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I’ve mentioned here and there on Instagram stories and in some previous recipe posts that I’ve been trying to eat more plant based. I started this change rather unintentionally a few years ago by cutting back on what I ate, which I’ll talk more about, but last year I set an intention and have done pretty darn well with it. I’m not perfect, as none of us are, and I didn’t go into this cold turkey. I do well with limits and numbers, so I have seen measurable progress and have exceeded my goals when it comes to eating (or rather not eating) meat. I’ve gotten so many questions as to what exactly this means and why I have cut back on eating meat, so I’m sharing more on all of this with you all today!
My goal with this post is not to persuade you one way or another. It’s not to hold myself accountable, because I can do that on my own. It’s not to brag. It’s just to share and inform. What you do with this information is up to you! This has been a personal choice and decision for me (which I’ll chat more about below, too) and I don’t need any unsolicited opinions because they just don’t matter. As always, you gotta do you and what you feel like is best for you in the moment and helps you progress toward long term goals or a bigger picture.
I’ll preface this again with saying I am not totally plant based. I am just trying to make improvements!
WHY I’M TRYING TO BE MORE PLANT BASED
I grew up spending summers at my grandmother’s ranch in SouthEastern New Mexico. My grandfather was a dedicated rancher and grew up in the ranching business. His ranch was full of mostly cattle, but he also used to have sheep. My Aunts and Uncles also had a dairy farm just on the other side of town from my grandparents. I loved spending time out there! Being around animals is something I have always loved. Animals make my heart truly burst with joy, as some of you may feel from hearing me talk about our rescue dog, Maddie. Any chance to be around animals, I took and I feel truly lucky to have been able to learn so much about a variety of animals from a young age.
Having grown up around a ranch, and being around ranchers and cattlemen so often, means I also grew up eating a lot of meat. I recall being sent home with packages and packages of beef or lamb, but I never really made the connection until I was a little older that the same thing in the packages and on our plate, were the animals that I ‘played’ with when they were young.
I loved the show Lamb Chop growing up (this is the song that never ends… sorry, had to) and I specifically recall an evening when my family was eating lamb at the dinner table and my brother enlightened me that the food on my plate came from my beloved Lamb Chop. Well not literally, but you know from my beloved lambs on the ranch. I was upset to the point of not wanting to finish my food, something that was always frowned upon in our household. While it saddened me to learn this, I continued living life as I always had– eating what I was served.
As I became old enough to make my own food choices, meat was a part of my diet. I’ll spare you the details of years and years of food choices, but I’ll just say that I used to eat two McDonald’s cheese burgers for an after school snack. I wasn’t super ‘health’ conscious or even slightly health conscious until my mid to late twenties. We’ll fast forward to more recently, around the time my husband and I started dating about seven or eight years ago, when I can recall eating a chicken fried steak from a specific restaurant we loved for brunch (yes, brunch) almost weekly. The more I started to consider my food (more about that in this post) the more I realized that eating an entire plate of chicken fried steak didn’t make me feel so great. I slowly began to cut back.
I’ve always been a lover of carbs (although sadly confirmed a few months ago I am in fact very sensitive to gluten) so if you were to give me the choice of a steak or a big plate of mashed potatoes and mac and cheese, I’d pick the latter. When going out to a steak restaurant I’d often have a few bites of my now-husband’s steak, and focus on my true love– the sides. For some reason a steak seemed to affect me more than ground beef in a burger, so I kept on my way by cutting back on thicker meat cuts like steak and while still enjoying the occasional hamburger. I gradually started noticing the same not-feeling-so-great thing with burgers, so I cut back on those as well. The only time I was really having beef besides a burger every other month was when it may have been in something like queso, tacos, or a pasta dish. The quantity I was eating became less and less, though.
To be quite honest, I’ve never been a huge fan of chicken unless it was fried. Grilled chicken was something I ate because I thought I should, not because I loved it. In fact, I would often buy already-cooked rotisserie chickens at the grocery store because raw chicken really grossed me out to cook on my own at home. Outside of Chik-Fil-A or fried chicken strips or wings (I used to live for Buffalo Wild Wings) I never ate a ton of chicken unless it was hidden IN something like a tortilla soup or chicken soup or was in chicken salad.
I got to a point where I wasn’t eating a lot of meat because obviously eating fried chicken didn’t leave me feeling so hot, similar to the way I felt with beef. I started to research more and more about meat, the impact on the environment, and how so many animals are treated, and I was inspired to cut out meat more and more from my diet. I decided I was going to go for it and cut back to only eating meat one or two times per month and focus on when meat was more hidden. For example, meat IN a pasta dish or maybe ON something like pepperoni on a pizza. I wanted to focus on sustainably sourced meat in very small quantities, so that’s what I’ve been doing. Pepperoni was really the last to be cut out and I can say now that I think its been several months since I’ve had even a bite of meat.
REASONS & BENEFITS
- HOW I FEEL: First and foremost, I wasn’t feeling good when I ate meat. My stomach hurt and often felt like there was just a brick sitting there that was hard to digest. There were other associated symptoms with eating meat that I won’t go into detail on, but I just didn’t feel great eating it.
- LESS MEAT = MORE PLANTS: I noticed that when I skipped out on meat, I was eating more plants. It’s kinda hard to argue the benefits of eating more plants, particularly vegetables. I feel better when I eat more veggies and I’m getting more of the nutrients I need on a daily basis. Basically, if my plate isn’t full of meat, I’m filling it with other things which leaves more room for veggies.
- I LOVE ANIMALS: I just do. From dogs to pigs to cows to horses. I just love them all. They bring me so much joy and I hurt at the idea of an animal being mistreated. I don’t want to lump everyone who owns animals others eat into a group that mistreats, because I grew up seeing how you can care for animals the right way– even when it’s ‘business,’ but I know that a lot of animals ending up on plates are not so lucky.
- THE ENVIRONMENT: Politics aside, I personally cannot ignore the changes I feel in our environment and our climate. If I can do anything to help, I’d like to try.
- I WANT TO BE HEALTHIER: The increase in disease in our world makes me think. From utilizing clean beauty products to trying to stay active, I believe all of this is helping me stay healthy and hopefully live my life illness-free. I can’t change how I lived life the first almost-thirty years of it, but I can control how I go forward. I’m choosing my health and believe that a more plant-based diet is the right choice for me! I don’t have known heart disease or any major illnesses in my family, but my husband does and that definitely gets me thinking.
A PERSONAL DECISION
I made the decision to slowly cut back on meat for me. It started with just wanting to feel better and has evolved into more. My husband has also been cutting back majorly on his meat consumption (especially red meat). He has moments where he wants meat and has it a few times a week here and there, but he has also made a noticeable change in his diet. We’ve focused on finding alternatives to animal products at home when we cook and are doing our best to make positive changes. If he wants meat, he’ll go for it, and that’s fine. We’re both respectful of the others’ choices. I also know that tons of you eat meat and look for meat based recipes, so as he makes things (he just made organic Whole 30 approved buffalo wings the other night) that include meat, I’ll share those recipes with you all, too. It’s MY choice, his choice, and your choice. No judgement or opinions needed.
It’s important for me to stay true to me and what matters. I’ve had a lot of brands (not just food brands, but beauty too) that do not align with my current beliefs when it comes to food, health, wellness, and life and I repeatedly turn them down. Even when they offer to double my pay. It’s not about that. It’s about my health, which you cannot put a dollar amount on. I truly believe if you do not invest in yourself now you will pay for it later.
Diet is a personal choice. I know how I feel and what makes me feel good, and that awareness and those positive changes have definitely happened, and continue to happen, gradually. In my day to day life, these are my current choices. If I find myself visiting another country and I want to try (or even indulge in) a dish that involves meat.. then that’s my choice. This summer in Paris and the French Riviera I had a few bites of things my husband got that included meat just to try them, although I generally just stuck to no meat and got fish dishes, veggies, and of course, cheese. I was in NYC in the Fall and had a bite or two of a hot dog. Sometimes, it’s a part of the experience of travel and I’m okay with that as I continue to strive to make progress related to eating a more plant based diet.
PROGRESS, NOT PERFECTION
It’s hard for me to go cold turkey like I know many have and say “I’m a vegan now.” I don’t think that’s my ultimate goal, but I’m not sure. At this point I’m all about progress, not perfection. When I look back on my aforementioned diet which included two cheeseburgers as a snack, I am floored at my progress. In high school I used to drink around six, yes six, Dr. Peppers a day. I haven’t had a sip of soda in over four years. I did that by cutting back from six sodas a day to five to four and so on. I’m just looking to make positive changes in the day-to-day that develop into lifestyle changes.
I continue to eat eggs from sustainable, humane, conscientious sources. I also eat cheese, but opt for quality cheeses for health purposes– aka no Velveeta or crappy cheddar shreds. I am eating more and more vegan or nut cheese at home when cooking to cut back (and make progress) in terms of cheese consumption. I don’t eat other dairy because my body does not respond well to it and my skin looks awful if I eat it. I go for mostly almond or coconut replacements for milk and ice cream and don’t even miss it any more. I also currently continue eat fish and other seafood.
We have discovered so many amazing brands that are animal friendly and I love that more and more options are becoming available. I love that places like Shake Shack are serving up meatless burgers. We absolutely love brands like Beyond Meat and eat their plant based burgers at home every other week. We also love their meat crumbles when making pasta or tacos. They make chicken alternatives, but since I’ve never been crazy about it anyway unless it’s fried, I haven’t tried those yet. If you find the right alternatives to curb your cravings, you may surprise yourself that you don’t miss meat like you thought you might and you too can cut back on your consumption. Violife, Kite Hill, Daiya, Miyokos, and Follow Your Heart are a few of the brands of nut cheese that we’ve discovered and love. I even make grilled cheese with them and think they are delicious!
LONG TERM GOALS
My goals are to feel good, to nourish my body, and to continue to make positive changes in all aspects of my life. I also want to live a little and indulge when and how I decide. I don’t know if I’ll aim to totally cut out cheese, but I don’t see that happening right now. There was once a time when I would have never been able to imagine cutting out meat, so I’m not sure. I like to take life a little at a time. I like making short term, attainable goals that push more towards what I believe my larger, long term goals are.
I also think it’s okay for goals to change. Mine certainly have as I’ve gotten older, learned more about myself, and learned more in general. As your lifestyle changes, you can adapt you goals and your choices to best suit your needs. I’m learning more about what that looks like each day. For now, my goals include continuing to prioritize a mostly plant-based diet.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
I believe that there are three sides to every story. Yours, mine, and the truth. Or rather, one for each side and the truth that lies somewhere in between two perspectives and opinions. I believe in not just watching one documentary and changing your entire lifestyle. I do research cautiously and approach things from multiple views and sides. I share this with you because I want you to know that I didn’t watch a single one-sided documentary or video, or read one article or book, that made me make any major lifestyle decisions. I encourage you to educate yourself on all sides before making any decisions or, just try something for a few days or even a week and see if you notice a positive difference. If for no other reason than improving how you feel, a change may be welcomed.
I know that the demand for more plant based meat alternatives is rising. I can see that change in grocery stores– and not just in Whole Foods. I see Beyond Meat constantly selling out in every store tat carries it. I see brands like Sakara Life, that I love, growing more popular to provide people with easy, plant based meals. I see more and more vegan cheeses in all kinds of grocery stores and I see more and more restaurants looking to provide other options because the demand is there. You may think that it is hard to make a difference, but over time it can happen. No matter what the cause or reason, I think it is exciting to see what an impact ‘small’ groups of people can have on major companies, retailers, and hopefully, the bigger picture of health and the environment.
I’m including some books and things that I’ve fond helpful whether it’s for factual information, recipes, or other reasons for you all below.
I hope this post provided some insight into why I have decided to follow a mostly plant-based diet. I hope it answered your questions and if not, I hope that you reach out and ask them. I at least wanted to make you think and perhaps give you some food for thought. I hope my story provided you with some sort of inspiration, or at the very least, reminded you that progress over perfection is key to lasting change not only with our diets and health, but in all aspects of life. XO