You don’t eat meat? But how do you get PROTEIN?

Whenever I tell someone I’m a vegetarian, it never fails that they always come back at me with the following questions:

  • How do you get your protein?
  • What in the world do you eat then?
  • So, do you eat eggs?
  • Do you ever eat a steak?
  • You must only eat bread.

At first, I would get really annoyed when people asked me these questions,but, after a few years of being a vegetarian and learning how to educate myself and others about the science behind vegetarianism, I realize people just don’t understand.

I was a pretend vegetarian in college for awhile after reading Skinny Bitch…and I say pretend because I remember eating a Chipotle burrito with chicken in it and then later realizing that I wasn’t supposed to eat chicken. I had my slipups. The biggest problem was that I didn’t know how to eat once meat was out of my diet. So, I had a bagel for breakfast, grilled cheese for lunch, and pasta for dinner. Holy carbs!! My college vegetarian stint only lasted a short while, but the purpose behind it stayed with me.

I’ve never enjoyed cooking meat. Something about the rawness and knowing that what I was about to eat was a living and breathing thing just really bothered me. It bothered me so much that I stopped preparing chicken and turkey so I didn’t have to handle it raw. I knew there was something more to it than the visual grossness that got to me, but I felt like I NEEDED that animal meat to stay alive and healthy.

In May 2012, my brother and his wife announced that they were vegans. They were only a week in, but after watching a few other documentaries on the farming industry and animal cruelty, they quit eating all animal products cold turkey (pun intended). I pretty much believe everything my brother says so I decided that he must be on to something. The next day I rented Forks Over Knives and Food Inc. and made Ryan watch them with me.

I cried. I gagged. I sobbed. I felt ashamed. I felt sick, . felt miserable. That was all it took. I was finished. Ryan and I had some major fights about it and I, in my rage of horror and madness, told him that he was a horrible person for ever wanting to eat meat again! (It only took him a few more weeks before he also cut out meat from his diet as well…win!)

Eventually, my heart rate dropped and I started doing some more research. I knew I never wanted to eat meat again, but I wanted to have a solid defense as to why, and at the same time, I wanted to make sure I was taking care of my body. Here are some fun food facts that you might not know:

  • We need about 35-55 grams of protein a day. The average American eats 70-100 grams a day.
  • The average American gets 67% of his or her dietary protein from animal sources, compared with a world-wide average of 34%
  • A factory farm is a large-scale industrial operation that houses thousands of animals raised for food—such as chickens, turkeys, cows, and pigs—and treats them with hormones and antibiotics to prevent disease and maximize their growth and food output
  • Every second, one football field of rainforest is destroyed in order to produce 257 hamburgers.
  • Limit the animal-fare and you’ll be reducing your likelihood for heart disease. Fatty red meats and many processed meats are high in saturated fat, which raises LDL (bad) cholesterol and increases risk of coronary heart disease
  •  In one study of more than 35,000 women published in the British Journal of Cancer, those who ate the most red and processed meat were found to have the highest risk of breast cancer. Other research has linked meat consumption to colon, prostate, pancreatic, and gastric cancers as well.

Am I a perfect vegetarian? No. I do eat fish every now and then, so I guess that truly makes me a pescatarian. The only reason why I morally can still eat fish is because I haven’t done any research on the abuse of fish–not to say it doesn’t bother me a little, but it’s the chickens, cows, pigs, etc., that bother me the most.

Now, I balance my diet with real, whole foods. I eat a lot of beans, brown rice, quinoa, vegetables, fruit, and wine. I also eat meat substitutes like tofu and tempeh.

Am I a vegan? No. Do I try to be? Yes. I have significantly cut out dairy in my diet simply because it makes my stomach so upset. I have a very hard time, however, turning down a cheese plate with my glass of wine. I’m working on it. I also eat eggs–I’m working on cutting back on that as well.

I try my best to eat a diet that I can feel morally good about, and at the same time, keeps my body healthy and functioning properly. I think that everyone should become educated about what they are putting into their body. If someone eats meat in front of me, I will not judge them or say anything. Everyone is entitlted to their own opinions and choices. I have found what works best for my body and my lifestyle.

Everyone believes different things and everyone has their own specific reasons. I wanted to share mine…and please note that I’m sure my reasons are completely different than yours (vegetarian or not). Heck, even my husband, who is a vegetarian, is only one mainly because of the health benefits he’s noticed since he stopped eating meat–not because he wants to save all the animals like his crazy wife.

So, I challenge you to try going meat free for just one day a week. You might be surprised how easy it really is. Need an extra push?

The Humane Society of the United States estimates that if every American cut out meat just once a week, about 1.4 billion animals could be spared each year.

Here’s a great article with great reasons to become a vegetarian.

Sources: http://www.happycow.net/why_vegetarian.html, peta.org, https://www.dosomething.org/tipsandtools/11-facts-about-animals-and-factory-farms, http://www.womenshealthmag.com/nutrition/vegetarian-benefits,

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