A Year Without Meat – What I Learnt

A Cow

I chose to go off meat mainly because of my concern for animal welfare. After educating myself of the poor treatment of animals in the food industry I made the decision to cut meat out of my life for good; I went vegetarian, (well, technically ‘pescetarian’ only eating some kinds of seafood). I decided to go by the philosophy that if I couldn’t take the life of that animal myself, then I shouldn’t be eating it.

Here’s what I learnt:

  1. I was consuming WAY too much meat and animal products prior to going off meat – not eating meat really opened my eyes to how many times per day I was filling my body with animal products (usually high in saturated fats). This helped me to put my food consumption into perspective and create a more balanced approach to my diet.
  2. The importance of a diet high in plants – my intake of fresh produce increased as I was having vegetables at every meal. I filled my plate with plant based proteins, e.g. black beans and lentils. Plant based diets have shown to prevent chronic diseases and are advised for optimal heart health.
  3. How to make plant-based meals taste good – I discovered a deep appreciation for plant based foods, whole grains, fruits and vegetables! By experimenting with different herbs and spices, I realised that the majority of the flavours I enjoyed with meat (e.g. curry, Italian herbs and garlic) could all be used to spice up my vegetables, making them more exciting to eat.
  4. Protein combining is important if you are not eating animal proteins – I learnt the art of combining plant based proteins to make a complete protein (essential amino acids that at our bodies can’t make, so we need to get them from the food) e.g. brown rice with kidney beans.
  5. That I didn’t actually miss meat all that much – I was only consuming it as a convenience. I had been brought up to eat meat and prior to this I had never actually stopped to think if I enjoyed eating it and if it would be missed if I were to cut it out. Which I didn’t!

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However, if you do decide to eat some meat:

  1. Eat organic meat – check where it comes from. One of the benefits of grass finished, hormone free meats is that they are much higher in omega-3 essential fatty acids. I started to appreciate quality over quantity and would not settle for any less. It is so important to vote with your dollar (if you do choose to consume meat) by supporting the people who are treating animals well while providing them with a nourishing diet as close as possible to the food they would eat in nature. Cheap supermarket meat has usually been injected with growth hormones and antibiotics just to keep the animal alive in a cruel environment. Another negative effect of eating cheap meat is that these animals are lacking nutrients due to their poor, nutrient-deficient diet; by eating these nutrient deficient animals, we don’t consume the nutrients (such as omega-3’s in grass-fed meat) that we would have if we were consuming grass fed/finished meats.
  1. How to eat meat without overdoing it – I believe we don’t need to consume meat at every meal. We only require red meat a few times per week – maximum. I encourage you to try cutting out meat for two weeks to put into perspective how much you are eating it, take a step back and decide what works best for your body. 
  1. Quality, grass-fed, hormone-free meats can be part of a well-balanced diet – I decided that eating good quality animal proteins could be part of a balanced diet. Although they cost more, I believe it is better to eat less meat and if you do decide to eat it, then buy the best quality possible.

If you do choose to consume meat, take time to acknowledge the life of the animal you are eating, support farmers who treat their livestock/animals well and try to consume it in moderation as part of a mostly high plant-based diet.


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Rebecca is a certified Health & Nutrition Coach, Wellness Blogger and is completing a degree in Nutritional Medicine. She is passionate about creating healthy alternatives of your favourite foods and encouraging women to live their healthiest, best life possible! If you loved this blog read more at Bec’s site: www.rebeccasturgess.com

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