Entries in Vegetarian (6)


Elementary School Cafeteria Goes Vegetarian

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A New York City elementary school cafeteria is one of the first in the nation to go meatless.

Students at P.S. 244, the Active Learning Elementary School, are being treated to eclectic fare, including black bean and cheese quesadillas, falafel and tofu in an Asian sesame sauce.

“It’s been a really great response from the kids, but they also understand it’s about what is the healthiest option for them,” principal Bob Groff told ABC News. “Because we teach them throughout our curriculum to make healthy choices, they understand what is happening and believe in what we’re doing too.”

When the school opened in 2008, they started serving vegetarian meals three days a week. The campus became a vegetarian test kitchen for the city, Groff said.

“We then started to try out recipes with small groups of students, see what they liked, see what they didn’t like,” he said.

The recipes were a hit, Groff said, prompting the school to expand its meat-free meals to four days a week and then adopting a completely vegetarian kitchen in January.

“The big thing I would like people to know is, this isn’t just about a vegetarian menu,” Groff said. ”It’s about living a healthy lifestyle and educating students on what options are out there.”

All meals have to adhere to USDA standards, he said, making sure students get plenty of nutrients, including protein, for their growing bodies.

That means nutrient-dense foods such as chickpeas, kidney beans and tofu.

If the herbivore-friendly grub doesn’t suit students, Groff said they’re always welcome to pack their lunch, including meat.

The school operates on an application and lottery system, meaning it’s not zoned to a particular neighborhood. It serves 400 students from pre-kindergarten through grade three.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Vegetarians Have Lower Heart Disease Risk, Study Finds

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Going meatless gives vegetarians a 32 percent lower heart disease risk than non-vegetarians, a British study found, offering further proof that eating meat can be hazardous to health.

The study, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, involved 44,561 people enrolled in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC)-Oxford Study, which began in England and Scotland in 1993.  Researchers sought to compare a range of diets and their impact on overall health, and 34 percent of all participants were vegetarians.

“It’s a very good study,” said Dr. William Abraham, who directs the division of cardiovascular medicine at Ohio State University, noting the large proportion of vegetarians.  “It’s further evidence that vegetarian diets are associated with a lesser risk of developing ischemic heart disease or coronary artery disease.”

He and Dr. Peter McCullough, a cardiologist at St. John Providence Health System in Michigan, agreed it’s not about what’s in the vegetarian diet that makes it so heart healthy -- it’s about what the vegetarian diet leaves out: saturated fat and sodium.

“Saturated fat is the single greatest dietary factor in the production of cholesterol,” McCollough said, adding that people assume dietary cholesterol increases cholesterol levels though it’s not true.  “Sodium intake is the single greatest dietary determinant of blood pleasure.”

Both high blood pressure and high cholesterol are known risk factors for ischemic heart disease because they constrict the blood vessels and cut off blood supply to the heart.

Abraham said he occasionally prescribes a vegetarian diet to patients who have already had heart attacks -- but this study might persuade him to prescribe them preventively to patients with heart disease risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

McCollough, on the other hand, has never prescribed a vegetarian diet and said limiting sodium and saturated fats can be done by picking the right meats, controlling portion sizes and avoiding what he calls the three S-es: sugars, starches and saturated fats.  He said the healthiest protein to eat is fish and the least healthy is beef.  Behind fish, beans and nuts are the best way to get protein, he said.

Vegetarianism isn’t always the answer because even vegetarians can eat too many sugars, one of the three "S" categories, he said.  For example, he added, vegetarians eat more cheese than non-vegetarians and, although it has some protein, about 60 percent of cheese is saturated fat.

Other studies have examined how daily servings of red meat can lead to early death and how processed meat can lead to heart disease and diabetes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports two million heart attacks and stroke a year in the United States, and about 800,000 deaths from heart disease.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Where's the Beef? Putting a 'Less-Meat' Diet to the Test

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- For generations, meat has been center stage on American dinner plates.  But now, for many, its seems to be moving to the side of the plate.

Today, 30 percent of Americans are eating less meat, not necessarily going vegetarian or vegan, but choosing to eat less.  Concerns over health, the so-called "pink slime" in burgers controversy, the impact on the environment and higher prices at the grocery store have led to meal-overhaul movements such as "Meatless Mondays" and a 12-percent drop in meat consumption over the last five years.

While finding new ways to change your diet can seem like a challenge, Mark Bittman, a New York Times food critic and an advocate for "less-meatarians," is out to prove that anyone can easily and affordably make tasty meals without having a chunk of meat take over the dinner plate.

"Combining vegetables with meat makes them much more interesting and this is historically how people ate," Bittman said. "Meat and fish were treasures.  They were treats.  They were things you couldn't count on.  It's only in the past 50 years that you could count on putting meat on the table every night and every day."

But eating less meat doesn't mean shopping at the premium organic stores, Bittman added.

"The difference isn't really between an organic cheese burger and a non-organic cheeseburger," he said.  "The difference is between...a cheeseburger and a head of broccoli.  That's the real choice."

At Haven's Kitchen in New York City, Bittman cooked up a cassoulet, basically pork and beans, but light on the pork.  He said it's a healthier meal because it is lower in fat and higher in micronutrients than its more traditional cousin.  Bittman said eating less meat has helped improve his health.

"I lost 35 pounds, my cholesterol levels went down below 200, which is where it's supposed to be, and blood sugar went down to where it's supposed to be," he said.

To put the "less-meatatarian" diet to the test, ABC's Nightline asked celebrity chef Angelo Sosa, a committed omnivore who specializes in Asian cuisine, to try it for three days, meaning he had to dial back the meat and amp up the vegetables, fruits and whole grains.

"What I eat is extremely important to me, more so now than ever -- I'm 37 and the weight goes right to my belly," Sosa said.  "I'm excited.  I feel like I don't need to be weighed down.  I don't like more fat in my system."

Did 72 hours on a less-meat diet make a difference for Sosa?  Did he feel different or still crave meat?  Watch the video below to find out.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


California Seventh-Day Adventists Outraged Over McDonald's

Tim Boyle/Getty Images(LOMA LINDA, Calif.) -- The health conscious residents of Loma Linda, a small California city with a large Seventh-day Adventist population, have banned together to fight against the opening of the town's first McDonald's.

Nestled in a beautiful stretch of land east of Los Angeles, the 23,000 people who live in Loma Linda enjoy one of the longest life spans in the world -- on average, residents live well into their 80s. Its people are borderline obsessed with fitness and clean living, and they have a healthy population of centenarians to prove it.

So when McDonald's decided to move in, the people of Loma Linda went into red alert. When the issue to approve its opening came up before the city council, the meeting room was packed with outraged residents and health professionals, as if a nuclear waste dump, and not a fast food chain, was coming to town.

But the city isn't just full of fit families, it is also heavily Seventh-day Adventist, a religion that strongly encourages congregants to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, as well as an alcohol, tobacco and caffeine-free lifestyle.

Pastor Randy Roberts of the Loma Linda University Church says healthy living is dictated straight from the scripture.

"In Corinthians, Paul speaking of the human body says specifically, 'you are the temple of the Holy spirit,'" explains Roberts. "Therefore, he says, whatever you do in your body, you do it to the honor, the glory and the praise of God."

He says the church has not taken an official position on the McDonald's controversy, but stands for living "a balanced, healthy, and whole lifestyle."

Dr. Wayne Dysinger, a physician of preventative medicine and a Loma Linda resident, is a leading member of the community coalition that opposes McDonald's. He says it is not just about the burgers and fries on McDonald's' menu, but also about what the fast food chain represents to Loma Linda's residents who cherish the community's health-conscious history.

"Loma Linda is sort of a symbolic city for healthiness, and McDonald's is sort of a symbolism of unhealthiness," said Dysinger, a Seventh-Day Adventist and father of two. "That's a significant issue. My kids know about McDonald's. McDonald's is the one that sells the toys."

In response to the community opposition, McDonald's said in a statement to ABC News:

"We have been working hard over the past several years to ensure we have options on our menu to meet a variety of dietary needs. For example, our line of Premium Salads can be ordered without meat. We also have other offerings including Apple Slices, Oatmeal and Fruit and Yogurt Parfaits as well as a variety of portion sizes ... McDonald's and our franchisee look forward to working with the Loma Linda City Council and residents to hopefully address any questions or concerns. We believe the new restaurant will support the Loma Linda community with a contemporary dining experience and help fuel economic growth."

McDonald's won't exactly be the first fast food chain in town. Though several health food stores are popular with residents, in recent years a handful of chains have arrived, including a KFC, Del Taco, Weinerschnitzel, Baker's Burger and most notably a Carl's Jr., which also came under intense fire when it first moved in.

Caught in the middle between the health food advocates and the burger eating population, as well as the land developers and those who welcome business growth, is Loma Linda Mayor Rhodes Rigsby.

A Seventh-Day Adventist and a physician himself, Rigsby says he has the desire to promote health, but doesn't feel limiting food choices is an appropriate mandate.

"I don't think it's the government's responsibility, personally, to legislate vegetarianism; I think if everyone became a vegetarian they would probably have a healthier life, but it has to be their choice," he said.

"I would hate to go to a town where vegetables are outlawed because the majority are meat and potato carnivores," he continued, "to me that doesn't make sense either way; I think people should have options."

Mayor Rigsby said that if the citizens of Loma Linda want to ban further fast food development, a ballot initiative enabling residents to vote on the issue might be an acceptable approach going forward.

The small city is a particularly unusual battleground, considering the first McDonald's opened in 1940, just five miles away in the town of San Bernardino. Now the country's most iconic fast food chain has over 33,000 locations worldwide in 199 countries around the globe.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Atlanta Couple Gets Life for Starving 6-Week-Old Son

GeoStock/Getty Images(ATLANTA) -- Georgia's Supreme Court has sentenced an Atlanta couple to life in prison for starving its infant son, rejecting claims by the defense that vegan rules were to blame.

Six-week-old Crown Shakur weighed three-and-a-half pounds when he died in 2004 from extreme malnourishment or starvation. His parents, Jade Sanders and Lamont Thomas, were convicted Monday of malice murder, felony murder, involuntary manslaughter and cruelty to children.

"No matter how many times they want to say, 'We're vegans, we're vegetarians,' that's not the issue in this case," prosecutor Chuck Boring told the court. "The child died because he was not fed. Period."

Bottles of soy milk -- not formula -- and apple juice, as well as a dirty, rancid baby bottle, were found during a police search of the couple's Buckhead apartment.

"This was not a well-nourished child on any level, but it sounds like this had more to do with not getting enough calories or protein overall than a vegan diet," said Keith Ayoob, director of the Rose R. Kennedy Center Nutrition Clinic at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. "Veganism does not starve an infant."

Babies need at least 10 ounces of liquid food per day, with the healthy range spanning from 16 to 30 ounces, according to Dr. Ira Rubin, a private practice pediatrician in Naperville, Ill.

"Since the baby lost around half of its weight, it sounds like they certainly did not feed the infant enough volume," Rubin said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies breastfeed for the first six months -- a practice that, if manageable, conforms to vegan ideals. And for vegan women who can't or choose not to breastfeed, soy milk-based formulas are available. Soy milk, however, is not a substitute for fortified formula, Rubin said.

The prosecutors also argued the couple neglected their child by not seeking medical attention as his body wasted away.

"To me, even if the parents did not understand what to feed the baby, all they needed to do is ask the nurses or doctors at the hospital they delivered at, or even go back to their doctor's office to ask why the baby is losing so much weight," Rubin said.

As more adults adopt the vegan diet, more babies and children are inheriting it. Alicia Silverstone's three-month-old baby, Blu, is reportedly vegan. Natalie Portman dropped her vegan diet during pregnancy in favor of a more flexible vegetarian diet.

Experts say the vegan diet can be complete and nutritious for the whole family, as long as it contains enough protein, calcium and vitamins D and B12. But fussy young eaters can complicate things.

"Any time you remove a food you place a bigger burden on the remaining foods to pick up the slack," said Ayoob. "I recommend that vegan parents, in the early years, remain flexible. Let philosophy take second string to the child's nutritional needs at least until they're older and can make decisions for themselves."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Hindus Sue Restaurant for Mistakenly Serving Meat

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(EDISON, N.J.) -- A group of Hindus sued a New Jersey restaurant, Moghul Express, for accidentally serving them meat during an India Day celebration.  Now, the group wants the restaurant's owner to pick up the tab for a trip to India's Ganges River, where they say they must cleanse themselves in order to save their souls after eating the meat.

In 2009, the 16 diners went to the restaurant and ordered vegetable samosas.  After the staff confirmed that the pastries were indeed vegetable, people in the group realized they had actually eaten a meat-filled version of the pastry.

Last year, the group brought the lawsuit to the New Jersey Superior Court, citing negligent infliction of emotional distress, consumer fraud, product liability and breach of express warranty, according to the New Jersey Star Ledger.

The judge dismissed the case, but the newspaper reported Tuesday that a three-person appeals jury reinstated the suit because the wait staff "breached express warranty" when they incorrectly confirmed that the food was vegetarian.

Lawyers for both parties refused to comment on the pending case.

"If you follow the scriptures, it's definitely a huge cost," Mehul Thakkar, a spokesman for the Yogi Divine Society, told the Star Ledger.  "If they are very strict about it, there definitely is a fee involved."

But other cultural groups are not buying it.

"God blesses you for forgiving someone," said Pradip Kothari, president of the Indo-American Cultural Society.  "Eating meat will not cause them permanent damage.  I'm surprised our judges entertain these types of people."

"These people should be treated like criminals," Kothari said.  "When they're putting out this lawsuit, they're committing a sin.  They're going to punish this small business owner by putting him out of business?  That would make them happy?"

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio