'Going Vegetarian' Isn't As Hard Or As Pointless As You Think It Is

'Going Vegetarian' Isn't As Hard Or As Pointless As You Think It Is

Cutting back on meat is better for your heart and for the world around you.

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I grew up with a family that ate a lot of meat. As a kid, I hunted with my dad, and I thoroughly enjoyed eating bacon and tri-tip every other weekend. I always commented on vegetarians, telling everyone I knew that I could never go vegetarian, I could never give up meat, I would miss meat too much. It's healthier and more well-balanced to be eating meat, and one person not eating meat does not make a difference to the environment.

Well, I'm here to break the news and just say it.

I stopped eating meat.

I know, I know. Hold the gasps of horror and silence the screaming children. I'm OK, I promise.

I never saw this change coming, but I'm here, over a month into my new vegetarian lifestyle, and I am surviving. In fact, I am doing much better than I thought I would be, and not eating meat has actually been one-hundred times easier than I thought it would be.

So, let me break down some of these meat-myths for all of you reading at home.

Not eating meat, or cutting back on how much meat you eat, actually lowers your risk of developing heart disease.

You get enough protein from other foods such as eggs, beans, nuts, seeds, peas, and soy products, so going meat-less is not unhealthy.

Cutting down on meat helps the environment by using less water and generating less greenhouse gasses.

I thought it would be hard to stop eating meat, that I would find myself lying awake at night dreaming of a juicy steak, a thick slab of bacon, or even a McDonalds cheeseburger. Surprisingly enough, 'going vegetarian' has been a relatively easy transition. Sure, I get the annoyed eye-rolls when I tell servers I don't want meat in my pasta or on my pizza, but who cares.

When I first decided to cut meat out of my diet, I left fish in my diet, purely for the sake of eating sushi. I was a pescatarian. In the last two weeks, I have decided to go strictly vegetarian from now on. I can sacrifice a little bit of my sushi obsession and get a veggie or tofu roll instead.

Going vegetarian is easy, and I have learned a lot about myself and the world around me in the past month. I have opened myself up to new foods, I have discovered a newfound appreciation for veggies, I decided I absolutely love tofu, and I have become much more aware of the effect one person can really have on the world. Sure, one vegetarian is not going to stop global warming, but if I can help reduce my own impact in any small way, I might as well give it a try.

I am not here to tell everyone to stop eating meat entirely. I respect your decisions and your choices, and I hope you do the same for me. But I do encourage you to test yourself, see how much meat you are really eating in your everyday diet. Challenge yourself to eat a little less red meat and a few more plants. Your heart might thank you later.

So far, I am loving being vegetarian, and I cannot wait to keep challenging myself.

Who knows, maybe I will try being vegan next.

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23 Snacks You Live On And Don’t Understand How Vegans Live WITHOUT

What do they eat, rocks?

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Vegans actively avoid the use of animal products for food, clothing or any other purpose. So, what do they snack on? I'm sure there are plenty of tasty options, but there are some caveats, too.

As for me, I'm not a vegan, LOVE the following snacks and don't see how vegans can live without them.

1. Vanilla ice cream

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Even if you eat dairy-free ice cream, it doesn't make it necessarily vegan. Castoreum from beavers can be used for vanilla flavoring.

Also, don't @ me for liking vanilla ice cream — you can add literally anything to it and change the flavor.

2. Flavored potato chips

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It depends on the flavor, but some chips contain dairy products — even if the flavor has nothing to do with dairy.

Why are they called potato chips? Because you can't stop at just one.

3. Non-organic bananas

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If you're eating non-organic bananas, you could be eating a spray-on coating made with shrimp and crab shells that lengthens shelf life.

I'd go bananas without bananas.

4. Bagels

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L-Cysteine is a dough conditioner and strengthener often made from bird feathers.

Giving up bagels, though? That's for the birds.

5. Red candies

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Vegans probably already know this, but "Natural Red #4" is made from cochineal — AKA smashed bugs.

The only thing that bugs me about red candies is my tongue being stained.

6. Hard-coated candies

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Most hard-coated candies are coated with shellac. First off, it's the same shellac for nails, furniture polish and hairspray — yum. But for vegans, shellac is made from insect secretions.

Call me hard headed, but I'm not giving up candy.

7. Salted peanuts

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Seems innocent, right? Not always for vegans. Guess what's keeping the salt on those peanuts — gelatin. And gelatin is typically made from the skin, tendons, ligaments and/or bones of cattle and swine.

You're nuts if you think I'll stop eating peanuts.

8. Twinkies

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We know they're not healthy, but they're not vegan either. Tallow, made from beef fat, is what keeps Twinkies on shelves forever. And their sweet taste is what makes us non-vegans love them forever.

9. Chex Mix

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Most Chex Mix recipes call for Worcestershire sauce — made with anchovies. The mixed nuts probably have gelatin in them, too.

Your thinking is mixed up if you think I'll give up Chex Mix.

10. Lucky Charms

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Gelatin strikes again with the marshmallows being vegan-unfriendly. For the rest of us, "They're magically delicious!"

11. Pastries

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Suet is the fat around the kidneys and organs in animals — a saturated fat commonly used in pastries. You'll probably find bird feather-related ingredients in them, too.

If it hasn't saturated into your brain yet, I'm not giving up my snacks.

12. Jell-O

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More gelatin. Vegans are missing out on more than the tasty snacks from gelatin, they're missing out on health benefits, too.

Give up a fun and tasty snack? Jell-No.

13. Beef, turkey and other jerkies

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This one is obvious why vegans won't touch it, but they're missing out on the awesome taste of a convenient and versatile snack.

I'm not trying to be a jerk, but don't touch my jerky.

14. Pizza

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Remember that dough strengthener? Yeah, it's probably in pizza, too.

What kind of person gives up pizza? A weir-dough!

15. Fries

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Fries are, obviously, fried. That means oil, which means fat — like McDonald's using beef fat for their fries.

Your brain is fried if you think I'm giving up fries.

16. Pop Tarts

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If you eat Pop Tarts without frosting — the ones that don't taste as good — you might be safe. But the frosting in Pop Tarts contains gelatin.

Bless your tart if you think I'm giving up Pop Tarts (I'm not).

17. Salted sunflower seeds

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If salted peanuts use gelatin to make the salt stick, you better believe some brands do the same for sunflower seeds.

Good luck stopping this Kansan from eating them.

18. Cheese

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This one is so obvious why vegans won't eat it, it's cheesy.

A friend from Japan said that one of the first things she noticed about Americans is that we LOVE cheese.

19. Peanut butter

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The FDA allows a ratio of 30 insect fragments per 100 grams of peanut butter. Bad for vegans, but insects offer a host of health benefits.

You butter believe I'm not giving up peanut butter.

20. Fruit snacks

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Gelatin, again. It won't stop me from smiling as I eat my fruit smiles, though.

21. Apples

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Apples are often coated with beeswax, shellac, carnauba and/or petroleum jelly.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away, and a bit of wax (that can be washed off) isn't going to keep me away from apples.

22. Dried fruit

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While all fruit contains natural sugar, dried fruit often has added sugar. But that's not a problem, It's just sugar… right? You might want to check out the next point...

23. Basically anything with sugar

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Sorry, sugar, but bone char gives some sugars its pure white color.

It tickles my funny bone if you think I'll stop eating sugary snacks.

I understand that some individuals cannot eat certain animal by-products due to health reasons. Also, I'm not judging anyone for their lifestyle choices — I just don't see how I could live without my snacks!

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Everything I Learned After Being On The Keto Diet For 30 Days

At the end of it all, I even surprised myself.

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I'm really not one for diets. Most of them are fads that only get popular because celebrities do them for a period of time and then they catch on. They often seem really gimmicky without any science behind them. But at the beginning of this year I told myself I wanted to be more aware of my health and make smarter, healthier choices and changing the way I thought about food felt like a good way to start. Which lead me to ketosis.

The science behind ketosis sounded complex at first but once simplified, began to make a whole lot of sense to me. The goal of the keto diet is to get your body into a state of ketosis, hence the name. Ketosis is reached once the body produces a certain amount of ketones which help burn fat. So instead of running your body on sugars, it learns to gain fuel by burning the fat available in your body.

Essentially, ketosis allows the body to run on a much more stable energy source without the spikes and dips in blood sugar that comes with a high-sugar diet. I had also heard a lot about how ketosis improves your brain functions to help you remember more and stay focused longer. From a college student's viewpoint, that sounded like a win-win situation for me.

A really simple way to think about ketosis is through the lens of the macronutrients: carbs, fats and protein. My diet before I switched to keto was heavy in carbs. Percentage-wise, my carb intake would sometimes be 50 percent or more of my daily food intake. But with a keto diet, you restrict your carb intake and focus on foods with a high amount of healthy fats.

So on a good day, my average nutritional input would look something like this:

As you can see, carbs made up a really small portion of what I was eating at the time whereas foods with higher fat and protein content took up relatively equal shares of whatever's left over. Compared to what I was used to eating:

I basically completely switched around my usual eating habits. And that ended up being a large portion of what I learned when everything was all said and done. But here's just a quick recap for those of you out there who might be considering going on the keto diet as well.

1. The initial weight loss was really startling

I didn't choose a keto diet for the weight loss aspect, even though that's always one of the top selling points when people discuss ketosis. I was more interested in the brain functions I mentioned earlier: sharper memory and better focus. I didn't expect to lose a great deal of weight at all unless I decided to stick with keto for a long period of time. In my first week, however, I ended up losing 10 pounds out of the blue. Originally I thought there was an error in the scale I was using. I tried to be consistent in how I was weighing myself and at what times, but when my numbers didn't jump back to their usual levels I had to conclude that it had something to do with my change in diet. With exercise and nutrition, changing things up and adding variety to both is usually a surefire way to kickstart your body into a change of some sorts.

2. I was hungry all the time

For the first couple of days, I was really struggling to figure out what foods I was going to eat and how I was going to restructure my diet. As I mentioned earlier, carbs were a large part of my diet and I was suddenly taking that away from my body and forcing it to find an alternative energy source. I had to completely rethink the way I bought groceries and pay a lot more attention to nutrition labels. I would generally avoid typical junk foods, but I had to cut foods out of my diet that had previously been staples of my diet. I was also operating on a slight caloric deficit for a period of time, which made things even more difficult.

3. Exercise was much harder

I wanted to keep as much outside of my diet consistent as possible to analyze how much the keto diet was actually affecting me. So that meant I just continued my usual exercise routine, which in hindsight turned out to be a big mistake. The majority of my exercise routine consists of heavy-weight, 8-12 repetitions with 60-90 second rest in between sets and/or exercises. It's essentially high-intensity training where I'm trying to keep a consistent 120+ BPM heart rate. Which, as it turns out, requires a consistent energy source. So when I was suddenly trying to get my body to start running off fats, I didn't have as much energy as I used to which made the types of exercises I wanted to do much harder.

Lesson #3 was what lead me to abandon the keto diet. The exercise goals and routines I was setting for myself was directly in contrast to the dietary framework I was working within. In the end, I felt that my diet, exercises, and overall physicality was suffering because of it. But the whole experience helped change my mindset around how to think about food as a source of energy as opposed to just a way to avoid hunger. I implore everyone, however, to find a diet that works for them, mainstream or not. The food you eat should reflect and aid your goals. Just because the keto diet didn't work for, doesn't mean that thousands haven't found success using it.

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