Friday, August 1, 2014

The pros and cons of not eating meat

Have you ever thought about going vegetarian? If you are vegetarian, have you been considering going back to a meat-inclusive diet? Either way, it's a tough decision, mostly because the information out there is really confusing. Is it healthier to eat meat or not? Is it actually better for the environment to eat a tofu burger than a beef burger, or is this a myth? 

There's a nifty pro/con list available here, which gives arguments for both sides of the debate. Check it out if you're curious.

It's been four months since I started my six-month vegetarian experiment, and I'm surprisingly more unsure than ever about whether or not I should go back to an omnivore diet at the end of September.

So far, I've discovered firsthand some good things and some bad things about not eating meat. First, the bad:
  1. It's not always easy to find vegetarian options when eating out. Especially in Newfoundland, where fish (cod) is a staple.
  2. It requires a lot more effort to ensure your diet includes enough protein, iron, and B12. (I'm taking a daily multivitamin, but I'm pretty sure that's not sufficient.)
  3. You end up eating a lot of starch and sugar.
Exhibit A.
And the good:
  1. It's nice to know you're not complicit in the suffering of sentient beings when you don't buy meat. This is particularly true in North America, where almost all of our meat and fish comes from factory farms where the animals are almost always treated badly. 
  2. Craving meat is not like craving chocolate or caffeine. Once you stop eating meat, you don't miss it at all (at least this has been my experience). 
  3. It's nice to know that your diet is free of all the unhealthy cholesterol and artery-clogging fats of meats like beef and pork. 
Ramen noodles with cabbage and hot sauce.
Of course, there's a lot of evidence to suggest that eating a lot of meat is unhealthy, and that eating meat (and actually also eggs and milk) from factory farms is really very unethical, but there are also good reasons to eat meat and fish, for the sake of your health... and your social life. 

Okay, so everyone knows it's just easier to have few to no diet restrictions when you eat out with friends. On that note, I have a confession. I ate fish last week. On Sunday I went for a day trip with friends to Ferryland down the Southern Shore, and we had lunch at a lovely little restaurant where everything was homemade and delicious, but there was maybe one vegetarian option and I just wasn't into mushroom soup that day. So I ordered the cod au gratin. Check it out:
Comfort food. Made from scratch.
It was so fresh, and so good, and I'm sure my body was grateful for the omega-3 fat and the protein and all that kind of thing. Plus, my tastebuds were just happy having something novel. Did I feel bad about the cod dying and possibly suffering on the end of a jigging line? Honestly, not really. Which is not to say I wouldn't, or shouldn't feel bad, it's just that I willingly chose not to give it too much thought. I haven't eaten fish since then and I don't plan to for the next two months at least, but damn, it was satisfying. 

The experiment, and the conundrum, continues. 

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