Last August, I sat under the circling ceiling fan in my kitchen, swinging legs back and forth in an impatient tantrum while staring at the ticking timer on my oven. I had never eaten a meat substitute before, and I was nervous to see if the $6 I had just paid for a tiny bag of “chicken” nuggets would be worth it. A year has now passed since I haven't eaten meat and I’m proud to share these tips and experiences with meat-eaters, veg-heads, and everyone in-between.
1. If you’re a vegetarian for a long time, your brain might turn green.
Or, you will be always be reminded of the rare instances in which vegans and vegetarians have been studied under autopsy and coroners have found green-tinged brains. Some might use these stories to try and persuade you back into flesh-eating life but, honestly, having green brain sounds pretty cool; it might serve as even more incentive to avoid meat-based meals!
2. Your lifestyle will become a hot topic of conversation.
“Do you eat eggs?” “Do you drink milk?” “Why did you decide to quit eating meat?” These questions will mostly be provoked out of concern and interest - but if you’re considering the transition, prepare for constant inquiry.
3. Few people understand the differences in vegans and vegetarians.
It’s honestly really simple: vegetarians don’t eat meat while vegans don’t eat any animal product, including milk, eggs, and gelatin. Vegetarians may choose to avoid eggs and gelatin but (typically) will consume dairy products. A variation of the vegetarian diet is pescetarianism, which allows the consumption of fish.
4. Plants have protein!
And protein is important on all kinds of levels. After my initial transition, I thought I was limited to tofu and tempeh for my protein sources but the internet has lead me to a huge variety of choices for this important nutrient. Plant-based protein sources include: broccoli, hemp seeds, seeds & nuts, quinoa, spirulina, edamame, and more!
5. Gelatin is gross.
You’re just going to have to Google this one, folks. You’ll never look at a marshmallow the same way again.
6. Vegetarianism does wonders for the environment!
Studies show that diets that contain less meat and more plant-based meals use less water and scarce resources, compared to traditional meat-filled diets; vegetarianism also has a positive impact on the amount of greenhouse gases being released. You’re not just saving animals -- you’re saving the planet!
7. Anti-meat does not equate to anti-farm (It also does not equate to pro-animal life.)
Many vegetarians want to do all they can to support local farmers. They can do this by purchasing locally-grown fruits and vegetables, as well as buying dairy products from grocery stores that are supplied by local dairy farmers. Vegans and vegetarians recognize the hard-work of farmers who raise their crops and animals with levels of integrity and ethics and want to support them so that they can continue raising food for their communities.
It’s also shown that many who people convert to plant-based diets have reasons beyond the scope of saving the lives of animals who would otherwise be slaughtered. Other reasons for the lifestyle conversion could include environmental concern, health concern, and awareness of the food they are intaking. Restricting your diet to the extent that vegans and vegetarians do requires heightened awareness of ingredients, freshness, nutrition, and preparation of every meal.