restaurants, they usually cook after getting an order.

If you do not mind facing a lot of fish and seafood, sushi restaurants can be an option too. It will be easy to ask them to make your own sushi at sushi chain restaurants, because sushi is supposed to be made, or performed in front of customers. You will have some choices like cucumber, natto, okra, pickled eggplant and so on.

Also, bakeries are another place to go. Bakeries in Japan are a bit different from the ones in the US or Europe. They offer a variety of breads from sweet bread with jam, custard cream, fruits or tea, to what is called meal bread with corn, peas, mashed potatoes, mushrooms, curry, noodles and more. They usually have bread without eggs, butter and milk, which are safe for vegans. Some of the bakeries attach cafes, so you can enjoy various breads with coffee or tea, for a break, or even for lunch.

As another option, you can look for a vegetarian or macrobiotic restaurant. You will be able to feel most relieved here, at least people here understand vegetarians and you do not have to pay attention to avoid animal products in your dish. Macrobiotic has been in fashion last some years, especially among young women who care about their figures and health. The number of vegetarian-oriented restaurants is also slowly increasing. The websites below can help you find a restaurant.

I am from Japan and have been a vegetarian for years, but I do not know any vegetarians around me. My family and friends are always worried about me being vegetarian, and sometimes even get angry with my eating style. Compared to the US or Europe, the idea of vegetarianism is not known yet, therefore I can say that Japan would be a difficult country to live in or travel to for vegetarians. As I imagine, it would be like the US 30 years ago.

Although I have written something negative for vegetarians, it is possible to keep being vegetarian while you are traveling in Japan as long as you are careful. You do not have to bring heavy luggage filled with foods from your country, rather try local vegetarian foods, which are fresh and healthy. Please do not hesitate to come to Japan because it is not the most vegetarian-friendly place. The first thing for vegetarians is to expect that many Japanese people have little knowledge about vegetarianism. Also it may help you if you memorize two sentences, which mean “I do not eat meat and fish”, “niku, sakana ha tabemasen” and “I do not eat dashi too”, “dashi mo tabemasen”, to say when you eat out. Again, it is difficult, but possible to avoid non-vegetarian food in Japan and enjoy Japanese vegetarian food. I hope that you will come across great Japanese food and enjoy your trip to Japan.

by Yuko Tamura, VRG intern from Japan

How to be a quasi vegetarian

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How to be a quasi vegetarian

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Part of the challenge of leading a vegetarian lifestyle is determining where you draw the line between vegetarian and non-vegetarian foods. Although this is relatively easy with purely animal and plant foods, mushrooms do not belong in either of these groups. With more similarities to animals than plants, mushrooms are not obviously suitable for vegetarians based on their taxonomy. However, no definitions provided by vegetarian authorities state that mushrooms are not vegetarian-friendly.

The Six Kingdoms

The most commonly used taxonomy for living organisms in North America divides all of life into six kingdoms. Part of the confusion surrounding the vegetarian status of mushrooms is that they are in a kingdom separate from plants and animals. In addition, taxonomists using the six kingdom system classify kingdom fungi as being most closely related to kingdom animalia. As fungi share more genetic material with animals than with plants, determining whether or not fungi are suitable for consumption by vegetarians can be difficult.

International Society of Protistologists

In 2005, the International Society of Protistologists published a report in “The Journal of Eukaryotic Microbiology” detailing its attempts to more accurately classify living organisms. Among the new kingdoms proposed by the ISP is a group including both animals and fungi. Called Opisthokonts, organisms in this group are closely related in both cellular structure and genetic composition. As there is strong evidence for such a close relationship between fungi and animals, mushrooms are not technically vegetarian-friendly based on the ISP’s classification system.

Aside from genes, structure and taxonomy, plants differ from fungi and animals in how they produce food. While plants produce nutrients from sunlight, neither fungi nor animals are able to do so. Instead, the diets of fungi and animals rely upon consuming other organisms, including both plants and animals. These dietary similarities add to the confusion over whether or not mushrooms are suitable for vegetarian diets.