Making the decision
This upcoming Sunday (20/07/17) marks 4 weeks of not eating meat and I can’t say I miss it one bit. Now, I didn’t exactly go cold turkey, for the past year my diet has been mainly vegetarian, with only 2-3 meals a week that included some sort of meat. But 4 weeks ago, I decided that I no longer wanted meat to be a part of my diet.
For quite some time I have been put off by the smell of meat, the aftertaste that you sometimes get when eating it (especially minced meat), the thought of what I was actually putting in my mouth and how it got to my plate. So, one day I asked myself, why do I eat meat when I don’t enjoy it? When the only reason I could come up with was ‘because it’s easier for everyone else’ I realised that it wasn’t really that much to think about, I shouldn’t focus on what’s easier for other people, I should focus on what’s easier for me.
I’ll admit that I was a bit worried about what Matt (my boyfriend) would say about this new change in diet. He loves a good steak and chicken is a big part of his daily diet so my initial thought was to offer to still cook this for him, whenever it was my turn to cook, but not eat it myself. To my surprise Matt agreed to try my vegetarian diet for a week. The first few days he complained about not feeling as energised in the gym, ‘it’s because I didn’t have any chicken last night’, but when the week was over and we were doing our Sunday food shop, he picked out veggie patties, instead of the usual chicken breast, for his lunch box. I think this goes to show that even the biggest meat lover can appreciate a vegetarian meal, if you do it right. Since then he’s gone from eating meat twice a day to rarely having it at all. Now, I don’t expect him to go vegetarian as a diet change is not something you should force on other people, but if me being vegetarian has made him eat a little bit less, we’ve made a difference from both a health and environmental perspective.
When we started Liscus by Linda my main goal was to show people that great food doesn’t have to be difficult, but the more time I have spent thinking about it I’ve realised that my real aspiration is to show people that you don’t have to eat meat to have a great, satisfying, Liscus meal. I completely understand that some people are never going to want to stop eating meat, but by showing them that it’s possible to have a great meal that doesn’t include meat, perhaps it will open their eyes to eating other things too, even if just once a week.
There are many benefits to going vegetarian, for one, it’s great for your wallet. But more importantly, there are many health benefits when done in a balanced and planned way.
Vegetarians are more likely to eat the recommended 10 portions of fruit and vegetables a day (yeah, it’s no longer 5 a day) which in turn is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
By now, most people probably know that the consumption of processed meat and red meat are linked to an increased risk of cancer, so whether you’re following a vegetarian diet or not, this is something you should cut out or cut back on to stay healthy.
As a result of their diet, vegetarians are likely to have lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure and are less likely to suffer from obesity.
Being a vegetarian or eating less meat is not only beneficial for your wallet and health, it also the easiest and cheapest thing you can do to reduce your impact on the environment.
What you need to know
Being a vegetarian in 2017 is not hard as the market for vegetarian and vegan food alternatives has boomed in the last couple of years, but there are a few things you should be mindful of when making a diet change.
Just because something is vegetarian or vegan doesn’t mean it’s healthy
Point in case – fries and Oreos. Completely vegan and delicious, but far from healthy. If you’re making this diet change for health reasons you still need to make healthy choices.
Make sure you get enough protein
If meat has been your main source of protein you need to find something to replace it with as protein is an essential part of a healthy diet. Luckily enough there are some great alternatives that will help you meet your protein needs. I’ll cover this in a separate post as I know many people wonder what to eat instead of meat.
Get the nutrients you need
There are a few nutrients that you should keep an eye on when going vegetarian and an even closer eye on if you are opting for a vegan diet.
Iron from meat sources, particularly red meat, are easier for the body to absorb but by eating plenty of whole grains, beans, lentils, seed and nuts you can avoid an iron deficiency.
If you follow a vegan diet a B12 supplement is essential to keep your levels up as this is one of few things you can’t get from your diet. Vegetarians who eat dairy foods and eggs will most likely get what they need without a supplement.
Omega-3 fatty acids:
If you’re not eating fish or eggs, you should consider including an algea supplement, such as spirulina, flaxseed, vegetable oil, chia seeds and walnuts in your diet, to ensure you get enough essential fatty acids.
I think the most important thing to remember is that it doesn’t have to happen in a day and it’s not all or nothing. As with most things in life, balance is key. And a little bit more green is better than nothing 😊
I thought it may be useful for some people reading this who are thinking of going veggie to hear from the flip side, the other half who eats meat who is suddenly thrown into a vegetarian world!
Prior to the day coming, I could sense Linda was going to turn vegetarian. She’d started questioning why she’s eating meat and hating the look of it. Being a lover of meat myself, I was hoping that day would never come but when it did there was still a bit of me that thought ‘nooooooo, what am I going to do?!’. Two months on though, I laugh at my reaction as I’m about 90% vegetarian myself now.
Getting here wasn’t easy and if you have another half who has the mindset as I did, you’ll no doubt see some panic. Linda was awesome here and made it clear that this change doesn’t mean the house becomes a meat free zone. After all, it was her decision to become veggie and that shouldn’t have any affect me unless I wanted it to. Once I had that reassurance that I was still allowed a slice of chicken in the fridge and a trip to Hawkesmoor every now and then, I was 100% ok with it. I was adamant I would never go veggie but if Linda wanted to, and it made no change to my lifestyle, what was the problem?
After a week into it, my sceptical self was trying to notice any change in Linda whatsoever. Was she more tired? Was she more hungry?We go to the gym together about four times a week so it was only natural I asked how she was going to supplement what she was going to lack from cutting out meat. Like every guy who hits the gym, all you ever hear and read is ‘chicken, protein, fish, protein, repeat!’ so I didn’t understand how she could still get the results she wants. After some explaining (the piece above sums it up) I got how it may work for her I still didn’t believe cutting it out would be possible for me and still had no interest.
Linda and I can get quite competitive as any couple can sometimes so every now and then she’d play on this. A half hearted challenge to cut meat out my diet for a week was thrown out there which was greeted with ‘not a chance’ every time. My thoughts: ‘What am I going to eat when I go out?’, ‘I’m setting myself up here, the lads are going to rip me to shreds if I do this!’, ‘How am I going to get the most out of my gym sessions?’, ‘Stores wouldn’t sell meat and people wouldn’t have been eating it for years on end if it was bad for you in any way.’. I’d imagine most guys would feel the same.
A day or two later Linda was making burritos (YUM!) and of course hers were going to be veggie, but she was still going to prepare minced beef for me. Halfway through eating it I started my usual encore of “this tastes amazing!” and “you’ve beaten every meal so far!” (yes, she really is that good) and she hit me with “you know, that’s not beef in there?”. I’d been had! The look across my face must have said a thousand words, like I’d been mugged off similar to if this had just happened:
Went to Disneyland because my daughter’s obsessed with Mickey Mouse. She was so excited when I got home and told her.
— Ryan Reynolds (@VancityReynolds) January 30, 2017
I’d always looked at Quorn like a bit of a snob and passed it off asking ‘who seriously eats that stuff?’ but I was sat there thinking ‘This actually tastes amazing, how can I be stubborn and do a 180 after what I’ve just said’. The more interesting part for me though was I’d go as far as to say I preferred the taste. Big statement I know! I’d always thought minced meat had an odd aftertaste but this didn’t. It was at that point I decided to suck it up and take on Linda’s challenge. One week of going 100% veggie starting from Monday.
At this point I was still never planning on changing my diet as much as I have done. However, by nature I’m quite inquisitive and as you may have noticed, I had a lot of preconceptions about what it’s like being a veggie so for me it made sense to give it a go. As suspected, I got some stick from friends about doing it but I brushed it to one side and stuck to my guns. Lunches were prepared without my usual two chicken breasts, dinners a meat free zone entirely and that includes the one night I was out for dinner that week.
Reaching the end of the first week, as much as I hated to admit it, I was all in. Three things stood out:
- Gone was the uncomfortable bloated feeling I sometimes had after meals. Instead, I felt noticeably better and never suffered from the dreaded ‘food coma’.
- To my surprise, there was no change in my energy levels.
- When you don’t build your meals around meat, there’s still a huge amount of depth to mealtime and it’s amazing what you can create – just look at most of Linda’s recipes!
Two months on from the first week and I’m at that stage where unless it’s quality meat, I won’t touch it. This means I regularly go weeks without eating any meat and I don’t miss it one bit. Over the course of this time, I also did some reading and watched a few documentaries. Now when I think about what goes into creating that pepperoni pizza or where the chicken in a store bought salad comes from it’s easy to think and act that way!
It’s this last point, in addition to the previous three, that was the biggest deciding factor in changing my diet. Education, understanding and feeling the benefits first hand. Instead of being stereotypical in my response to ever going veggie, I gave it try and haven’t looked back. If your partner is giving it a go or you’re thinking of going veggie yourself, I’d suggest you give it a try. If you don’t like it you can always go back but when you’ve got nothing to lose and all the potential to gain, why wouldn’t you?