I decided I wasn’t making any ‘resolutions’ this year as I hate when I inevitably slip up and I wonder why I made a resolution in the first place. This year, as Earth Mamas we made a goals for 2019 (click here if you want to check them out). Surprisingly, none of my goals were focused on eating less meat. So I am surprised to find myself nearing the end of February as a vegetarian.
To be fair, I have been ruminating with the idea of being a vegetarian since I was very young. Some of my earliest memories are of gagging over meat. I hated the thought of eating animals and I could barely stand the taste and texture of most meat. I remember asking my parents on several occasions to be a vegetarian and they said I couldn’t. Their answer was always “you won’t get enough protein”. Since I was a very complaint child instead of refusing to eat the meat, I learned to disguise it amongst other food and tolerate it for the most part. As I’ve grown older I have eaten less and less meat. When I was pregnant I couldn’t eat it, let alone stomach the smell of it.
However, meat seems to be everywhere. It’s in most prepackaged food, it’s in the majority of restaurant menu items and the center of all (my) family gathering meals. I am embarrassed to admit that I continued eating meat because I found it easier than the alternative. Not just for convenience, I also found it ruffled less feathers. I’ve noticed that people’s eating habits seem to elicit strong reactions from others. Whether it be a diet, a lifestyle change or even a food sensitivity others love to comment on what you are or aren’t eating. As a people pleaser, I have found it tough to navigate these conversations. I also don’t like being the “inconvenience” at a dinner where I am the only one not eating something someone has prepared. Luckily as I got older I am learning to care less what others think and that I can advocate for myself without it being “rude” or “inconvenient”.
Since embarking on this Earth Mama journey I have been doing SO MUCH reading and subsequently learning a lot. This lead me to several articles about health concerns surrounding meat. Some studies go as far as stating meat has no known health benefits and is linked to cancer, heart disease and diabetes, among other diseases (link). Even more astounding than the health concerns, was the environmental impact of reducing meat consumption (link). Then came the animal rights videos I stumbled across on instagram a few days into January. Immediately, the deal was sealed. I couldn’t continue eating something as a more convenient option when I had all these very good reasons to put in a little extra effort and avoid meat. It has taken a little bit of research on protein rich foods and a little creativity when it comes to cooking for my family.
THE PROTEIN “PROBLEM”
Since deciding to stop eating meat I have been repeatedly given the same advice from people who eat meat, “make sure you get enough protein”. At first I wasn’t sure how to respond. So I did a little research on protein rich foods (a great chart here ) and some simple math calculations to reassure myself, and those concerned about me, that it’s not that hard to get your recommended daily protein. The reason there are no percent daily values on nutrition labels for protein is because it isn’t a concern, most people get enough (ref). The amount of protein needed is based on weight, for example someone who weighs 150 lbs need between 55-68 grams per day (ref). If you want to calculate how much you need, click here.
For simplicity sake I calculated for a 150 lbs person who needs 55-68 grams of protein per day as a total intake goal. Here are some easy examples of how I reach that target with very little effort.
Keep in mind, my intake is actually higher than the above total because I have only included protein counts for the smallest serving size I eat and only numbered the protein rich foods. This doesn’t include the protein in most of the fruits/veggies or other snacks eaten during a day.
HOW I MANAGE WITH MY FAMILY
Since I am cooking for my family and not just myself, I have to be a little more strategic about what I make. My daughter mostly eats what I do but will have meat on occasion, she would be considered a flexitarian. The biggest difference is that now I make hubby’s meat separately (scratch that- he cooks his meat separately). I make everything else and he cooks a chicken breast or the like to go with the meal, if he wants to. Let me stress: I am no chef. I don’t enjoy cooking but nutrition is important so I am always looking for recipe ideas. Thankfully, I have so many vegetarian alternative options at my local grocery store. These have saved me as I hate coming up with what to cook for dinner. So I have stuck with a lot of my old go-to’s and just altered them slightly. For example I make spaghetti but split the sauce into two pots. One with my veggie “beef” for baby and I and one for hubby to cook his meatballs in. We also make tacos and I use the same veggies beef for myself and my daughter, and my husband cooks a little chicken or beef for himself. The tortillas and fixings are still the same! We also do plenty of rice and veggies or stir fries, he just adds a chicken breast to his plate.
The internet is FULL of ideas. Here are some sites I love for recipe inspiration:
- Ayla Rianne’s Plant Based Food Blog
- At My Table: Plant Based Recipes (She also wrote an amazing guest post for us on zero waste food, here)
- BBC Good Food Vegetarian Recipes
ACKNOWLEDGING IT’S A JOURNEY!
As I reflect on my mostly meatless month, I think the most important part has been letting myself learn and make mistakes. I need to remind myself that my ultimate goal is to live a healthier lifestyle and do my part in creating a sustainable future. Therefore reducing my meat consumption doesn’t have to be a hardline and if I make a mistake, my journey doesn’t end there. In fact, I accidentally ate meat once. I didn’t even think about it. My dad came over with pizza and I was reaching for the second slice before I realized I had eaten a whole slice of pepperoni. I also knowingly ate fish twice as it was the only option. I was a guest and didn’t want to be rude. (Still working on the advocating for myself philosophy!)
I have also noticed I enjoy my food far more knowing I am not eating an innocent animal. I have learned about so many people who are on similar journeys of either completely cutting out meat or just trying to reduce their consumption. Including my sister in law who has decided to join me in cutting out meat (you rock Ash!) The only thing I regret is not making this a priority sonner. I am learning to stand up for my beliefs and live more for myself as I age. So if you are like me and have been thinking about cutting out meat, I encourage you to try! Even if it’s just a few meals a week. The worst that can happen is you save a few animals, plenty of natural resources and learn a thing or two about yourself along the way. I am so glad I did.