How I became a vegetarian when my favorite food was steak.
We’ll get this out of the way now: I’m not trying to convert you into becoming a vegetarian or guilt you for eating meat. Yes, I get enough protein. No, I don’t have intentions of “stopping”. Yes, I do eat fish on occasion. No, I’m not offended that you are eating it in front of me. Great, now we can get into the meaty stuff (pun intended :)).
I didn’t cut the meat out cold turkey!
As a lifelong carnivore, I was so conflicted! I had tried to be a vegetarian a couple times in my adolescence but would fall flat after, I don’t know, 3 hours or so. My favorite foods were burgers and steak, and I ate them a good 5 days of the week and didn’t let myself think about where they came from. Once I was finally ready to give it a real try, I set up a handful of ground rules to help with my transition that I believe were key in sustainability and also helped my sensitive tummy get used to the change.
Start with what you can control, what exceptions you want to keep, and be realistic. I had four rules to start.
Limit the number of meals with meat
I started by limiting the number of meals I ate meat or if I could go full days without it. Even if you only scrap meat one day a week, you will make a laundry list of positive impacts on your health, wallet, and environment. Don’t take my word for it; it’s all backed here.
Only locally sourced meat
I really love restaurants that have partnerships with local farmers. Bonus points if the restaurant cites the farms they work with. It helps the local economy and also, to me, presented a higher quality, healthier (fresher) option.
If it was already prepared
Like at a family gathering or if someone would have me over for dinner. This has since changed, but at first, I didn’t want to “make a fuss” over it. Most people in my life are super understanding at this point and prepare a couple non-meat options, or I gladly bring my own to spare anyone the trouble!
So this one might make you chuckle because it was the hardest – and last – area where I had to cut out meat!! My very traditional grandmother who grew up on a farm in Italy at first didn’t totally get it. I’ll never forget the day I told her – her response was “why, because of the animals?” haha… it was so dear. She knows me so well! While she didn’t totally understand at first (like picking chicken out of soup or pulling pepperonis off the pizza), she has really embraced it and supported me completely.
Be patient with yourself!
I lived by those rules for about three months while I transitioned meat out of my life, and I truly felt a huge difference. While it was such a staple for so long, I haven’t really missed it since my last teensy bite of turkey Thanksgiving 2014. I didn’t feel as sluggish after a meal, got creative with my cooking (very much a work in progress!), and my clothes fit better.
Do what works best for you.
Like you’ll hear me say a lot, it doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. Even if you are a meat-eater for life, I hope some of these guidelines can inspire you to at least decrease the amount that you eat. There are lots and lots of vegetarian alternatives to all my old favorites that help when I am craving the taste of it. I’ll share some of our favorite recipes to show that you don’t need meat to have a tasty, satisfying meal!