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Jeff Nelson

Jeff Nelson

Posted November 7, 2009

Published in Food, Health

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Is Big Biz Freaking Out That People Are Going Veg?

Read More: ada, american dietetic association, jeff nelson, los angeles times

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There is a lot in the media these days about why it's important that people reject meat and dairy for the obvious reasons. 

Some examples:

So I open my LA Times today (in a browser), and what do I find? Not one but THREE articles raising outdated notions and fantasy fears about vegetarian diets.

First, the American Dietetic Association (ADA) trots out the old canard that vegetarian diets must be "well planned!" In an article called Nutritional Guidelines for Vegetarian Children, they go through a ridiculous list of basic scaremongering about how much "thought and planning" must go into eating as a vegetarian.

Well, as a vegan family, we DO "plan" our diet; each day we plan to eat Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

Beyond that, we have a diet focused on fruits, veggies, nuts, beans and grains. We don't think a lot past that, because you don't have to.

The idea that you have to look for "replacements" for meat  -- as the article suggests -- is silly.  Animals are not food anymore than humans are food. Both can be eaten; that doesn't mean we should.  We're not looking to replace something that we don't consider food. 

The article repeats disproven notions like you have to "food combine" to be a healthy vegetarian, and other outright false information, such as that meat and eggs are ideal proteins. (Well, they ARE ideal proteins -- for feeding tumors.)

The underlying message in this article is: if you're looking to raise your kids veg, watch out!

The second article in today's LA Times is called Don't make food a conflict for a vegetarian child. The article features another ADA member, this time warning about the social and psychological dangers of raising your kids veg.  Watch out, you may be scarring them for life, creating decades of your kid having to go on the shrink's couch, if you "deny" them meat!  The article gives helpfup suggestions like: compromise with your vegetarian kids, let them eat meat when they're at a friend's house!  "Resentment can build up in your child if certain foods are forbidden completely!"

Are you sh*tting me??

Does the writer here even have kids?

She certainly doesn't have any vegetarian ones, and I doubt they even spoke to any vegetarian parents. We've lived 16 years with vegan kids, and this has never been an issue.  In fact several of out kids' friends have turned vegan. And parents of their friends have often gone out of their way to accommodate our kids' dietary choices.

This second LA Times article is a subtle attempt to undermine your decision to raise your kids vegatarian, but it's couched in a way as to make it seem like they're being helpful. 

As a parent of vegetarian kids, I can tell you you're not consigning your son or daugther to a childhood of miserable "difference," as the article asserts. Quite the contrary. Our kids are very happy, they're confident and secure about who they are. Their dietary choice is something they're glad about, and always have been. And if anyone did say something to them disrespectful, our kids would just think, "Hey, that's your problem, not mine."

The third article is called When teens announce they're vegetarian, and it basically says: "If you're kid goes veg -- watch out!  They probably have an eating disorder!"

Of course, if a kid goes vegetarian because they have an eating disorder, it is most likely because they have been eating the ADA-recommended crap American diet, that makes people fat, sick and depressed, and so they are compensating for that awful diet.  In other words, for those kids who go veg because they have an eating disorder, the vegetarian diet isn't their problem, it's the standard American Diet that's helped get them to a bad space in the first place.

If your kid went veg because they had an eating disorder (which from my experience represents a small number of kids going veg), you as a parent could help your child by 1) getting the kid professional help, and 2) maybe joining your kid in going veg so as to try to set a good example of eating a healthy diet, and being supportive.

Three articles on the same day in a major media outlet, raising largely ridiculous fears about going veg.  This makes me wonder: where is this coming from? 

It's well-known that the ADA receives much of its funding from the meat, dairy, and processed junk food industries. They have a long and ignoble history of promoting some of the worst foods on the planet. The ADA's corporate-lackey mantra has always been: "There are no bad foods."

Unfortunately the ADA's funding relies on heavily taking these pro-Big Food, unhealthy positions.

So what do you think is the reason articles like these are starting to show up these days?

 


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10 Comments | Leave a comment

Three highly irresponsible articles on vegetarianism in one edition of the LA Times? That's almost too difficult to digest. We really ought to stop referring to these writers as reporters, and call them what they really are instead: hacks.

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The appearance of those articles is just the "one step backwards" in the normal "two steps forward, one step back" process of change.

The number of vegans and vegetarians is increasing steadily in the developed world, and this is resulting in an increasing number of appropriate services everywhere. There are more veg-restaurants, more products in ordinary grocery stores, more knowledgeable waiters, etc. All of this has been a long time in coming, improving gradually over the past 20 years.

At stages along the way, as increasing change accumulates mass and momentum, there are occasional knee-jerk reactions of opposition. They're just panicky little spasms of resistance as the old way of doing things has to adjust, move over and make room for the new way.

Those articles express a tone that commentaries usually took 20 years ago. These days, those articles are the exception, so much so that they stick out as somewhat bizarre relics from an aging, dying attitude. It's just part of the Last Gasp, the Swan Song, from the meat and dairy industries as they lose ground.

Twenty years ago, those articles made families question their veggie inclinations and consider turning back. Now, the articles just serve to remind us of how far we have come and feel all that more sure that such thinking really is antiquated and part of the past.

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I have recently returned to a vegetarian lifestyle and I find myself always defending my choices. So many people still believe the crappy information out there. These articles are stone age thinking and attempts to dummify the masses to what is best for the planet and our health.

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Actually there was a 4th article, 'Vegetarian Kids':
http://www.latimes.com/features/health/la-he-vegetarian-kids9-2009nov09,0,4323261.story?page=1
All were published the same day and all were written by Minneapolis based freelance science writer, Emily Sohn. On her Tidepoolsinc.com website she lists the LA Times as one of her clients.

It appears that she contacted a number of 'so-called' experts from the ADA, academia and other sources who perpetuate the same tired myths about being vegetarian or vegan. I suggest getting in direct contact with Emily and get her connected with better informed sources of vegetarian and vegan lifestyles, starting with your family, and the other 'real' experts who have raised veg kids.

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Great suggestion. Thanks for the additional info.

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Good sleuthing! Emily is about to get an upgrade to her education! :-)

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Thanks to your helpful information vRob, I have just sent the following email to the author:

Hi Emily;

Regarding your recent articles in the LA Times about vegetarian diet: my colleagues and I are feeling puzzled by some of your statements.

First, while it is certainly appropriate for you to refer to the ADA's recommendations, are you aware that singling out vegetarian diet as needing to be "well planned" creates a false impression of it being excessively complex?

My point is that everyone's diet need to be well planned for the sake of health, vegetarian diet no more than any other. As it is, too many people blithely assume that their meat-based diets are healthy, when the opposite may be more true.

The fact is that cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes are among the top causes of death in high income countries like Canada and the United States. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs310.pdf

Interestingly, the same group of countries also have the highest per capita consumption of meat. http://earthtrends.wri.org/searchable_db/results.php?years=2002-2002&variable_ID=193&theme=8&cID=&ccID=11,13,12

In fact, the WHO strongly recommends that we reduce the intake of animal foods in favour of plant foods. http://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/diet/en/index.html

Happily, one of the great strengths of vegetarian diet is that it tends to be low in saturated fat. Vegan diets have zero cholesterol and both are high in plant foods. The following statement comes from the ADA's position paper regarding vegetarian diets: http://www.eatright.org/cps/rde/xchg/ada/hs.xsl/advocacy_933_ENU_HTML.htm

"The results of an evidence-based review showed that a vegetarian diet is associated with a lower risk of death from ischemic heart disease....lower low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and lower rates of hypertension and type 2 diabetes than nonvegetarians.....lower body mass index and lower overall cancer rates."

Results suggest that it may actually be EASIER to eat a healthy diet when it is vegetarian or vegan than meat-based. So might we conclude that meat-eaters are the ones who are in greater need of planning their diets well?

I was also surprised to see a revival of the long-deceased concern about combining proteins. In the following report, please note the comments from ADA members: http://michaelbluejay.com/veg/protein.html

Another point of contention were the implications about feeding children a vegetarian diet as risky. The ADA's own position paper states that "Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including ...infancy, childhood, and adolescence...."

From my own personal point of view, I certainly agree! Having raised a daughter on a vegan diet, I am happy to be able to say that her health growing up was far superior to that of her father and I who were both raised on meat/dairy based diets.

So, my colleagues and I urge you to explore a more positive attitude towards plant-based diet. As part of that, you may wish to explore the work of Dr. John McDougall, Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr. Neal Barnard, Dr. Michael Greger.

Wishing you all the best,

Deborah Pageau B.Sc.

Gibsons, BC Canada

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You certainly weren't joking about the education upgrade. Excellent post!

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Thanks! :-)

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There is no doubt they're freaking out. Here in Minnesota, the mega dairy, turkey, and egg farms stand to lose big time. Hormel is based here, Land O'Lakes Dairy is based here, Cargill's headquarters are just down the road, and ConAgra markets most of its junk food from here. I grew up in Detroit, and talking about changes to agriculture here is like saying in the 60s that GM would be where it's at today, it's flat unthinkable for most people. My going vegetarian first then vegan is already affecting many people I know, and there's no need to defend it. The case for change becomes more compelling by the day. Write your lawmakers and find out their stand on the $140 Billion "Farm" Bill. Time to pull the plug on the tax dollars that perpetuate the madness.

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