Why I Became a Vegetarian

One of the joys of teaching is that wonderful feeling you get when the small print across the bottom of the television screen announces your county has NO SCHOOL!  It keeps you young, and oh, so very happy! 😉

And for all of you haters out there…  it’s not too late to go back to school to become a teacher!  We are always in desperate need of dedicated and caring teachers!!! 😉

Anywho!    A question that has come up a lot over the past year (and 32 days) is, “Why did you decide to become a vegetarian?”  And that question is typically followed by, “How do you get enough protein?”  “Do you miss meat?”  “Aren’t you hungry?”

Well, seeing as how today is a snow day, and those report card comments aren’t going anywhere, I’ve decided to tackle these questions all in one little bloggy!

I’ll start by saying that I’ve never really LOVED meat.  I can remember those rare steak dinners growing up (there are five children in our family, so steak dinners didn’t happen very often), and how I HATED to chew, chew, chew.  It was SO much work, and it felt like I was swallowing a cloth napkin rather than a scrumptious piece of meat.  I just couldn’t relate to the excitement that my four brothers, Pop-Pop and father would have over those chew intensive meals.

I simply ate meat because it is what I was “supossed” to do.  It was the main course. 

But in my adulthood I have toyed with the idea of going meatless.  My first attempt was a few summers ago after a very sad encounter with dying birds at Coco Beach, Florida.  My family and I were walking down the beach, and we kept running into these birds that were unable to walk, swim, or fly.  They were just laying in the sand, or floating in the breaking waves unable to move.  So for a week, I gave up meat (and didn’t go in the water!).  This was very difficult to do while on vacation, and with no planning.  I lasted about 4 or 5 days before I gave in, and ravenously ate a chicken sandwich and fries from a fast food restaurant (in hindsight it probably should have been beef!). 

Fast forward to 2008.

As my friends and I were traveling through a small West Virginia town on our way to a ski resort, we saw several slaughtered bears hanging from a tree, and another bear laying in the snow beneath the tree.  This made my stomach lurch, and I remembered the birds from a few years back.  I decided then and there to give a vegetarian diet another go.  On January 31, 2008, I ate my last steak dinner with an incredible glass of red wine 🙂

Now, I know what you are thinking.  We don’t eat bears or seagulls!  Why give up eating meat?!?!  That is not such an easy question to answer.  I have always been extremely sensitive to the feelings of others, including animals.  I know this sounds super hokey.  I give you complete permission to make fun of me.  It’s just a feeling that I have and can not control

This feeling only got worse after I did research.  

Upon returning from our winter vacation, the scholar in me decided to do a little reading.  I wanted to be fully prepared this time.  I read about vegetarian diets on the internet, and read articles from the VCU library.  I also went to the bookstore to get a vegetarian cookbook.  It was there, while standing in the aisles of Barnes and Noble, browsing through the many titles of cookbooks that my life was changed forever.  I picked up a book , and read only a few pages before knowing that I absolutely, without a doubt, would never eat meat again. (E-mail me if you want the title, but only if you are seriously considering giving up meat.)

This book, and many other resources I read, not only discussed how to eat vegetarian, but explained the ways that our food gets approved for consumption.  And I’m not just talking meats!  There are a lot of politics and a lot money involved in the FDA and USDA.  Yet another reason on my list to eat cleaner and closer to the source. 

As far as getting enough protein in my diet as a vegetarian, this is what the American Heart Association has to say:

“Most Americans already eat more protein than their bodies need. And eating too much protein can increase health risks. High-protein animal foods are usually also high in saturated fat. Eating large amounts of high-fat foods for a sustained period raises the risk of coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke and several types of cancer. People who can’t use excess protein effectively may be at higher risk of kidney and liver disorders, and osteoporosis.” (Source)

They also have this to say about vegetarian diets:

“Most vegetarian diets are low in or devoid of animal products. They’re also usually lower than nonvegetarian diets in total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol. Many studies have shown that vegetarians seem to have a lower risk of obesity, coronary heart disease (which causes heart attack), high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus and some forms of cancer.” (Source)

Women between the ages of 19 to 49 need approximately 45 grams of protein per day(Source).  That’s about 5 to 5.5 ounces of meat or beans a day based on USDA guidelines (Source).  Men of this same age need about 55.5 grams of protein a day, or 6 ounces of meat and beans.   

The first few months of being a vegetarian were difficult.  I wasn’t quite sure how to replace meat with plant sources that were high in protein and were able to keep me feeling full.  But over the course of a year, I was able to add more beans, quinoa, nuts, nut butter, and soy to my diet. 

You might also be surprised by how much protein is already in the non-meat foods that you eat.  For example, one serving of oats has 5 grams of protein.  Add a little nut butter (7 grams), soy milk (another 7 grams), and your breakfast has a whopping 19 grams of protein!  So, the answer is, no I am not hungry.  I’m eating more fruits and vegetables.  I’m eating more whole grains.  And I’m trying new foods (Hello, Purple/Green monsters!!) 

I am still learning the ins and outs of being a vegetarian. My brothers still give me a hard time, and it is sometimes difficult when eating away from home, but I’m very happy with my decision… and I feel great

So, there you have it.  Why I became a vegetarian, how I get enough protein, and my hunger levels have all been laid out on the line! 

If you have any questions, or want more information, please ask! 

I guess I should get off the computer and do some vacuuming!  I’m definitely NOT going outside today 🙂

UP NEXT… P90X and the Sanders’s 2010 challenge!



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5 responses to “Why I Became a Vegetarian

  1. Jessie

    Good for you, Jen. It will be ten years for me this Fall. It’s wonderful! Ike has also drastically cut down his meat intake which has opened up the doors for vegetarian cooking in the Sanchez-Tucker house.

  2. Alicia

    I’m not as much interested in getting protein, but more interested in getting the iron and b-vitamins that meat has in it. I know a vegetarian diet can be complete and nutrient rich…but those are two I’ve heard that vegetarians don’t get enough of. Do you take supplements or just eat a heck of a lot of spinach?

    • Hey, Alicia! When I first started cutting meat out of my diet I took a B12 supplement, but my doctor told me I really didn’t need it.

      Your question got me thinking, so I went down to the kitchen and did a little research (informal, of course!).

      While I was making dinner, I read the nutrition labels and this is what I found for iron and B vitamins related to daily nutrition values in one serving of the follow:
      carrots- 2% DV of iron
      Mary’s Gone Crackers- 6% DV of iron
      hummus- 2% DV of iron
      dry beans- 10% DV of iron
      spinach- 15% DV of iron
      tofu- 11% DV of iron
      red taters (w/skin)- 6% DV of iron
      quinoa- 12% DV of iron
      oats- 10% DV of iron
      soy milk- 50% DV of B12 and 8% DV of iron
      bread- 4% DV of iron and 4% DV of B6

      Most cereals are fortified with iron and B vitamins. You’d be surprised!!!

      I’m in no way trying to convince you to be a vegetarian. That is such a personal choice. But I do want you to know I am healthy, and getting all of the vitamins and minerals I need 🙂

  3. Alicia

    Thanks for letting me know. Though I don’t think I could give up meat all together (pretty sure I’d miss it), I have started incorporating more vegetarian meals into my week. I feel like it saves us money and puts more variety in our diet.

    Lovin the blog, sister!

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