Food and Diet

Rookie vegetarianism and the junk food trap

Story highlights

  • It's common to abstain from meat or dairy and still live an unhealthy lifestyle
  • Each meal should have an array of fresh colors, one expert says

(CNN)A variety of inspirations may spark a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle change, the most common being animal welfare, environmental welfare and personal health. But even if health isn't the reason, it's important to maintain good health within any diet. Why not enjoy the benefits of being a vegetarian, even if you're doing it for the cows and the trees?

Mortality in vegetarians, according to a meta-study from 2012, was 9% lower than in nonvegetarians. And according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a vegetarian diet lowers risks of heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
    But simply being a vegetarian or vegan doesn't guarantee these results, because it's possible to abstain from meat or dairy and still live an unhealthy lifestyle. In fact, it can be quite common.
    I was one of those unhealthy vegetarians who eliminated meat but replaced vegetables with all varieties of potatoes: French fries, chips, mashed potatoes, baked potatoes