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Eat your Broccoli!

The news that McDonald’s is being sued by Hindus and vegetarians for glazing their French fires with beef extract sent something of a frisson through me. Not merely because I am a vegetarian myself, but because we have come to the stage when people in America now feel entitled to expect McDonald’s, the cathedral of the beefburger, to serve them something that is 100 percent vegetarian.

What an evolution! When I came to the United States as a graduate student in 1975, to be vegetarian was a crippling handicap. The only food I could eat at the dorm cafeterias (other than breakfast) was salads. There were the occasional tasteless boiled vegetables, meant to accompany the main dish, but to one accustomed to the flavours and seasoning of richly varied Indian cuisine, these were barely edible. (I mean, how much salt and pepper can you sprinkle on a boiled potato to make in into dinner?) When I fled the campus to seek culinary solace in the wider world, all I could find were pizzas and submarine sandwiches. Greater Boston boasted but one Indian restaurant, and as an impecunious student I couldn’t afford to go more than once a semester. At the rare dinner parties I was invited to, the hostesses heaped carrots and peas on my plate – and, if I was lucky, mashed potatoes.

If that wasn’t bad enough. I discovered that most Americans associated vegetarianism with the counterculture, a fad for pot-addled hippies in beads and sandals chanting “om” between crunching on those leaves they weren’t smoking. Merely confessing I was vegetarian meant being seen, at best, as some earnest, otherworldly fringe figure, probably full of dubiously utopian ideas about world peace and the environment. No one believed I didn’t even like animals. I just did not want to chew on their corpses.

I said that once to an American friend and his eyes popped. Lowering the burger he had been raising to his mouth, he said in a hollow voice, “I never thought of it that way.” He couldn’t finish his lunch that day, and couldn’t face meat for a week. He got over it, to his wife’s relief. But thereafter, when asked why I was vegetarian, I did not mention corpses. “Oh,” I always replied, “I just don’t want to bite into anything which in its natural living state might have bitten me back”.

How things have changed. A way of life once confined to a few rarefied precincts of L.A has gone mainstream. According to the Vegetarian Times, 7% of Americans consider themselves vegetarian – about 18 million people. A 1999 poll by the Vegetarian Resource Group found that 57% of the population “sometimes, often or always orders a vegetarian item when eating out.’ And since trends are made by the young, it’s striking that 6 percent of 18-to 29-year-olds never eat fish, fowl or meat.

It’s become chic to shun meat. I recently attended to a cocktail reception at a posh New York hotel where all the hors d’oeuvres were vegetarian, in honor of the chief guest, singer Paul McCartney. A celebrity-studded “Say No to Veal” dinner at New York’s Plaza Hotel was a sellout on May 20. Organic vegetarian restaurants are, er, sprouting on both coasts. Supermarket shelves are stacked with cans of soup and beans labeled Vegetarian. More and more natural-foods companies are being established, and many are being taken over by major corporations, always quick to spot a future business opportunity. It doesn’t hurt that red meat is losing much of its allure these days, what with mad cow, foot-and –mouth and all the rest. The animal-rights group PETA claims 19,000 Americans are switching to a meat-free diet every week.

It also doesn’t hurt, of course, that Americans have become more health conscious than ever. The American Dietetic Association reports that vegetarians “have lower morbidity and mortality rates from several chronic degenerative diseases than do nonvegetarians.” Soybeans not only give you protein, they’re important sources of isoflavones that may help prevent some cancers. Vegetables have always been thought of as being good for you, but what has changed is that they have also become pleasurable to eat. Immigration in recent years has brought to America a wealth of new cuisines, whose aficionados know what to do with veggies. Menus now offer vegetarian options that don’t involve a single steamed Brussels sprouts – something only nonvegetarians can imagine a vegetarian wanting to eat.

One hundred and fifty years ago, that American original, Henry David Thoreau, had no doubt that “the human race, in its gradual improvement,” would stop eating meat. McDonald’s has apologized to vegetarians offended by its beef-flavoured fries. Maybe the day is not too far off when it will be offering McSoyburgers, even in Peoria. Hold the fries, anyway.

by Shashi Tharoor, Newsweek, June 25, 2001

  1. Render the article.
  1. Discuss the questions:

Which food or foods usually contain a lot of: salt (sugar; fat; fibre; calcium; iron; vitamin C)?

What do you think these things are (added sugars; saturated fat; oily fish; skimmed or semi-skimmed milk)? Do you think they are good or bad for you?

Do you think you have a healthy, varied diet? Give reasons.

Do you think teenagers in general in your country have a healthy diet? Give reasons.

Do you think teenagers eat too much or too little food that contains the elements listen in 1?

Do you have lunch at school, do you take a packed lunch, do you eat at home or do you eat out?

Do you think your lunch is generally healthy? Give reasons.


  1. Read the text about British teenagers and nutrition. Find the words in the text to match the definitions: not allowing or permitting something, shops that sell meals that you can take away and eat at home, making smaller, serious and lasting for a long time, go further than, minimum levels of quality and obligations, amounts of food that you eat at a meal, problems when there isn’t enough of something that your body needs.
  1. Complete the table with information you find in the text.
Short-term benefits of healthy eating ……. Long-term benefits of healthy eating ……….
British teenagers eat too much/ many …….. British teenagers eat too little/ few ……..


Current Intakes

Adolescents need a healthy, varied diet, incorporating all major food groups. In the short term, this will help with general appearance (e.g., shiny hair and healthy skin) as well as energy levels, while in the long term, it will help prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis.

The National Diet and Nutrition Survey of young people (aged 11 to 18) was published in 2000. This survey highlighted a number of areas of concern:


  • Both boys and girls exceeded the recommendation that only 11 per cent of food energy should come from added sugars, consuming on average about 16 per cent of energy from them.
  • Average intakes of fat were close to the suggested level of 35 per cent of food energy. But average intakes of saturated fats were at 14 per cent of dietary energy, higher than the recommendation of 11 per cent.
  • Intake of dietary fibre was below the recommended level.
  • Some adolescents had low intakes of some nutrients, such as calcium and iron, with more girls having vitamin and mineral intakes below the recommended intake level compared to boys. Intakes below the recommended level are likely to be inadequate and may lead to nutrient deficiencies.
  • Low intakes of vitamin A, riboflavin and magnesium are also worrying in some adolescents.
  • Excluding salt added during cooking and at the table, daily sodium intakes from food sources were already higher than recommended level. The actual levels, together with salt added during cooking and at the table, are likely to far exceed the current recommendation. Persistently high levels of salt in the diet can contribute to high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart diseases in later life.

What about you? Do you prefer fast food to healthy food? Do you think eating well is a question of individual choice or should governments and schools try to control what you eat?

What could a council or school do to make children give up junk food and have a healthier diet?



Most British children have a hot lunch at school and can choose what they eat from a range of dishes in a canteen. As you might expect, when pupils are given a choice between junk food and healthy food, most of them choose chips, burgers and milkshakes. To promote healthier eating, the city council in Glasgow have decided to encourage children to change the way they eat in an unusual way.


  1. Read the text given below to see what official steps have been taken in British Schools to improve the food eaten there. Find the words or phrases in the text which match the definitions:

a tiny computer storing hundreds of songs or video clips, reward (incentive, prize), reduce, a computer games player, a plastic card that stores information, reject (not be interested in), an internet bookshop, the women working in the school canteen, a type of healthy/ flat bread, rubbish (poor quality, not healthy), tried out (tested), forbid, terrible (really bad), long term (permanent), abandoning (getting rid of/ giving up).


Date: 2015-01-12; view: 1039

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