October is Vegetarian Awareness Month. It’s a month dedicated to the promotion of “joy, compassion, and life-enhancing possibilities of vegetarianism.” Over the years, Vegetarian Awareness Month has brought more attention to the ethical, environmental, health, and humanitarian benefits of living a meatless lifestyle. Wanting to bring awareness to this cause, we decided to go meatless for the month of October and document our experience.
I stopped eating farm animals a little over 10 years ago and the toughest hurdle (as a teenager) was substituting meat with other healthy options. I grew up in an Asian household and our family dishes consisted of lots of meat, mostly pork and beef. Try as I might in order to be “creative” with my meals, my mom never approved of my “diet” as she called it. She was concerned about my health and I guess, so was I.
Now that I’m older and continue to learn about my health and my body’s needs, I’ve found that choosing to live a meatless lifestyle doesn’t have to be as tough as many people may think. Meat substitutes are popping up in grocery stores, restaurants are serving alternative options, and friends are continuing to be supportive. Just make sure that you do your research! I feel fortunate that I grew up as a non-picky eater. I love fruits. I love vegetables. I love tofu, beans, nuts, seeds, and legumes, which are all great alternatives for protein. I understand it’s not easy for everyone, but the best advice I can give is to keep an open mind, try different things, and find what you like!
There were three things I noticed when I was a vegetarian: (1) our society loves meat, (2) I’m not very creative with my meatless meals, and (3) I felt like the hungry, hungry hippo 80% of the time. Not many restaurants provided vegetarian options unless I specifically went to a vegetarian eatery – which at times got a little pricey. When I did whip up my own vegetarian meals, they were normally what I ate, but without the meat. I substituted my protein with tofu, beans, or nuts. I threw more vegetables and fruits into my diet. Overall, my meals were quite healthy, but they got pretty bland and boring after a while. I also ate lots of carbs – hello pasta, bread, rice, bread, potatoes, bread, cheese, bread – you get the idea.
This experience was very eye-opening though. It allowed me to reflect on my diet and our meat-crazed society. It challenged my will power and my consciousness. These were some of the hardest 30 days of my life, but I’m proud I stuck through it. I don’t think I can go vegetarian full-time, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do it part-time. I’ve definitely been inspired to reduce my meat consumption. I plan to eat less meat and eventually eat meat only 3 times a week or so. Learning from my previous mistakes, I’m excited to see where this new lifestyle will take me.
A few of our tips on going vegetarian:
- Do it for the right reasons- the environment, the Earth, or your health. A large part of staying committed is having the right mindset. It’s not a trend, but more so a lifestyle.
- Research the different types of foods you need to consume to receive the right nutrients. Some alternatives to protein are eggs, beans, quinoa, chickpeas, lentils, tofu, tempeh, broccoli, or leafy greens.
- Talk to your doctor about your plans to become a vegetarian. They can help provide insight into the nutrients you will need for your body and may even suggest vitamin supplements. Visit them regularly to make sure you stay happy and healthy.
- Realize it’s okay to give in to cravings once in a while. We’re human, we have temptations, and we all can’t quit cold turkey. If you have meat once in a while, don’t be too hard on yourself. As long as you continue to move forward, you’re already doing better. A healthy mindset is important too.
- Slowly ease into it. Start with Meatless Mondays. Then, only eat meat 3-4 times a week. Next, eat meat only on the weekends. Eventually, (hopefully, maybe) don’t eat meat at all. It’s all about baby steps.
- Some people find that a mainly vegetarian diet makes them more hungry throughout the day. Keep healthy snacks on hand to curb those hunger pangs. We love fruits, nuts, trail mix, peanutbutter, yogurt, edamame, hummus, cheese sticks, and chocolate (haha).
- Keep your friends in the loop about your vegetarian lifestyle. If they know, they will be less likely to unintentionally tempt you with meat. Then, when you all go out to eat they’ll have your diet in mind. Plus, friends can be your best support system.
- If you don’t want to cut meat completely, consider consuming less red meat since red meat produces the most carbon footprint on the planet.
- Read blogs and websites that offer daily vegetarian meals. We like The Vegan Stoner, Vegetarian Ventures, Naturally Ella, and My New Roots. Try one new dish a week to keep things exciting. You can even continue to cook your favorite meals but replace the meat with a meat substitute.
- Stay educated with these influential documentaries. We like Forks Over Knives, Food Inc., Cowspiracy, and Racing Extinction.
Lastly, remember that a vegetarian diet is not for everyone, so please, talk to your doctor about your options!!
What do you think? Would you consider eating less meat to save the environment?
Jennifer and Vivian