Last summer, I stopped eating meat. While this sounds like a terrible idea to most people, such as my parents and friends, I decided this was something I really needed to do. Months later, I stand by my decision and don’t even take a second look at a hamburger. Any meat lover will probably stop reading, but if you have any interest in the benefits of avoiding meat then you’ve come to the right place.
Yes, I am aware that meat has protein. Protein is good for you, but the average north American consumes about 1.5 times more protein than the required amount. Do you know what too much protein does to your body? According to Michelle McMacken, author of 7 Things That Happen When You Stop Eating Meat, the excess protein is stored as fat or waste which is a major cause of weight gain - not to mention diabetes, heart disease, inflammation, and cancer! Don’t forget that meat is not the only source of protein; it is found in many foods such as almonds, spinach, and potatoes!
It is likely that you’ve met vegetarians who are concerned about animal rights, but if the quality of life of animals is not of enough importance for you to decide to stop eating meat, then consider the resource management and environmental approaches. Growing feed crops for animals uses 56% of the water in the U.S. and livestock or livestock feed occupies 45% of the earth’s total land. This water and land should be used to grow crops that could potentially feed people around the world. Cows also produce 150 billion gallons of methane per day, which is one of the most powerful and dangerous greenhouse gases. Deforestation for the purpose of animal agriculture is another environmentally damaging aspect of the meat industry.
These are generally well-known facts, but many people are still reluctant to become vegetarian, or even to take part in #MeatlessMonday. However, it would make a significant impact if everyone reduced their meat intake even by a little, so if going veg is something you’re considering, you could start by cutting down. I decided to eat less meat after watching Cowspiracy (it’s on Netflix!). It was compelling, so I started to do some more research. I learned that people stop eating meat for moral, health, and environmental reasons.
I’ve always been a firm believer of “everything in moderation,” and I wanted to make sure that I could still eat as I pleased and remain healthy. While it was easy for me to avoid meat on my own, my parents were not so pleased with this decision. They still cooked everything using meat, so eating at home became very bland as I was mostly left eating rice and the rest of the starchy foods. At Glendon, I discovered the black bean burger and realized I could easily have vegetarian food if I looked in the right places, but buying food all the time to avoid eating at home became an expensive ordeal.
I had no choice but to learn how to cook. My desire to try new recipes became very strong, and I found myself making vegetarian lasagna for our family Christmas party. In addition to eating more fruits and veggies, I impressed my parents with my cooking skills, and starting saving money because I stopped eating out.
To be fair, I did have quite a few issues at first. Not every day is perfect, and some weeks are difficult. It is not realistic to be a guest somewhere and expect healthy vegetarian food options, and at times you will find yourself in restaurants that can only offer you a salad. It also becomes annoying to constantly be asked explain why I stopped eating meat. As nice as it is to hear genuine concerns about my health, it is frustrating to have your food choices questioned by others. Some days, I get tired, but I find that vegetarian food always gives me more energy than food with meat.
I still eat fish occasionally when the choices are limited and indulge in a lot of unhealthy food choices that don’t include meat. Although going vegetarian reduces your risk of many diseases, cutting out meat does not suddenly turn you into a healthy food aficionado; I can still enjoy a slice of pizza with friends and chips at parties. If you’re willing to give vegetarianism a shot, I’d say to be mindful of your protein intake, but make sure to live a little and to find vegetarian food that you enjoy eating!