A meeting without meat

When Kristin Lajeunesse's teenage brother told their parents he wanted to be a vegetarian, they weren't thrilled.

Worried that a vegetarian lifestyle was unhealthy, they set out to dissuade him. They just researched the heck out of it, Lajeunesse said.

Then a funny thing happened. As they read more and more about the benefits of a vegetarian diet, Jan and Dave Lajeunesse not only gave their son their blessing to give up meat, they decided to do the same.

And they suggested Kristin try it, too.

So the Lajeunesses adopted their new diet as a family. Being in high school at the time, Kristin remembers being a little turned off that the only options at local restaurants seemed to be salads and pizza, but she said her parents did a good job incorporating flavorful foods at home.

"Today, there's pretty much an alternative for anything you're craving," she said, although she added with a laugh, "Those first few batches of veggie burgers were not good."

Veggie burgers notwithstanding, the Lajeunesses enthusiastically adopted their new lifestyle. They went to vegetarian expos around the country and sought out other non-meat eaters in the Capital District. That led them to launch the Albany Vegetarian Network, which held its first vegetarian expo four years ago. This year's expo is Saturday, Oct. 2, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Empire State Plaza.

The event aims to educate people about three components of vegetarianism: animal advocacy, health and the environment. There are a number of speakers, covering such topics as "Saving the Earth One Bite at a Time," "Guides to Plant-Based Eating" and "Wholesome Holiday Desserts to Live For." Exhibitors include everyone from food vendors to Five Rivers Environmental Education Center to a pit bull rescue group. There will also be a vegan fashion show that showcases cruelty-free clothing products, and the culmination of the event is a pre-screening of the movie "Forks Over Knives."

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