How I Accidentally Became A Vegetarian

Monday, November 6, 2017

Sometimes things happen, and you never realize it has happened until someone brings it to your attention. A few months ago while out to dinner with The Hubs, I was poring over the menu when he casually mentioned that he hadn't seen me eat meat in quite a while. It was then that I realized I had made a (somewhat) unconscious decision to stop eating meat.

While I've never been a big meat eater, I would occasionally eat chicken and enjoy a burger on the grill in the summer. I didn't, however, eat pork, lamb, veal, or any wild game (deer, bison, etc.). At the beginning of this year, I found myself switching to turkey based meats like pepperoni and bacon in an effort to cut some unhealthy fats from my diet.

I didn't set out to become a vegetarian. By the way, I am a pescatarian as I do eat fish and seafood. But I don't eat lobster. They mate for life, and I don't want to be the one who eats someone else's "lobster". :-(  Becoming a pescatarian was something that just happened, a sort of dietary evolution.

A vegetarian is a person who doesn't eat meat and sometimes other animal products, especially for moral, religious, or health reasons. A vegetarian is different from a vegan in that vegetarians may consume dairy products and eggs (I, personally, do not eat eggs but do indulge in dairy products. Hello, cheese!). Vegans generally do not eat any products derived from animals or any living thing with eyes (fish, shellfish, etc.).

And I want to point out that I became a pescatarian for health reasons, not necessarily for ethical reasons. But watching both Forks Over Knives and Live and Let Live did partially influence my dietary evolution, but these documentaries were not the driving factors behind my decision to go pescatarian. It was a decision that was right for me, my health, and my lifestyle. Vegetarianism is not right choice for everyone. If you love meat and can't imagine eating a meal that doesn't include it, a vegetarian diet isn't going to work for you.

Shortly after I became a vegetarian/pescatarian, I consulted my cardiologist (I suffer from both high cholesterol and high blood pressure) to discuss how the absence of meat in my diet would affect me. Here are a few of the ways he said I would benefit from eliminating meat from my diet.

  • Reduce your fat intake - When you switch to a plant-based diet, you cut a lot of fat that's derived from animal flesh from your diet. Vegetables, fruits, and beans have significantly less fat than meat. By cutting out meat, you'll be reducing the amount of bad fats you eat. He stressed that in his line of work, he has seen that vegetarians have a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and hypertension.
  • Aid in weight loss - Being vegetarian doesn't necessarily guarantee that you'll eat a healthier diet. After all, a vegetarian could exist solely on French fries, pizza, soda, and chocolate cake. However, in most cases, vegetarians hardly fit this profile. Most eat healthy diets full of vegetables, whole grains, fish, and beans, which contain healthy fats.
  • Reduce the suffering of animals - The meat industry does not have a reputation for being kind. Most animals that are raised for food have a long history of suffering even before they are slaughtered. Becoming a vegetarian reduces your involvement in that.
If you are interested in becoming a vegetarian (or even just trying it for a week), here are a few of my recommendations.

1. Do your research
Before you dive in, do your research. Know what a vegetarian is and what foods are permitted/prohibited from this type of diet. Understand exactly what going vegetarian means. Eliminating meat from your diet means that a primary protein source has been cut off. Know what are suitable and healthy substitutes for protein and be sure you are taking any necessary supplements (primarily iron).

2. Have good reasons
If your best friend has just made the switch to a vegetarian diet, and you want to be just like her, it's probably not going to cut it. You need to have solid health or ethical reasons for making such a drastic change in your diet. Otherwise, it will not work.

3. Be prepared with good recipes
One of the reasons people fail from making a switch to any kind of new diet is that they are not armed with the proper foods and recipes. Have a few go-to vegetarian recipes that are quick, easy, and require few ingredients. This way, you won't be tempted to run out for a fast food burger. I sauté chick peas and kale, spinach, and collard greens in olive oil and add some salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. I add that mixture to white or brown rice. It's delicious, full of protein, filling, and so simple.

4. Reserve judgement
Don't expect everyone to embrace your new diet. Many may be critical of it. Know that it's right for you, but may not be right for others. By the same token, don't be judgmental of those who choose to eat meat. It's a personal decision, much like politics and religion.

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