7 Things I’ve Learnt as a Vegetarian

Most people assume that being a vegetarian means you cry about baby lambs, you have lots of self control and you like talking about yourself. After a year of not saying too much about being a vego, I’d like to share some of my thoughts – 1 year as a vegetarian!

What we feed ourselves is actually really important

Food is the fuel that we put into our bodies to do all the important stuff like growth, organ function and energy.

So there’s a bunch of reasons people have for being vegetarian. Something had to die for me to eat today… Having dead meat on my plate is weird… The chemicals or processes aren’t good for my body…

My drivers were economic and environmental.

There’s more CO2 emissions produced by animal production, than all of our modes of transport combined! Plus, the land cleared for farming results in less trees around to undo the damage.

If you think about it, meat production is just really inefficient. We’re trying to feed over 7 billion people on this planet, so we feed an animal over and over again – just to eat it once? Instead of eating what we fed the animal every day? Essentially, eating resource hungry foods, is just wasteful. It’s very inefficient fuel production. If we fed all the grains in the world to people instead of livestock, we could feed an extra 3.5 billion people every year, and end hunger.

This is why I’m super supportive of people reducing their meat consumption instead of cutting it out completely.

If bacon is your favourite food, it’d be pretty tough to convince you not to eat it, but it makes sense to avoid eating meat that doesn’t adds value to your meal. Does anyone even notice the chicken in Chicken Pad Thai?

Most fake meat is rank

There are so many awesome vegetarian things to eat, that don’t involve fake meat… Chickpea burger patties are so good and convenient, that I have to buy more when I go to BBQ’s to make sure I get one! Anything that is processed to make you think it’s something else, is just fundamentally wrong for your body. I also find the concept of fake meat a bit insulting. The point I’m trying to make as a vegetarian, is that I don’t think meat is a necessary part of my diet.

My friends are awesome

It took a few weeks to have the “here’s the rationale behind it” chat with all my close friends, then there were a few encounters where people were unsure if they could invite me to places or have me over for dinner. After I reassured everyone that I’m not going to make life harder for them, my friends have been really helpful about it. Tagging me in vego posts and suggesting places to eat.

Food brings people together, so I was worried about the options for healthy vego meals when I’m out. There’s only been 2 occasions where I’ve resorted to hot chips. And I’d much rather have less options on a menu than make my friends think it’s too much effort to be a vegetarian.

I do a lot of meal prep with my boyfriend and my housemate. They’ve really enjoyed all the meals we’ve had together so now it doesn’t really make sense for them to plan a meal around meat. Even my friend in hospitality embraces it by testing out vegetarian recipes she’s heard of on me.

It makes eating healthier so much easier

I’m pretty terrible at making decisions, so choosing the classic Parmy wasn’t uncommon for me. As a vego, automatically your options are reduced to things like veggie burgers, salads, vego pizzas, nachos and Asian dishes. You don’t have to “choose” Vegetarian Nachos over a Chicken Parmigana, because you just don’t eat Parmy’s anymore; it’s not who you are. Automatically your meals include more vegetables and more flavours. So naturally, you get more fibre, more vitamins and less saturated fats.

Some people fall into the trap of replacing meat with carbs or fake meat options, but I’ve found that eating less processed foods makes me feel better. It’s the mindset that you don’t want to put that into your body; and that makes it so much easier to nourish yourself.

I’ve had blood tests and I’ve tracked my macros, and it turns out I can get all the nutrients I need without meat. There’s more protein in green peas than in milk; there’s more iron in Weetbix than beef and there’s roughly the same amount of protein in peanut butter than beef. I’ve lost 15kgs and my skin has never been better. I was never really that worried about missing out on nutrition because I knew what I was eating now was a vast improvement on where I was anyway.

Your impact is through your purchasing power

Few things irritate me more than when people say, “You can just order it with the meat and give it to me, it’s okay.”

No, nope, no. You’re not getting the point. My consumption choices are my voting power. That’s like saying, “It’s cool that you don’t want to vote in the US election, give me your vote and I’ll vote for Trump!”

If I was allergic to the meat or I didn’t like the taste, I’d eat around it. But I don’t want to support its excessive production. This is why it feels so good when people order something without meat. They don’t see meat as a necessity; a meal can be complete without it.

If my only option is to order something – minus the meat, then I feel like it sends a message to the business that there should really be at least one vegetarian option.

I can count on one hand the times I’ve been to a vegetarian restaurant. It’s interesting to see their style of cooking but more often than not, it’s based around tofu or quinoa which I just think is unnecessary. I want it to be normal to eat a meal without meat. I think it’s good to support the vegetarian options on pub menus. The more that people see others buying them or enjoying them, the more it becomes normal to have a meal that isn’t based around meat.

Vegetarians talk about being vegetarians because it’s important to them

Just like if you cared about the safety impact of texting and driving, or that all child abusers should get the death penalty; vegetarians talk about being vegetarian, because it’s something that they believe in and it drives them crazy that others don’t get it. I get that it can be a bit preachy so I only talk about my food choices when someone else brings it up. I do have a few interesting facts ready to go though, so I can open people up to a different perspective.

It’s easier to judge others than to question yourself

Without a doubt, the 2 most common questions when you mention that you’re vegetarian is “Vegetarian or Vegan?” and, “But you still have eggs right?”

I don’t know if it’s because people want to show that they know the difference between the two, which is really good, or if they want to point out that you’re not vegan, like that means vegetarians are doing a half arsed job or something.

You can assume that people who say things like, “Well you can’t save the world on your own…” are just trying to feel better about themselves, but the reoccurring theme here is that people will naturally think about what you aren’t doing, not what you are. And that’s okay. I know that I’m doing more than most, and I welcome the discussion around my choices, because it makes people question theirs.

I too ate meat almost everyday of my life, for 25 years. It was “normal” so that’s what I did. But the more I learned about the world, the more I realised that “normal” is often just the path of least resistance. We make choices based on the information we see and the perceived threat to our existence. It’s natural for humans to do what others do, to avoid confrontation or being outcast. But if it’s within your control to do something that will benefit our future more than it would inconvenience you right now, it would be greedy not to do that.

I don’t judge people for choosing to eat meat if they don’t know the impact, or if they don’t think it’s “normal” to go without it. But I’d like to think that most people don’t want the world to be negatively impacted by their existence.

I think everyone ought to know more about the food they’re eating. If you’d like to know more about the environmental impacts of meat production, jump on YouTube to see videos like this one.

If you’re convinced that eating meat in every meal is normal, check out Food Choices on Netflix.

If you want to reduce your negative impact, consider eating less packaged and meat based products. You could even become a flexitarian if you like!

Why not take a minute to learn a bit more about something you do everyday. 12 months ago I did this and it changed my whole perspective.

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