For airlines around the world, "vegetarian meal" usually equates to "melt some cheese and vegetables together". Cheese often plays a significant role in vegetarian diets, but that doesn't necessarily make it a sensible option, especially if there's an ethical base to your choice to forego meat.
Picture by docman
At EcoSalon, Caitlin Fitzsimmons points out that no matter how delicious cheese is, that doesn't necessarily equate to a food that's particularly healthy or particularly ethical. While cows don't die directly as a result of cheese-making, the way in which dairy cattle are reared is a cause for concern, and the carbon emissions produced in any form of cattle farming are significant. And when it comes to healthy eating, beef may actually stack up better than cheese:
Generic cheese is 27% fat. A whopping 62% of that is saturated fat, while only 22% is protein. Admittedly you do get a decent serving of calcium with your fat, but there are 84 calories and a heart-stopping 20mg of cholesterol in just one slice. By contrast, a typical cut of beef compares favourably with 26% protein and 20% fat, of which just 39% is saturated fat. You don’t get so much calcium, but that’s more than compensated for by the fact that 20% of your meal is iron, something many women lack. There is also less cholesterol in beef than cheese.
Whatever side of the vegetarian fence you sit on, it's an interesting read. For the record, Lifehacker's editor consumes large quantities of both cheese and meat. If you're a vegetarian who needs to silence a grumpy carnivore, check out our meatless dishes that even meat eaters like.