This is a post I’ve been wanting to write for a while, but I guess haven’t had the time or focus to word vomit my thoughts onto the internet. It’s a topic that is close to my heart and has grown increasingly more important to me over the last year or so. I believe that diet is so important to having a healthy lifestyle and in being so a direct correlation to happiness and mental health as well. All of the information posted here is of my own opinion and from my own experience. I am in no way a health professional or a nutrition expert so please take this post with a grain of salt and do not look to me for life-altering changes. This is simply my take on my diet and how I choose to eat. Your life is your responsibly. With that said, let’s get into what has been brewing in my head and in my heart for so long.
I decided to stop eating most meats around 2014. I say most meats because I continued (and still occasionally) eat fish. The technical term for this type of diet is pescatarian. The choice to move to this type of diet I believe was mainly due to exposure to people in my life who were completely vegan. I saw how they ate and had many conversations with them about why they chose the diet they did. It got my wheels turning. I never really enjoyed eating meat. Sure, a steak now and then was okay, but it wasn’t something I craved, and I think cooking chicken was more of a habitual convenience than a diet choice. I was raised having and slaughtering livestock for food. The graphic images of this have stuck with me for life and was also another huge reason I stopped eating meat paired with my love for animals. Lastly, and I think the main reason I stopped, was due to all of the new information coming out about the meat industry. People were researching where our food was coming from and finding that it wasn’t as clean or maybe even as safe as we thought it was. All of this put together just clicked for me. I didn’t want to be a part of something that hurt animals, but I also didn’t want to jeopardize my own health by ingesting food that could be tainted with chemicals or bad juju.
Jumping forward to today, I guess I would still be considered pescatarian, as I occasionally eat fish. I say occasionally because most of the time now when I eat it is when there is no other solid protein source available (such as going out to eat or being invited to a friend’s house for dinner), or if we catch the fish ourselves while camping and eat it while on vacation. I have cut out most of the dairy in my diet, again, only eating occasionally or when there’s no other option. Alternatively, I purchase almond milk for cooking and consuming at home, as well as the wide variety of non-dairy cheeses available at pretty much any grocery store these days. I also still eat eggs, however I only purchase cage-free organic eggs and hope to have my own chickens soon to source eggs from (I plan on doing a more educational post on why I still eat eggs in the future). So, why am I telling you all of this? Because I feel like in order to get into the conversation I want to start, it’s better to know where I’m coming from. I don’t want to seem like I come from a place of judgement. And, I suppose, that’s really my reason for this entire post.
Let’s stop judging each other for what we eat, and let’s start encouraging each other to do better.
No, I am not vegan, but I do eat like a vegan as often as possible. Do I call myself a vegan? No. Do I call myself a vegetarian? No. Why do I need to call myself anything? I think the biggest problem with the whole vegan label is the idea that we have to limit ourselves right away (and limit everyone else) to actually make a difference. You have to start somewhere, and that’s okay. This is why I include my journey in the beginning of this post. I think it’s so important to show people that it can be a transition. And it doesn’t even have to be this extreme! I mean, it’s not really extreme at all, but it can be simplified even more. And I think this is important because people are naturally afraid of change. Change can be scary, so sometimes it’s easier to process when we start small. I think that putting these big over-arching labels on things makes the plant-based community feel hard to reach. And we need to make it more inclusive if we want to see real change. Let’s get into easy ways that you can creep into being more plant-based and start making changes that are easy to accept but also easy to grow from.
The first and probably one of the most popular ways to become more plant-based is starting with Meatless Mondays. This is where you take one day out of the week to eat completely meat-free (and hopefully dairy-free too!). I think this is a great option for people who have never really considered eating vegetarian or vegan diets before. It’s a small step into a big world and makes for a great opportunity to research recipes, ingredients and different ways of cooking without throwing your whole life into a whirlwind. Still too much change? Start with plant-based dinners on Mondays. This way it’s only one meal once a week while still giving you a great opportunity to try new things and hopefully spark bigger changes.
Small Ingredient Swaps
Another great way to make small changes in your diet is to pick one specific item or ingredient that you could start living without. For example, instead of drinking or using cow milk you switch to almond milk. This is a small change that could grow into something larger in time but still make a small difference. It’s also a great opportunity to try new plant-based ingredients and give yourself a way to figure out what you like in case you decide to take a bigger plunge. Don’t care for almond milk? That’s fine. There’s also soy milk, cashew milk and oat milk to name a few. Another great and easy ingredient swap? Switching ground beef for plant-based crumbles. There are many different brands now that offer such a substitute and I find that most taste just as good, if not better than ground beef.
Plant-Based Meal Swaps
I think this is probably one of the most fun ways to try plant-based changes and a great way to get friends and family involved too. Take turns hosting dinner nights (or just swapping meals or recipes) and sharing your favorite plant-based recipes. I know that this has been huge in my circle with showing people that plant-based meals don’t have to be boring or only filled with vegetables (although those are my favorite *wink*). Have friends that already eat plant-based? Ask them about helping you find options and making changes! I’m sure they’d be happy to help you along or invite you to dinner to see what great and healthy meals you might be missing.
These are just a couple of the ways you can start making a difference. If you’re interested in hearing more, let me know in the comments below.
We don’t all have to be vegan right now. If we can all commit to starting somewhere and making small changes we can all start to make a difference.