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“What are you even going to eat anymore? Meat is everything. Bacon is everything.”
That was my younger brother’s instantaneous reaction to him learning that I decided to make the move to a meat-free diet five years ago.
However, meat is far from ‘everything’! In fact, I have found that not consuming meat actually opens your eyes to countless delicious vegetarian options, never before considered. There are countless substitutes that can take place of bacon, chicken, or almost every other meat-related product you may be craving. There is an endless variety of food items that can come together to make up an incredibly diverse meal plan with just a little creativity.
Since vegans and vegetarians are voluntarily removing direct sources of nutrients such as iron, B12, calcium, and other nutrients, we consciously make sure to provide ourselves with appropriate nutritional substitutions.
Dr. Kathy Pollard, the owner of The Wellness Forum and certified instructor of plant-based nutrition explains that when done in a healthy manner, “a whole food plant-based diet offers all of the nutrients needed to maintain health and resolve most chronic diseases.”
But what about protein? Dr. Pollard continues:
“Whole plant foods contain the protein, complex carbohydrate, fats, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants in the correct ratios for health, vitality, immune function, and cell maintenance.”
A healthy vegetarian diet is diverse, and provides your body the essential nutrients needed to thrive. But enough broad talk, let’s get to some recommendations.
“Love homemade baked tofu. Vegetarian chills and stews are easy,” recommends Dr. Melissa Pickell, a registered dietitian. “Sunshine Burgers are a whole foods veg burger that are frozen and convenient…just sunflower seeds, brown rice and veggies, pretty clean. Almond butter. Steel-cut oats. Make homemade hummus. Keep cans (BPA-free) of black beans and chickpeas on hand. Love collard wraps.”
Other numerous grub ideas include eggplant-based meals, vegetable based pasta dishes, grilled portabella mushrooms burgers, vegetarian pizzas, veggie stir-fries and stews, quiche, and the endless possibilities that come with tofu.
Growing demand has led grocery stores to expand their stock of vegan and vegetarian products. For instance, several grocery stores now offer customers a variety of different products including everything from meat-free lunchmeat, dairy-free ice cream, and even faux hot dogs. Check out PETA’s Favorite Vegan Substitutes for extensive list of delicious, cruelty-free alternatives.
For those times that you’re not in the mood to cook or out with friends, most restaurants typically have at least some vegetarian options. In fact, there actually are over 5,000 vegetarian and vegan specialized restaurants across the nation.
Fear not meat-free participators: between basic food groups, vegetarian and vegan friendly food brands, restaurants and health food stores, and a little imagination, vegetarian food options are nearly endless!
Whether you are interested in cutting down on the amount of meat in your diet, removing all meat from your diet, or even removing all animal-based products from your life, adopting a whole foods, plant-based vegetarian diet can offer a variety of health and lifestyle benefits.
But what does it even mean to be a vegetarian?
Generally, a vegetarian diet excludes meat products. It is a meal plan that is made up of plant-based foods including vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts and seeds, and can include a variety of animal products including dairy.
If you are interested in removing specific types of meat from your diet, cutting back on your carnivorous ways, or are simply looking to make the transition to a meat-free diet slowly, taking on a ‘semi’ or ‘partial vegetarian’ diet initially may be the way to go.
In addition to plant-based foods, a semi-vegetarian diet often include eggs, fish, as well as specific types of meat selected by the individual. For instance, as a partial vegetarian, you may cut out all forms of meat including beef, pork, and lamb, yet wish to keep chicken in your diet.
A pescetarian diet is a regime of plant-based food that excludes any form of meat with the exception of fish. If you can do without meat, but love yourself some seafood, adopting a pescatarian diet may be the diet for you.
If you are willing to cut out all forms of meat and fish, a ovo-lacto vegetarian diet may be the most suitable for you. This form of vegetarianism is a meal plan that is made up of plant foods, dairy products, and eggs. In other words, if you can’t quite part with your daily two egg omelet or hot out of the oven chocolate chip cookies, that’s okay!
If you are ready to say goodbye to eggs, a lacto-vegetarian diet has your name written all over it! As you may have guessed, this diet includes plant-based foods as well as dairy products. Can’t live without your two favorite men, Ben & Jerry? No worries!
While vegetarians do not eat meat, fish, or poultry, vegans take that one step further by removing all animal-processed foods and other items from their diet. Eggs, dairy, honey, leather, leather, fur, and other cosmetics and soaps made up of animal products are excluded from the vegan lifestyle. Vegans recognize that humans can live happy and healthier without necessitating animal suffering.
Whether you are willing to remove all, some, or most meat and animal products, there is no “right” way to adopt a vegetarian diet – it’s all about comfort and customization.
Any reduction in meat consumption is great for your health, the environment, and the animals suffering.
Learn more about the reasons to switch at ChooseVeg.com
ChooseVeg is an amazing resource for those considering the switch, funded by Mercy For Animals, a non-profit.
“Think before you act” is a life lesson that we are taught from the onset of our childhood and continues to remain a valuable piece of guidance as we get older. We’re taught to give thought to every one of our actions, even if it’s as minuscule as purchasing a candy bar, or as paramount as deciding where to go to college.
Why should the decision to adopt a vegetarian diet be any different?
Before taking the plunge into a meat-free world, it is important that you think before you act. It is important for you to think about why it is that adopting a plant-based diet is something that you are interested in doing in the first place. In other words, what the heck made you think about taking on this herbivorous lifestyle to begin with?
Making the decision to go meat-free can come from a variety of influences, whether it is because you are simply curious to see if “it’s possible” for you to survive without meat or because of your religious beliefs, it is important to establish your reason. Constantly reminding yourself as to why you are transitioning can help make process easier. While there endless potential of reasons to make the switch, there a few reasons that tend to sway people more than others.
One of these numerous reasons is because of the negative impact the meat production process has on the environment. Generally, raising animals for food requires large quantities of resources such as water, land, and energy. For instance, PETA reports that more than 260 million acres of forest have been emptied in order to help feed and house farm animals which has then contributed to significant habitat loss and other negative impacts on the environment. Additionally, during the meat production process, numerous harmful gases such as methane, hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, and nitrous oxide are released into the atmosphere.
Another reason many people choose to adopt a vegetarian diet is because of the health benefits that can potentially come with saying goodbye to a carnivorous ways. A few of these individual benefits include lower body mass indexes (BMIs), cholesterol levels, risk of developing type 2 diabetes, acquiring high blood pressure, and more. Additionally, vegetarians report experiencing include increased energy levels, better digestive abilities, and clearer skin. Of course, these benefits are only experienced when vegetarians have diets providing adequate nutritional value.
Other people choose to take on a plant-based diet for moral reasons regarding animal rights. It is no surprise that animals are treated inhumanely during the meat production process, and video imagery of animals conditions can be particularly compelling. The animals are kept in overcrowded cages and confined spaces that are often times not even large enough for the animals to move the slightest bit. They are deprived of proper exercise, fresh air, veterinary care, and a number of other survival necessities. Certain species are even injected with hormones in order to enable them to grow at a more “efficient” rates or even skinned while still alive.
Whether or not your interest in adopting a meat-free diet is a culmination of these reasons, or a mixture of your own, it is important for you to really think about why it is that becoming a vegetarian is something that you’re interest in pursuing. Remember, there is no right or wrong logic – it is a completely personalized decision. Having a clear understanding of why this diet choice is right for you will only make the transition that much easier and more meaningful.