To be honest, until recently I had something against vegetarians. I don’t exactly know or remember why, but vegetarians have just always seemed to be the butt of a joke.
I was reluctant to believe that refusing to eat meat would make any real changes until I watched the documentary “Cowspiracy,” which reveals the huge environmental consequences of animal agriculture. After watching the documentary, vegetarianism made complete sense to me, yet I still enjoyed meat way too much to even think of giving it up.
I have never pictured myself as vegetarian. To me, the meat is almost always the best part of any meal. Without meat, there is no way I can feed my addiction to burritos or pho (or a pho burrito… nom). Sure, there are always meatless options for both, but to me there is little point to ordering either if they’re missing the main attraction.
However, recently inspired by my close friends who’ve given up meat and with a better understanding of the importance of conscious and healthy consumption, I’ve become more open to the idea of giving up my beloved carne asada.
As I started to seriously consider vegetarianism, I re-evaluated my daily eats. Due to a combination of the lack of options at my school’s dining hall and my laughable attempts at being healthy, I realized I rather consistently eat the same exact thing everyday.
My day starts with a Clif Bar to help me roll out of bed, then an average deli sandwich for lunch, and lastly a salad for dinner, usually topped off with chicken breast or bacon to be able to endure it.
Realizing that (other than the added meat to my daily sandwich and salad) I only consume a small amount of meat each day, going vegetarian was looking less daunting and more doable than ever. I could probably go at least one week without eating meat right? How hard could it be? I was up for the challenge.
Going into this, I was not worried about a vegetarian diet having any real effects on my life. I was confident that I could get a sufficient amount of protein through protein bars and supplements that I am already taking, and that I could probably make up for the lack of bacon on my sandwich by branching out from the deli and to the satay line for a rice bowls. Other than that, I wasn’t too scared of going vegetarian for a week.
It’s also worth noting that living on campus and eating at the dining hall makes me all the more willing to try this experiment in the first place, as the vegetarian options are abundant while the meat options are not exceptionally good to begin with.
After a few days of going vegetarian, I had little issue. For most of what I eat, meat is just an extra anyways. Other than taking meat out of my salad, the only change I had to make was changing up my lunch. After failing to make my usual deli order tasty or filling without the meat, I resorted to seeking out vegetarian snacks to hold me over until dinner.
I quickly realized that vegetarian does not necessarily mean healthy. Since I was snacking more than my meat-eater self, I had little self control to avoid buying a (completely vegetarian) bag of Hot Cheetos when I felt a wave of hunger.
However, after pulling the trigger and ditching my meatless sandwich all together, I found I was happily satiated (and Cheetos-craving free) after switching to more filling vegetarian dishes, such as trying out rice bowls, opting for my salad in a wrap or adding more vegetables to my meal.
Overall, I would say that my week as a vegetarian has been a success. The few problems that I did encounter were mostly trivial in nature. For example, I had to find healthier ways to eat more food to make up for the fact that meatless dishes often left me hungry.
While I did not hate my week as a vegetarian, I can’t see myself sticking to a completely meatless diet for a few reasons. First of all, meat can be nutritionally valuable to a healthy diet, as it provides protein and iron that I found to be difficult to find elsewhere.
For me it was hard to find alternatives I both enjoyed and that kept me full, which often lead me to eat unhealthy snacks. Finally, the truth is that I like meat way too much to give it up. Throughout the week, I couldn’t help but eye my friends’ food and daydream about al pastor tacos.
Although I cannot see myself staying completely meatless, this last week without meat has taught me how unnecessary it is to eat meat with every single meal, especially when it has such a big environmental impact. While I’m not ready to say no to beef pho, avoiding meat for every meal would be a good way for me to reduce the guilt I associate with my meat consumption and help me in beginning to make a difference in my own way.