My Experience as a Vegetarian

**This post has been updated for 2018

It’s probably not the best way to start a blog post about vegetarianism by admitting that I am not a true vegetarian but I am about as close to being vegetarian as I’m going to get. For at least 6 years, my diet has been largely non-meat based because my partner is vegetarian.

Rather than cooking two meals I choose to cook vegetarian food and I occasionally eat fish and meat. This is a huge diet change having grown up around Chinese food. At dinner, we would eat meat every evening and very often more than one type of meat along with plenty of vegetables. 

When my siblings and I moved out, no longer under the watchful eye of our mother, she would remind us to eat meat whenever we met up. Chinese people eat a lot of meat and it plays a key role in food and the culture. 

In Hong Kong, students drink essence of chicken during exam time. It’s a food supplement made from extracts of quality chickens and counts enhancing mental power and reducing anxiety amongst its many benefits. Chinese mothers will cook special dishes and soups of various meats and fish that are considered good for the brain and eyes.

Meat provides a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals. But most of us are likely to be eating a lot more meat than is necessary. In the UK, we are advised to eat 0.75g of protein for each kilogram we weigh, on average men should eat 55g of protein and women 45g. This works out to be about 2 palm-sized portions.

Following a recent report on how red meat and processed meat is linked to cancer, a recent survey shows that we have been eating less meat in the last 12 months. The main reasons for cutting down meat is cited as health, followed by saving money, animal welfare then concerns over food safety regarding meat. 

The trend in healthy eating with the popularity of avocado toast, ancient grains such as quinoa and “superfoods” is likely to have contributed. Apart from health, a deeper motivation can be the reason for going vegetarian. More French people, who are traditionally avid meat eaters, are considering giving up meat and have lost the taste for forced-fed foie gras because of animal welfare issues.   

With a vegetarian diet, you need to make sure you eat foods that provide protein such as beans, pulses, eggs, tofu and protein meat substitutes. Another key nutrient is iron. When I gave blood earlier this year, the nurse testing my iron levels revealed that vegetarians find they are often unable to give blood after the first time as their iron levels are too low. Good sources are dark green veg such as broccoli and spring greens, pulses and eggs.  

Even though I used to eat quite a large quantity of meat, I didn't find it too hard to adjust to a more vegetarian diet. It helps that I allow myself the choice of eating meat so it's not an all or nothing situation. Like everything else you try to cut, you’re going to miss it at the beginning and then it will just feel like normal. 

If you are feeling inspired to start creating some delicious veggie dishes, check out this Mexican Veggie Chilli recipe by Madeleine Shaw.

More information

NHS information on the vegetarian diet

Information on protein

BBC Good Food vegetarian recipes

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