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Silicon Veggie

Vegetarian 'Hardship'

By Elisa Camahort

I READ a piece in the Merc last week that got me riled up. In it a dietician said, "Being vegetarian takes effort and hard work, and you have to know what you're doing."

To which I say, "BS."

They used to think that vegetarians had to do fancy "food-combining" at every meal to ensure they got proper nutrition. That theory has been discredited, and today's prevailing wisdom is that you only need to get the proper combination of foods throughout the course of a day, not a meal.

But everyone should care about eating a balanced diet, vegetarian or not. Being a nonvegetarian doesn't make it any easier. If that were so, we wouldn't have rampant problems in this country with obesity and other diet-related ailments.

With reports showing that Americans don't eat enough fiber or vegetables and eat too much sugar and fat, I hardly think vegetarians are the ones at greatest risk. Maybe if that Merc dietician had pointed out the healthful benefits of a vegetarian diet to balance her warnings I would have gotten less cranky about it. But not one word about that. Just the discouraging thought that going veg is "hard work."

I'll tell you what can be hard: getting restaurants to have a bit of consideration for vegetarians when creating their menus. Sometimes you have to be a food sleuth just to make sure you're not violating your principles to have a good meal out.

For example, why can't restaurants make vegetable soups and pastas with vegetable broth? It's amazing how often I can't order a mushroom soup or a vegetable risotto because they used chicken stock.

And if you're going to put bacon on a salad or a vegetable side dish, why don't you mention it in the menu?

Then there are less obvious things to look out for.

Did you know gelatin is not vegetarian? And gelatin pops up in strange places. Say goodbye to marshmallows, to Altoids, to Yoplait Lite, and, duh, Jello.

You may know to ask for your Caesar salad without anchovies, but did you know the recipe for most Caesar salad dressings includes ground-up anchovies? And speaking of anchovies ... can you believe they're a prime component of Worcestershire Sauce?

There are annoyances exclusive to being a vegetarian. Making sure you have a well-balanced, healthful diet isn't one of them.

Send a letter to the editor about this story to letters@metronews.com.

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From the January 5-11, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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