For about five years in my late teens and early 20s, I gave up beef and pork. I ate chicken occasionally and shrimp once in awhile. I generally felt good and was in great shape.
I started eating more meat when Paul and I began dating more seriously and since then burgers, steaks and bacon became a part of my diet. I have toyed with going vegetarian, but I always felt like I ‘failed’ when I couldn’t eat perfectly.
So I decided about a month ago to reduce my overall meat intake and become a so-called ‘reducetarian’. I try to eat vegetarian as often as I can, I still eat eggs and dairy and will occasionally have shrimp or fish. I will have meat only once in awhile if it’s a celebration like turkey at Christmas or if my Mom or friend has cooked a special meal or it’s something I only have once in awhile (like dim sum).
As long as I’m consciously reducing my intake – I feel good about taking my diet in the right direction. So why did I decide to reduce my meat intake?
I’ve done a bit of reading on factory farming and it just doesn’t sit well with me. I just don’t think animals are being treated as humanely as I’d like to think they were and I’m also thinking about the environmental impact. This recent column in The Toronto Star also influenced me further.
Going meatless on Monday was not enough for me, but going full-blown vegetarian – I was not ready for. I think this would be a great way to ease into it or to make being a reducetarian into a lifestyle. I also felt like I was just choosing chicken or meat in a sandwich or as a meal as a default – even though sometimes it just tasted like nothing to me.
The other reason is that since adopting my pup BINGO about 2.5 years ago, I have become an animal lover and see all the emotions and intelligence that he has. I just don’t want to eat animals like I used to and I’ve made the connection between the two.
I implemented my ‘reduced meat’ diet when we kicked off our road trip from Portland to Toronto. I felt like doing this would force me to seek healthier ‘road meal’ option that didn’t always end up with me eating a burger and fries.
I sought out tiny vegan restaurats in Idaho, Wyoming and Iowa – most of them near university campuses. I found burrito places, Whole Foods salad bars and Indian food. It was great!
And of course, a diet high in meat and processed meat is linked to a higher cancer risk, and can lead to a higher incidence of heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure etc. So the reasons are all there for me to make a change. I didn’t want to mindlessly be eating meat. I wanted to be more intentional about what I put into my body.
Whatever the reason you might have, here’s what happened to me once I became a reducetarian:
1) I Lost Five Pounds
I guess I was making some pretty greasy choices when I was eating meat because I lost five pounds after about a month of making the change with no additional change to my current non-existent exercise routine.
Going vegetarian made me default on healthier choices. Eating veggies and fruit meant more fiber which kept me fuller – so I guess I started eating smaller portions as well.
2) I Got Clarity
I was clear all the time. I could think more clearly because I wasn’t in a junk food digestion fog. However, I also reduced my alcohol intake at the same time – so it could be that too combined with less meat intake.
Paul and I are in the midst of launching a new digital agency for the non-profit sector – so I seriously need to stay sharp and have clarity for this new endeavour.
3) I Felt Great + Had More Energy
In addition to more clarity, I felt really good and I had more energy then before. I felt less sluggish and ready to jump out of bed. I also slept really well because my body wasn’t working so hard for digestion.
4) Better Digestion
Which brings me to better digestion overall. I guess eating less oily, fatty and greasy food makes your stomach happy and keeps you regular with a healthier gut.
5) I Ate A Lot of White Carbs + Pasta
On the downside, I leaned heavily on bread, potatoes and pasta to keep me full. I’m trying to make the switch to less French fries, one pasta dish a week and swapping in brown rice and sweet potatoes instead.
6) I Ate More Indian, Thai and Mexican Food
Indian curries made with veggies, chickpeas, cauliflower or dosas are delicious! Most Thai curries and noodle dishes can be made vegetarian. I also ate a lot of burrito bowls and bean and cheese tacos from Chipotle while traveling. Whole Foods Market has an incredible salad bar, I also rediscovered falafels and veggie burgers while on my quest. Gardein also makes some incredible vegetarian products.
I could still enjoy most of my favourite foods with some easy modifications.
Overall, a reducetarian diet will be a lifestyle that I will have to work at and try to stick to. I’m sure over time my cravings for meat will be even less and I hope to cook more, save money and lose a bit of weight in the process.
Have you thought about reducing your meat intake? What are your favourite vegetarian recipes to cook at home? I’m looking for ideas so I can stop eating so much white bread, pasta and potatoes!