Transitioning to a Plant Based Diet – Part 1
As promised, I’m going to provide some more insight into my transition to a vegetarian diet that’s primarily based on plant-based, unprocessed foods. However, due to the length of the post, I’m going to break it up into 2 or 3 parts. Part 1 summarizes my transition over the course of this year, Part 2 will provide additional information on why I feel that a plant-based, whole foods diet is so beneficial (with sources and references), and in Part 3 I hope to provide some sample recipes and menus to illustrate how delicious, nutritious and balanced a plant-based diet can be.
Part 1– My transition to a plant based diet was a gradual process, not something that happened overnight. I guess I’ve always been somewhat bothered by the thought of eating animals or anything that was a living creature, and this goes back to my childhood. I have two vivid memories of when I felt really disturbed about eating meat/poultry. One was when I saw a goat being slaughtered in my neighbor’s back yard for a feast they were having (this was when I lived in Bahrain). I remember feeling awful for the goat and mortified at the thought that we actually ate animals who had been put through that slaughtering. The second memory was from a dinner party at my parent’s friends house. They served baked cornish hens as part of the dinner, and I initially put a piece on my plate thinking that it was a piece of chicken breast. But then, when I turned it over and saw that it was a “body,” I felt sick to my stomach and couldn’t eat it – or anything else on my plate.
However, I still continued to eat meat, fish and poultry while growing up. As long as the servings were cut up and “unidentifiable” as bodies, I didn’t really think about it, or think about where my food had come from, how it had been raised, and in what conditions it had lived. But as I read more on the benefits of plant-based foods, and on the conditions in factory farms, I became more disturbed by the thought of eating meat and poultry. I gradually cut out red meat from my diet and only ate poultry and fish occasionally. Then the final change – of eliminating poultry and fish, came earlier this year in late January/early February. M. had bought a whole chicken to roast in the oven and had left it it sitting on the stove to be marinated, when I walked into the kitchen one night. The sight of the “body” sitting on the stove made up my mind. It brought home the message once and for all that I was eating an animal that had once been alive, and I decided I could no longer do it. It had bothered me for years and I was finally going to make the change once and for all. So I stopped eating poultry, and then gradually gave up fish too. With seafood, the transition was not as difficult as I had initially imagined. Although I used to love shrimp and salmon, I just stopped craving them after a while as I incorporated more plant-based sources of protein (such as tofu, tempeh, beans, lentils and nuts) into my diet. I tried new recipes and added healthier fats such as nut butters and avocado to my diet, and I just didn’t feel the need or desire to eat any fish or poultry again.
Now, I still do eat eggs occasionally, though far less frequently then I used to, and more recently I have decided to just buy organic eggs or local, farm eggs (when I do buy them) for ethical reasons (more on this in Part 2 of this post). I also used to eat a minimal amount of dairy (mainly cottage cheese for some protein), but gave that up more recently due to an increased intolerance to lactose, and additional information on how dairy affects our bodies (again – more on this in Part 2!) Now, I enjoy a whole variety of foods and I don’t miss meat, poultry or fish at all. Moreover, I know that what I am putting into my body is wholesome, fresh, unprocessed food that required a minimal amount of resources to be produced. Not only is it healthier for my body, but it is also environmentally friendly, sustainable and ethical. And that matters. It matters a whole lot.
I’ll explain why in Part 2!