As many of you know, I have been a vegetarian for about seven years. I was far less knowledgeable when I made the switch to a meat-free diet at age thirteen. I really had no idea why people chose to become vegetarians, it was more of a fad to me. Since then, I have been able to better educate myself on the benefits of vegetarianism; both for a person's health and the health of the environment. I am here to share the story of why I decided to make this lifestyle change, and how you can as well!
I'd like to start by saying that this has been a personal decision for me, and that I do not think consuming meat is disgusting or wrong for a person to do; so I ask that readers be aware of that. I am the only vegetarian in my omnivorous-family, and still receive confusion/playful banter over my diet choice. I understand that it isn't going to be a lifestyle change everyone partakes in, and thats okay. However, when I became more aware on how our food is produced I quickly realized that I no longer wanted to be apart of supporting that industry. In the simplest terms, my reasons for choosing vegetarianism are these:
- Mass and unnecessary killing of animals.
- Mistreatment of said animals.
- Excessive waste with water and energy used in the slaughtering process; meat is not "green".
- Multiple health benefits come along with a meat-free diet.
Okay, now on to some advice that I have found helpful while making the switch:
1. Eat your veggies,
Sounds pretty obvious, huh? Well, when I made the transition, I was really lacking in the fruit and vegetable department. I had a very carb-oriented diet; i,e, cereal for breakfast, soft pretzel for lunch, and pasta for dinner. I cut out meat, but I wasn't adding any extra nutrients in it's place. Now, I have found a balance in my diet that has improved my metabolism, skin, hair, and life in general. I really did see a change once I learned what eating right was all about. This is not to say that I don't enjoy foods in the "other" section of the food pyramid. I've just gotten better when it comes to everyday eating.
2. You are not limited to eating only salad.
As soon as you tell someone that you don't eat meat, the first question they reply with is "What do you eat?!" or "Don't you miss meat?" The good news is that you don't have to miss anything. There are several brands that offer "faux-meat" products. This has been a huge help in making sure I get enough protein and variety in my diet. Companies like Boca, Morning Star, Gardein, Amy's, and more produce plant and soy-based foods that are packed with high nutritional value and taste. There is also far less fat and cholesterol being consumed. You can find anything from fake bacon and lunch meats, to chicken patties and hot dogs. My family uses the ground veggie crumbles in place of ground beef in recipes like chili, tacos and lasagna; my mom and sister both seem to enjoy the substitute. Next time you're at the grocery store, visit the freezer section to see what sorts of these products are offered.
3. Protein is important
While the substitutes are great, they can often contain higher sodium/additive levels; they should be eaten in moderation. Finding protein naturally is your best bet. Foods like peanut butter, eggs, legumes, nuts, beans, grains, cheese etc. are full of protein. Finding these vitamins and proteins in foods that naturally contain them will only up the level of health you achieve when making the switch!
Obviously, I am no expert on this subject. The information above includes small things that have aided in my education on this lifestyle. I learn more every day about the in and outs of vegetarianism; and I love that. While I still currently consume dairy products, my ultimate goal is to cut out animal by-products all together; aka become a vegan. Baby steps. If any of what you've read has sparked some interest, please visit this link to receive a free vegetarian starter kit.
I'll leave you with a bit of vegetarian humor.