Last week I briefly mentioned my friend Leslie in my Meatless Monday post. I thought maybe some of you would be interested to hear how she has gradually eliminated almost all animal products in her diet over the past 10 plus years. Here’s a brief Q & A that I hope you find valuable if you’re considering a lifestyle change such as this!
Johanna: Leslie, I remember in college I once offered you gummy bears and couldn’t figure out why you turned me down until we had “the talk” about gelatin. At that point you were very serious and dedicated to a vegetarian lifestyle. At what point did you shift from vegetarian to a near vegan diet?
Leslie: I started this meatless journey in high school when I cut out all red meat. Then, when I started my freshman year of college, removed white meat so was officially “meatless.” I think that is an important point to make because I slowly made the transition. As much as I would have liked to remove all meat when I was still in college, my mom was doing the cooking so I had limits I was meeting plus I wanted to be respectful to her. It was one year ago that I decided to eat a plant-based diet primarily – what some people might call vegan. I do not call myself a full-fledged vegan because I still eat animal products (dairy and eggs) when going to someone’s house who will be cooking or going out to eat with friends when vegan options are limited.
JD: So, why the lifestyle change?
LB: For me there is a health angle and an animal rights angle. I care very much about how animals are treated and the more research I did into how dairy cattle and egg chickens are raised, I couldn’t continue to eat those products in good conscience. As for health, I began hearing a lot of information about the effect dairy has on our health. Further, if you think about the food safety issues that have increasingly been seen in the news (salmonella in eggs, etc), it makes me question further our mass produced food industry and assures me that eating a plant-based diet most or all the time is the way to go.
JD: You got married a few years ago to a guy I helped set you up with and I’m pretty sure he occasionally has a brat at my 4th of July parties. How do you cook at home and how has that impacted your food choices?
LB: For the past year I have been cooking only vegan at home. It wasn’t really that hard to shift over to vegan only – I wasn’t cooking with many dairy or egg products even before the switch. My husband is also very concerned with how meat is mass produced and the harmful effects it has on health and the environment. Jeff will only eat meat that has been sustainably or locally raised. Since I do not cook or eat any meat, Jeff eats what is made at home and I know that is okay with him. When we eat out or at someone’s house, he’ll eat vegetarian/vegan unless a sustainable meat options if provided.
JD: What advice would you give someone looking to begin shifting towards a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle?
I think Meatless Monday is definitely a good way to start. Just cutting out a few days of meat is great for your health and the environment! Mark Bittman has been recommending Vegan before 6:00 (in a book by the same name).
And don’t say “I could never give up _________ (eggs, beef, chicken, cheese)”! It is a matter of choice – for your health and the health of animals. I will admit, I love cheese, I mean, who doesn’t! However, I found after removing it from my diet for a few weeks, my cravings for it were drastically decreased. Now, I try and make it a rule that I will only eat high-quality/artisan cheeses and steer away from cheese as filler.
Lastly, if you live with someone, definitely ask them to take part in the meatless adventure with you. It makes it so much easier when you don’t have to cook two different meals and just having that other person as a support.
Thanks to Leslie for this contribution and for always obliging when I ask to take our annual NYE photo in her ever so lovely bathroom!