Thoughts from a Budding Vegetarian

 

When I was seven, my older sister decided she was going to become a vegetarian. She hated the taste of meat, the look of meat, or the smell of meat. And her distaste wasn't limited to a few types—she hated every type. Originally her decision was a matter of personal taste, but later I believe she developed other reasons for forgoing the consumption of other animals. Her vegetarianism expanded into avoiding animal products as well. When she learned that animal bones were used to make marshmallows, for example, she immediately chose a Mint Chocolate Chip as her favorite ice cream flavor over her original—Rocky Road.

Although I've read and heard plenty people expressing displeasure over preachy vegetarians and vegans, I never had the experience of meeting one who attempted to curb my steak-eating, chicken-kabob loving self. My sister wouldn't eat any food that had been touched by meat (my mother had to cook spaghetti sauces separately for years!) but she still would talk to and befriend us "meatheads.

About one year ago, I read the book Just Food by James McWilliams, which opened my eyes to a few key issues that stem from the overconsumption of meat. In short, McWilliams points out that since the meat industry is so large, we have to feed and keep so many cattle alive (to reproduce more food for ourselves). By doing this, cattle destroy land that could be used as farmland and produce greenhouse gases—because cows tend to be quite gassy.

Upon finishing this book, I mentioned to my boyfriend that I wanted to purchase less meat, that way I wasn't contributing as much to the industry. I'm only one person, but I couldn't think of a reason not to at least attempt to make some sort of a difference, despite how small the dent would be. Interestingly enough, he also had recently had his own personal revelations about meat consumption, and had decided he no longer felt comfortable eating meat. His reasoning was much different from mine, and bordered more along the lines of animal rights.

Now, I'm not saying you should immediately set down your fork and spit out that nice juicy steak you've been chewing on as you read this article. I'm not here to say "stop eating meat!" Meat is packed with nutrients and calories that are a great way for us to gain energy quickly. I'm actually just pointing out that my sister, myself, and my boyfriend all have either reduced or stopped meat consumption for entirely different reasons. I personally find it interesting to see that people can come to a similar conclusion despite having a different value to do so.

I thought that not eating meat would be harder than it was—not that it isn't hard at times, but it's hard for different reasons. I expected to crave meat, yet I don't. The more difficult part of forgoing meat is actually that most restaurants still don't have a ton of meatless options. That being said, I feel that I have gained some unexpected benefits from my choice to reduce meat from my diet:

1. I save money. Whether in the grocery store or at the restaurant—meat is expensive!

2. I don't get indigestion nearly as much as I used to

3. I eat more vegetables (and, as a result, eat a lot healthier)

4. Bean burgers are, in fact, fantastically delicious and easier to make than a beef burger

5. I have learned cook (in my opinion) tastier meals (like tofu curry or vegetarian chili)

Personally, I find a life with less meat is pretty great. But I still believe forgoing meat completely is not for everyone! I'm lucky enough to like eating tofu, beans, and other protein-rich substitutes like greek yogurt. Plus, I'm not exactly a vegetarian. I still will eat meat if there's no other option, like if I'm visiting at a friend's house. Also, I do treat myself to fish on occasion, because... well, I quite enjoy sushi and sashimi. Perhaps this will change later on in my life.

At the very least, eating less meat has definitely impacted my life in a way that I didn't imagine. My cookbook has so many new recipes, my pocketbook is thanking me, and my outlook on eating healthy has vastly improved. Our reasons for eating less meat (or none at all) may be different, and the lifestyle may not be for everyone, but it certainly works for me!

-Katelyn

Scott MeyerComment