Tuesday, April 5, 2011

You are what you eat!

So I thought I would go ahead and do a bit of a food/dietary related post, because I know that I'm not the only one out in the blogosphere that has special dietary habits or restrictions...

As for me, I'm nearing my 13th year with no meat in my diet.
I remember when, right after my 13th birthday, I decided that my current diet wasn't what I wanted it to be, and I didn't feel right about decisions I had been making. Being raised by a single Mom, in the Midwest we were never a real carnivorous household, and I personally had never been real into meat at any point anyway. So when I formally announced to my family that I would officially be cutting out meat for good from my diet, my Mom was fairly supportive, but understandably skeptical.
In all fairness, I was 13. Thirteen-year olds aren't known for being the most committed, level-headed folks in the world, after all. So she just figured I would last a few months maybe, then return to a more omnivorous path.
So at the point when I decided, I was eating red meat, maybe once or twice a month, avoided pork-products all-together and ate mostly white meat.
I remember being so proud of myself, I was newly a teenager, had just found out what PETA was, and researched animal rights and the horrors of the meat industry in the States. My mind was made up.

Now, a mere month before my 26th birthday, my vegetarianism is still going strong, and never faltered over the past twelve years. It's something that I'm proud of, yes, but at the same time, it's just been part of who I am, and my life for so long now, that I don't really think about it much anymore! And it is definitely something that I know I will never go back on. For me, the decision I made when I was 13 will be a life-long one.

In case you were wondering too; no, no one else in my family (immediate or extended) is a vegetarian or vegan, including my Husband and his family.
My Mom, Sister and Brother don't eat much meat anymore, and almost always only white meats. My Husband and Dad are HUGE meat-fans. For them, a meal just isn't a meal if it doesn't feature something meaty.

Look at those faces! Awwww...

And you know what? Something I've found in my life as a vegetarian/vegan: adopting an aggressive, guilt-tripping style concerning the critique of other's diets, just doesn't work. It's that classic phrase, "you catch more flies with honey than vinegar!"
So I'm more than happy to talk about why my diet is the way it is, and the reasons I believe I've made the right life choice in this area, and know that I won't ever go back to eating meat, but I don't preach. And unless I'm asked, or you've eaten with me, people tend not to even know.

Hey, living in Norway, these guys are popular menu items!
Him too!

At this point in my life, I'm a bit more vegan than vegetarian, but I don't like to restrict myself to labels in general, and the bottom line is, I only eat what I'm comfortable eating. I'm a big ingredient-reader, and have been for the past 4-5 years, since I started eating more and more vegan-y.

So my restrictions include:
  • No meat. A few times a month I eat seafood, but I'm VERY picky and selective with what types I eat, when and how. Mostly this is locally caught fish (I do live in coastal Norway after all!), or shrimps.
  • No animal fats, stock, lard or meat-based flavoring/coloring.
  • No traditional gelatin.
  • I eat eggs maybe once a month, if that. But don't care for them in general, and they come from either the Hub's uncle's chickens, or are free-range from the store.
  • I do eat and enjoy honey.
  • I can't digest dairy well in general, so try to have it only in small amounts. Usually via cheese. I cook/bake with soy milk, use plant-based margarines, soy cheeses when I can, and soy sour cream, and yogurt.
  • I also don't buy or wear leather and furs, and do not support designers that use fur in their pieces/lines.

So those are my dietary habits in a nutshell.

Making the decision to cut down on, or completely cut out meat from your diet is a big one, and definitely a commitment. However, I would be leaving something out if I didn't convey that it wasn't a decision that I think is and was worth making for me. I won't extol the many reasons here, but if you're interested in making more animal-friendly choices in your life a great way to start is by instituting a day of the week where you and your family will abstain from meats and animal products. (Something I would love for my Husband to participate in with me!)

For a great resource on reasons why a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle is not only a great health decision, but a good thing for our planet too, and tips on how to make the transition, go to PETA. com. You'll find everything you need there, and of course information on other interesting topics and areas like the Fur industry around the world, animal rights, and current news updates.

Are any of you all out there vegetarians or vegans? Why did you make the switch?