On December 16, 2016, I decided to try switching to a vegetarian lifestyle.
I’d always been tempted by being a vegetarian, since I have never loved the taste or texture of meat and was also interested in animal advocacy. On that day, I was in Hawaii with my family and just decided to give it a try on the trip. I’ve been a vegetarian ever since.
I do not eat any meat or fish, but I do still eat eggs and dairy (so I am technically a lacto-ovo vegetarian). It’s since been over 18 months (time flies!), and I thought it would be a good time for some honest reflections on my thoughts about the lifestyle.
Here are a few of my favorite things about being a vegetarian:
ONE / Adventurous Eating
Particularly when eating out a restaurants, I have been pushed to try new and different foods based on the menu choices. Some of my favorite discoveries – roasted Brussels sprouts, cold noodle and vegetable bowls, sofritas (roasted spicy tofu) in burrito bowls, and some truly excellent veggie burgers. This has expanded by palate and made me a more adventurous eater, which is a big deal as I used to be incredibly picky. I’ve also been inspired to cook more and explore different vegetables than I was previously exposed to.
TWO / Animal Advocacy
This is a personal view and one I find important, although I acknowledge that there are many opposing views on this topic. Personally, I appreciate that I am doing an (admittedly very small) portion to advocate for animals. While I know I am far from perfect as I still elect to eat dairy and eggs, I consider it a work in process and am happy with the small, every day choices I am making to consume less meat and dairy. Every time I hear a terrible story about animal abuse or something similar, I am pleased that I am taking at least some action towards better lives for the animals on our planet.
THREE / An Exercise in Discipline
Eating a restrictive diet by choice is something that requires both discipline and, in my opinion, tact. I try very hard to not make my own dietary choices burdensome to those around me, and one of the goals I have when meeting new people and eating meals together is to not necessarily have my decision part of the conversation. If someone wants to talk about why I’ve made this choice, I am completely on board, but each person has the right to make their own decisions separate from my choices. If there isn’t something vegetarian at a picnic, I try to bring my own meal or just politely opt out. We all have different views, and I think they can be harmonious with one another if we are respectful and adhere to the “Good for you, but not good for me” idea.
Just for fun, here are a few of my favorite vegetarian (or “can be made vegetarian”) recipes:
- Butternut squash grain bowl
- Vegetable noodle soup
- Caprese pasta salad
- Avocado black bean quesadillas
Aside from all the positives listed above, I do have one thing about vegetarianism that I find really challenging: it is incredibly easy to be a “vegetarian in name only.” For example, if you only eat things like take-out veggie sandwiches, crackers and cheese, yogurt, pasta, etc., you are technically eating a vegetarian diet, but it is not necessarily a healthy one. This is something I struggle with and have to keep working on, as the foods listed above are the “quick grab” options. Focusing on complete meals is sometimes a challenge, and I think being a vegetarian adds to the complexity.
Despite this challenge, however, I am still happy with my choice to be a vegetarian. I’m hoping to continue to expand my palate and learn to get into a good routine of creating more healthy meals for myself as the years go on. Vegetarian recipes are incredibly tasty and I would love to expand my repertoire!