As Meat-Free Monday gains in popularity it seems like a good time to talk about vegetarianism and plant-based diets. I haven’t eaten red meat for over 20 years. As a child I was obsessed with animals and after a playdate with some family friends we all came up with the idea of becoming vegetarians whilst sat in the garden shed.
Along with my sister and three of our friends, we announced to our parents we were giving up meat each taking a word in turn to drop the bombshell to our mums and dads. They all looked horrified. Somehow our decision to support the end the ivory trade and shop only at The Body Shop had resulted in us giving our parents a complete meal planning headache. They agreed on the condition we would give up red meat but not white. Briefly I was devastated when I realised I could no longer eat Bovril on Toast, but realised Marmite on Toast was just as good.
Slowly but surely the other four started eating meat again and while my original motivations may have been a little misguided, I haven’t eaten a burger since. Once I gave it up, I didn’t miss it at all.
I can’t call myself a true vegetarian. Some folk might call me a flexitarian, a pescatarian or a demi-vegetarian (and some others may just call me pretentious). Around ten years ago I introduced fish in to my diet but given the way the world’s fish resources are being farmed it’s something I’m seriously considering giving up too.
Over those twenty years, a huge amount has changed about plant-based eating. A few observations.
It’s Much More Socially Acceptable
I was skinny as a teenager and some of my friends parents (a select few I have to say) weren’t backwards in coming forwards about my weight and diet. I have to say there were several occasions when I felt very uncomfortable for my dietary choices, but luckily when you’re thirteen going to your mates for tea usually involves chicken kievs and chips.
After I watched Jamie’s series on chicken a few years ago, I decided to give up poultry. I made a conscious decision based on the facts presented to me and it made it much easier to just tell people I no longer ate meat rather than go through a list of foods I did and did not devour.
These days I’ve found nobody bats an eyelid when you eat a plant based diet, given gluten-free, dairy-free etc are very common place. Back then I might as well have had two heads.
Clean Eating Has Opened Lots of Doors
I know lots of people have mixed views on ‘clean eating’ but with a focus on plant based and whole foods, the courgetti crowd have ensured supermarket shelves are filled full of butternut squash lasagne sheets, cauliflower rice, mushroom sausages as heaps of carb and meat alternatives have become mainstream. Pasta doesn’t agree with me so I’m a huge fan of the alternatives and love how you get one of your five-a-day in too.
The Variety Is Huge
Back in the day, the only option when I went out was a flipping Goats Cheese Tart. Which is obviously fine once in a while but not every time you go out for dinner. Barbecues consisted purely of Linda McCartney sausages. Wedding catering has taken a while to catch up but at all the nuptials we celebrated last year, the meat eaters were eyeing up my food. On a general menu now there seem to be a lot more vegetarian options so there’s always something to tickle the taste buds.
Foreign Trips Are Getting Easier
I remember going to France with James about ten years ago to visit his Dad in his French home. We went out for dinner and after a rather garballed GSCE French conversation, the restauranteur deduced I didn’t eat meat. Out came a green salad piled high with tinned tuna and lardons. Close but no cigar.
It’s still not as easy to get a plant based meal abroad as it here, but I think that’s more to do with a language barrier than a cultural divide.
People Are Always Interested in Protein Intake
While people are definitely more educated on protein sources other than meat, I still get asked how I ensure I get adequate protein and calcium.
I eat a lot of cheese, eggs, nuts, seeds, spinach, kale, quinoa and legumes so I’m very confident I’m not missing out by giving up the steak.
Does anyone else participate in Meat-Free Monday? Anyone else experienced some form of vegetarianism for a long period of time? Anyone else share the view that’s is much easier to eat a plant based diet these days?
If you’re interested in what we eat in the Coleman household there are a few recipes in my recent meal planning post.