Increasing number of teens going green

July 24, 2005

Jordyn Cox describes herself as a typical teenager who enjoys music, playing in the school band and hanging out with friends at concerts.

Just donít ask her to order a Big Mac or munch on a pepperoni pizza.

The 15-year-old New Whiteland girl has been a vegetarian for two years.

More than 6 million adults in the United States follow vegetarian eating plans, according to the American Dietetic Association. But vegetarians can range from not eating meat to avoiding all dairy and animal products, such as gelatin.

Cox describes herself as a lacto-ovo vegetarian or someone who eats eggs and dairy products but not any type of meat. She gave up meat after reading about the lifestyle of one of her favorite bands, alternative rock group Good Charlotte, which has vegetarian members and spreads the word about mistreatment of animals.

Realizing what kind of treatment animals endure in the name of food, the teenager decided to join the cause and give up meat.

"Thereís a lot of people who donít know whatís going on and happening to these animals," Cox said. "When you can do this, and open other peopleís eyes, it feels really good being able to save an animal."

Starting her vegetarian diet was tough at first, Cox said. She tried once and failed within a week. But trying again, Cox gradually gave up beef and other meat products.

"Chicken stayed the longest," she said. "I used to love it and wanted to endure chicken as long as possible before dropping it."

Sometimes, she still gets a craving for meat.

"Iíve wanted a sloppy Joe, but itís not often. Once you go without meat, it really doesnít look that appetizing anymore."

Her friend, 16-year-old Tyler Morris has been a vegetarian since June 26, giving up all meat at once, he said. Cox helped him become vegetarian, the two say.

Morris takes vegetarianism a step further. He is a vegan, or someone who avoids meat, dairy products. That includes gelatin, which is made with animal collagen.

"Itís a little more hard core," Morris said. "But itís just a better way of life."

Both say society is becoming more accepting of vegetarian diets.

For example, restaurants have a variety of vegetarian-style choices, and some grocery stores have separate sections for vegetarians. Whiteland Community High School offers soy burgers and other non-meat options, Morris and Cox said.

But sometimes they have to watch for surprises, like pepperoni buried under cheese or hidden ingredients in sauces, Cox said.

Dietitians say vegetarian plans tend to result in lower rates of heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer. Vegetarians also tend to have lower body mass indexes and cholesterol levels, the dietetic association said.

"I have more energy when I wake up in the morning and can sleep easier because thereís not a big glob of meat in my stomach," Cox said. "You really feel a whole lot better."

Spread out on the table is pita bread, peanut butter, sliced tomatoes, bran cereal and a box of macaroni and cheese.

Cox said she has started keeping better tabs of food labels and learning about ingredients in products.

The teenager cooks a lot of her food, making pasta and sandwiches more often for herself.

She also takes daily vitamins to provide the minerals normally contained in meat products, she added.

Cox tries to avoid touching meat but sometimes find it hard to do, she said.

"I wanted a popsicle in the freezer one day, but there was meat on top, and I couldnít get to them," she said. "I was like, ĎAre you trying to torture me?í"

Coxís mother, Rynn, supports her daughter and tries to incorporate vegetarian style eating for the family.

"Iím a meat-eater, but at home I watch what I buy and just make something everyone can eat," she said. "Weíve all adapted, and weíre all vegetarians a little bit in a way."