By Christina Lalor
Making a lifestyle change is no easy feat- it takes preparation, consistency, and passion! And as much as I wish it could happen with the snap of our fingers, it does not. The key is to take it day by day, step by step. Making the decision to go vegetarian or vegan can seem overwhelming at first, but we at the Green Living Blog are here to help you make the lifestyle transition with ease!
Keep reading to find out about all the benefits, both for yourself and for the environment, get tips on how to phase into being vegetarian or vegan, and how to keep your mission top of mind throughout your journey!
Why Do You Want to Go Vegetarian or Vegan?
When I do anything, I think about my reason behind doing it- my why. This is what drives my actions and motivation. I’ve found the power of knowing my “why” - it makes the decisions I make more mindful and forces me to make more informed choices. Before, it was easy to just go through the motions. My diet wasn’t really a diet- it was just whatever was in front of me, whatever I was eating out that night, whatever my friends or roommates were cooking - I wasn’t mindful of what I was putting in my body. Then in college, I had a terrible outbreak of psoriasis for the first time. I didn’t know what it was for a long time or how to stop it, I just wanted a quick solution. There isn’t always going to be a quick solution- but there will always be options available. Taking better care of my body and what I put into it was one of my options- I decided to try a vegan diet. After doing my research and speaking to multiple people, I decided this was something I was willing to put time and effort into. As being vegan is naturally low in inflammatory foods like red meats and dairy, it was a great option to help manage my psoriasis. Knowing my “why” helped me stick to the transition and make the changes I needed to make. It’s important for you to know your “why”- whether that be for environmental reasons, health benefits, or saving money! The more passionate and dedicated you are about your reason, the easier it will be to change your lifestyle.
Being educated on what it means to eat a plant-based diet will significantly impact your success in sustainable eating. One thing that helped me a ton was learning about all the health benefits of going vegetarian and vegan. When we digest all this amazing information about how our diets can significantly improve our bodies and health, how can you not want to stick to it? Everyone has their reasons for trying a new diet or lifestyle, mine was triggered by psoriasis. But when I continued my research, I dove deeper into the hole and wanted to do more and more. I seriously encourage everyone to watch documentaries, listen to podcasts and surround yourself with information to help encourage your brain that this is what it wants. If you don’t have a specific reason for going vegetarian or vegan, keep reading and I’ll give you a ton of reasons!
Here are just 5 health benefits for cutting meat out of your diet- you don’t have to be full vegan or vegetarian to optimize these benefits.
If all those health benefits haven't convinced you yet, I’m about to come out with all the environmental reasons for adopting a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle (or maybe just cutting down if you really can’t stop enjoying those BBQs). It is the most ecologically sustainable diet- meaning it is healthful and has a low impact on the environment and food supply. We don’t want to be greedy and take resources for future generations, now do we? With the planet’s food demands, waste and gaps in global poverty levels, we have a responsibility to our planet and future generations.
Food production is the leading cause of environmental change, according to the EAT-Lancet Commision. If you ever feel that small changes in your life may not have much impact, think again! Going vegan or vegetarian reduces land use, greenhouse gas emissions and uses far less water! Based on the World Health Organization (WHO) research, “food production accounts for 20 - 30% of global greenhouse gas emission and up to 66% of water usage.” That is truly an insane amount. After minoring in environmental studies at Gonzaga University, I wasn’t eating a meal without thinking about what had to go into making that plate.
The treatment of animals in the factory farming industry is just horrendous. Many of us don’t think about where our food comes from or the conditions it lived in. Being a woman that has 16 chickens in my backyard, it breaks my heart to see the conditions factory farms keep their animals in. These animals are turned into drugged up machines to produce milk, eggs, and give their lives to be somebody’s next meal. According to the United Nations, the “amount of industrial livestock sent to slaughter each year is equivalent to eight times the human population on planet Earth!” Think about just how crazy that is! With every meatless meal you eat, you are helping make a difference.
An easy way to learn more about the environmental impact of the meat and dairy industry is to check out some amazingly well-done documentaries (no I’m not a movie reviewer, but these were ones I got the most out of watching). They are so powerful and educational- a great way to kick-start your journey! Here are my top 5 favorites:
Educate yourself: Just like I said above, knowledge is power. The more you know about health benefits, factory farming, animal cruelty, and how to have a sustainable diet; the more committed you will be to your mission! Understand what it means to be vegetarian or vegan, what is realistic for you, how to supplement in the correct nutrients, and what it means to cook vegan! If you are making this change for environmental reasons, make sure you aren’t eating any meat or its by-products or supporting any large farm corporations. You should be more mindful of ingredients: gelatin and rennet are meat by-products, kosher is not synonymous with vegetarian and sugar is often refined with bone char!
Plan it out and be mindful: What is your end goal? Go back to your “why,” the reasons you are trying this dietary transition. Diets don’t have to be all or nothing, it took me a long time to figure that one out. The more customizable and realistic you make it, the more sustainable it is for you. I know that I absolutely love my meat, but when I broke out in psoriasis I had to make the best decision for my body. I started small, it is easier to change habits and routines when you do it in phases and do it consistently. Figure out what your goal is, there are tons of variations to adapt and there are zero wrong answers. This is your life, your body and your choices! Here are some variations:
Make Sure you get your nutrients: Like with any diet change, you need to plan appropriately to get the full range of essential nutrients. If you aren’t eating meat, you must supplement with other alternatives like tofu, tempeh, seitan (wheat gluten). I am also anemic so it is incredibly important for me to get enough iron. It was much easier when eating meat, so I had to be extra cautious and mindful when I went vegetarian. There is plenty of protein in beans, lentils, chickpeas, and mushrooms- a lot of foods you probably couldn’t get me to eat as a kid. Your body requires a specific amount of calories, balanced meals, and nutrients to keep you fueled and running as your most efficient self.
You Got This
We are human and there are good and bad days- if you make a mistake or need a cheat day, go easy on yourself. Rome wasn’t built in a day and nobody wakes up and starts a new lifestyle in a single day. It takes time, dedication to the cause, and a game plan. There is on right or wrong way to go vegetarian or vegan, do what is right for you and you can always keep adapting your lifestyle to be more and more sustainable. Who knows? You might do meatless Mondays this month and in three years, you are living the zero waste vegan life. It isn't just your diet that will change, you will have to be more mindful in your social interactions and events with friends or family. Some may not be very supportive or some restaurants may not have vegan/vegetarian options, that’s okay! You can plan for these challenges to- remember your reason for doing it and that will help you stay on track! Your energy, your life, and your planet will thank you!
OUR Promise TO YOU
Factual, Accurate and Reliable Information.