Vegetarian Trials – update

pea smile2People keep asking me if I am eating meat or not so I apologise for not updating sooner!  I always was eating meat, so maybe my title for this project was a bit misleading.

It’s not far off a year since I started varying my diet as part of an investigation into the health, ethical and environmental impacts of vegetarianism. I never intended to cut out meat cold turkey as it were, but to adventure into different food types, set myself little food challenges and to read, read, read about the reasons why vegetarianism might be for me.

I have got as far as recognising the following:

1. I feel better with lots less meat in my diet. I feel less sluggish, have more energy and my digestive system certainly appreciates less meat based protein.  I find my body actually craves vegetables and pulses if I have gone without a substantial amount for a few days. On a short break recently, I was catered for, kindly, but I found everything just slows down when each meal is served with meat and potatoes, fried, boiled or mashed. I hadn’t realised how used to my new diet my body is!

2. A swap to non-meat diet doesn’t seem to mean a lower impact on the environment.  Most veggies I know chose to not eat meat because of animal welfare reasons. While this has been a consideration, I was always more  interested in the environmental impact of diet. Sadly I had a feeling it was going to be a complicated matter and lots of reading has revealed that some meat substitutes have an equal, if not higher impact on the environment than meat. I know there are no easy answers to improving our use of the planet which is why for now I’m still learning about this one.

3. It is entirely possible to eat goat’s cheese and not vomit.  The range of vegetarian food available at outlets local to me is pathetic. It is all about cheese, peppers, tomatoes and coriander, none of which I can stomach in quantity (and not at all regarding coriander).  Everything is laden with mayo. Our favourite curry house seems to think if you don’t have meat in a dish, you must therefore want as much spice as the human body can handle – or not handle. I went to a place to eat a few weeks back and there was one vegetarian dish out of 40. They had a range of gluten free meals, but one vegetarian. How can that possibly be? It wasn’t a Harvester! I have however varied my own cooking, baking and shopping habits. I tried foods I have disliked in the past and goats cheese is now on my love list. I’m eating tonnes of lentils, so-called superfood pulses and beans, better choices of bread and cooking oils.

4. Veganism might be the preferred option. The common theme throughout my reading was that if I want to have a real impact on the planet, vegetarianism is a mostly considered a bit pointless and veganism is the way forward. If you are doing it for animal welfare reasons, the conditions animals are kept in to provide milk, eggs etc are often equally as problematic as those reared to produce meat.  If you want to eat meat substitutes like soya and tofu, be aware they take so much water to produce, it might be more harmful to the environment than cattle production. A lot of experts seem to think no matter what your driver, vegetariaism is only half the story. Veganism would be a massive step. One I am willing to ponder (don’t tell Rob.)

So for reference you can still serve us meat. My preference is to not eat meat at breakfast, lunch or at any snack times. I try to only have meat 2-3 times a week at an evening meal, fish 1-2 times and the rest vegetarian but because we want to be good guests and we love being cooked for, I’m probably easier to cook for now than I ever have been!

We have begun the British Heart Foundation Healthy Eating Plan which can easily be adjusted for vegetarianism. We needed to address balance and portion control. We want to reduce the unhealthy bits of our diet, Rob wants to lose some weight, I don’t and this plan helped us cover all those bases. A lot of the recipes help you eat less meat by bulking/replacing with veggies (such as the beef and butternut squash moussaka we made recently that works equally well with Quorn.) Rob’s tastes are changing too; I made a chicken and broccoli risotto last week which he said he’d like to try without meat as well.  I actually did fall off my chair.



4 thoughts on “Vegetarian Trials – update

  1. I’ve been thinking recently about the impact food has on the environment. An (admittedly cursory) first sweep of the internet left me scratching my head and desperately wishing that there was someone who had unbiased information about the impacts of different foods. Everyone seems to have an agenda – and conflicting data! Have you found any really good resources that you’d recommend as a starting point?

  2. Fascinating! I’m a longtime vegetarian mainly for economic justice reasons ie more people could have enough food if less land were used to rear and feed animals. I looked into going vegan recently for reasons you refer to. Did try it through Lent and was amazed to find how quickly I got used to it still undecided though.
    Yotam Ottolenghi has an excellent vegetarian cookbook called ‘Plenty’ which you might enjoy.

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