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Vegetarian 101

When it comes to vegetarianism, the number one question on most meat-eaters’ minds is, “What do you eat?” The answer: Anything we want! There are vegetarian alternatives to almost any animal food, from soy sausages and “Fib Ribs” to Tofurky jerky and mock lobster. Vegetarian-friendly menus are sprouting up everywhere—even Burger King offers veggie burgers—and more and more eateries are focusing exclusively on vegetarian and vegan foods. There are fantastic alternatives to every dairy product you can imagine, including Soy Delicious ice cream, Silk chocolate soy milk, Tofutti cream cheese, and more.

Going vegetarian has never been easier, and we’re here to help! From our fantastic recipes and list of favorite products and favorite vegetarian cookbooks to our free vegetarian starter kit and online shopping guide, PETA has all the information you need to adopt a healthy and humane vegetarian diet!

Every year in the U.S., more than 27 billion animals are slaughtered for food. Raising animals on factory farms is cruel and ecologically devastating. Eating animals is bad for our health, increasing the risk of developing various diseases and illnesses, including heart attacks, strokes, cancer, diabetes, and obesity.

In response to animal welfare, health, and ecological concerns, compassionate people everywhere are adopting a vegetarian diet.

For Animals

Animals on factory farms are treated like meat, milk, and egg machines. Chickens have their sensitive beaks seared off with a hot blade, and male cattle and pigs are castrated without any painkillers. Farmed chickens, turkeys, and pigs spend their brief lives in dark and crowded warehouses, many of them so cramped that they can’t even turn around or spread a single wing. They are mired in their own waste, and the stench of ammonia fills the air.

Animals raised for food are bred and drugged to grow as large as possible as quickly as possible—many are so heavy that they become crippled under their own weight and die within inches of their water supply.

Animals on factory farms do not see the sun or get a breath of fresh air until they are prodded and crammed onto trucks for a nightmarish ride to the slaughterhouse, often through weather extremes and always without food or water.

Many die during transport, and others are too sick or weak to walk off the truck after they reach the slaughterhouse. The animals who survive this hellish ordeal are hung upside-down and their throats are slit, often while they’re completely conscious.

Many are still alive while they are skinned, hacked into pieces, or scalded in the defeathering tanks. Learn more about the factory-farming industry. By switching to a vegetarian diet, you can save more than 100 animals a year from this misery.

One suggestion: If you plan to make the transition to a vegetarian diet gradually, the most important foods to cut out of your diet first are bird flesh and eggs. While many people think that “red meat” and dairy products should be the first to go, this isn’t the case.

By cutting bird flesh from your diet, you’ll save many more animals. Because chickens are so small, the average meat-eater is responsible for the deaths of many more chickens than cows. Plus, chickens and turkeys exploited by the meat and egg industries are the most abused animals commonly used for food.

For Your Health 

Some of the leading killers in America today, including heart disease, cancer, obesity, and strokes, are directly linked to meat-based diets. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in America today, and it can often be caused by the build-up of cholesterol and saturated fat from animal products in our arteries.

The only two doctors in human history who have successfully reversed heart disease have included an exclusively vegetarian diet as a part of their programs. The average vegan cholesterol level is 133 (compared to 210 for meat-eaters); there are no documented cases of heart attacks in individuals with cholesterol under 150. Other health problems tied to clogged arteries, like poor circulation and atherosclerotic strokes, can be virtually eliminated with a vegan diet.

Vegans are approximately one-ninth as likely to be obese as meat-eaters and have a cancer rate that is only 40 percent that of meat-eaters. People who consume animal products are also at increased risk for many other illnesses, including strokes, obesity, osteoporosis, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, multiple allergies, diabetes, and food poisoning. Learn more about the health benefits of a vegetarian diet.

For the Environment

America’s meat addiction is poisoning and depleting our potable water, arable land, and clean air. A staggering 51 percent or more of global greenhouse-gas emissions are caused by animal agriculture, according to a report published by the Worldwatch Institute. More than half of the water used in the United States today goes to animal agriculture, and since farmed animals produce 130 times more excrement than the human population, the run-off from their waste is fouling our waterways. Animal excrement emits gasses, such as hydrogen sulfide and ammonia, which poison the air around farms, as well as methane and nitrous oxide, which are major contributors to global warming.

Forests are being bulldozed to make more room for factory farms and crops to feed farmed animals, and this destruction causes soil erosion and contributes to species extinction and habitat loss. Raising animals for food also requires massive amounts of food and raw materials: Farmed animals consume 70 percent of the corn, wheat, and other grains that we grow, and one-third of all the raw materials and fossil fuels used in the U.S. go to raising animals for food. In short, our country’s meat addiction is wrecking the earth. Read more about factory farming and the environment.

Request a vegetarian starter kit to get started today!

You may have been thinking about a vegan lifestyle for a while but didn’t know where to start. Well, it’s as easy as one, two, three! Here you can find out how to go vegan in three simple steps.

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  • bambi says:

    Going vegan two years ago was the best decision I have ever made:)

  • ElEpHaNtBaBy says:

    Im currently a vegitarian, and have been for about six months now. im so glad i made the change! ifeel better physically and emotionally i feel less guilty for all God’s wonderful creations being brutally slaughtered. im going vegan this week! wish me luck!!!!!

  • delean4154 says:

    I took the 30 day pledge and am so glad I did. Actually I did vegetarian still using dairy products. I absolutely will not go back to eating meat. It was easy and I feel better both physically and mentally. Next step is to replace the dairy. I’m sure I can do that too.

  • Sarah Mae says:

    i just made a bucket list, and on that bucket list is to be a vegetarian for AT LEAST a month….i want to do it longer than that though if i can. i really feel like this is a GREAT decision. does anyone have any advice for a new comer??? :) oh and sorry if i spelled something wrong :)

  • samantha_baxter88 says:

    I have recently become vegetarian, and feel like it’s one of the best decisions I could have made for myself. I can no longer support an industry where their only concern is making a profit and don’t consider the pain and agony the poor animals have to go through. Becoming vegetarian isn’t as hard as one would think, there are so many nutritious foods out there, that I don’t miss meat one bit.

  • Makayla says:

    I am currently making the transition (: love fruits and veggies so I hope it won’t be too hard! I love cheese way to much to go vegan although the thought of it right now after seeing pictures and reading up on the terrible facts kinda freaks me out just a bit.. But I’m excited! I haven’t had any meat for about a week and I can already tell that I have more energy! (:

  • PurpleandBlackPandas says:

    I have been vegetarian for a little over a month, and I was surprised at how easy it is! I don’t buy fake meats or anything, but I eat a lot of vegetables and make sure I get the right nutrients.

  • kelsey34 says:

    i just started to become a vegetarian yesterday and i like meat but seeing wat they do to the poor animals i dont want to eat them when do u for stop likeing meat

  • anamika says:

    vegetarian diet along with basic yoga exercises and meditation will keep any one healthy and fit for life

  • Marge says:

    Iv been vegi for 43 yrs,its so easy these days.allmost everything is suitable for vegies now,(just look for the green tick)Im now wanting to go vegan.I dont drink milk.I buy shops own sweetened soya.Cant bear to think a calf has to be taken from its mum at two wks old,,to hear that poor cow calling for her baby is heartbreaking.thats the only time a cow bellows,(calls)you see the cows in the fields with udders so full somedays .its disgusting,Along with all the antibiotics these animals are fed in their feed,its no wonder we cant fight infections.

  • Samantha says:

    I am currently enjoying my first week as a vegetarian, after doing does of research and watching videos of what these poor animals go through[which made me feel sick] I have decided that this is the best option for me! It’s a bit of a change, but I know I will get used to it in no time! Going vegetarian and buying products that are cruelty free is already making me feel better[:

  • jaustin says:

    In my ethics class today, we spoke about animals being exposed to cosmetic testing. This itself has changed my mind about how cruel I thought we were towards animals… So I decided when I came home this afternoon, I would do some research. All I can say is:
    I am becoming a vegetarian.
    I honestly can not even believe some of the things I read/watched today. It made me feel physically ill. I was never aware of just how cruel people can be.
    I will do what ever I can to help save these animals.

  • Monalisa says:

    Vegan since 20 years.
    I just wonder, how can the meat eaters be proud of
    themselves ! Even the most fierce animal in the jungle is more gentle to the prey than any human.

  • deeRose says:

    I have been a vegetarian for about six years and would never go back to eating meat. Killing harmless animals for our eating pleasure is just wrong. Animals have a right to live on this earth as much as we do.

    Being a vegetarian isn’t as hard as people make it out to be. There are substitutes for almost any meat dish that you can think of. If you don’t want to change for the animals, change for your own health. Being vegetarian will open your eyes to so many healthy lifestyle changes–more than just taking meat out of your diet. Be open for change and go veg :)

  • STOP - Meat lover says:

    this message goes out to Meat Lover your a selfish, non caring , insignificant person for saying that if some one went and slaughter you or your family you would like that. So don’t wish that on others your cruel for supporting meat eating the least you could is at least eat less meat or try organic but just saying “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everybody would be vegetarian. Not me. I love meat.” you wouldn’t be saying that if you saw all that blood and the yelling and screaming of those poor animal. YOU WOUDN’T HADLE IT. So just stop.

  • tate06 says:

    I became vegetarian November 19, 2009 due to a video I watched in my college sociology class. It changed my life forever. I actually watched the video of the horrific things listed above that are done to these poor animals. Not only are they tortured, but they are also pumped full of hormones and poisons to make them grow faster. It is sickening. Animals are not stupid. They know what is going on and the majority of them are alive through the killing process. They feel all of the pain.
    To everyone in the process of transitioning, I commend you and believe in you! YOU CAN DO IT! The first month is the hardest- DO NOT GIVE UP! You have to retrain your body and taste buds. This is not a diet; it is a lifestyle change. You do not need all the animal fat, flesh, or hormones. You can survive without it. I am lucky to live in a house of vegetarians now. But for those who do not, do not get discouraged. There are plenty of alternatives. Meatless meat is delicious and an excellent protein source.
    I lost 15 pounds the first 2 months of becoming vegetarian. I have never gained it back. I wasn’t overweight to start with either. My skin has become flawless. My hair and nails grow faster than I can keep up with. I feel healthier. I have more energy. I never get colds, the flu, viruses, etc. since becoming vegetarian. I am now in the first stages of becoming vegan. I have quit all dairy products completely. It is much easier to become vegan if you have been vegetarian first. Good luck to everyone!

  • Meat Lover says:

    “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian.”
    Not me. I love meat.

  • Meat Lover says:

    “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everybody would be vegetarian.”
    Not me. I fucking love meat.

  • Ginger says:

    I went Vegetarian because of a woman. I know that sounds shallow. But, after a bit of time listening to her express the positives of a meat-free diet, I decided to give it a shot. With each passing day, I feel so much better about this decision. I feel healthier, stronger, more energetic, and sexier. It’s done wonders for me, and not just in the dietary department. I honestly feel proud to say I don’t need or want meat in my diet. I’ve only had issues related to my eating due to my schedule. I go for the quick and easy fix: Frozen. It gets boring, but, as I go, I learn more and more ways to make foods that are healthy, cruelty free, and tasty.

  • Love says:

    I have been a vegatarian for a year now. I started being a vegatarian ever since The Summer of 2010 now it is The summer Of 2011.When i went to a water park called Wild Waters in California with my 8th grade class i was hanging out with one of my friends and her group. I was shirtless and one of the girls in the group said” i wish i have your stomach, but less hairy and more white.” I have a flat stomach because I am a VEGATARIAN! Please go Veg

  • Tina C says:

    I have been a vegetarian for four days now. It is not as hard as I thought it would be. I still cook my husband and son meat for dinner and I eat the vegetables. I was wondering do any of you Vegetarians eat products that have animal meat in them like chicken bullion? I decided not to eat that but I have friends telling me that its ok to eat that and be a Vegetarian..how would it be if there is dehydrated meat and animal fat in it?
    I decided to be a vegetarian for my health mostly. I do think that the system of killing the animals and raising them is horrible and inhumane as well but that was not my main focus when I started.

  • erica marie says:

    ive only been a vegetarian for a week and one day im trying very hard to keep it up but in this household it is very difficult i am only 15 and i love animals with all my heart. Living in a house full of meat lovers isnt easy every night they cook big steaks ive tried to atleast get them to buy meat from places who dont have cruel farms i banished tyson foods from this house and also fosterfarms. I am looking forward to keep this vegetarianism going because since ive became one i have more self confidence and i feel like i have more energy its great. but i really owe a thanks to the vegetarian “BOCA” burgers they’ve made it alot easier !

  • duffy66 says:

    I’ve always eaten meat and its been just a cultural thing in my family, but after taking a bioethics class.. it has opened my eyes. I’m ready to become my own person and make my own decisions and going through a trial of vegetariamism is going to be the first place I start. I know its going to be really hard but I’m ready to make a change for the positive and give the animals the voice they’re being denied.

  • patka1811 says:

    I became vegeterian a year ago. And I can say that it was one of the best choices I’ve ever made. I feel better physically and also mentally as I know I don’t take part in killing animals. Now it’s time for me to become vegan. I believe it won’t be as hard as it seems :) And it’s definitely worth trying!

  • 20th Century Girl says:

    I am 11 years old and I am vegetarian i ave a lot of friends who dont eat meat becuse we love animals and cant understand why they get killed we have so many food to eat insted

  • Mukesh Tanwar says:

    Will we end this cruelty only if our respective gods ask us to? What if they don’t? Will we turn a blind eye towards this mindless suffering? Do we really deserve to be called “humans”?

  • Janine says:

    I’ve been vegetarian for nearly 4 years and I noticed the positive changes immediately! My skin cleared up, I lost weight, my doctor says I’m much healthier, my hair is healthier, and I have more energy.
    Unfortunately, becoming vegetarian made grocery shopping much more difficult because so many products that seem vegetarian actually have some sort of non-vegetarian product in them. For instance, only one brand of yogurt at my local grocery store doesn’t have gelatin in it. You’d think it would be perfectly fine to eat yogurt, so most people don’t check. It’s the same problem with french fries from lots of fast food places; they’re fried in animal fat. That’s not vegetarian! It’s not as though fast food places say that on their menus! It’s misleading. This is the case with so many food items.
    I think companies should make it a little more obvious that their products are not vegetarian. I feel as if they are deceiving me into believing their food is fine for vegetarians like me, and that’s wrong.

  • n_ragland says:

    I’ve decided recently well actually right now to go vegetarian….unfortunately I have no idea where to start :/ help!

  • 13yearoldvegetarian says:

    For the past 3 years, I have not eaten pigs, cows or lamb. I am now giving up chicken and turkey. This is a somewhat difficult transition but I think that with a little support, I can soon be completely meat free! I am still going to eat fresh fish ( from Cape Cod ) because it is freshly caught and the fish has lived a full, natural life.

  • trisha says:

    I’ve been vegetarian off and on for several years.. I’ve decided recently to go veg for good and would like to try being vegan (especially after reading about rendering plants) my only issue with that is I also have a gluten sensitivity and a lot of foods, vegan or otherwise, have gluten in them…

  • hippiecraze says:

    Ive been a vegeterian for almost 6 yrs. I do miss meat sometimes but there are alot of veggie foods out there that are amazing. I will never go back to eating meat. my favs are boca mushroom veggie burgers and smartchoice veggie chicken with sweet and sour sauce. Only real problem is the stores near where i live stop selling these and I cant find them anywhere! I would never try to force anyone to be a vegetarian tho. MY fiance is a big time meat eater and I would never ask him to change.

  • Audrey says:

    I am not exclusively vegetarian, but I don’t eat meat very often at all. In my religion, it says we are supposed to “eat meat sparingly” but most people I know don’t follow this and still have meat all the time. Even church functions with meals always include a meat entree. I do what I can to promote vegetarianism, and since I do all the grocery shopping, I don’t buy it, and I tell my husband if he wants meat, he’s got to go to the store and buy it. He never does. Yay!
    I just wish that some vegetarian/vegan products could be slightly less expensive at the store. I think this makes some people shy away from it, because some things are more expensive ie. hot dogs are $1, and I paid $3 for my veggie dogs. That’s not a huge difference, but I wish they could have promotions or something to really get people jumping on the bandwagon and making the veggie stuff more plentiful and the meat more expensive.

  • britth says:

    I have always been an animal-lover and somewhat grossed out by the consumption of meat/chicken. I never was able to make the transition to veganism because of my family and their love for meat. Not to mention the delicious food my grandmother would make which 99.9% of the time contained some type of meat product. Just this past week I made a snap decision to start my vegetarian diet on my own and with the surprising support from my family I have had a very successful first week with my new diet. I feel healthier and find myself craving healthy fruits, vegetables, and grains. I have almost completely lost my cravings for fatty/sweet foods and I am now 4 lbs. lighter because of it :) I am so happy that there are recipe websites to keep my diet balanced and nutritious along with being fresh and extremely tasty! I don’t ever want to go back to eating meat/chicken/fish/dairy/eggs, because what I am doing for myself, the animals and the environment is by far the best decision I’ve ever made.

  • Biggest Meat Lover ever says:

    I have been a meat lover all my life I believe that i will eat you before you eat me.I now have been on a vegetarian diet for 22days and it is easier than I thought.Everyone around me cant believe that I am actually doing it and I am not missing meat I have tried so many kind of vegan food and they taste good.I thought that it would be hard on me because I LOVE MEAT!I am still sticking to my word about not eating meat for 31days but I now can see prolonging this new eating habit.I am still a firm believer in live and let live everyone will find their self on their own we dont need to spoon feed anyone.We are all different and unique in our own way everything balance out everything.

  • Madison says:

    I have been vegan for a while now and I really believe that it is one of the best things you can do for yourself, animals, and the environment!

  • Jack says:

    Nope, couldn’t give up meat. It’s delicious!

  • Sam says:

    I have been vegetarian for almost a year now. It will be a year in September. I want to go vegan, but my dad won’t because it’s an “inconvenience” to him. So, I’ll just wait until I am an adult who has his own job or own way of paying for food to become one. I am hoping that it’ll make me healthier and help the animals. ^^

  • mburgess210 says:

    I have been attempting to become a vegetarian/vegan for the past year. My issue is that I live with my elderly (90) mother and other family members who are all heavy meat eaters, eggs and dairy. It is difficult to prepare two separate meals at least three times a day. I need to find a way to do this with creating undue stress and spending a lot of time in the kitchen. This am I prepared whole wheat pancakes with a little margarine and egg substitute. Mom only ate a very small portion and no one else except for me would touch them, so I have a lot of batter left. Nevertheless, I am going to continue my journey toward a vegetarianism/vegan lifestyle. I guess I have to let everyone cook for themselves, in addition to purchasing their own food.

  • Samantha says:

    I was a vegetarian for a year but I had to quit because of the ‘ inconvenience’ for my mom & dad. I was 13 at the time. But after reading this & watching the videos again, I decided I’ll make the decisions I want :) I’m 15 now & this helped me a lot &I
    I’ve showing my friends & many of them agree & are trying being veg !

  • Beckie E says:

    I give young people a lot of credit when they want to become Vegan. I had a very hard time in my life when I wanted to become Vegan. I was very young when I stopped eating meat, and my family is a very gung ho aggressive meat eating family. I knew at a very young age that it was wrong and I had to do something to stop, so I did, and I paid the price for it, but I don’t regret it!
    I am a better person for it! And I know I saved many, many animals because I said no.
    So stay strong even though it’s hard, it will make you strong in the long run.

  • superstar85ca says:

    Being a veggie is easy as there are tons of wonderful meat substitutes out there…There are also unfortunately a few bad ones which makes it difficult for people to take vegetarian cusine seriously. Anything from “Tofurky” brand is delicious. They definitely have the best hot dogs and cold cuts, plus their tofurky “turkey” is awesome. “Schniders” makes great meatballs and chicken burgers/nuggets, “Amy’s Organic” makes wonderful soups, microwave meals, chili, pizza’etc. “Sol” also makes great products. I’m not overly fond of “Yves” so far, but their ground “chicken” is decent. Good luck TTC!

  • Tim says:

    After writing
    “What do you eat?” The answer: Anything we want!
    You then list a whole load of food made with soya beans.
    “Fib Ribs” are made, according to the recipe on this site, from soya beans.
    soy sausages made from soya beans
    Tofurkey made from tofu = soya beans
    Silk choclate made from soya milk
    Tofutti cream cheese made from tofu = soya beans.
    And most veggie burgers are made from textured vegetable protien or soya bean meat.

    Not that this is a problem, but I think you should be straight about it. One might also note that most agricultural soya beans have been genetically modified, and that some (probably meat producers!) claim that there are health risks to soya bean consumption – though far less than eating meat. All the same, in the interests of unbiased reporting I made this comment.

  • Kyra lee! says:

    I’m 13 years old and coming up this September, I’ll have been a vegetarian for four years. My first try being a vegetarian, I never went back. I eat nothing but organic. I’ve been antagonized by teachers and students in school ever since I became a vegetarian, more by adults usually. Quite pathetic that people don’t have enough will power to even consider doing what I ( and we’ve) done. VEGGIE POWER! :D

  • Chris says:

    Confused-congratulations to you for trying to make a positive change!! It is difficult process to improve your diet and your lifestyle by going vegetarian. It is an inspiration to see someone your age trying to make a difference.

    I have been a vegetarian for three years and been a vegan for about three months. I am still learning to be a vegan. Mistakes are going to happen, just keep trying your best!!

    When any of my friends or family don’t understand why I chose to be a vegan, I always give them this website to help them understand. Hopefully your parents will be supportive when they see the important message that peta.org has to offer.

    Good luck to you!

  • Confident says:

    I had no problem telling my parents. I just came out and said it :)

  • Gatsby says:

    I have been a vegetarian for about 4 months now, and I am never going back. The transition was very difficult at first-I went vegetarian cold turkey and by myself. In fact, I failed on my second day when I bought a school hamburger for lunch, but I have not made the same mistake since. I would encourage anyone who is considering the change to try it out for at least a week or so. I feel much better since I became a vegetarian, I have reduced my environmental footprint, and I no longer support the meat-paking and factory slaughterhouse industries (Read ‘Fast Food Nation). Good luck to everyone!

  • TannerTheCool says:

    i just became a vegetarian today because i saw what happens to the animals at factorys is there any recomedations on finding things that tast good but dont have any animal products.
    thank you very much
    -tanner stumbaugh

  • Alexa says:

    Hope, if you are so ready to make excuses, then you’re not ready to eat a vegan diet. If you care about eating right, you’ll find time and money for it. If you’re really worried about your budget, then why are you buying meat anyway? It’s massively more expensive than whole grains and vegetables.
    Kids worried about being the only vegetarian at the dinner table, the following foods can be made without meat: Soup, enchiladas, lasagna, casseroles, stir-fries, burgers, ice cream, sandwiches… You get the picture.
    American culture makes it hard to be a vegetarian. It does not make it impossible. Educate yourself!

  • Confused says:

    I am a teenage girl and I want to become a vegetarian. Its quite a big change for me to suddenly become a vegetarian because I have always ate meat my whole life and no one in my family is a vegetarian. I don’t know how I should tell my parents or how to make this drastic change?

  • Treehousepeep says:

    Cool!

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