Why a vegetarian diet is more than a diet

If you’ve ever been on the internet you’ve seen jokes about vegans.

“How do you know if someone is a vegan?”

“Wait a second— they’ll tell you.”

This is true of vegetarians to a lesser extent— I know I’m guilty. Sure, it’s necessary when you are going to eat. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had a side salad because someone chose a steak house for a group dinner meeting.

But being a vegetarian is often more than a diet. It’s a lifestyle choice. It’s about choosing to be healthier and to lessen your impact on the environment.

I became a vegetarian in 2009, after about zero consideration. I’m usually that person that researches something to death before coming to a decision. Nope. I read the statistics: about 50% of carbon dioxide emissions come from livestock, 70% of all the grain in the U.S is fed to animals and 80% of the Deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest is for cattle. I feel like everyone has an obligation to do what they can to make the world a better place. I didn’t think that the fact that hamburgers were tasty was worth all this destruction.

cook-vegetarians-webThen I watched the PETA videos, which show the horrific conditions that animals raised for meat live in while the wait for slaughter. I saw the way they are overfed, built up with steroids until their legs can’t support their body weight. I didn’t feel comfortable being a part of that industry. If I wasn’t sure I wanted to stop eating meat before, I definitely was after watching those videos!

After making a decision not to eat meat I did some research. I found so much information that suggested avoiding meat was healthy and better for the planet. I have thought about going vegan, but I am comfortable with my choice for now— you have to do what is best for your body and be as kind to the planet as you can.

I still make purchases that other vegetarians find questionable, RE: my leather purse and shoes. I have been criticised for still eating dairy as well. However, I don’t stress over what other people think.

Of course, I know that my personal abstention from meat eating doesn’t really change anything. However, everyone personally abstaining does add up. More importantly, being a vegetarian is more than a diet— it’s about shifting your mindset.

I’ll be the first to admit that I “consume” more than I need. My carbon footprint is too high. I don’t always take the green route, even though I know I should.

But since becoming a vegetarian, I am more aware of where my food comes from. I care more about what goes into my body because I know what is happening before it hits my plate.

I know for myself that I am healthier now than I was, I eat a much more balanced diet, and I have to actively choose food and plan ahead a bit. I don’t hit drive-thru’s and grab a burger on the way home from work. I am sure that this is part of the reason that vegetarians have lower risk for heart disease and obesity.vegetarian-diet2

That being said, a vegetarian diet is not hard. You really don’t need to “plan” to get enough protein— eat your damn vegetables! Plus, vegetarians save about 750 dollars a year by abstaining from meat products!

So here are some tips to get you started on cutting down on meat consumption or going to a vegetarian diet:

  • Start with part time vegetarianism – This one often gets a laugh from vegetarians and vegans, but try it. There is nothing wrong with taking a test run before committing to something, especially a lifestyle change, full time. Set a goal – a week or two, and avoid eating meat for that time. Keep notes about how it goes. Remember though, this is not really enough time to feel the true effects of a vegetarian diet— you still have a meat eaters body!
  • Cut down on meat with “meatless” days – Having meat with every meal every day is a modern luxury. Historically, most people didn’t eat meat everyday because of availability and/or for religious and monetary reasons. During WWII, meatless Mondays became a “thing” because there wasn’t enough meat to go around. So, develop a schedule that works for you. For example, no meat on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Alternatively, say no meat for breakfast and lunch and have meat only once a day to cut back. After a while you won’t even miss it. Then, maybe you’ll consider going meat free!
  • Start by cutting out red meat – Cattle is the worst for the environment and beef consumption is the highest it’s ever been. Start by cutting out (or at least down) on red meat. Substitute turkey sausage or bacon if you must.
  • If you must eat meat, make it local. This saves so much on the environmental impact. Really, if you can, buy everything local, but especially meat! Which brings us to the next point…
  • Support your local farmer – Farmer’s markets are great. You can make a whole morning out of shopping at a farmer’s market. If you can find a co-op you can get deals by purchasing a share up front. You’ll want to use your pretty veggies, and this will inspire tasty dinners. You will definitely find other vegetarians at your farmer’s market, and you might learn something.
  • Cook more at home – it is much easier to stick to a vegetarian diet, especially at first, when you make it yourself. This saves you money (YAY) and you can take recipes and adjust them to your taste. You won’t be tempted to get that tasty smelling BBQ if you don’t smell it in the first place! It might be worth taking a vegetarian cooking class to learn how to create edible dishes if cooking isn’t your thing.
  • Eat at vegetarian restaurants or places that have great vegetarian options. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut when you eliminate part of your diet, and going out helps. You can get great ideas on what to cook or try something you might not be willing to put the effort into at home. As more people become aware of the benefits of vegetarianism, there are more and better options for restaurants. The obvious places to start are Asian cuisines— Chinese, Indian and Thai restaurants almost always have a variety of options.
  • Pack your lunch – the much offered advice to those who want to save money. Packing your own food from home also makes it easier to be sure that you will have a vegetarian option. This is also a good way to ensure that you will eat leftovers and you can reduce waste/ save money.
  • Order the starter packs – PETA and Chooseveg both have information packages for new vegetarians. I didn’t find a lot in them that I needed, but they do offer resources like coupons. There is also information on how to substitute items when baking which can be helpful to get started with. Do some research on local places that might offer deals.
  • Watch the videos – if you want to be absolutely sure that you will never want to touch meat again, watch the slaughter videos. The way that animals are treated will break your heart.

the_quiet_vegetarianLet me know what you think, and please share if you have any helpful information. Do be respectful, please!

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