Recently I made the decision to stop eating beef, pork and lamb. Find out why.
For many years I have been tempted by the thought of going vegetarian and I have attempted it once or twice but I didn’t really have a strong enough belief in my motive which is why I was never successful. Over the last few months my husband and I have managed to reduce our meat intake considerably and it actually wasn’t as hard as I thought. OK we were never massive red meat eaters to begin with with an average weeks dinner consisting of one meatless meal, two fish meals, two chicken meals and then a beef and usually a lamb dish.
Many will ask what prompted my decision and to be honest it was really my morning sickness and pregnancy that started the ball rolling as during the early stages of my pregnancy I went off meat, chicken and fish completely and so the journey happened automatically. From then onwards I explored the lifestyle change more and began exploring recipe options and so I decided why not just carry on.
Why have I done this?
Everyone has different opinions and preferences so I just want to share my individual story with you as knowledge is power. I am not actively promoting the vegetarian diet but I have found positive results for myself and family and have personal reasoning’s which I believe in to substantiate the change.
My Reasons for making the change
This was my main reason for making the change I suffer with a mild form of IBS and whilst everyone’s trigger foods are different , mine seem to be caffeine ( I still indulge and take the knock) , cream, butter and meats such as beef, bacon and other fatty cuts. I often felt nauseous and bloated after eating meat especially after the traditional South African braai ( not its not from carbs). I found vegetarian meals a lot lighter but yet still fulling if you plan them right. I definitely have suffered less with IBS symptoms since making the change and feel less sluggish after eating.
2. Health benefits
I love research hence why I chose a career in science. Evidence shows us that high intakes of processed meats such as salami, sausages and bacon have been linked to certain chronic diseases and so cutting out processed meat completely was the first step for me. Also processed meats tend to be high in salt although South Africa has implemented new legislation to help reduce the salt intake in foods.
There is evidence that replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fat in your diet lowers your risk for heart disease . Saturated fat can be found in many animals products. Positive results surrounding the Mediterranean diet have existed for many years. Mediterranean diet involves eating alot of plant based protein with lean sources of protein such as fish and chicken and healthy fats.
There is a lot of old and new research showing the benefits of a plant based diet in preventing and treating certain chronic disease diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, A close family member is currently undergoing treatment for prostrate cancer and upon doing a lot of research I found plant based diets have strong link to preventing prostate cancer but yet again this is not new evidence to us. I actively encourage the Mediterranean diet to my patients as there a lot of well substantiated evidence in it preventing chronic diseases of lifestyle which is why I still include fish in my diet .
Whilst there is a lot of controversy over the whether a vegetarian diet is better for the environment we know that it does help in lowering the carbon footprint as animal production causes large greenhouse gases emissions. I have yet to do a lot of evidence based research into this area so it wasn’t the top of my priority list in terms of reasoning for going pescatarian.
Where do I start?
I wanted to stagger my journey as I was apprehensive given my failure in attempting this challenge before so I started with one meat at a time. I cut out lamb and pork, the meats I eat the least of . This was quite easy as there were still other options always available to me. I then moved onto beef . The only challenge I faced here was burgers and biltong as I really do enjoy it but the as the weeks passed it got easier as I had forgotten what it tasted like. It has been 4 months since I had beef, lamb and pork and now am on the journey to reduce my chicken intake.
At the moment hubby and I eat on average a week three to four vegetarian meals and two fish meals and then on the weekends I may have some chicken and he usually eats meat at a braai whereas I may just have the sides or a small amount of chicken. I try choose vegetarian options on the weekend but if I get stuck then I either go with fish and then if that isn’t available then chicken. At the moment I am probably eating chicken once a week so the aim is to slowly cut that down.
I still plan to eat fish as I really enjoy fish based meals and I do feel it serves an important part in our diet although I wont overcompensate by eating more fish because I have cut out meat and chicken.
The biggest advice I have is to plan ahead. Its easy to make a meal of chicken fillets, veg and sweet potato wedges for example but you need some inspiration when it comes to vegetarian meals as these are harder to whip up at the last minute. I have tried to make meals from scratch rather than using vegetarian substitutes like Frys or Quorn but they are useful to have in the freezer for those rushed evening meals.
My top tips
1. Create a pinterest board of vegetarian recipes you can go view the recipes you have save
2. Keep 2-3 recipes or shopping lists on your phone to have in emergencies
2. I always have tinned tomatoes, chickpeas, kidney beans and sweetcorn in the house as generally I can find something to make last minute with those items.
What to be careful of by going vegetarian
1. Vitamin B12: This is the one nutrient that is found mostly in animal based products so anyone adopting a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle should ideally supplement it. My husband got bad ulcers in his mouth after adapting this diet because he wasn’t supplementing.
2. Overdosing on cheese: it is easy to compensate for meat with cheese to add flavour but cheese still has saturated fat in it so don’t add more now because there isn’t meat in your dish.
3. Choosing the right carbohydrates: It is is easy to start eating more bread , pasta and potatoes when you reduce your meat intake but try choose your wholegrain option or use other starchy carbohydrates like cous cous, quinoa, buckwheat and barley instead.