When I stopped eating meat in the mid-1990’s (ANCIENT!:)), I had NO idea what a vegetarian or vegan was; I’d never heard of the terms and I wasn’t even trying to fit into a global lifestyle – I just wanted to poop without struggling.
Today, going meatless not only means a mental shift from carnivore to plant-based, it also means resisting the sodium-packed, processed vegetarian and vegan food bonanza lining the fridge and freezer shelves in every store or online.
I think becoming a vegetarian was easier for me than it is for people today trying to live a meatless life. Back then, the temptation to focus on meat or dairy substitutes wasn’t my priority. I actually became a carb queen and created a whole NEW problem 🙂 but more about that later. The point is, my meatless journey focused mostly on unprocessed home-made foods where I controlled the sodium and fat, as well as my mindset – no vegan cheeses, dairy-free frozen pizzas or yummy Beyond Meat Burgers to drain my wallet and cloud my vision for healthy eating habits. I think my “why,” my reasons for going meatless were focused more on my health than they were on joining a group, and I think that our “why” is what guides us.
IT’S ALL ABOUT YOUR “WHY”
So why are you going meatless? I did it because I started noticing that it was meat – hamburgers and steaks mostly, but all meats – that just sat in my belly like they belonged there. I felt extra tired, irritable (not cool for a temperamental single mom of three) and pooping was stressful. Those reasons didn’t keep me from eating too much homemade mac and cheese unfortunately 🙂 but they did keep me from filling my freezer with the processed veggie burgers, veggie bacon (I STILL REFUSE), and veggie hot dogs (ugh!) that I’d started to see in the freezer section in stores. Healthy to me has always started with what’s on my plate.
How about you? If you’re going meatless to be healthy, there are a few things you might want to think about.
- Processed meatless foods: Yes of course the food industry saw which way the health wind was blowing and created all these lovely vegan/vegetarian processed foods. But if the foods are packed with sodium, fat and ingredients you can’t pronounce (AND THEY ARE) are they good for your blood pressure? Inflammation? Weight loss?
- Meat/dairy processed substitutes are NOT the definition of a vegan/vegetarian diet: Have you noticed that the processed meatless foods you’ll find in store fridge sections are meat/dairy substitutes? They are created with extra sodium (cause let’s face it, extra salt can make anything taste good right?), and stuff you can’t pronounce and designed to keep your mind focused on what you’re giving up.
- Serving size matters: Label-reading is a MUST if you just have to sample all the vegan/vegetarian goodies out there.
A VEGAN OR VEGETARIAN LIFE – the bottom line
Google vegetarian and you’ll find many variations, for example: lacto vegetarian (no dairy) ovo vegetarian (no eggs), lacto/ovo vegetarian (no dairy or eggs). Google vegan and you’ll learn that becoming one is more than just what’s on your plate; it’s the clothes you wear, your makeup, your shoes, your furniture, etc. But look closer and you’ll discover that both vegans and vegetarians subscribe to dietary habits that include a primary focus of foods in their most natural state: fruits, veggies, nuts and grains. Processed meat and dairy substitutions are not part of either definition.
Food for thought. 🙂