Sunday, November 06, 2011

5 Lessons from a 1-year Vegetarian

eat your veggies! drawings by Leiah of

Happy 1-year vegetarian anniversary to me!

It's been one year since I decided to eat a vegetarian diet! It has been great, and actually pretty easy. Cutting meat out of my diet was easy, and the only time I've ever felt "deprived" is if we end up eating out somewhere and their vegetarian options are limited. But Burger King has a veggie burger on their menu, and it's not bad! Olive Garden has delicious pastas that are meat-free. I happily discovered Indian food, and how delicious it is!

I've learned a few things within the past year. Here are 5.

1. Learn to Cook. Since going vegetarian, my cooking skills have drastically improved. Instead of repeating the same old boring meat-filled dishes, I've really made an effort to try new recipes. Now it's just a habit to try something new about once a week. We've discovered through trial and error a handful of recipes that we really love, and have even started compiling them into our own cookbook, The Dirty Stove Cookbook.

We discovered tempeh, and love it. It's a wonderful animal-free meat. Sure, I still love the smell of grilled burgers, of bacon, and breakfast sausages. Those meats were of course delicious when I used to eat them, and just because I now choose NOT to eat them does not mean I stopped liking their flavor. But I've been learning how to identify the REAL craving behind desiring animal products. It's not the animal flesh, but the salt and the texture and the fat. Juicy double-cheeseburgers used to be my norm, but now I love me an easy pan-fried block of tempeh on a bun. Load up the pickles and I'm golden. I get the texture, the salt, and still a bit of fat.

2. Remind yourself why you do it. I highly recommend the Vegetarian Food for Thought podcast. Educating yourself on the truth about animal cruelty, nutrition of meat and vegetables (and nutrition in general), and other vegetarian lifestyle-related issues will help remind you why you've chosen to avoid meat. I love learning about all of this, and it helps to have smart comebacks to naysayers.

If you think choosing meatless options won't make a difference, consider this. Have you ever seen the show Unwrapped on Food Network? On the show, they go behind the scenes in factories making candy, snack foods, and other packaged and processed foods. When you watch that show and see them making HUGE batches of food that includes animal products, you get a sense of how much is actually consumed. If you choose NOT to eat that product, then you choose NOT to fund that company that uses animal products by the truckloads. It makes a difference.

3. Be Healthy. Have you heard of "junk food vegetarians"?
Simply because a food is vegetarian does not mean it's healthy. After all, a person can eat donuts, bagels, potato chips, candy, and French fries and be a vegetarian, but obviously this is not a healthy diet. ~Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD
Eat whole foods. Eat ingredients. Don't buy processed foods, convenience foods, or products with a massive ingredients list. Choosing to eat vegetarian is a step to a healthier lifestyle, but only if you replace the meat with healthier choices like vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, and nuts. There's no lack of healthy-eating pep talks these days, so you don't need one from me. I'm not perfect (nobody is!) but I do my best!

4. Consider Veganism. In the past couple months, I've been making a sure & steady effort at avoiding other animal products: cow's milk, cheese, and eggs. The cruelty of meat slaughter extends to production of milk, cheese, eggs, and other animal parts like gelatin. I'm not cool with dead animal flesh on my plate, so why should I let their other secretions slide? Plus, cheese is addictive, and the protein in milk and cheese (casein) is a carcinogen (and one that many people are exposed to on a daily basis - not good).


Going vegetarian can be a pretty easy transition, but I think going completely vegan is more difficult. You have to know what to look for to avoid. You have to be comfortable eating copious amounts of vegetables (but they're good for you!). The biggest hurdle for me is flexibility: I feel like not eating meat is no big deal, but if I can at least eat cheese I know I'll have something to choose from when eating out at a restaurant. But really, this should be a non-issue. If my beliefs and my values include keeping ALL animal parts off my plate, then who should judge me? It might be a little more of a hassle, but if it's what I believe in, then no one can argue.

5. Avoid Consumerism. Here's an idea: kill your TV! Just kidding. But seriously, though - we are marketed to by companies with such fervor, every minute of every day (if you let them). My boyfriend and I don't have cable, so I don't see commercials. Imagine if you never watched any commercials! That's like 15 minutes of advertising for every hour spent watching TV cut out of your life. How many commercials can they fit in 15 minutes? If every one is 30 seconds, that's 30 commercials every hour. 30 products you don't need, 30 fast food restaurants you don't want, 30 messages of "you're not quite good enough, but TRY THIS!"

Kill your TV

When you deliberately sever commercialism from your life, you won't miss it. And if you're ever exposed to it for a short period of time (at a friend's house, at the doctor's office, etc) you will be taken aback at how hard they try and sell it. Those commercials are so flashy, so direct, and so fake. You can't see it when you're in it, but take a break and all those lies will become crystal clear. Try to avoid being sold to. When you don't see commercials for gooey-hot-from-the-oven-300-calorie-chocolate-chip-cookies or crispy-fried-in-lard-legs-torn-from-chickens-that'll-melt-in-your-mouth-only-$2.99'll have an easier time making healthy choices. This is all about healthy choices.

Read this!

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post. :) Love that pyramid! I have to save the image.

    Although most restaurants will only have a few vegetarian dishes relative to meat-inclusive ones, I find that this helps me enormously in narrowing down my choices (as I can admittedly be very indecisive!) Yet it still hardly feels like "limiting" myself--almost everywhere I go I find great-tasting veggie stuff, much of it new and interesting in some way or other.

    Burger King veggie burgers are phenomenal; I'm so glad they've lasted, made it onto the "Favorites Menu," and are available at every location! 6: And there are many wonderful meat substitutes, which can taste impressively like "the real thing," especially when flavored up like it. ^o^


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