The American Dialect Society deemed flexitarian the "most useful word of the year" in 2003. Definition: a vegetarian who occasionally eats meat.
Some news reports expand the definition to include carnivores who occasionally eat vegetarian. Theyre driven by health benefits more than concerns about animal rights, ethics or the environment. (Gasp!) Actually, none of this is news to the vegetarian community. The Vegetarian Resource Group estimates 2.5 percent of adults are "true vegetarians" meaning they dont eat meat, fish or poultry. A subset of those are "vegans,"" meaning they also dont eat dairy, eggs or honey.
Even when you expand the vegetarian definition to include people who call themselves "almost vegetarian" (or people who eat some meat, fish or poultry), the lifestyle doesnt rope in a huge proportion of Americans. Only 5 to 9 percent of American adults fit that definition.
So, no matter how you slice it, vegetarianism represents a continuum, ranging from diehards to casual diners. Its always been that way.
Still, vegetarian options are growing in cafeterias, in frozen-food cases, on store shelves and in restaurants because of diners health concerns.
It's been pounded into everyone's heads that the healthiest diets are short on meat and big on veggies, fruits, beans and grains. News reports on the latest research continually state what youve heard time and again -- how fruits and vegetables protect against a range of health woes, including cancers, heart disease and stroke. One study found that the risk of stroke was 22 percent lower in middle-aged men who ate three servings of fruits and veggies daily, while another found heavy-red-meat eaters were twice as likely to get prostate cancer (see www.cspinet.org). If you missed hearing about those studies, the same messages are reinforced by campaigns such as the federal government's food pyramid (www.mypyramid.gov), the American Cancer Society's Complete Guide-Nutrition and Physical Activity, and (American Heart Association's Heart Healthy Diet/).
Eating veggies is far kinder to the environment, as well, as exemplified by The Cheeseburger Footprint. According to math calculations, the greenhouse gas emissions arising every year from the production and consumption of cheeseburgers roughly equals the amount emitted by 6.5 million to 19.6 million SUVs. Currently about 16 million SUVs are on the road in the US.
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