“But…what do you eat?”
“But…what do you eat?” is probably the most common question I get asked when people find out I’m vegetarian (okay, pescatarian – but only occasionally, I swear). I usually respond with “everything else that isn’t meat” and find myself having to defend the idea that eating fruits and veggies is somehow better for you than not (controversial, I know).
In the summer of 2016, I made a pretty big change in my life. I remember the look of devastation on my boyfriend’s face when I broke the news – I’m giving up meat.
"I’m just trying it out", I said.
"But why? Aren’t you going to miss chicken? Big Macs? Meatballs?" he asked.
"Maybe, but I still want to give it a try."
Our conversation went like this for the next 20 minutes. Eventually - bless him - he agreed to try going vegetarian with me. We got to work figuring out what we were going to eat that week, and I have to admit, it was tough at first. Chicken and beef were the main proteins that made up all of my meals…how was I going to change that overnight? Would my dinner even be complete if it didn’t have meat in it? Will I turn into a salad-loving freak? These were all questions I had that fateful day two summers ago. But now, a year and a half later, I’m happy with my decision and I wouldn’t change a thing.
There are many things I did the few weeks after taking meat out of my diet that made it a little easier on me, and prevented withdrawals too. But I think I’ll save those for another time. This piece is for you curious folk out there who wonder what it’s like to go veg, and who are looking for reasons to try it out. I warn you, though: only one of these reasons has to do with animals.
If you’re looking for a simple way to do your part in helping fight climate change, boy, this is it.
Animal agriculture (how your meat is made) is a huge contributor to greenhouse gases which make our planet hotter and hotter each year. Factory farming produces more greenhouse gases per year than cars, trucks and other forms of transportation. Raising livestock also leaves an enormous water footprint compared to vegetables, fruits, and wheat. Reducing meat from your diet is a responsible thing you can do today that positively impacts the environment, and it’s more effective than carpooling and taking shorter showers.
It doesn’t hurt your wallet.
Contrary to popular belief; I now spend less at the grocery store as a vegetarian than when I ate meat. Pound for pound, vegetables are less expensive than meat products, so you shouldn’t feel bad about eating greens. I also find that because I buy more fresh foods, I’m more conscious of what I have in the fridge and won’t let things spoil as often. Less food spoilage equals more money saved. I’m also more likely to cook my own food verses ordering take-out now, which helps me save money as well. On average, vegetarians save about $750 per year more than meat-eaters. It’s the difference between a cold Canadian winter and a week on the beach in Cayo Coco.
It forces you to get creative in the kitchen.
Back when I had meat with almost every meal, I was less likely cook. But when I did, I’d almost always stick to the classic “chicken and potatoes” fare because it was simple and easy and hard to mess up. Now, but especially at the beginning of my veg journey, I’m constantly cooking up new dishes trying different combinations of vegetables and flavours every week. For every carnivorous meal, there is a vegetarian alternative, after all! I guess at first I was cooking a lot because taking meat out meant having to come up with meals that would be just as tasty without it. I was trying to prove to myself that going vegetarian was “worth it” because my dinner was still yummy. But all that compensation paid off because it forced me to cook more than I’ve ever done before and I’m thankful for the many recipes I have in my repertoire because of that.
Bonus: you don’t have to worry about undercooking your veggies!
It helps you become a more compassionate and conscious person.
For me, going vegetarian had to be more than just about the animals. Don’t get me wrong; I’m absolutely not a proponent of animal cruelty. I just had become so desensitized to how our meat is made (which I feel is a common problem in our society today), that I needed a few more reasons to make the switch. But now that I have, compassion follows. I am more conscious now of where my food comes from and how it gets to my plate. I get angrier now when I see those horrible, factory farming videos, but I also am happy that I am doing something about it. The process of becoming a vegetarian has helped me realize that I don’t need to kill an animal to feed myself – there are other, greener ways. I’m a big believer in karma, so knowing that I can live my life without causing other lives harm is important to me, and vegetarianism has helped a lot with that.
So, there you have ‘em. My reasons, and often my answers when people are curious as to why I made the decision to give up meat. Every vegetarian you talk to will give you different reasons, but I hope I’ve inspired you with mine to give it a try. Whether it’s "Meatless Mondays" or veg through the week, it’s still a start to becoming a more conscious consumer. Oh and for the record, I hate salads.
Divin is a feature writer at Avenue24, for more on Divin click here.