Disclaimer; Do not leave negative comments about being vegetarian, or you’ll be instantly blocked. You can see from the title what this post is about, and my reasons for being veg is completely personal, I am not trying to “push my beliefs onto you”, the title is there for a reason, you are choosing to read this.
Recently, the new year marked my two-year anniversary of being a Vegetarian. Most of my life, I have hated the taste of red meat, and so when I was 14, my parent’s basically accepted the fact that I would give it up, as long as I kept it in my diet until I was 15 (so they wouldn’t stress about it affecting my developing brain and body =/ ). Back then, it wasn’t about the animals, it was purely the fact that I didn’t like the taste of meat, so I started only eating chicken and fish (a pesso-pescatarian). In 2014, after I realised just how horrible the meat industry was to animals, I decided to completely give up meat. It has honestly been one of the easiest and best decisions I’ve ever made, and I only wish I had of done it sooner.
I thought it was about time I share my tips to going veggie, my experience, and answer all those FAQ’s about vegetarianism.
Going veggie for me was easy. I have always loved animals so much, and the thought of eating a dead animal, honestly made me feel sick. I think the way we are raised, though we know where meat comes from, it is still kind of disassociated in our minds. When eating a cheeseburger, we are thinking about the taste of beef, not the cow’s life that was taken for it. Growing up, the main meals of my household were veggies and some sort of meat, so it was just part of life. Now the only time I can disassociate meat with the animal it comes from is when I am at work (I work at a burger restaurant) and I have to prep the chicken or beef pucks, and it’s only because it is part of my job to do so, prepping bacon acting makes me sick. I will not let something on my plate, be a result of death to an animal.
The ultimate animal-friendly option is becoming vegan/completely plant-based. Up until this year, I have still had little bits of dairy and egg in my diet, but now that has changed. I’m just not experienced enough to give advice on this.
Let’s talk some facts for a minute. I’m just one person right? The animals are already dead? Why even give it up?
In the US last year, an estimated 4.6 billion farm animals were killed for food; almost 15 thousand cows, approximately 4.5 million chickens, 13.5 thousand ducks, just over 57 thousand pigs, just over 1000 sheep, and 118.5 thousand turkeys (humanesociety). It’s not just the fact that these animals are dying but it is the conditions they were raised in. Factory farming is absolutely disgusting. I understand things are a little better in farms not in the US, but not by much. By being vegetarian, it is estimated that I would save almost 400 of these animals per year.
The effects on the environment are also substantial. Dystopian futures with no natural resources left seem to be a popular theme in pop culture today, so shouldn’t we do our best to save such things? What if I told you that be being vegan, you could save 219,000 gallons of water a year, or that it takes up 20 times less land to feed someone with a plant-based diet than someone who eats meat? (Peta – not a huge fan of them, but they have many accessible facts with references).
Ok, moving on.
So you would like to go Vegetarian? That’s great! Here are some of my tips on doing so.
READ THE INGREDIENTS
Unfortunately, this is the only con about being a veggie. You will always be reading ingredient labels, and not just for things that could quite possibly contain meat. There are these not-so-lovely ingredients called gelatin, and rennet. Many people argue that these are vegetarian, just not vegan, and originally I thought that was the case with gelatin, however they are actually from parts of animals, meaning not vegetarian.
Gelatin comes from a mixture of proteins from connective tissues, skin and bones of animals. This stuff is in so many foods it’s not funny; jelly lollies, biscuits, ice-cream, marshmellows, yoghurt… the list goes on. It can also be used in pill-casing, but many medications will specify if it’s veggie friendly. Good news is that many foods don’t have them! The Peter’s brand of ice-cream in Aus is gelatin free, so are skittles and sour patch kids.
Before going veg, i’d actually never heard of rennet before. It was actually my non-veggie friend that warned me about it. Rennet comes from the enzymes of stomachs of cows (other animals too, but this the most common). This is mainly found in cheese, so alas cheese can be not only non-vegan, but also non-vegetarian. Again there is good news!! Non-animal rennet exists!! It’s all about reading the label to see if the cheese is ok to eat.
There are also a few products that could be or couldn’t be vegetarian depending on your own personal definition.
Whey is a by-product of making cheese, so could have traces of rennet. This too is in a lot of products with milk, such as cookies (there are actually some cookies that are completely vegan, then BOOM have Whey in it, WTF?).
Then there is White Sugar. To make it white, it is actually refined on using bone-char. This process is no longer used in Aus and NZ, but else where, if you class that as non-veg, just check what companies don’t use this process.
Some beer and wines also have a product called Isinglass, a fish-derived gelatin, used in the process of making it. Most don’t actually contain it, but it’s the same deal with the bone char for white sugar.
Natural Red #4 dye can also be made from Carmine, meaning crushed beetles. This is used in many red candies, so just be careful which ones you get.
Trust me, no matter how long you have been veg, CHECK THE INGREDIENTS. The amount of times I have forgotten, then accidentally eaten something non-veg, is ridiculous (there’s only a few, but the things they were, was depressing). I had a pumpkin soup, you think that would be veggie, nope there was fish in it. So check everything!
Set a date
If you are like me, you may have trouble doing something at the drop of a hat. If you keep falling back into the habit of eating meat, try setting yourself a date to stop. I set mine as New Years, and I have never looked back.
Cut it out in parts
If you can’t give up all meat straight away, give it up in sections. Such as for the first two-weeks start with cutting out red meat, then the next two-weeks also take out chicken, then finish with taking out fish. You may find this easier than giving it all up at once. If you want to try being veg, but not sure you can, try doing the 30-day meat free challenge.
Balance your diet
There are so many people that try to go veg and fail, purely because they stuck to just eating crap. Remember with meat no longer in your diet, you need to get your protein elsewhere, which is actually pretty easy. So please if you are serious about attempting to give up meat, know where to get protein, know what you need in your diet. There are many people that can get away with just eating junk, but if you want to be healthy about it, balance your diet. Eat veggies, fruit, nuts, grains, beans, then you can also have junk food.
Use your resources
If you’re having trouble knowing what you can or don’t want to eat, finding a good recipe book, or even if you don’t personally have any friends or family that can help you with becoming vegetarian, the internet is an AMAZING resource. I cannot stress this enough. There are so many recipes out there, oh my gosh, so much yummy food, trust me you are not going to live a bland food lifestyle by being a veg. Support-wise, there are many websites with advice, or Facebook also has heaps of support groups.
Also having the internet means it can help you find certain foods. Or which restaurants offer veggie options. If you are the only veg in the family, going out for dinner can often be daunting, so use the internet to your advantage, and find somewhere you’ll all enjoy.
Do not eat meat substitutes straight away
If you go straight from eating regular meat to the substitutes, chances are you are going to taste the difference. For me, I didn’t eat it enough to really realise the difference, but my housemates who were still meat-eaters could. There are many great options out there, it really helps for certain meals, such as mince or “chicken” strips for tacos, but just let your taste-buds forget meat before trying them. Also, if you are in Aus or NZ, Lord of the Fries only has meat subs, and their burgers are amazing!
This is honestly the most common response I get when saying I don’t eat meat. Truth be told, I don’t think I’ve ever really eaten bacon. Maybe on pizza, but certainly not as breakfast or on a burger. I would honestly much rather see a healthy pig (they are seriously smart creatures!), than bacon.
“How do you get protein?”
Number 2 of the most FAQs. I love veggies, like oh my gosh, I could honestly just eat veggies all day long. So I eat a lot of greens. Plus there are foods like nuts, seeds, grains, tofu (don’t screw up your nose), quinoa, and non-dairy milks. You would be surprised how many of these foods actually have more protein in them than meat.
“Do you get sick a lot?”
No more than I did before giving up meat, but certainly less. I was already vitamin D deficient, plus I take a kale supplement (instead of eating it) just to make sure I am getting everything. It is all about having a balanced diet, and knowing where to get all your dietary needs. I know a few people that gave up on being a vegetarian because they were getting sick, I guess it isn’t for everybody. But if you are eating properly, and not just eating all the yummy vegetarian junk food, then you will be more likely to be able to be healthy.
“Isn’t it expensive?”
Not at all. You don’t have to be buying organic, farm-grown food, especially if your budget doesn’t allow for it. I have multiple packs of frozen veggies, then I buy some fruit, a big thing of rice (this’ll last me a month, maybe more depending on how much I eat), bread, pasta…. basically everything I used to just minus the meat. Sometimes meat substitutes can be pricey, but it’s all about personal preference, I don’t eat many of them, as I didn’t really eat a lot of meat to begin with.
“Aren’t humans supposed to eat meat?”
I do not believe so. There is A LOT of scientific research that shows that our bodies, especially our digestive tracks, were not designed for meat consumption. After giving up meat, I actually felt better quite quickly. Also our teeth, yes we have canines – but compare those to any time of cat (real carnivores).
“Animals don’t have feelings, so why do you care?”
Watch the first part of Unity, and tell me they don’t have feelings.
So that is all from me. There are so many resources available on the web if you would like to do further research on this topic.If you are already vegetarian, currently converting to be so, or just considering it, I hope you will find this post somewhat useful. Vegetarianism is something I am honestly very passionate about. If you have any questions, feel free to leave it in the comments, or send me a message.
I may do some follow up posts in the future, especially recipes I try out that I want to share.
Have an amazing day guys!