On the 1st of January 2020, I decided to become a vegetarian. We’ll skip over the part where I forgot about this resolution the next day (I ordered a chicken pizza) and technically started on January the 3rd. Anyways, my family are all meat eaters. When I told them about this diet adjustment, there were some mixed reactions. The main concern was what on earth are you going to eat on Christmas day?! Well, we haven’t quite reached that obstacle yet, but I expect to just be eating a plate of veggies and gravy…and cauliflower cheese (yum!) There are some things that I have noticed over the course of a year being a vegetarian, some good and some bad. And I’m going to share my thoughts with you!
Given that today is World Vegetarian Day, here is a reflection on being vegetarian for almost a year:
Being vegetarian at university can be tricky
I made the decision to start my vegetarian journey at the beginning of my second term at university. Was this a mistake? I don’t think so, but at times I did find it tricky. This is because, a lot of the time, my flat mates and I would cook together, but none of them were vegetarian. So that was me wiped out of eating the delicious looking heap of spaghetti meatballs. However, I did find it fairly easy to cook up my own grub alongside them and simply eat separate dinners.
Then there’s shopping for food as a vegetarian. As someone who used to incorporate meat into their dinners frequently, I found it difficult to think of student-friendly vegetarian recipes. I mean, there’s only so much pasta, potatoes and rice one can eat. But then I started to look online for inspiration for my meals. After a little bit of digging, I managed to compile a list of budget-friendly veggie meals that I could get on board with. After a while, I was making delicious and healthy meals without splashing the cash too much.
At first you might have food cravings
I don’t know about you, but after a night out, the only thing I want is to eat a hefty burger to finish the night off. Being vegetarian meant that I couldn’t do that anymore, and a veggie burger just doesn’t quite cut it, I’m afraid. There will be times when you crave meat-incorporated meals if you have gone from eating meat to cutting it out of your diet completely. However, there are ways to settle that craving. There are some amazing plant-based foods that can be used in replacement of meat. For example, at university, Quorn chicken nuggets were like a food sent straight from heaven. Although they are not the healthiest option, they 100% fulfil the craving for a meat-like meal.
There are plenty of other plant-based alternatives that will make you forget that you’re not actually eating meat. Another one of my favourites are the Linda McCartney sausages. They are perfect for plating up a quick and easy bangers and mash meal!
You won’t feel as full after a big meal
One of the main benefits I have found from cutting meat out of my diet is that I never feel as tired after eating a big meal. When I ate a considerable amount of meat, I found that I often felt quite bloated and lethargic afterwards. Since having a plant-based diet, I always feel like I have more energy after I have eaten, rather than feeling tired.
Before I became vegetarian, I worried that there wouldn’t be many veggie options when I went out to eat in restaurants. Luckily, I have found that most establishments always provide a vegetarian as well as a vegan alternative. Not to mention that the food is usually absolutely delicious too, even without any form of meat! My favourite meals I have tried out and about include vegetable lasagne, spinach cannelloni and mushroom wellington – they are all completely delicious!
There are plenty of ways to get protein into your diet
Although you have cut out meat, there are numerous other foods you can eat to incorporate protein into your diet. For example, many green vegetables are rich in protein and can be easily added into your meals. This includes veggies such as green peas, kale, broccoli and spinach. If this doesn’t sound too appealing, then try to eat more amounts of grain products such as soba noodles, oatmeal, quinoa and couscous. You can even give tofu a go or try to snack on nuts and seeds throughout the day.
There is no pressure
Contrary to popular belief, there is no pressure to be all or nothing when it comes to eating a vegetarian diet. You should do what feels right for you. If you want to eat meat once a week and eat a vegetarian diet the rest of the week – then do it! No one is putting you under pressure or judging you for the choices you make. You want to make sure you put your body and wellbeing before everything else. If you do decide to switch to a veggie diet, then make the most of it and have fun exploring with new foods and recipes. Your taste buds are likely to change and you will enjoy foods you never did before!