I am a vegetarian since almost 30 years. “Do you eat at least chicken and fish?” is the question I am promptly asked when outing myself. When I decline, they make a puzzled face, “But where from do you get your protein?!”
Let me start from the very beginning, namely with the reason I became a vegetarian: I was a little girl when my mother took me and my two sisters to the mountains for a walk. We had sat down for a pic-nic on the grass when my mom pointed at a peak opposite from us. “If we climb that top, I’ll buy you a huge cup of ice-cream”, she said. We made it to the summit and as promised, my mother took us to the restaurant and let us choose the biggest dish of ice-cream. I was still licking my lips when I spotted a cattle truck outside on the parking lot. I could see animals behind the bars and approached the vehicle. And I got the shock of my life: there were five sheep, four had been decapitated and their heads were literally placed on the floor, next to their bodies. But the fifth sheep was still alive! Despite my young age I could have understood if all of them had got killed. But I couldn’t bear the thought that one sheep was locked up alive with four of its own species’ dead bodies in the same truck. I GOT SICK TO MY STOMACH AND STOPPED EATING MEAT THAT DAY.
I cannot tolerate an animal getting killed for me. I am grateful to eat a free range hen’s eggs and drink a cow’s milk, but I don’t want it to die for me. I know it’s the nature of the beast and I observe Zoe and Noah with curiosity. I think it’s absolutely beautiful how my children kiss the fish they just bought from the market on the mouth and spear the very same animal with their forks before devouring it with delight.
I cook meat and fish for my kids because a) I fully agree with most dietitians that LEAN MEAT IS HEALTHY and b) I don’t want to take the decision of becoming a vegetarian for them. What scares me though are all these news about what they feed the cattle and how much growth hormones and antibiotics these animals get injected. Who gives you the guarantee that the organic meat you have bought is actually any better than the one which laid next to it on the shelf for half price? I wish there was a farmer that I could trust for not only feeding the animals healthy food and let them run around in the meadows, but also for killing them with a minimum amount of stress. This is the other thing that really bothers me about buying meat for my children: I would like to have the guarantee that the animal had species-appropriate husbandry and got slaughtered without suffering. But it’s impossible to control if the producers complied with my expectations and that makes me feel awful. The other day I almost had a car crash because I couldn’t take my eyes off a transporter who had loaded cages crammed with turkeys. I couldn’t figure out if they were dead or alive because they were so penned up. I cannot possibly support cruelty like this! It is sick how retailers are treating living beings like they were disposable objects. They only think about cutting costs and nothing else. And the worse is, the people who buy the meat look at the price tag and don’t ask any further questions.
I am a so called lacto-ovo vegetarian who doesn’t eat animal flesh of any kind but consumes dairy and egg products which makes it very easy for me to pick dishes from a restaurant’s menu. However, if you are going out with a vegan, you may encounter serious trouble to find an appropriate place because they don’t eat any dairy and egg products or other animal-derived substances. I know people who became vegan because of allergies or illnesses like cancer. They are happy and don’t complain, but I see that in social life it’s very hard for them to follow this diet. There are lots of vegan restaurants in the USA but in a country like Turkey, they don’t take you serious. When I moved here, they suggested I eat “Manti” which is a tiny ravioli filled with minced meat. “But on the menu it says that they are filled with meat”, I said. “Only very little” was the answer!
Let’s go back to the two questions people ask me. The answer to the first one is: “No, I don’t eat chicken or fish because they are animals too and no one can reassure me that they had a good life and were killed without suffering.” The answer to the second question: I have to admit that when I started working out heavily after my son’s birth, I couldn’t get sufficient protein from diary products, eggs and legumes. As an athlete I need 1.8 grams per kilogram of weight, so multiply that with 56 – it’s almost impossible for me to take in 101 grams of protein just from food. So I have a protein shake after my workout and I love it! Unfortunately we don’t have all the choice they have in America, but mine tastes yummy (chocolate in fall and winter), is very low in carbs and contains 30 grams of protein per serving. Whey protein is a great invention, however you should not exaggerate because too much protein won’t necessarily help you build more muscle and will be stored as fat if not utilized by your body. I also believe that you should rather try to eat protein reach meals than drink lots of shakes.
HERE ARE SOME IDEAS FOR YOU TO GO VEGETARIAN FOR A COUPLE OF MEALS (I promise more recipes soon!):
- Vegetarian Chili
- Lentil Soup
- Quinoa Salad
- Three Beans Salad with Egg (green beans, kidney beans, chickpeas)
- Sweet&Sour Tofu with steamed Rice
- Lentil Curry with sweet potatoes
- Spanish Omelet (add a few yolks only, lots of veggies)
For me, being a vegetarian is very easy. But I have friends who committed to a meat-free life only recently and who struggle with being vegetarian. You have to know a little about nutrition in order to create balanced meals that are both delicious and satisfying. But you can definitely be healthy and fit without meat, even competing bodybuilders like Albert Beckles are vegetarians.
Vegetarian diets are also beneficial in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis, renal disease and dementia as well as diverticular disease, gallstones and rheumatoid arthritis. From my own experience I can say that I never get sick, that I am always full of energy, that my metabolism is fast and mostly, that I have a good conscience!