Eating Less Meat: Making the Switch
Making the choice to eat less meat is one that will save your body and the planet from detriment and early death. It is this simple. To quote Einstein, "Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet." That man was smart, to say the least. I'm listening.
The amount of fossil fuel it takes to convert crop to feed for commercial livestock is outrageous. Entire rain forests are slashed and burned to make room for more crops to feed the cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys and people. These crops (corn, wheat, soy, palm, canola, etc) are used for filler ingredients in almost everything. The transport of the meat and all of the processing, preserving and packaging ends up costing an even more outrageous amount. Plus, the way those animals are treated in these commercial feeding operations and slaughter houses is vile, immoral, and totally heartless. Some never see a speck of sunlight. They never move their legs. It is important to know these things. You don't have to contribute!
As consumers, we have a choice as to where our money goes. I, personally, am not completely vegetarian, but I do not buy commercial meats. I will eat a small portion of locally raised/hunted meat; and some sushi on occasion. I do my best to put my money towards small farms, local restaurants, and better ingredients in general. So, I do still eat fish frequently, but even this I am revising due to the over fishing, as well as the moral issues of fish farming. This is something I am working towards. Sustainable seafood consumption is my current action in doing my part for the planet, and my body.
The point of this blog is to relay the message that eating less meat, even eating no meat, is possible in this society, and is a healthier option. It takes a lot of education on protein sources and knowing what your body needs and wants. Fueling your body to operate optimally is key!
So, the question posed: How do we go from being daily meat eaters to mostly, or completely, vegetarian?
As an athlete and Type O, my body responds well to a relatively high protein intake. When I say it responds well, I mean that I feel satiated after eating proteins. I have sustained energy. I do not crave sugars or unnecessary snacks. If I am a hungry, I eat of course. The more complete protein I take in, the less hungry I am between meals. Eating less meat was a challenge for me, as I was unaware of all of the protein sources that are plant based. I decided to go vegetarian in 2007 just to see if I could do it. A few Catholic friends I had were giving up things like chocolate or soda for Lent. I am not Catholic, but I like a 'healthy challenge' so I decided to give up meat (as giving up chocolate is suicide of sanity.) I remember thinking 'If I give up meat then I can't eat fast food anymore'. I was addicted to fast food, eating it up to three times a day. After three months being 'vegetarian', eating no meat other than fish, no soda, and a salad once a day for lunch I was 35 pounds lighter. I was also bruising easily and having a lot of headaches. My massage teacher told me I needed to balance my diet out through supplementing. Bobby and Kerrie (tuberose.com) also recommended supplements while I was learning how to receive the proper nutrition through food combining. This is what worked best. At this time I was also choosing to go off of a 'mood-stabilizing' prescription I was on called Topamax. I needed to supplement with mood-enhancing oils and B vitamins to keep my mind from playing tricks. Being 'Pescatarian' (fish eater) and supplementing with adequate B Complexes, fish/borage/flax/hemp/coconut oils was the best thing I have done for my body ever in my life. Within a year I had no more asthma, as I was able to quit smoking, lost a lot of weight, was prescription free, had a healthier colon and my menstrual cycle was virtually pain free and predictable to the day. It was a breakthrough in my life, and the beginning of a personal revolution that I feel called to share with others.
Today, I am lean, fit, strong, energetic and full of life. I eat to sustain this. After being strictly 'pescatarian' for two years, I found my body asking for more protein, or a different type of protein. I decided instead of completely restricting myself I would try some meat and see what felt good and what didn't. Beef did not sit well. No cows for me. The only pork I have eaten was a locally raised pig at a wedding in West Virginia, and a couple of burrito's from Chipotle. The wedding pork was amazing and I felt fine, but the burrito pork left me lethargic and heavy. No more of that for me. I have eaten some organic free range turkey and chicken. I don't feel much different after eating those so I just skip it now. Plus, I have read that the label 'free range' may mean that the animal has only received fifteen minutes of sun, as opposed to none. Labeling is paid for by lobbyists, so do your research. Know your farmer, if you want to keep it simple. My body loves eggs and fish. It also likes duck, deer and other wild game. It is so rare that this is actually available to me that I hardly ever eat it, but if it is available and deliciously prepared I consume it with love, gratitude and honor.
As for meat substitutes, I eat those about as frequently as I eat meat, which is not very often. Soy is a tricky ingredient and is present in most meat substitutes. Just like you have to be mindful of antibiotics/hormones added to meats and the treatment of the animals, you must be just as mindful of where the soy/corn comes from. Is it a slash-and-burn rain forest crop? Is is genetically modified? Meat substitutes are still processed, are not actually food, and may have origin just as detrimental to the planet. Plus, soy is not for everyone, as it is high in plant based (phyto-) estrogen. There are many studies that validate both sides of the soy controversy. For MY body, I eat very little soy, as it effects my Moon Cycle (gives me cramps!) My idea of a meat substitute is a portobella mushroom cap baked and stuffed with garlic-y quinoa and a side of steamed veggies, drizzled with coconut oil and sprinkled with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Yummmm...I'm salivating. Our nutrition should come from our food. Food that is as close to being actual food as possible, not a food like substance with a lengthy ingredients list. Try making your own veggie burgers from mushrooms, chickpeas, spinach and creative spices.
If you are eating meat daily, and would like to switch to being vegetarian, I suggest eliminating beef and pork first. See how you feel. Make sure you are eating fruits and veggies high in vitamin C so that you are absorbing the non heme (iron from plants). Consider supplementing with some high grade 'buffered vitamin C,' while transitioning. Iron in meat is more bio-available, therefore readily absorbed and converted to hemoglobin. However, the difference in absorption rate of heme (animal iron) and non heme (plant iron) is small, and virtually unnoticeable if Vitamin C is present to help the body easily absorb the non-heme. I would then eliminate poultry. You may find yourself hungry as you are no longer considering meat an option. Eat! Don't deny yourself food. It is important, also, to note that hunger can be confused with dehydration. So, drink a glass of water when you're feeling hungry shortly before or after a meal. I eat frequently. I eat about every 3 or 4 hours. This works for me! It may not work for everyone. It is important to note that when making this transition, one may find themselves craving a lot of carbohydrates which can lead to weight gain and an equally unhealthy lifestyle as the previous. Subbing pasta, fries, potatoes, and breads for meat will simply not do. These do not provide the nutrition needed and should be consumed in moderation. Meals should include some sort of plant based protein. Snacks for me consist of raw carrots and hummus, an avocado half with salsa, an apple, a small serving of granola with almond milk, a tablespoon of almond butter, an orange or some other piece of fresh fruit. (Side note: fruit should be eaten alone, on an empty stomach.)
Food combining is tricky and is still something I am a humble student of. I am learning through experience and study what works for my body, most bodies, and of course, what doesn't. Complete proteins are important to create when becoming vegetarian. This is the 'hard' part, but with practice, becomes fun and easy. Studies have shown that you do not need to create complete proteins at every meal. The body will hold on to important amino acids derived from the food in one meal, and use them when the sister amino acid comes along from another meal. They'll join up, and get synthesized in your body. So, in the transition to vegetarian lifestyle it is important to get in a variety of vegetables, grains, fruits and legumes throughout the day. Again, if you eat enough of the right foods your body will know what to do with it all. Quinoa is a food worth mentioning here, as it is a complete protein in itself. When I am cooking regularly, I pretty much alternate between quinoa, brown rice, or polenta. These are staples in my diet. I cook one of these with a different veggie combo every night and dinner never gets boring. It's all about the spices and the ingredients! I also use quite a bit of coconut milk. Pure deliciousness, every time.
Gabrielle Cousens is a vegan, is over 60, can fast for months and still do 600 push ups or something crazy like that. He wrote a wonderful book everyone should read called 'Conscious Eating'. Gabrielle says to 'eat the rainbow'. Eat as many colors as you can throughout the day. Food is beautiful, and we are more beautiful if we see the beauty, purpose and life in the food we are eating. This is the rule I live by. Eat the colors, as many as you can!
To summarize: To eat less meat, eat more veggies. Be careful with meat substitutes; know if the ingredients are right for you and don't turn a blind eye to the commercial farming aspect of it, if that is what was putting you off of meat in the first place. Supplementing is good in the beginning, but should be transitioned out of, should not be depended upon, and used only as needed for immune system maintenance. The idea is to receive the nutrition from the FOOD itself. There are a few supplements that may help in transition. (Side note: All supplements should be very good quality. Otherwise you will loose them through urine or lack of absorption. You get what you pay for. Check wwww.tuberose.com for good supplements!) Supplements I took during my transition: Cod Liver Oil, B 12, B Complex, Vit C, and occasionally zinc. I also took some high grade supplements and tinctures for my adrenal glands and cortisol regulation. I was in adrenal fatigue, and that was causing a lot of my 'symptoms' of manic/depression (bi-polarity). It is important to educate yourself on what nutrients and minerals work together and which ones negate each other. Make sure you are taking them at the right time of day for them to synthesize properly, and that you are combining them correctly so that you don't end up with a deficiency or imbalance. Beware of consuming too many carbs, and eat your largest meals earlier in the day. The body would rather be dreaming soundly while you sleep, not digesting some heavy meal. The old adage goes like this: Breakfast like a king. Lunch like a prince. Dinner like a pauper. If you get in most of your protein at breakfast and lunch then you will feel full throughout the day and crave less sugar/carbs/caffeine. Eating a sugary, starchy, or no breakfast at all can cause blood sugar dips, craves and binges throughout the day. Breakfast really is the most important meal! Check out my previous blog, Daily Food Intake for my personal preferences. I eat tons of eggs, so when/if I go vegan for a bit, this will be my biggest challenge. I eat a lot of Hemp Protein, so that is a good substitute for the eggs. I can always up the Hemp Protein intake and feel just fine. I just love making omelets, is all :)
I hope this information is helpful for you. I must disclaim that this is my own personal experience and I am encouraging you to try new things, but listen to your OWN body. Take some of my advice, leave some of my advice...ya dig? :) This is a unique experience for every individual on the planet. Listen to your body and your heart. I am what could be called a 'flexitarian'. I do not give myself a bunch of rules. I prefer the word 'preference'. Feel it out moment by moment, but stay true to yourself through the process. Remember why you are making these changes whenever you are feeling 'challenged'. Ask for support! You have a wonderful Creator and Community to support you in whatever choices and changes you are making for yourself. Below are some resources to aid you, educate you, inform you and to awaken you. I honor each one of you on your journey and soul ride. Blessings!
Feel free to contact me to contribute to this topic, give a testimonial, or for whatever reason you may have. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollen
In Defense of Food, Michael Pollen
The Botany Of Desire, Michael Pollen
In Defense of Food, Michael Pollen
Women Food and God, Geneen Roth
Eating Animals, Jonathan Safran
Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser
FOOD, INC., Karl Weber
Animal Liberation, Peter Singer
Fast Food Nation
The Future of Food
Meat Your Meat
www.tuberose.com (Natural Healing Site, Supplements, Read up on how your body WORKS!)
http://www.thevegetarianblog.com/ (This site has a list of dozens of other sites for everything from animal rights to recipes.)
Again, anything to add, message to contribute or post it on The Healthy Hooper facebook! www.facebook.com/thehealthyhooper