When I was in college I had a couple friends who abstained from eating animal products. Prior to college, I had never really known any serious vegetarians so recall being somewhat fascinated with how they would make food choices, especially at the dining halls. Being around people who eat differently, whether it is due to religious preferences, health restrictions, or personal ethical choices can be quite an educational experience. Imagine my surprise when Leslie and Meredith turned down my offer of gummy bears and frosted Pop-Tarts when we were hanging out in the dorms late one night. If you are like I was 12 years ago, you might be wondering why that junk food isn’t cool with the vegetarian kids. One word: gelatin! Because gelatin is derived from an animal, usually pigs or horses, these foods are no-nos for the more strict vegetarians and definitely no-nos for vegans.
Over the past couple of years I’ve gradually reduced the amount of animal protein (and gummy bears and Pop-Tarts) in my diet. While I currently have no intentions of becoming a vegetarian, I certainly believe that reducing meat consumption can enhance both my personal health and the health of our environment. One way I’ve been able to do that is by changing a few habits here and there that have lead to a significant reduction in meat consumption. Here are few ways I’ve gone about this:
- I started shopping at a food cooperative where I can learn about how the animals I plan to eat were raised and slaughtered. By getting my meat from the cooperative, I have only what’s on hand at home and find that once I’m out, I opt for vegetarian meals instead of running to the grocery store for mass-produced chicken or beef.
- I don’t have meat at lunch, however I do usually have eggs or some kind of dairy like cheese, yogurt, or cottage cheese at either breakfast or lunch.
- I have cut back on the amount of meat I eat at restaurants, especially if the restaurant isn’t serving locally raised meat.
- I participate in Meatless Mondays, or at least the concept of Meatless Mondays because my meatless meal doesn’t always fall on a Monday. This week, however, it did! In fact, I had Meatless Sunday AND Monday! Here are two great recipes I had and recommend you try for your next meatless meal!
From The Garden Grazer, Quinoa Fajita Burritos These were really easy to make and tasted delicious! All you need is quinoa, black beans, tomatoes, peppers, onions, and whatever you fancy for toppings, may it be salsa, spinach, cheese, avocado, or Greek yogurt (as a replacement for sour cream). With the weather being warmer, tonight I was in the mood for something light, like a salad. I’ve been eating Brussels sprouts like they’re going of style so decided to try a chopped Brussels sprouts and cranberry-pecan blue cheese salad from the website, Two Peas & Their pod. I’ve never eaten Brussels sprouts raw but it was delicious and included a recipe for a healthy and very tasty homemade dressing!
I think eating less meat has given me an opportunity to try new foods and make different recipes and it’s also given me an appreciation for people who choose a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. Do I make exceptions to my various food rules, of course, sometimes I do. If I were to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle I would be more strict but for now, I’m cool being flexible.