I recently wrote an official announcement stating the reasons I decided to become a vegetarian. If you did not read that post, please do! I am very passionate about my decision to exclude meat from my diet. Read No More Meat: Why I Am Officially a Vegetarian.
It has been 70 days since I have eaten meat. I am so very thankful and lucky to have my husband’s full support in my new vegetarian lifestyle. It is not always the easiest change to make. I would like to share some of the battles I experienced so far while transitioning to a vegetarian diet. They fall into four categories: learning new meal plans, internal guilt, eating outside the home, and handling questions and comments from non-vegetarians.
Learning New Meal Plans
If you are accustomed to eating meat at every meal of every day, you will experience an initial struggle of what to cook for healthy alternatives. The first couple weeks I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to succeed in cooking well-rounded, good-tasting meals for my family. I thought I would be forced to cook meat out of desperation and lack of ideas. I had initially experimented cooking vegetarian meals but I wasn’t sure I could cook without meat forever. Turns out, it is possible! I still have to battle this uncertainty from time to time, but I am doing very well. I think the most helpful food to have when transitioning to a vegetarian diet are “fake” meat substitutes made from vegetable and soy proteins. It may sound gross at first but after taste testing a wide variety of products, I can tell you that there are some definite good choices out there. (That does not mean that all meat substitutes taste good though…) It helps when you are at a loss of what to cook because you can use the meat substitute in any familiar recipe. I try not to eat too many fake meat products though because they are still processed and high in sodium.
Internal Guilt & Questioning If Diet is Healthy
For the first few weeks, I was plagued by vivid dreams of feeling guilty about not eating meat. I was worried about whether a vegetarian diet could truly meet the nutritional needs of a human body. I didn’t want to jeopardize the health of my family and I by eating poorly. I thought about my previous meat consumption and decided that the meat I was consuming wasn’t healthy anyways. It consisted of tiny amounts of (cheap, poor quality) chicken, pork, and beef and large amounts of bacon and breakfast sausage. Since cooking without meat, our diet has become packed full of much more healthy food (whole grain, fruit, vegetables, beans, nuts) than ever before. I am very careful not to drift off and fill up on carbs and junk food. We still eat dairy products too and I try to buy from sustainable sources but I need to do better with this. In the spring, we will officially be raising our own chickens for quality eggs. Lastly, our family is in the habit of taking daily vitamins so that eases some of my nerves as well. The guilt and fear overall has subsided, but it still comes back occasionally and I have to review my reasons for choosing to become a vegetarian.
Eating Outside the Home
It is pretty hard to eat outside the home while being a vegetarian. People cook with meat in so many more ways than simply frying it up and serving it in plain sight. Soups and stir fry sauces most likely contain chicken broth if you are not looking to avoid it. Gelatin is a protein made from animal bones, tendons, cartilage, and skin. Lard (fat from abdomen of pig) can be found in baked goods and refried beans. The spaghetti sauce might contain pureed meat. Once, I attended a wedding and was relieved to see the first serving of salad… until I realized it was covered in bacon bits. It really isn’t terrible being a vegetarian until you are forced to eat only green beans and a plain lettuce salad when invited over for dinner at someone’s house. I am not saying people should go out of their way and cook something special for me. I’m just saying it’s hard to enjoy eating over at people’s houses. Period. I would not want the extra attention of someone cooking something different for me, while they chow down their meat. I’d rather go unnoticed, selecting only the meatless options politely.
Restaurants are easier to eat at because there is a growing trend for vegetarian/vegan menu options. Also, the chef might offer vegetarian options by request. For example, Applebees has delicious vegetarian fajitas!
Handling Comments & Questions from Non-Vegetarians
I have not had much questioning from family and peers about why I no longer want to eat meat but I have had a few. Truthfully, I am not patient enough to fight this battle with anyone. If someone shows interest in becoming a vegetarian or wants an informative discussion, that is great and I would gladly talk about it. Otherwise, I have no interest in trying to convince people that we shouldn’t eat meat despite having canine teeth or whatever. I also don’t like comments that insult my decision to be vegetarian. I am respectful enough to allow others to peacefully eat meat, if I can peacefully NOT eat meat. However, people should buy meat from local farmers/butchers and sustainable sources or raise their own livestock. It is in everyone’s best interest to stop factory farming animals.