Good morning! Or good evening! Or whatever good time of day it is for you! Let's talk about tips and tricks about vegetarian and vegan eating.
I'M KATIE AND I DON'T EAT ANIMALS <333333
A sculpture of a deer at Art OMI in Ghent, NY
It wasn't always this way though. I ate meat and cheese and seafood and eggs and everything else there was to chew and swallow. My dad always referred to me as his kid who would try anything, and I totally support that that was true. I suppose that even now I'm trying new things: like plant based substitutes and recipes of cruelty-free foods I have never even heard of before. But anyway, yes, I used to eat meat. I had tried the vegetarian lifestyle out a few times in high school, but it never stuck for longer than a week or two.
In my freshman year in college, I attended a climate march with my mom and sister, and I decided then that I would give it another shot. Now here we are four years later and I'm still going strong. My sophomore year I was vegan, but had to give it up so that I would not starve while I was abroad in Latin America (because as most of you know, Argentina is the steak capital of the world and they do not take kindly to vegan diets). But now I am making my way back to vegan, although I'm mostly doing what feels right and trying not to hold my soul accountable as much.
I began my journey into a plant-based diet primarily because of the meat industry's impact on climate change. Animal agriculture is responsible for 13%-16% of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. And, of all the crops planted in the US, half of them are allotted to feeding livestock (World Resources Institute). I'm not writing this to give you all the science and statistics, but those are some of the big ones for why I switched. There are plenty of resources out there if you would like more of the science.
Only a few months into being vegetarian, I began to have a much more extreme sense of respect for the animals themselves. I have heard this sentiment from a lot of other plant-based folks as well. When you focus your mind on something like eating, which is done very frequently, you learn a lot more about what it is you're putting into your body.
So now, with that intro about my own experience out of the way, let's touch on some tips and tricks. What I'm about to list is what has worked for me, so there is no guarantee that they will work for everyone.
1. Do not treat meat substitutes like the real thing...
Besides the Impossible burger, I have not had a substitute that has been exactly, in every way shape and form, just like the actual meat, or cheese, or milk product. AND THAT'S OK. If you can separate yourself from the common feeling of "ew this is gross because it doesn't taste like meat" and instead think "although this does not taste exactly like meat, it still tastes yummy!", then you will have a much easier time transitioning to a plant-based diet.
2. Try new things!
A common issue that people run into at the beginning is attempting to create the same meals that they did prior to going plant-based, but now using substitutes and alternatives. There are probably millions of super tasty recipes for vegan and vegetarian diets that easily stand on their own without the comparison to non-plant-based recipes. And NO, you do not have to eat only salads... In fact, you don't ever have to eat a salad as a vegetarian or a vegan if you really do not want to. Keep an open mind and treat the food like, well, food. It can be as easy or as complicated as you make it.
3. How will you ever get enough protein and nutrients to survive????????
Think about this... the food that the animals eat and process before it gets to you as a burger, or as an egg, or as whatever animal product, is drained of most of its nutrients during the digestion of it in the animal's stomach. But, as a person who skips the animal products and goes straight to the animal's food source, you get the benefit of all those juicy nutrients straight from the plant source! Yay! And as for protein, there are dozens of cruelty-free foods out there with ample protein to sustain your day-to-day. A quick google search will give you tons of protein rich plant foods to pick from.
4. Fatigue? Who's she?
Okay, so I do have to admit that I do not know all the science behind this next tidbit, but I have experienced it in my own body and have heard it confirmed by others as well. I was very nervous that I would feel fatigued and lethargic a lot after switching to plant-based, but in fact the opposite happened. I felt completely light, energized, and clear-minded. Perhaps it has something to do with the energy it takes to digest animal products vs plant products, but whatever it is, I promise your body will feel the best it ever has once you switch over.
And lastly, a final little tip that I'm still learning and grappling with...
5. Go at your own pace.
It takes time to adjust your mind and your body to a completely new diet. That's okay! Every little bit you are able to eat plant-based instead of animal-product based, your body and the earth will thank you for it. Even if it is a single day in the week that you want to try it out for, go for it! Do what's best for you honey!
I don't have many pictures of cows, so here are two of my cats (Ruby and Arthur)
Would anyone be interested in some of my own plant-based, go-to recipes in another blog post? Let me know!