Meat Sneaker

at 12:35 AM

When celebrated vegan Alicia Silverstone admitted on "Oprah" that sometimes, after a drink, she ate cheese, I related to her lapse of will. Like the president sneaking a cigarette, I occasionally go against better judgment. I become a vegetarian meat sneaker.

It happens when I'm tired, in a rush or there's little on the menu for a person who doesn't eat meat. Sometimes it's a junk food craving -- like a ballpark hotdog. Then there's the tempting restaurant entree with meat on the plate. I desire a delectable dish more than I want to pay for yet another uninspired pasta-and-vegetables or bread-and-cheese vegetarian option. I indulge and move on.

Some would say if I'm not meat-free all the time, I can't call myself a vegetarian. Others suggest it proves a plant-centered diet is not viable. I think our bodies and the planet would be better served if we stopped using rigid labels and focused on the benefits of reducing our meat consumption, whether or not we do it all the time.

Meat is connected to myriad health concerns and the production of meat, particularly beef, harms the environment. Additionally, the belief that a balanced meal must include meat forces otherwise animal-loving people to accept that some creatures are destined to die for our diet.

Fortunately, the tide is turning. An estimated six to eight million adults in the U.S. are now vegetarians, with many others turning away from some forms of meat.

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I've been pleased to see this happening within my own family. My partner Jeff has moved toward a vegetarian diet over the years we've been together. Even my foodie mom, who originally sought trendy restaurants with creative meat-free entrees for my sake, eventually dropped most meat after seeing such gratifying alternatives.

And vegetarian options are increasing: Burger King offers a meatless burger, supermarkets stock savory meat substitutes, ethnic menus provide abundant selections from Chana Masala to Pad Thai. You can even get a tofu dog at some stadiums.

A wider range of choices have come from increased demand. So, yes, I have a stake in encouraging more people to go veggie. If you can't do it all the time, that's OK.

Feel free to sneak.

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With a Perspective, I'm Bonnie Eslinger.

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