This year, National Vegetarian Week runs from May 13-19. It’s an event that’s designed to promote the benefits and pleasures of meat-free eating to the wider public.
It has also got me thinking back to when I first turned vegetarian in 1994. That makes 2019 my Silver Vegetarian Anniversary!
Yes, it’s been 25 years since I gave up eating meat.
Why I gave up meat
My reasons for going vegetarian were personal. I’d always been very squeamish — I could fool myself that a nice lean slice of roast beef, for example, hadn’t really come from an animal. But if ever my plate included anything that looked too much like a body part or contained fat or sinews, I was repulsed. The thought of eating flesh increasingly turned my stomach.
I started to think seriously about becoming vegetarian, but 25 years ago it was a daunting prospect.
Vegetarians were viewed with suspicion in many quarters. And meat-free choices in supermarkets and restaurants were laughably poor.
Luckily, I had a colleague at the time who had already been vegetarian for several years. I told myself that if she could do it, so could I.
How I did it
So I set myself a challenge. I had a week’s holiday coming up, and decided to try giving up meat for the week I was away from home. If I could manage it successfully, I would consider giving up for good.
That experimental week proved revelatory. Suddenly, I was enjoying my meals so much more. And my conscience was clear. I no longer felt hypocritical for picking and choosing which bits of an animal I would put on my plate.
I never looked back. And I have never once regretted my decision to go vegetarian.
Why you should consider it, too
That’s simply my personal experience, and it wouldn’t work for everyone. But the evidence in favour of everyone eating more meat-free meals is becoming overwhelming.
Here are just some of the reasons why . . .
Becoming vegetarian is good for your health
. . . but only if you do it properly. You can’t just drop meat and not replace it with anything else. You still need protein and other nutrients, and if you’re not getting them from meat, you need to include lots of beans and pulses, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and eggs and dairy, in your everyday diet.
It’s easy to eat the recommended five portions a day of fruit and veg when you’re a vegetarian. Your diet should also be naturally high in fibre and low in salt.
Becoming vegetarian is good for the environment
According to the Vegetarian Society, by eating vegetarian food for a year you could save the same amount of emissions as taking a small family car off the road for six months. And it takes far less water to produce plant protein than it does to produce meat.
Becoming vegetarian is good for your bank balance
Making a hearty vegetarian stew with potatoes, root vegetables and a can or two of lentils and beans costs a fraction of the money you’ll spend on ingredients to make a beef or lamb version. Try it, and your pocket will soon see the difference.
Becoming vegetarian will make you a better cook
Well, it certainly did for me! I love my food, and 25 years ago, meat-free eating-out and take-away options were extremely limited.
There’s only so much macaroni cheese or mushroom risotto one person can face. If I wanted to eat well, I had to learn to do it myself.
Why don’t you try going meat-free this National Vegetarian Week? You might never look back.