As someone who has been vegetarian for a little over two years I’ve received questions all over the board mainly from people interested in why I made the switch, some curious about the nutrition, and a few who can’t fathom the idea of not eating meat who are simultaneously extremely worried about my protein intake. As I am aware the lifestyle change is not for everyone I’ve noticed vegetarian diets becoming more common and accessible but many are still unsure how they would navigate this shift. The truth is it is a lot easier than you think, I will be answering some of the most common questions I have been asked by non-vegetarians.
What convinced me to become a vegetarian?
While everyone has their own reasons for becoming vegetarian mine are the combination of health, environmental, and moral. After watching a few documentaries including Cowspiracy and doing my own research I became aware of the negative impacts the meat industry and factory farming have on the environment. I was very disturbed by the images and videos of the animals’ living conditions and felt it was immoral to consume them. While I have always maintained a somewhat healthy diet I knew that being vegetarian would lead me to consume more vegetables and whole foods.
Was it hard to transition, and do you ever crave meat?
Surprisingly I became a vegetarian somewhat by accident. For years prior to switching I rarely ate red meat and wondered if I could go vegetarian because I did not like the idea of eating animals. After challenging myself to not eat meat for two weeks, I realized I felt great and decided to commit to it realizing it was way less intimidating than I previously thought. While I acknowledge that this switch was easier for me than it might be for others who eat meat more regularly, I don’t think this should discourage people from trying. For maybe the first few months I would occasionally crave meat which inspired me to try a lot of vegetarian versions of my favorite foods. I can say at this point two years later I can’t remember the last time I craved meat and to anyone who does there are so many amazing meat alternatives available now.
Isn’t it so expensive?
If you are shopping at Whole Foods and buying all natural products and lots of meat alternatives then the answer is yes. However I have been able to get my grocery bill down to only about $40 dollars (sometimes less) every week. Fresh produce can definitely be expensive but I prioritize it as a purchase. Frozen fruit, vegetables, and veggie burgers are much more affordable than fresh and maintain the nutrients. Other vegetarian pantry staples such as canned beans, grains, pasta, nuts and tofu are super affordable.
Where do you get your protein, if not from meat?
Interestingly this is probably one of the most commonly asked questions which is a reflection of the myth that meat is the only way to get protein and other important nutrients. Seitan, tofu, chickpeas, quinoa, peanut butter, spinach, lentils, and oats are just some of my favorites of the many available options. Americans actually tend to over consume protein due to heavy meat diets while under consuming other important nutrients often found in plants.
If you are interested in becoming vegetarian don’t be discouraged if you feel overwhelmed, it’s a learning process. The transition can be done at your own pace and it’s okay to slip up sometimes!