I used to joke that I was a carnivore. If I could get away with it, a meal would only consist of a savory meat. To add to my already unhealthy carnivorous tendencies, my parents would always cook the most delicious meats when I came home: Korean barbecue, burgers and hot dogs, grilled chicken and of course steak. But recently I've come across a bunch of videos that discuss the negative effects of this type of diet. In the video, Vox explains that the total amount of CO2 emitted from raising livestock is almost twice as much as the pollution caused by all the cars on the planet. But an easy alternative to counter this issue is to simply "swap your steak for fish... and you get an eight-fold reduction in emissions." 

The video stresses that the way we shape our diets are a choice. A choice that can make an impact on both our lives and the life of our planet. While a slab of tender, juicy, medium rare steak makes my day, so does a healthy earth! If I can make a difference by modifying just one aspect of my every day life for the greater good, why not at least give it a try? Although the idea pained me, I decided that in September I would try a pescatarian diet.

Pescatarians have a diet similar to those of vegetarians, but they can eat fish and other seafood. According to Healthline's article on pescatarians, some reasons for going pescatarian include: environmental (CO2 emissions are much lower for fish compared to turf meats), health benefits (the oils found in fish like omega-3 lower blood pressure), or even just taste. 

Although not many people thought I could do it, I persevered through the 30 days! The beginning was a climb, but soon it became less of a diet and more of a lifestyle.

The Hardest Parts of the Experience

🐟 Checking the ingredients on EVERYTHING

Sometimes, eating packaged or instant foods were just as much of a bother as cooking fresh ingredients. To stay true to the diet, I made sure to read the ingredient labels of everything. Many ramen packages or instant noodles actually contain meat, bone marrow, or broth.

There were a couple times when I did slip up. At an event, I didn't pay attention and almost ate a pork rind (luckily I realized and spit it out).  Unfortunately, I did eat a shrimp-flavored cup ramen, only to later realize it also contained beef and chicken stock in the soup. Although I made some mistakes, I can still say I did not eat any obvious meat products!

🐟 Seafood can get pricey depending on where you buy it

I don't usually buy fish from the supermarket, but I was appalled when I realized that the salmon at my local grocery store was priced at $16.99 per pound. When I went to China town in New York City and the H Mart a couple of towns over, I was able to purchase seafood for a more reasonable price. 

fish, seafood, sardine, mackerel
Dea Uy

🐟 Temptations

Really, the HARDEST part was not fighting my own urges for meat. Seeing the meat options on menus or the taunts from friends did not help at all! On the first day of my new diet, I actually had a trip planned to Philadelphia with a friend. That meant no Philly cheese steak 😢 and I ended up just having a fruit smoothie for dinner. A lot of people also didn't really understand my experiment (perhaps if I provided a better reasoning) and while some came from a place of ignorance, I found that more came from a place of pity. 😂

The Best Parts of the Experience

🐟 Learning to cook my own seafood for the first time!

Really, I learned how to cook a lot more in general, but I really entered a whole new territory with the seafood! I didn't actually have the opportunity to buy too much seafood, but I cooked salmon, cod, mackerel and shrimp for the first time on my own! Before I had always played it safe, cooking the meats I already knew how to. It's awesome being able to add some more things to my chefs' repertoire! 

Tracy Wong

🐟 Trying recipes and dishes I would have never would have

Prior to this experiment, I usually stuck to the same simple dishes. Meat stir fry with vegetables, noodles with chicken or soup with pork. Without the option of meat, I explored new recipes (many of which were also vegetarian) like fenugreek potatoes or shrimp Alfredo. I also "concocted" (basically winged it) my own recipes like shrimp and chive wontons and different smoothies. After learning from more recipes I also felt more comfortable with cooking and even experimenting with whatever ingredients I have.

Tracy Wong

🐟 MAKING more food rather than heating up instant food

Although it was more time consuming, I felt so great seeing and adding every ingredient or part to my meals. It was fun to cook and I knew exactly what I was putting into my body. Is this what they call #adulting?

What I Learned

Honestly, before this experience I didn't have the best attitude towards diets/dietary restrictions in general. After this experience, not only have I learned more about the impact of dieting to both my body and the environment, but I have also experienced a positive change in attitude. I love meat, and it would upset me if I had to change my initial dinner plans to eat KBBQ if someone could not eat the food. But after this experience, I understand that the situation might be worse for the other party. They might also enjoy meat, but choose to give it up for one reason or another, but having to modify plans feels bad already. It is so important to be mindful and tolerant of those who choose to restrict (whether this be a diet plan or even a work out plan) a part of their lives. The least we can do is ask and understand their purposes!

Would I become pescatarian full-time?

I'm not quite sure I could give up ALL my meat, but I will definitely be eating less of it and being more conscious of how much I am eating. Because it is so easy to have this type of diet when cooking for oneself, but also very difficult to keep when eating out, I believe the best option is to practice the diet when at home and allow yourself meat when going out to eat. 

And would I recommend trying out the diet?

I've discovered that you learn the most when you suck it up and experience it. Stepping into the shoes of a pescatarian this month has changed my mindset in so many ways. So if you're curious, for whatever reason, I encourage you to give it a try! Even if it is a week, or a month, or a whole year, see what it does for you.

Stay tuned and see if I survive being vegetarian next month! Good bye filet-o-fish