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What does it mean to be vegetarian or vegan and why do people choose to not eat meat? Learn more below and find some recipes you can try at home!


People choose to not eat meat or animal products for many reasons, and some have more than one different reason for being a vegetarian or vegan. Here are a few common reasons:

  • They want to eat less fat or processed food to be healthier. 
  • They think it is wrong or cruel to eat animals because animals feel pain when they are killed.
  • They feel disgusted by eating animal meat or may not like the taste.
  • They know eating meat has a negative impact on the environment because raising animals and producing meat (especially beef) uses more of the earth’s land and water than eating plants.
  • The religion they practice prohibits eating meet.
  • They grew up in a family that never eats meat and choose to continue to be a vegetarian when they grow up!

Vegetarians are people who do not eat meat. They do not eat chicken, turkey fish, beef, pork, or other meats.

Vegans are people who do not eat anything that comes from an animal. For example, vegans don’t eat bacon, eggs, cheese, ice cream, or even honey. Sometimes they don’t wear leather that comes from an animal either.



Carbohydrates give us energy, and they are found in foods like bread, rice, potatoes, fruit, and desserts. Simple carbs are found in sweet foods, and they give us quick energy. Complex carbs take longer to give us energy, and they are found in whole grains, beans, and vegetables.

Fats provide us long-term energy storage and protect our inside organs. Fats are found in foods like nuts, avocados, oily fish, and butter.

Proteins help build our muscles and repair our tissues. Proteins are found in foods like meat, eggs, and tofu. Try choosing lean meats – chicken and fish – rather than pork or beef for lower fat content and less impact on the environment.



Eating a variety of foods is important for a balanced diet that keeps you healthy because each food has a unique mix of mac­ro- and micronutrients.

For growing kids, it’s important to eat lots of fruits and vegetables, which are rich in vitamins, nutrients, and fiber. Eating less meat or animal products can help you to fill up more on fruits and vegetables!

But meat gives you lots of nutrients, too, like vitamin B12 and protein. People who do not eat meat need to make sure they find other protein sources like milk, cheese, eggs, tofu, beans, and nuts. 

Learn more about balancing your macronutrients and building a health plate using the links you’ll find here.

You might think you wouldn’t like eating vegan food! You might be surprised. Watch kids try vegan substitutes, then cook vegetarian or vegan food at home!


Vegans, who don’t drink milk from animals, need a plant based milk. Watch Bellina show you how to make oat milk!


Below are some facts that show how raising animals for meat can be hard on the earth.

If you want to help protect the environment, you don’t have to be a full vegetarian. Try making meatless meals once a week or once a month with your family, or try to switch out beef for chicken or fish, which take fewer resources to raise. 

Meet Graham Scholar Bellina Gaskey!

I am a senior at the University of Michigan earning an Honors B.A. in Classical Languages and Literature; I study ancient history and the Greek and Roman worlds. As a Graham Sustainability Scholar, I enjoy thinking about ways to encourage sustainable lifestyles using local resources, spending time with nature, and reducing waste. In my free time, I enjoy playing the piano and snowboarding in Michigan, where I’ve lived all my life. In the future, I hope to work with professional writing or teach classics.

The Graham Scholars Program supports 50 undergraduate juniors and seniors at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor campus annually. The co-curricular program complements many academic programs. Scholars work with organizations through summer internships and sustainability projects that provide an opportunity to refine project management, collaboration, and other skills applicable to all career paths. The Scholars Program is open to all schools and colleges and is supported by the University of Michigan Graham Sustainability Institute, see