Going Meat-Free, One Guy’s Experience

Welcome readers to the second guest post of three.

Today I’d like to introduce to you David from Eating Veggie.  The most inspiring blogger on veggie and vegan food.  If you haven’t visited his blog, do it – do it now!  David’s recipes makes eating vegetarian so simple and easy to do it’s impossible not to try them out.  His style of writing is down to earth with recipes that are extremely easy to follow and makes the most simple of food look delicious.  I can vouch for the shortbread biscuit recipe.

Whether you are vegetarian or not – there are no politics involved here, just a new way of looking at food.

I myself am now over 60% vegetarian (that’s 13 out of every 21 weekly meals).  It’s been a lot easier to move towards this diet because of people like David being so friendly and the food looking so enticing.

Over to you David.

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It was a little while ago now that Sophie asked me if I’d be willing to write a guest post for her blog and I remember at the time thinking “This is brilliant, of course I’ll do it, but I have no idea what to do a post on”. In fact the problem isn’t so much having nothing to write about, but more what would be right for Sophie’s blog. That’s when I remembered, for a long time now I’ve wanted to write up my own experiences of going meat-free but I’ve been so busy trying to build up my own blog, Eating Veggie, that I had forgotten about it entirely!

The inevitable question… why?

I’ve been a vegetarian now for nearly 3 years and if you’d of told my younger self that I’d end up not eating meat I’d of probably told you where you can politely go. I come from a family of your typical meat-potatoes-veg people, expert at producing an impromptu roast from thin air to serve unannounced guests. In fact, I relished that I was a meat eater and have even been known to mock vegetarians. Needless to say, that’s changed now.

So then, why? I suppose I can thank one my best lifelong friends for planting the idea in my head after he, quite unannounced, decided to become a vegetarian. Something I would never thought to have seen, I mean this was Mr Carnivore, steak as a side order, BBQ everything.  To this day, I’m still not entirely sure why he did it or what his motivation was, but it was exactly that which got me thinking. Do you really need a reason, other than you choose not to?

About a year later my girlfriend, now fiancée, also decided that she really didn’t want to eat meat any more, although her reasons were on a more ethical ground I saw first hand how easy it was to live without meat and in some senses how it’s even unnecessary. Gradually I started to eat less and less meat until one morning, standing in my kitchen, pack of bacon in one hand I suddenly realised “hang on a minute.. I haven’t eaten any meat in two weeks” and the best bit: I wasn’t even actively avoiding it, it just kinda ‘happened’.

If you ever become a vegetarian, or vegan, or indeed if you already are then no doubt you will be asked why, or what reasons you have for going meat or animal-free completely. Many people do it for the ethical reasons, or the health reasons or even for the environmental and economical reasons. There are lists of lists of good reasons to not eat meat and I’m not going to drone on and on about them as in the end all that matters is that you choose not to.

Some Words of Advice

There are a few things to watch out for when you go meat-free, from the nutritional to some plain old myths, so here’s a quick run through of everything I’ve learnt over the last few years:

Protein, it’s not just found in meat and dairy. Plants contain protein, beans have it, legumes and even cereals will contain it. In fact, pretty much everything you eat has some amount of protein in it, unless it’s heavily processed of course. Don’t beat yourself up worrying about becoming protein deficient, chances are you eat well in excess of what your body needs already. Just make sure you have a varied diet, eating a good range of all different coloured vegetables and choosing whole-meal/whole-wheat carbohydrates. If you want to learn more about protein and being vegetarian then check out my post Protein, What’s All the Fuss About? over on my blog.

Keep an eye on your intake of Vitamin B12. This really is one of the few nutritional things you should take care with, especially if you go vegan, as B12 is pretty much only found from animal sources and is needed for a number of crucial body functions. It’s really easy to get Vitamin B12 though as most breakfast cereals and dairy alternatives are fortified with it, along side a whole host of other vitamins. Not to mention there are countless other products that are fortified with B12 (are you a Marmite lover?) and the best bit is that most of these items contain well over what you need in a day but your body will only absorb as much as it needs.

Animal products are cleverly disguised. Here’s a great example, think of your favourite sweets (candy for you Americans), chances are they say “made with real fruit juice” and “all natural ingredients”, awesome right? There’s also a good chance they are made with crushed beetles and boiled up cow remains. Cochineal, also known as: Carmine, Carminic Acid, Natural Red 4 and E120. A widely used red colourant, made from the dried and crushed bodies of hundreds of thousands of beetles, think those sweets are red because of their strawberry flavour? Gelatine, also known as E441.  A substance used in literally hundreds of thousands of products from jelly sweets to pills, made from boiling up animal skin, connective tissue, bones and pretty much anything left over that isn’t otherwise useful somewhere else. Both these ingredients are widely used, both are considered “natural” ingredients and both can be a big pain in butt for anyone trying to avoid animal products. Check out my post Would You Like Parmesan With That? for more information.

That reminds me: Parmesan, it’s not suitable for vegetarians! Sooooooo many restaurants top their vegetarian dishes with Parmesan without realising that it’s not actually suitable. In fact one Guardian journalist wrote THIS funny piece on that whole topic. Parmesan, within the EU, is made with rennet from a calf and must be made this way to carry the name.

Don’t be too harsh with yourself. Going meat free is a big step and a lot of people do end up eating meat again. The key is to do what you feel is best for you, if you don’t want to eat meat but still fancy fish now and again, that’s fine. If you eat mostly vegetarian but when you go out you have something meaty, that’s fine. Often people, especially those who are vegetarian/vegan are sometimes, are too quick to judge others. More importantly make sure you’re not too quick to judge yourself, perhaps being 100% vegetarian isn’t for you and you know what? That’s 100% fine!

Hope you enjoyed my post!

David

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Have you thought about going vegetarian or are you finding you’re moving more towards more veggie based foods quite unconsciously?  What’s you experience?  We’d love to hear it.

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Photo courtesy of Martin Cathrae

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8 responses to “Going Meat-Free, One Guy’s Experience

  1. I’ve been vegetarian much longer than not, and agree whole-heartedly on how important it is to be aware of “secret” ingredients. And there’s always a new one to learn about! (at least in the UK the cheeses are labeled “V” — here in the US it’s ingredient reading every time.

    • It can be a minefield but it certainly doesn’t help when products in a supermarket aren’t labelled clearly. We have had big campaigns over here to move towards clearer labelling but still have some way to go. Lets hope the US catches up soon.

      • Aye, I think part if becoming vegetarian/vegan is developing that 6th sense when something sounds fishy (quite literally in some cases!) and you instinctively turn to read the label.

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