By Sarah Whitman
Senior Staff Writer
Dietician Morgan Zinsli suggests people think twice before dismissing vegetarian meals as tasteless and unsatisfying.
She invites skeptics to delight in eating their words when East Pasco Seventh-day Adventist Church and Florida Hospital Zephyrhills host the 7th Annual Vegetarian Taste Fest March 21. Participants will enjoy samples of more than 20 recipes, from spicy vegetarian chili to homemade breads and crackers.
Zinsli, who works out of Florida Hospital, will speak at the event.
“Vegetarian food is full of flavor,” Zinsli said. “It’s also healthier. Vegetarians live longer and are at less risk for disease.”
Florida Hospital and the Seventh-day Adventist Church have partnered for more than a decade to bring the best of vegetarian eating to the community. This year’s event is at the church, 7333 Dairy Road in Zephyrhills. The taste fest has three seating times, 11 a.m., noon and 1 p.m. The cost is $5 per person. Participants will sit for a tasting, then hear from speakers. Florida Hospital Director of Wellness Ethan Bird will speak to the 11 a.m. group, Zinsli to the noon and 1 p.m. crowds.
“This is an opportunity for people to learn more about the vegetarian lifestyle,” said Arthur Stagg, senior pastor at Seventh-day Adventist. “You know what they say, you are what you eat.”
The third stop for taste fest participants is a room with informational literature and dairy-free milk samples to try. There will be almond and soymilk products, including dessert-type treats.
On the way out, people will receive a copy of the taste fest’s cookbook. Recipes include sweet potato soup, vegetarian meatballs and black bean salad. Ingredients are anything but bland. A variety of spices and sauces add a kick to each recipe. The ingredients are also packed with vitamins and nutrients.
“Good health starts with good food choices,” Zinsli said.
Myriam Parham, diabetes program coordinator for Florida Hospital, agrees.
“People want to feel better and have a better quality of life,” she said. “Eating vegetarian has multiple health benefits. Vegetarians are at less risk for heart problems and diabetes.”
Parham has been a vegetarian since the 1980s, when good veggie meals were a little harder to find. Today, she said most restaurants offer delicious meat-free menu items.
“There are really creative dishes out there, like vegetarian calzones and tofu Asian dishes,” she said. “You’d be amazed how many restaurants now accommodate vegetarians.”
Parham is also a member at the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Many members are vegetarian because people of the faith believe in a connection between physical and spiritual wellbeing.
Stagg said becoming a vegetarian is a personal choice.
“I’ve been a vegetarian since I was about 25,” he said. “As a Seventh-day Adventist I believe the brain is what God uses to communicate with us and guide us. The healthier the body is, the healthier the mind is and the healthier our relationship is with Him.”
Zinsli will also talk about how our eating habits coincide with the world around us.
“How we eat actually affects the environment,” she said. “I started out being a vegetarian because I didn’t like where meat came from but there are so many more reasons to be a vegetarian. This taste fest is a way to promote one of the healthiest ways of eating.”
In past years, the taste fest has been a big success. More than 200 people are expected to attend this year. Reservations are required. For information and to make a reservation, call (813) 782-2000.
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