Everyone always asks me the same thing when they find out I’m a vegetarian, “what do you eat, vegetables?” Being a vegetarian doesn’t mean you only eat vegetables. It means following a lifestyle diet of foods such a grains, legumes, dairy and yes, vegetables… just no meat.
I have been a vegetarian my whole life, never experienced bacon or steak, and am perfectly content with how I was raised. Being a vegetarian always made me feel different, sometimes not always in the best way.
I remember times when I would get teased for not having meat in my lunch, or feeling so out of the group when I got called out for never having meat. I finally was able to grow into myself.
I figured out that being a vegetarian not only made me feel different in the sense that I was able to choose to be the way I was, but also I was able to see that choosing to eat this way would benefit me in the long run.
I was able to skip the temptation of bacon, pepperoni pizza and cheeseburgers and instead increased the amount of vegetables I liked to eat. I want people to understand that being a vegetarian isn’t being a “tree-hugger” or a “hippie,” but is really about being unique.
Trying out the vegetarian diet is a great way to test your will power and see how long you can go without meat. Another reason to try it is simply for the health benefits.
Here are seven reasons why:
1. Not eating meat is not as hard as you think
When I tell people that I have been a vegetarian my whole life, I get a look of shock and the response, “I have no idea how you can survive without meat!”
While yes, I have never had meat and never crave a piece of bacon, I am aware that for most people the idea of giving up meat seems hard. But it really isn’t.
If you slowly ease off meat, you will become aware of all the different things you can have other than meat. There are plenty of meat alternatives, such as tofu, tempeh, and soy products.
Given, I have been a vegetarian my whole life and haven’t had to experience the cravings or feelings of giving in, but I do know many people who converted to the vegetarian lifestyle and discovered how much they enjoyed it. Don’t immediately shoot down that veggie burger, give it a try. Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods are a great place to choose foods to have some fun in your own kitchen.
2. Vegetarian is NOT vegan
This is a common misconception that vegetarian and vegan are the same thing, but they aren’t. A vegan is someone who doesn’t eat meat or animal products, like honey or milk. A vegetarian is someone who doesn’t eat meat, or other animal products depending on the type of vegetarianism they follow.
There are many types of vegetarians. There are lacto-vegetarians who won’t eat meat, eggs or fish, but will consume dairy, while lacto-ovo-vegatarians will not eat meat or fish, but will eat eggs and dairy. This is actually the most common type of vegetarian.
This means that a vegetarian can consume ice cream, cheese, and milk, if they want to. I know I love a good cheese pizza or a Caprese salad, but my favorite dessert is actually coconut milk ice cream. A vegan diet is more strict and difficult to follow for people who love dairy. (Fun fact: vegan ice cream is delicious.)
3. You can get creative at restaurants
*Walks into restaurants and immediately regrets decision* is not what will happen to you. Being a vegetarian doesn’t mean not going out to eat, because trust me, there are tons of ways to get creative at a restaurant.
Burritos and pizza are still good without meat. I dare you to try extra beans on your burrito or some veggies on your next slice instead of meat. Sandwiches and burgers tend to cause stress for a new vegetarian, but if you haven’t had a veggie burger or Caprese sandwich then you are missing out.
Breakfast seems to especially revolve around meat, such as bacon or sausage, but there are really great alternatives to these high-fat meats during the most important meal of the day. Try a tofu scramble, or if you are craving something sweeter, have an acai bowl drizzled with almond butter and granola for protein.
4. It’s the new hip thing
Vegetarian and vegan restaurants are becoming the next up and coming trend all over the U.S. and other countries. There are restaurants being opened specifically for clients who don’t eat meat and/or meat byproducts.
I have had some killer tofu spring rolls in California, a vegan taco salad in Houston that made my mouth water, and a delicious veggie burger in New York. These restaurants get creative by turning people’s favorites into non-meat friendly meals, such as “chicken nuggets” made with deep fried soybeans.
If you keep an eye out next time you’re at a restaurant, you’ll see most menus have vegetarian options.
5. It is delicious and nutritious
Being a vegetarian doesn’t mean you live on vegetables like most people will assume, it means you are eating more vegetables, fruits, and grains than those who eat meat.
The vegetarian diet has been proven to help prevent chronic disease seen in research done by organizations such as the American Heart Association and Harvard Health. A correctly followed vegetarian diet can be extremely healthy, and can prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease and Type II Diabetes.
I know personally that my family has had a history of heart troubles in the past, and I am doing everything I can, especially by following a vegetarian diet, to prevent myself from suffering from the same chronic disease.
I am aware of the many nutrients found in meat, such as B12 and Iron, but I also know that when being careful and smart, a vegetarian can get these nutrients in other foods.
6. Animals are friends, not food
I am not going to pretend that a chicken and a family pet are the same thing. But one thing to really think about when debating between being a vegetarian is how poorly animals are treated before they are turned into someone’s meals.
People always assumed that I was a vegetarian because I loved animals and was being naive about an animals life. “There are plenty of animals in the world, you can eat one.” Really? I choose to be a vegetarian because I do value an animal’s life, but I do it primarily for the health reasons.
Unless the product states that is animal cruelty-free, there is the chance that the animal was crammed in a tightly compacted space with tons of other animals.
Luckily, most corporations are having to be increasingly careful with how they treat their meat due to all the restrictions coming into play. Science is even changing the way meat is being made. If you decide that you can’t do without your Chick-Fil-A then make sure you buy meat that treats animals fairly.
7. It’s an adventure
I’m sure you have always wanted to try something new. Maybe a different hair cut or color, maybe a chocolate covered bug, or maybe even just running. Add being a vegetarian to the list.
Trying this lifestyle will push you to step out of your comfort zone, trying new places, new dishes, and opening your mind to something you may have never considered.
Maybe start off slow, skipping the bacon at breakfast, or maybe start trying more meat alternatives, but give it a try. You will enjoy looking back and thinking you did something adventurous and healthy.
Even for me, I have branched out of my comfort zone while being a vegetarian and have tried dishes I may not have found appealing, like a beet burger or Brussels sprouts.
Trying new things is important because otherwise you’ll never know what you are missing. Being a vegetarian will be a great experience and something you may want to make into a lifestyle.