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I don’t know about you- but I grew up eating meat. And now that I am an adult who is maintaining my own household and making the meals for my husband and me, I find it really challenging to come up with “meatless” meals. I used to think going “meatless” was some annoying task we had to do every Friday during Lent, but now it’s like Lent every day in my house!
Growing Up Meaty
I was born and raised on Long Island in the 1980s and 1990s by my mother and grandmother who both worked full time. Despite their busy schedules, my grandma always took the time to prepare a delicious salad each day (and I mean the good kind with a colorful variety, complete with at least 7 different types of veggies). And I could always count on her salads to be prepped and waiting for me as soon as I walked in the door from track practice.
After cleaning up and doing some homework, we would sit down to dinner as a family; and the meals varied widely. I enjoyed my mom’s lemon chicken and my grandma’s homemade chicken soup as well as beef dishes such as meatloaf, burgers and pot roast (well, not pot roast so much!). We also ate plenty of seafood, and to this day, I have a love affair with shrimp! Not all meals were extravagant; some were simpler, such as turkey and bologna sandwiches (typical for a school day).
Meat was not always the main attraction as we definitely had pizza, eggplant parmesan, and pasta mixed in as well; but overall, it seemed like we had meat (or at least some form of animal protein) every single day.
Removing Meat from the Rotation
Until almost a year ago, rotating meat dishes was how I came up with our weekly menu at home.
It’s funny because I never thought that, at 29 years old, I would change my entire outlook on eating. In my quest for living a healthier life (the definition and scope of which has changed dramatically for me over the years), I have changed many things about my diet. Perhaps the biggest change, however, has been slowly stepping away from meat and most animal protein.
Despite the fact that eating a salad every day is still ingrained in me from when I grew up, I’ve discovered that eating veggies is still, for the most part, a foreign concept. That said, making the switch over to entirely plant-based meals every day, three times a day has been a challenge that has taken time and patience, but it has also been an extremely worthwhile transition.
I don’t label myself a strict vegetarian or a vegan; I still eat fish (I love the Omega 3’s in Salmon), and I still choose to indulge in eating chicken every once in a while. A good example of when I choose to eat chicken is when I’m in a situation where my choices are limited. For example, if I am at a restaurant and I have to choose between eating fried and battered vegetables versus a local, organic, grilled chicken, I’m gonna’ order the chicken!
What Are You Eating?
So if I’m not eating meat, what am I eating? Believe it or not – a ton of mostly plant-based delicious meals!!
Veggie burgers have entirely replaced ground beef, and the best part is that we don’t miss the animal fat! Some of my veggie burgers include ingredients like lentils, mushrooms, garbanzo beans, black beans, brown rice, and even eggplant. Other popular dishes in my house include: kale salads with homemade dressings, vegetable based soups (such as butternut squash, mushroom, and cauliflower soups), vegetable lasagna loaded with veggies, and zucchini spiraled “pasta.”
The Meat or No Meat Dilemma: Figuring Out What’s Right For You
So how do you know if avoiding meat is right for you? I don’t necessarily want to preach that everyone has to stop eating meat. However, I do support incorporating more plant-based meals into your diet. Vegetables are SO beneficial, and they are loaded with vitamins and minerals. Therefore, it is definitely worth trying to make them the main dish and having the meat on the side. Finally, always shop sustainable, grass-fed, hormone-free, and organic when you can!!
About the Author:
Kristin Horstman is a 30-year-old nutrition and fitness enthusiast who resides in Arizona with her husband. She enjoys trying out new, meatless meals as well as attending classes and seminars pertaining to diet and fitness.