Hanover - The thought of a juicy steak, tender pork loin or a spicy roulade makes some people's mouths water, but not everyone feels the same.
For a variety of reasons, many people choose to live as vegetarians and reject the consumption of meat, fish and other animal products entirely.
'Vegetarians eat nothing for which an animal has had to die,' said Thomas Schoenberger of Germany's association for vegetarians based in Hanover. A vegetarian lifestyle is more than simply not eating steak and fish, but also jelly candies that contain gelatine and soups made from beef or other animal broth.
'In the long run there must be a complete change of diet,' said nutrition professor Helmut Rottka of Berlin. In terms of volume, vegetarians must eat more than omnivores to consume the necessary nutrients. That means plenty of fruit and vegetables.
'That is the decisive, healthy advantage of vegetarianism,' said Rottka. Hardly any vegetarians are overweight and no gout among that group.
In many vegetarian households milk, cheese and eggs can be found in the refrigerators. These vegetarians are described as ovo-lacto, said Schoenberger.
Although milk products are not plant-based, no animals had to die to produce them. Lacto vegetarians reject eggs as well as meat and fish and vegans eat foods made exclusively from plants.
One of the preconceptions that vegetarians constantly have to deal with is that they struggle with deficiencies. It's commonly thought that without meat and fish the body does not get enough iron, calcium and protein. But this concern is not well-grounded, said Rottka.
Vegetables, fruits, dairy products and the proteins in soya milk and tofu provide more than enough nutrients. Supplementing the diet with pills and powders is not necessary, he said.
'The only exception would be if I were purely vegan,' said Rottka. Then I would have to keep an eye on my B12. It cannot be ingested from plants, but it is important for the nervous system. Healthy adults can get by with a low level of B12, but for nursing babies and children, a B12 deficiency can endanger their lives, Rottka said.
'There's no typical vegetarian,' said Kristin Mitte, a psychologist at the University of Jena who has done research on why people reject meat.
'The largest group is made up of moral vegetarians,' said Mitte. They care greatly about animal rights and ecology. People who choose vegetarianism for health reasons comprise the second group.
They do not touch foods like pork cutlets because they have too much fat and cholesterol. The third group are known as emotional vegetarians. They are people who simply don't like the taste of meat.
The adjustment to vegetarianism does not have to take place overnight, said Schoenberger.
Schoenberger advises people who want to try vegetarianism to stop eating meat step by step. The amount can be reduced gradually. There's are plenty of unusual foods that come into the diet of a new vegetarian, and things like tofu and soya take some getting used to.
'Have some patience and forgive yourself for the first burnt vegetable burger.'