12:45 PM EST, January 31, 2013
Over dinner the other day with a new acquaintance, the topic of food and ethics (and thus vegetarianism) came up. My new acquaintance, Mr. W., is about 60 pounds overweight and was enjoying an oversized cheeseburger on a white bun with a side of fries. He informed me, in all seriousness, that vegetarian diets are risky due to the likelihood of nutrient deficiency. Had Mr. W. read the recent article in The Sun ("Tips on switching to a vegan diet," Jan. 24), he may have cited it as evidence to support his claim.
I appreciate the intention of the article but I'm afraid readers may feel defeated from the start. They might conclude that switching to a vegan diet takes too much planning and too much work and that, by not making the change, they needn't worry about proper nutrition. The article fails to point out that most Americans are already nutritionally compromised eating the Standard American Diet (SAD), a diet that actually includes excessive meat and protein, not to mention a lot of processed foods. On the contrary, the article seems to paint the picture that most diet change candidates are moving from a nutritionally sound diet that happens to include some animal products to a potentially inadequate plant-based diet. This is likely not the reality. Most of those contemplating a switch are probably already eating a nutrient-poor diet and, regardless of whether or not they move toward plant-based eating, they most likely need to make significant changes in order to ensure proper nutrition. Just as it is a mistake to assume that a vegan diet is always a healthy diet, there is no reason to assume that an omnivorous diet is a healthy diet.
Many who believe they should switch to a plant-based diet don't really want to — not because they fear health consequences but because they fear feeling deprived. People in this situation are likely to seize any available excuse for avoiding the change and may find all the ingredients for confirmation bias right here in this article. Many will likely decide that they don't have the time or the energy to plan a vegan diet safely and can therefore continue to enjoy their current eating habits while feeling like they made a rational choice.
Jennifer Haga, Prince Frederick
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