It’s officially been a little over a year since I gave up meat! Don’t worry this wont be one of those articles that bashes eating meat or tries to convince you that my path is the right path because I firmly believe that there is no “right” diet for everyone. If I’ve learned anything in this past year its that what you decide to put in your body is completely personal, even foods labeled as healthy or good for you could just not be what your body needs and that’s ok! Believe me it took a lot of trail and error to figure out what worked for me and I encourage you to do the same.
How it all started
Everyone has their own reasons for giving up meat, usually ethical and I do agree with a bunch of these principals, but my journey was a little ummmm different…. I will preface this by saying if dead bodies freak you out skip ahead to “The Struggles.”
I was never a big meat lover. I went through phases that I didn’t eat pork or beef, then went through a phase that I only ate boneless skinless chicken breast (my parents loved that one $$$ lol.) I got a little more open minded after meeting my now husband 10 years ago and tried other meats but continued to not enjoy them. It probably would have made sense years ago to cut out meat based on the the fact I just really didn’t like it, but didn't want to feel restricted and to be honest I really just didn’t want to have to think or research how to plan meals that weren’t based around a meat protein.
It wasn’t until December 2017 when a fellow yoga teacher reached out to me for an exciting learning opportunity, a cadaver lab. For those of you who don’t know what that is, a cadaver lab is the study of a dead human body typically by medical students or other scientists, used to gain knowledge of the human anatomy. Specifically for a group of yoga teachers we were interested in the muscles and to discover more about how the human body works. Let me tell you this made me more than uneasy, I debated going multiple times. Throughout my deliberations I ultimately decided I was being silly. When would I ever have this experience again to do something like this with a group of supportive people again? So I went! I am a huge anatomy nerd and I am so happy I did go, theres really no text book that can teach you as much as seeing it in the flesh – sorry for my bad pun. I won’t bore you with the details but ever since that day I made the decision to go meatless and I haven’t looked back since!
Was it hard to give up meat? No not for me! I really didn’t care for it anyways so the transition was easy, I didn’t crave it. My husband who is a real meat lover, did not really care for my new diet (lol) so it did make meal time a struggle, fast forward a few months now he even ENJOYS meatless meals! My main hurdle initially was what to make for dinner? I used to base meal time around meat so what now? I think I got this from my mother, who still to this day asks me “you eat chicken right?” every single time I come home (lol, love you mom!) The fact that I still eat fish made this transition a lot easier. A lot of our fav meat based meals could actually be easily swapped with fish. Replace your chicken breast with salmon instead, DONE! Not every meal was that easy, but it did get easier and even dare I say FUN to come up with tasty alternatives. At first some of my meals felt incomplete, stir fry’s just with vegetables, no protein …. WEIRD! But I found ways to feel satisfied, beef tacos turned into sweet potatoes/cauliflower/or bean tacos, marinated sprouted tofu steaks in the air fryer replaced chicken breasts, and chickpea curries started to become the norm. Finding yummy ways to incorporate more veggies allowed me to fall in love with cooking more!
But do you get enough protein? I hate to sound preachy here but I think the meat industry brainwashed us a little bit into thinking that only animal sources can provide enough protein, it's easily doable (and definitely tasty) to live solely off of protein from non-meat sources! Although I still get some protein from fish, you can definitely get all the nutrition you need from legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Did you know at some of your favourite vegetables also contain protein??? *insert shocked emoji here* Peas, spinach, baked potatoes, broccoli, brussels sprouts and portobello mushrooms are some veggies that pack a high protein punch!!
Will you ever go full #vegetarian or #vegan? Honestly I'm not sure. I think that would be hard for me because sushi, eggs and cheese?? IMMIRITE??? I do explore vegan meals on the regular but am I ready to fully give up the above 3 of my favourite things, probably not. I have mostly cut out dairy (other than cheese) and now only buy organic eggs and try to find wild fish.
This is going to sound funny putting it as my first point but seriously this was a game changer....Not having to wait for your meat to defrost! Forgetting to take meat out of the freezer had us eating dinner at 10pm most nights. So I will say that becoming a pescatarian saved me some major defrosting time. Also worth mentioning that cooking time is usually less for vegetarian meals.
Even though I had always ate generally healthy, my new diet had me eating less and I lost weight. Let me just add a disclaimer here that I don't think dropping meat will make EVERYONE lose weight and I don’t think that should be a driving factor for you to do it, everyone’s journey will be different. My new diet choice resulted in a massive growth in the amount of veggies I was eating in general, I mean when it’s the only thing you can eat you get creative and fill up! If you’ve met me you know I can EATTTTT, usually I can out eat my husband. But when I dropped the meat I felt fuller longer, I was satisfied with whole foods and I had less cravings for unhealthy options.
My grocery bill went down and I ate out less. I don’t actually think that being vegetarian or vegan will always save you money because honestly some of those trendy options are EXPENSIVE! But if you have made the choice to purchase sustainable meat like grass-fed beef, that shit is expensive. Since we've always eaten fairly healthy we didn't notice a huge difference but it is worth mentioning. Unfortunately in our society eating healthy is just more expensive than eating junk food, can we all just take a moment to realize how sad that is!!! That living off of chips and candy is cheaper than buying produce, yuck! Ok rant over.
This brings me to my last point, my IBS went away. For many years I did not know WTF was going on with my stomach. I ate mostly healthy so what gives digestion??!!! I had tried countless things to get myself back on track; elimination diets, FODMAPS, cleanses, honestly you name it I did it. I went gluten free, I went egg free, I went dairy free, the list goes on and on. I never found the answer I was looking for until this *cue angelic music now.* Although I did gain some insight through those channels to things my body liked and disliked it just wasn’t the answer I needed.
Last but not least I will mention that obviously my impact on the animals and the planet also made me feel good!
Not only did I crush the fears I had around what to make for dinner I also learned a lot. As it turns out, you can eat a healthy, balanced diet without meat! Learning how to fuel my body on a mostly vegetarian diet has been an eye opener, and it is fully is supporting my nutritional needs! I eat way more vegetables now and I’m exploring my creativity in the kitchen with different cooking techniques and recipes. I also make a lot more items like salad dressings, sauces, marinades (you name it) so I know exactly what is going into my food! Learning to get enough protein without a big hunk of meat on my plate has made me a more informed consumer in so many ways! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my experience, in no way am I suggesting you make a change to your diet but if you are contemplating giving it a try I hope my advice has served you well. Many of my favourite vegetarian recipes are coming your way very soon so stay tuned!
Happy Eating Friends!