While I had always admired vegetarians for their moral stance on animal abuse, and their dedication to ignore a sizzling steak, I strongly believed that it just wasn’t for me.
That was, until I came home for winter break and my sister informed us that she was uninterested in our Thanksgiving turkey. That’s when everything I thought I had known about the meat industry was flipped on its head, and I decided that I would give a vegetarian diet a try.
Before I start giving you reasons why being a vegetarian is great, I want to acknowledge that not everyone can, or desires to, become a vegetarian for numerous reasons, which should always be respected. For those of us, like me, who were simply too afraid to take the leap, this article is for us.
The main reason I decided to become vegetarian was due to animal agriculture’s affect on the environment, something unknown to me until recently.
For example, an article in Ecological Economics showed that livestock production is responsible for 70 percent of deforestation in the Amazon region of Latin America, where rainforests are being cleared to create new pastures. This shocked me, as I had always assumed it was paper that was destroying Amazonian species.
In addition, a 2006 report by the United Nations said raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined, which is troubling considering that so much of our initiative to preserve the environment surrounds the transportation industry.
By transitioning to a vegetarian diet, not only are you reducing animal cruelty, because none of us really thought meat production was humane, but also preserving the environment.
Now that you have the drive to consider a vegetarian diet, the next conundrum is how do you do it?
The most important thing is to make sure you eat enough protein. While tofu is a great source, so are beans, lentils, nuts, and soymilk. It’s important that you substitute meat with these options, rather than a bag of chips.
If you live on campus, the cafeteria has pretty solid vegetarian options 90 percent of the time (which tend to be better than the meat option anyway). For the other ten percent, cereal is your best friend.
For those of us—like me—who live off-campus, not only is cooking vegetarian yummy, it’s also not too expensive. Tofu is less expensive than meat, and black beans are some of the cheapest protein you can find. Google provides tons of recipes, many of which are healthy and affordable, that typically don’t take too much time.
The other option is to cook in bulk. Over the break I made three Tupperware containers worth of vegan bolognese sauce, which tastes just like pasta sauce, but with ground-up nuts for protein. You keep one in the fridge for easy access, and the other two can be frozen.
Overall, being a vegetarian was not an incredibly difficult transition for me, and at the very least, you should give it a try.