Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Giving up vegetarianism

I haven't really talked to anyone about this yet, but it's been rolling around in my head.

I've been a lacto-ovo vegetarian my entire life (that means I eat eggs, cheese, milk and other dairy products, but not fish). My mom's a vegetarian, and that's how she raised me and my siblings. I am the only one who has been consistently a vegetarian--my brothers both ate meat for a while, although one is now full vegetarian again and the other eats meat rarely. My sister was am omnivore for a while, but now eats mostly vegetarian and only eats white meat when she needs the extra protein (she has some health problems that dictate this, I think).

I know for a fact that I have eaten some animal products. Caesar dressing and Worcestershire sauce are not vegetarian, for example, and neither is gelatin. Twinkies weren't always, either. Some of those things I ate knowingly, other times I'm sure chicken stock or other unknowns have gotten mixed in, and adults sometimes fed me meat as a kid (gravy at KFC, something terrible at a daycare center, chicken noodle soup) despite my attempts to refuse. I have tried a few bites of chicken and been fairly unimpressed.

I have gone through various phases of vegetarianism. When I was about 10, I begged for a hamburger, so I would be like everyone else (my mom's response was "fine, order one!" which I couldn't bring myself to do). When I was an idealistic teenager, I campaigned for animal rights and gave up milk because of the conditions diary cows are kept in (I tried to give up eggs and cheese too, but just couldn't; I still don't drink milk). Now, I understand that my abstaining from eating meat does not actually prevent any animals from being killed for food and sad to say, I'm basically only a vegetarian because, well--I always have been.

Now I'm considering giving it up consciously and altogether. I am for the most part pretty healthy and in good shape, but I often don't have a lot of energy and deal with this by going for sugar boosts (followed by crashes). My sister reports that her infrequent meat eating helps sustain her a little more and prevents the sugar cycle. I try to eat well, but meat substitutes are often full of sodium and preservatives, as well as being far too expensive for everyday use. The most common meat substitute for vegetarians is cheese, which is certainly not healthy.

I can't argue that I'm protecting animal rights when I eat eggs and cheese with no thought to how they were produced. If I do begin to eat meat, I would like to try to only purchase grass fed animals, but I would need to change my thinking on eggs as well to make this fully legitimate.

I am still thinking this over. I'm very afraid that I might get sick (I have in the past, both from knowing that I was eating animal flesh and from physioligical reactions when I didn't know I was eating it). I'm going to have to start slowly if I do it at all.

Is it cheaper to be vegetarian or to eat meat? I'm really not sure. I think I would probably only end up eating meat a few times a week, at most, and usually at restaurants (the idea of learning how to cook it makes me nervous). Vegetarian entrees are usually a bit cheaper, but not always by much. And if the additional protein filled me up faster, I might end up getting two meals out of one entree, thus actually saving money.

Thoughts?

8 comments:

  1. I am not a vegetarian, but I rarely eat meat or dairy. By not eating meat/dairy, I've saved so much money.

    In a given month, I will probably eat chicken once or twice, and red meat maybe once. I don't eat eggs unless I absolutely need them for baking, and I never drink milk. Cheese is something I've tried to give up, but it's so expensive that it stops me from eating a lot of it anyway. :)

    I eat a lot of tofu and tofu meat products. I think the tofu ground beef that I buy is tastier than the real thing - and it's healthier and cheaper too.

    I also eat fish - that's mostly what I eat when I go out to restaurants, or when I'm home at my parents' house. I rarely buy fish myself though.

    Having been a heavy meat eater, as well as a semi-vegetarian, I can say without a doubt that eating as a vegetarian is so much cheaper. I don't eat as much anymore, and I'm full a lot faster than I was when I was eating meat. It's weird how that works. I feel better about my body, and I never feel heavy or weighed down either.

    I don't know. I also think it's a lifestyle choice. It's easy for me to be semi-vegetarian because my boyfriend is as well. We eat a lot of meals together, and prepare food the same way. But it was very difficult when I was living with my ex-boyfriend because he liked eating meat every day.

    Anyway I'm just rambling now, and I've forgotten what my point is on this topic. I guess if you're looking for the cheapest alternative, vegetarianism is definitely the way to go. But that being said, I do like the occasional few bites of steak during the summer months, and a nice piece of chicken is also tasty, in moderation. I remember when I bought chicken for the first time in about 7 months ... it was like $5 for 2 chicken breasts. I nearly flipped out!

    Yikes, sorry for the novel of a response. :)

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  2. I think it is definitely cheaper to eat vegetarian, but you do have to plan a little bit if you want to get protein. Beans are good, I recently tried qunioa (cheap, decent) and many things have have some protein.

    Personally, I just eat what I enjoy. I don't care that much for meat, especially in the american/midwest fashion of having a hunk of meat be the main dish. But I'll eat it if it is what is served, and I do order burgers occasionally. I'll use eggs in cooking/baking, and love cheese, but hate milk. I might consider myself a flexitarian. Meat is a small part of my diet.

    Anyway, my point is, if you find you enjoy meat, you could incorporate a little. If you don't even like it, try to find things you enjoy that have protein and are healthy.

    Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much. I like that philosophy.

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  3. Chad @ Sentient MoneyJune 18, 2008 at 7:11 PM

    The only way vegetarian is cheaper than eating everything is if you aren't really a vegetarian, but a carbohydrate addict. Vegetables aren't any cheaper than meat, but rice and pasta are. One bag of high quality frozen chicken and about 10 packets of salmon costs me $20-25 (when the chicken isn't on sale) and lasts me two weeks. It would easily cost me that much more to fill that space with vegetables. Filling it with carbohydrates would be cheaper, but it is worse than eating meat.

    Be vegetarian because you want to, not because you get bad info.

    Also, if you exercise, you will build more muscle with meat. Plant protein isn't the same quality, as it lacks certain aminos.

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  4. Krystal, I know what you mean that your diet is affected by the significant other! It was really nice when my ex became a vegetarian for about a year. It's more of a problem for cooking at home than eating out.

    StackingPennies, I also love Michael Pollan, and agree very much with his credo. I doubt I would eat much meat on a regular basis, but it might be nice to have the option.

    Chad, you make some good points, especially about veggies not being cheap! However, it is definitely possible as a lacto-ovo vegetarian to get all the required proteins from eggs, and from combinations of grains and legumes/nuts and seeds and legumes/corn and legumes. I've done significant research into vegetarianism since I've had to defend it my entire life, so I'm not working off bad information.

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  5. Hi. I am a lacto-ovo vegetarian primarily because I am wary of how animals are processed. I have a keen distrust of the meat industry. Basically, I think they lie about how healthy their livestock is. I am not interested in eating sick cows, pigs, etc. In regards to feeling fatigued, you may have a vitamin b12 deficiencey which is common in vegetarians. Try taking a supplement. It helped me!

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  6. I'll just state upfront that I am not a vegetarian and I probably never will be. Having said that, I don't eat a lot of meat for lots of reasons but I do find that occassionally it is very helpful, both for social reasons and because on occassion my body craves something the meat provides. Usually I'm low on iron when I want a hamburger or steak and I find if I eat a little protein(whether beans or little salmon) at lunch that it is easier to get through the afternoon.

    As for the moral aspect, nobody can really answer those questions for you. I like being on top of the food chain but I also make every effort to buy free range and organic. This means that it is more expensive and I eat less meat than I normally would but I feel better morally for my choice.

    Good Luck!

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  7. Hi,

    I'd be interested in what you ended up doing - I'm having similar thoughts myself right now.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Anonymous,

      In case you check back for this...I did go omnivore for a little while. I never ate red meat, but I regularly ate turkey sandwiches, chicken breasts, salmon and other meat products (including bacon, supposedly the weakness of all vegetarians, which I didn't like).

      Over the last year, I've lost all my appetite for meat. I never liked it all that much, and I find myself hardly able to tolerate the idea of it anymore. I'm not uptight about things like chicken broth used as a soup base or veggie dogs grilled next to regular hot dogs, but I don't eat or fix it anymore. I try to eat salmon a few times a month because of the health benefits, but even that is a challenge.

      I'm sure everyone's experience is different (some of my siblings, also raised vegetarian, eat meat and enjoy it), but in my personal case, I am not interested. I don't regret the experience, because at least I know what I'm passing up, but honestly, I don't feel like I'm missing out at all.

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Thanks for commenting!