9 Things I’ve Learned from Being a Vegetarian for 9 Years.

This month marks 9 years since I decided to stop eating meat. It’s not something I talk about much since it’s not really something I think about much (the last time I briefly blogged about it was over four years ago. Whoa.). But after listening to a really interesting debate on the matter on one of my favorite podcasts, I thought I’d chat a little about it.

1. People aren’t sure what the difference between vegetarian and vegan are. Almost every time I mention that I’m vegetarian, someone asks me if I eat eggs and dairy. I do! I love cheese! If I didn’t eat those things, I’d say I was a vegan. Now gimme that cheese.

2. It’s popular to try out vegetarianism. Until it’s not. Over the years, a dozen people have asked me for advice when trying out the whole vegetarian thing. Which is cool! I love to help people. About 90% of them decide to not be vegetarian, which is probably why older people think that my vegetarianism is just a phase. Like, “Oh yeah, my daughter did that for a while.” I am pretty sure I’m going to be a vegetarian forever, so this isn’t a fad diet for me. But I just smile and nod. The popular diet right now is sort of the opposite of vegetarianism (paleo), which means being vegetarian seems to be less popular. But, hey! I’m still here for the long haul.

3. Most of us aren’t crazy or militant. I’m not going to tell you why the meat you’re eating is terrible. I don’t care if you eat meat around me. I’m not constantly thinking about how terrible meat is. I have lots of vegetarian friends and family members, and none of them are crazy about being vegetarian. As long as you don’t give me a hard time for not eating meat, I won’t talk about factory farming. (Actually, even if you are jerk about me not eating meat, I’ll probably just walk away from you. That’s my brand of confrontation.)

Farmers-Market-Ohio-Vegetarian

4. Speaking of factory farms, awareness of sustainable food is on the rise. Thanks in part to documentaries like Food, Inc. and popular books by authors like Michael Pollan, it’s getting easier and easier to be intentional about food choices than it was nine years ago. It’s easy to find a CSA (our small city has about half a dozen options), more dairy is rSBT-free, and many more people are aware of factory farming methods. The means grassfed meat, cheese, and dairy is available, and more people are being conscientious about their food choices.

5. It’s absolutely possible to conceive, grow a healthy baby, breastfeed said baby, and train for half marathons without consuming animals. Nine years ago, I was a sophomore in college living in Hawaii. A lot has changed over that time, and being a vegetarian hasn’t been a problem in any of the stresses on my body. I had an easy pregnancy, birthed in a tub like a hippie, and (also like a hippie) nursed that child for almost two years while training for two half marathons. In fact, some serious athletes, like my friend Nicole, say that going meat-free makes them a better athlete. 

6. It’s not all or nothing. For me, it is. It was easier to just say, “I’m a vegetarian” than saying, “Well, I don’t really like meat,” so I made the choice. But do what you want! Be a flexitarian. Be a vegetarian. Be a pescatarian. Eat meat on the weekends and be vegetarian during the week. Be vegetarian on the weekends and vegan during the week. Don’t get obsessed with labels – just eat what feels good to you and aligns with your values and your budget. Done.

7. Don’t get caught up in rules. Some vegetarians just don’t eat animal flesh. Others don’t eat broth made with meat. Others won’t eat gelatin. Again, don’t get caught up in being concerned with that you’re “supposed to do.” Personally, I choose to not (knowingly) consume fat or broth from animals (it mostly grosses me out to think about beef fat in my soup, so I opt for vegetarian soups), but I’ll eat Lucky Charms and Frosted Mini Wheats which have gelatin in them. It’s all a personal choice. Don’t get discouraged – just do what you want.

8. It’s easy to eat out. Usually. You don’t need to think about me when we’re making dinner plans. I can find something to eat just about everywhere, though there are some pathetically limited selections at major chains like Applebee’s and Chili’s. Which is fine, because I’d rather use my restaurant money for food that’s not just a salad.

9. Kids don’t need meat. I haven’t blogged about our decision to raise Gabe vegetarian (with him getting to choose as he gets older, of course), because people have Opinions about what you do with your kid. However, I will say that Gabe is an incredibly good eater (my dad, who raised five kids of his own, is always exclaiming over how not picky he is) and we have his iron tested twice a year. He’s always grown well and sports a little potbelly that lets us know he’s getting plenty of food. In fact, it’s probably better that I can’t fall back on kid staples like hot dogs, chicken nuggets, and bologna!

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

Hard to believe it’s been nine years since I sat in my little apartment in Honolulu, called my mom, and said, “Hey, I think I’m going to be vegetarian.” It feels like it was yesterday in some ways, in other ways, another lifetime. That girl would be surprised to learn she married that guy who wrote her letters while she spent a semester in Hawaii and is pregnant with their second child.

❤️

About Ashley

Ashley is a web designer by day (and night). She blogs about her attempts to live more simply and pursuing happiness while juggling a job she loves and life with an adorable toddler and an academic husband.

Comments

  1. How do you approach buying eggs? Your vegetarianism seems at least partly linked to ethical animal practices and environmental factors, and even though I eat meat I still shudder at the treatment the animals receive at the factory farms and eggs fall into that as well. Do you go cage free? Organic? Free range? They’re sometimes three times the price of regular eggs but it seems like the least I can do…

    • In the summer, our CSA provides “pasture raised” eggs which they spend their entire lives outside, I guess. We just ran out of those eggs. Ideally, I’d be not lazy and go to the year-round farmer’s market to get them. I just do my best! I don’t eat a ton of eggs (1 dozen every 2-3 weeks), so the expense isn’t that much to get the more humanely-raised options. Ideally, probably organic and free-range. (And yes, definitely part of my vegetarianism is because I don’t want to contribute to the crappy conditions on factory farms – and dairy and eggs come from those farms, too!)

  2. Congrats on sticking with something you believe in for almost a decade! As a meat eating mama, I’ve got to say that hot dogs, bologna and chicken nuggets weird me out. (Even some of us meat eaters have limits – ha!) Gavin eats hot dogs from time to time … but, the “easy” foods we give Gavin are usually the raw ones (i.e., PRODUCE). =)

    • Oh, I wasn’t saying OTHER people only feed their kids that stuff! Just that I am rather lazy sometimes, so it’s probably good that I’m forced to find other options! ;)

  3. I had no idea you were a vegetarian. Is your husband one too?

  4. Great post – it was great to look back and mark some of the changes you’ve noticed. You have such a open attitude towards being a vegetarian and it comes through in your writing.

  5. I didn’t know you were a vegetarian either, or maybe I just forgot :)
    I know it’s kind of an annoying cliche when people say that you “can’t be pregnant without meat” but I have to say after going through it myself I am impressed that you didn’t eat meat while pregnant. I am really not a big meat eater, I’ll eat fish and chicken but I never eat anything else and I could easily go weeks without meat especially if I wasn’t eating with my husband ha. While pregnant though, I literally have to have meat at dinner or I wake up starving at 3 am. I actually have tried pretty hard to find other protein sources and they just don’t work as well for me. I actually hate it because I don’t even really like meat that much. I have joked multiple times that I’m giving up meat forever once this baby is here because I’m so sick of it.
    Anyways :) this is a very interesting post!

  6. I like your point about not putting a label on yourself or what you do. It’s so easy to feel like you “have to” do things a certain way and we definitely don’t have to.

    My brother decided to become a vegetarian a few years back – more recently, he switched to being a pescatarian – and it’s been interesting to watch my family react. They always feel like they have to make him extra food on holidays since he can’t eat the main meat course of turkey/ham/lamb, except they forget that he can eat almost all of the side dishes!

  7. Thank you!! We could be vegetarian twins! Especially item #3. As someone your age (and my son is just a tad older than Gabe!) who grew up in a family of farm-raised carnivores, I chose to be vegetarian almost 25 years ago. I think my parents “allowed” it because they thought it was a phase. Yeah; I think I’m gonna stick with it.

  8. We are actually pescatarian although people usually think that refers to some type of strange religion or cult (?!) so I refer to us as vegetarian unless in the company of people who know what pescatarian is.

    I think it’s interesting how people always ask me what I will eat, like on Thanksgiving even though I have eaten this way for four years my extended family will ask what I can eat and it drives me batty! I eat the same things as everyone else, I just pass on the turkey. I eat cranberries, green beans, sweet potatoes, rice, desserts… just no bird.

    This is a great post you did.

  9. I am not sure milk and eggs are any more ethical. I eat them sometimes, but I am trying to cut them out because I think it may even be worse to keep cows and chickens caged for years rather than slaughtering them off the bat. It would be nice if more people could reduce their intake of dairy as well as meat.

    Like you said, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. I wish more meat eaters realized that!

  10. I LOVE all of this!

  11. Yeah, but how do you feel about gluten?

  12. Yay a vegetarian post!:) Most of the time I’m vegetarian, but overall I’m pescetarian because of SUSHI. I <3 sushi! Also, I don't remember which post it was, but you mentioned mixing peanut butter in your noodles or tofu to make a Thai-like dish? Well, I did that today since I was craving Thai and am trying to limit dining out.

    Extra firm tofu + mushrooms + kale + carrots + soy sauce + curry and/or chili paste + peanut butter = a homemade Thai-like dish (I don't measure for stuff like this; I just eyeball it:)).

  13. What a great post! You teach me so much oh wise one! :)

  14. I’m a meat eater but I’ve been trying to up my veggie intake, given that I love veggies anyhow. I admire how you’re feeding Gabe – Henry hates meat and I wish I could just not feed him it but he’s a terrible eater and I feel like I need to make him take a bite of everything (although even though he complained about trying last night’s fish, he ate his one bite quickly rather than crying for 45 minutes over the one bite of pot roast). If he ate his vegetables I would gladly not force the meat. If he had his way, he’d live on mac & cheese, super-processed chicken nuggets, cheese pizza, greek yogurt, popcorn and various fruit.

  15. I’ve been a veggie for awhile. I tend to keep it on the DL cause I’ll get people asking “Can you eat that?” Sometimes I will eat chicken broth based foods. I they not to though.
    Also, I’ve started eating fish a few times each month & you’d think I’ve broken some golden rule. People freak out on me since I’m not “supposed ” eat meat.
    I love being a veggie though & I don’t see myself truly going back to meat.
    I had a newly preggo vegetarian say her Dr advised eating meat for the health of the baby. I personally couldn’t do it!

  16. Um. 9 years ago was the last time I saw you on the regular, dude. The version of you then actually wouldn’t have been surprised that you married Mike and are having his babies. Not one bit.

  17. Just a little something that made me think of you and this post! :) Apparently the writers at Buzzfeed are on the same page as you:

    http://www.buzzfeed.com/jessicamisener/21-things-that-happen-when-you-dont-eat-meat

  18. I keep thinking about going veg. For me it’s the factory farm stuff so I’m trying super hard to be conscientious there. I think I’d be fine cooking but not eating meat dishes for my family BUT eating is love on P’s side of the family and if I suddenly told FIL that I couldn’t eat the noodle dish… If we’re making our own rules maybe I could be Vegetarian Except At Chinese Restaurants. Sigh.

  19. I love this post, Ashley! I used to be “mostly vegetarian,” not necessarily by declaration but because I didn’t like much meat. These days, I do like the taste of a lot more types of meat, things I didn’t enjoy before, like pork & beef. But it’s always bothered me that I don’t feel comfortable cooking meat. If I can’t touch a dead animal because it *seems* too much like a dead animal, should I be eating dead animals at all?

    I’m working on it. Thanks for some (vegetarian) food for thought.

  20. Great list. I can relate to #6. I like eating vegetarian meals most of the time but not being constrained to anything.

    Interesting point about #8… the lack of options for vegetarians seems to be at the low end of the restaurant spectrum (as you mention) but also at the very top. Fancy restaurants are often awful places to take a vegetarian, as I learned recently when trying to pick a place to bring a vegetarian friend visiting. The problem seems to be that fancy restaurants are run by chefs that believe meat must a key element to every entree (see cooking shows on TV for reference). Plus if they only have, say, 5 entrees on their menu, they’re not going to burn one of them on a vegetarian dish that only a small subset of the customers will order. Their logic seems to be that if they’re already filling up the dining room for dinner service, it doesn’t matter if vegetarians don’t eat there because they’re not losing any money over it in the end.

    This applies mostly to fancy “American” type restaurants. One way around it is that fancy ethnic restaurants (Indian, Thai) often do have excellent vegetarian options.

    P.S. I recently discovered MorningStar Farms Buffalo Chik Patties and I am completely addicted.

  21. PS: One of your Instagram pics of naan pizza inspired me to make my own naan pizza. Here’s my recipe: Tandoori Naan from Trader Joe’s (very inexpensive) + pizza sauce or BBQ sauce (I wanted BBQ pizza so I used BBQ) + kale + shredded cheese. Preheat oven for 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Then put the naan pizza in the oven for 2 minutes. That’s it!:)

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