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Vegetarian Thinking of Quitting - MOVED from General Topics

  • d

First of all, all respondents are asked to PLAY NICE.

I've been a vegetarian for two years now, for ethical reasons. I thought long and hard about it one summer and I felt I could not abide the suffering that animals undergo just so I might have a tasty meal.

Perhaps this is what doomed me from the start. My appetite wanted meat (it never seemed physically repulsive, I had grown up with it) but my conscience/intellect refused to allow it. I have always loved food and cooking so being a vegetarian was novel for a while (the first year) but soon became a chore. I resented always being overcharged for vegetable-pasta when eating out with friends and family, or being made to eat alone when visiting at home (because my family continued their meat eating ways and the kitchen accomodates but one cook), etc. Of course, I miss my favourites: very simple meat dishes like spicy sausages, steak and Italian sandwiches.

I'm thinking of starting to eat meat once a week, as long as it is responsibly raised and slaughtered. That will remove most of my objections.
But I'm wondering if anyone has been in this same situation? How do you deal with those who have come to know you as a vegetarian, and make fun of your 'slipping'?

Furthermore, I'm quite thin now and I like myself roughly in this proportion (if only because I'm too cheap to buy new clothes!). Anyone have any trouble in this respect?

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  1. I'm being a good chowhound citizen and moving this. Hope that's okay.

    In my late teens/early 20s, I was vegetarian. Then after getting married, I ate normally. I "reverted" to healthy eating when I was pregnant and have been pretty consistently following that now, but I'm not a vegetarian.

    As much as I like fruits, vegetables and grains, I find them terribly boring without meat. I detest faux burgers, soy cheese or anything that's trying to overtly replace meat/dairy. Yuk.

    What I have taken from being a vegetarian (which was for health and humane reasons) is that I am still a conscious eater. I don't buy much meat for our entire family, but I try to buy from local farmers, local butchers, etc. We don't gorge ourselves on meat by any means. But it is part of our diet. As a vegetarian, I became borderline anemic, which was one of the reasons I re-introduced meat.

    But at the same time, I also won't buy out-of-season produce because the act of trucking/flying it thousands of miles to my grocery store can't be helping the environment.

    We don't eat out much. We don't eat fast food. I will usually get a salad of some sort if I am forced to eat in a chain restaurant. Or I'll get soup, preferably something vegetable based. I have found if you don't make a big deal out of what you eat, other people won't either. And I have also found that when you start special requesting veg food, you'll be overcharged and underwhelmed.

    I don't think humans are natural vegetarians. We have incisors. As someone pointed out, we're at the top of the food chain. Kudos though to those who make the decision not to eat meat.

    15 Replies
    1. re: MkeLaurie

      I was a vegetarian for about 8 years many years ago. When I was 6 months pregnant with my second child I was HUNGRY. I started eating a little poultry then and segged into eating everything ( except liver which I still hate). I really think at the time that I craved protein. I think I eat much healthier now than when I was vegetarian...much less saturated fats because I limit cheese. The irony to all this is that the child I was carrying when I started craving meat again has been a vegetarian since age 16 (now 24) and lives on an organic farm. I ( jokingly) blamed her for my lapse back into meat eating!

      1. re: meagan

        During my early vegetarian stages (late teens), I actually ate very poorly. My typical "vegetarian" meal was fries and a Coke at McDonald's.

        Ah, youth.

        But then I cut out all the food that was bad for me which, because I was a notoriously picky eater back then, left me with an exceptionally limited diet. I didn't like beans, wouldn't eat spinach, etc. It was very nutritionally unbalanced.

        Thankfully, I'm now a much more adventerous eater/better cook and eat a wider variety of good foods.

        1. re: MkeLaurie

          ... fries at mcdonalds are made with beef bouillioun. so not only "unhealthy"... (oy, you should have seen the Indians when they found out!)

          1. re: Chowrin

            tallow. beef fat, not bouillon. i don't think you can actually FRY anything in bouillon.

            1. re: linguafood

              Actually, he's right. nutrition.mcdonalds.com/nutritionexchange/ingredientslist.pdf says they use natural beef flavor IN the fries:

              French Fries:
              Potatoes, vegetable oil (canola oil, hydrogenated soybean oil, natural beef flavor [wheat and milk derivatives]*, citric acid [preservative]), dextrose, sodium acid pyrophosphate (maintain color), salt. Prepared in vegetable oil (Canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil with TBHQ and citric acid added to preserve freshness). Dimethylpolysiloxane added as an antifoaming agent.

              1. re: Chris VR

                natural beef flavor =/= beef bouillon. and if you read the ingredient list, this "natural beef flavor" (ya gotta just love the 'natural' part) is made from wheat & milk derivatives.

                iircc, some crazy religious cult -- are there any others? -- sued mcd's in the 90s or 80s because the fries were fried in beef tallow.

                my guess is they don't use any ACTUAL meat products IN or around their fries anymore.

                some pork intestinal fungus apparently produces some lovely vanilla or strawberry... can't remember which now, and i'm too lazy to provide any links.

                1. re: linguafood

                  http://www.commondreams.org/headlines...

                  "McDonald's this week confirmed that its French fries are prepared with beef extract... The list of French-fry ingredients that McDonald's offers at its franchises and on its Web site includes potatoes, partially hydrogenated soybean oil and ''natural flavor.'' The list does not mention that the ''natural flavor'' comes from beef. To discover that, one would have to contact a McDonald's customer-satisfaction representative. "

                  Fine, it's not beef boullion but it's also not vegetarian, since it is using a beef product. The article is 10 years old but seems to reflect the current ingredient list. Seems crazy to me that they wouldn't have found some way to do it without beef but if they had, I'd have thought they'd have noted that in the ingredient list, since it was an issue previously.

                  1. re: Chris VR

                    i'm still confused. the ingredient list says "natural beef flavor (wheat & milk derivatives)". yes, the milk presumably comes from cows. but it doesn't have any meat or beef in it.

                    also, if this article is 10 years old, this may well have been the reaction to the 'scandal' i was referring to.

                    i frankly don't care. i eat beef, but not at mcdonald's. not even their fries '-)

                    1. re: linguafood

                      um, lingua, I think your "crazy religious cult" would have been followers of the HIndu religion -- neither crazy nor a cult.

                      I believe that McDo quit using "natural beef flavor" in response to the suit, though.

                      1. re: sunshine842

                        i guess it comes down to what one defines as crazy. in that regard, i personally don't see much difference between religions/cults. ymmv.

                        1. re: linguafood

                          only that it wasn't some obscure little fringe group, that's all.

                        2. re: sunshine842

                          All I'm saying is they still list "natural beef flavor" on their website as an ingredient in the fries. In the past, it was confirmed that "natural flavor" was a result of beef extract, and I'd think that if that was not currently the case, they would make a point of explaining that the "beef flavor" didn't actually come from beef to appease the vegetarians that actually care. I'm not a vegetarian and don't care about this enough to call McDonald's to find out, but if anyone else does, I'd be interested to hear the result.

                          1. re: Chris VR

                            Also, http://www.vrg.org/fastfoodinfo.htm lists for McDonald's:

                            "Food Items That Appear To Be Vegetarian But Are Not: French fries (beef- and dairy-derived natural flavors cooked in oil containing milk ingredients);"

                            A few other sites confirm the same. McDonald's fries are not vegetarian-friendly. But Burger King's fries are.

                  2. re: Chris VR

                    Gross. That is a truly disgusting ingredient list. I've never liked McD's fries, and now I know why!

                  3. re: linguafood

                    they soak 'em in bouillon. think they still use soy to fry.

          2. m
            Morton the Mousse

            I have countless friends who have made the conversion from vegetarian/vegan to omnivore. I was raised in a vegetarian household, and my partner was vegetarian for 11 years. I have spent an enormous amount of time researching the science and pondering the morality behind vegetarianism. I hope that my thoughts are helpful to you.

            The health issue:
            Most of the health problems associated with eating meat derive from eating an excess of meat (heart disease, obesity, high cholesterol) or from eating low grade meat (hormone imbalances, mad cow, e coli). There are no health problems associated with eating a moderate amount of high quality meat. Limit your meat consumption to reasonable servings a few meals a week. Eat lots of fresh fruits, veggies, whole grains and legumes. Many vegetarians will have long term health problems due to mineral deficiencies.
            There are far more health problems associated with a vegetarian diet than with a well balanced, omnivorous diet.

            The moral issue:
            Consider the Native American, the Bushman, the Aborigine. Do you consider these people to be immoral? They hold a great deal of respect for the animals that they eat as a necessity of life. Condemn the morality of meat eating and you condemn all hunter gatherer societies. Consider the wild cat, the bear, the chicken, the ape. Are these animals immoral? They eat a carnivorous/omnivorous diet because that is their nature. There is nothing immoral about following nature.

            The environmental issue:
            It is impossible to live in our society without impacting the environment. Even eating a vegan diet- the crops you eat displace native plants and animals and eliminate natural ecosystems. It is always a matter of degree. When you eat sustainably raised meats you are making less of an impact than when you eat factory farmed foods. When you eat small portions of meat you are making less of an impact than when you eat the diet of the average American. I buy all of my food from local farmers markets and I feel that my diet is more environmentally sound than that of most vegetarians. When I discuss my food choices with all but the most dogmatic vegetarians, they are impressed.

            The social issue:
            If people tease you, teach them. Explain why you decided to begin eating meat again and how you have come to be a responsible meat eater. It will take people some time to get used to it, but the teasing will not last long. Mrs. Mousse was vegetarian for 11 years and she was teased plenty when she first started eating meat, but now it hardly gets mentioned (she was suffering from severe anemia although she had an impeccable vegetarian diet).

            Ultimately, the single most important thing is your health. You need to do what is healthiest for you. If your body is craving meat, you need to eat meat.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Morton the Mousse

              I don't mean to be contentious, but condemning meat eating in the 21st century US is not the same as condemning all hunter-gatherer or meat-eating societies. Clearly there is a massive difference between say, pre-colonial Native Americans and Perdue Chicken farms.

              also, choosing to not to eat meat because it doesn't agree with your morals isn't necessarily condemning anyone else.

              I don't eat most types of meat because I cannot ethically/morally support the practices commonly found in raising animals for slaughter. My husband eats all types of meat, in large quantities. So does everyone else in my family and nearly all of my friends. I don't consider them immoral nor do I condemn them for meat eating. Occasionally I even cook them meat. I know that there are lots of self-righteous vegetarians and vegans out there, but not all of them are like that.

              1. re: nc213

                but perdue chicken is made with flowers! ;-) sorry, I can't help but tease...

              2. re: Morton the Mousse

                There are things in human nature that "civilized" society strives to curb such as infidelity, rape, theft, & murder. These are clearly part of our nature as they have been around forever, moreover, certain other primates engage in forms of these behaviors. We assume they don't know the difference between right & wrong... Furthermore, hunter-gatherers obviously have different circumstances with more of a need to utelize what is available. It's kind of like saying that if you don't think the Donner Party was wrong to eat dead humans to survive, than cannibalism must be OK. I'm not saying I think eating meat is murder (even though I kind of do and I'm a hypocrite because I do it), only that this particular argument against vegetarianism, along with "but we have canine teeth", does not stand up to argument.

                1. re: Morton the Mousse

                  this is a brilliant post -- even 6 years on...

                  Cogent, thoughtful, and logical -- and not a flicker of hysteria anywhere.

                  Bravo.

                2. I'm moving this post (which is not mine) because I was happy to read it today. Cheers to curiousbaker!

                  Re(1): Vegetarian Thinking of Quitting
                  From: kjweldon@yahoo.com (curiousbaker)
                  Posted: August 02, 2005 at 12:06:46

                  I was a veggie for six years, and gave it up when I was in culinary school. It's hard to eat a plateful of side dishes while your classmates are downing duck. I didn't have the willpower. I also started craving red meat, which I had never particularly liked. I've always been slightly anemic, so it wasn't surprising I would want meat as I got older. I've also known a lot of vegetarians who had no desire for meat in their early twenties, but started to crave it as they got a little older. Bodies change.
                   
                  Like you, my major concerns were environmental/ethical. I don't like the way animals are raised in the U.S., but you don't have to buy your meat from the usual sources. I have become an evangelist for buying meat directly from small organic farms. I bought some pork recently, and the farmer took us for a walk in the woods to see the pigs. They had three acres of New England forest to roam in, and he moved them to a different three-acre area every week or so. These were happy pigs, and the land was being used to support people in such a sustainable, reasonable way. I would rather eat pigs that have been raised like that than soybeans grown in vast monoculture farms in the Midwest, then shipped to New England by frieght. Searching for humanely, sustainably grown meat is an adventure - it's a bit of work, but you also meet interesting people.
                   
                  I am glad I spent a few years without meat, because being vegetarian definitely expanded my culinary horizons. I am not dependent on meat in my meals, and I generally only cook with meat on the weekends, though I might eat leftovers during the week. I feel like a meat meal should be something of an event, as a sign of respect for the animal, but also as a matter of frugality. Vegetables still make up the backbone of my diet, and I think that's healthy.
                   
                  I was plump as a veggie and I'm plump as a meat eater. My problem is sugar and certain medications, not meat. I've know people who've gained weight adding meat back into their diets, and people who have lost weight. A lot depends on the kind of vegetarian you've been. If you eat lots of cheese and sugar and white flour (coke-and-pizza vegetarians), introducing meat might actually help you lose weight. But even if your diet is excellent, a weekly meat meal is unlikely to make a big difference.
                   
                  As for people who might tease you, you just can't be worried about that sort of thing. Vegetarianism is hard, and lots of people stop doing it. (In fact, I can think of seven former vegetarian friends off the top of my head.) Anyone who would tease you about your eating choices is clearly immature and not worth paying attention to. (Of course, if you were a particularly self-righteous, irritating vegetarian, which it doesn't sound like you were, you will get what's coming to you.)

                  Link: The Seasonal Cook
                   

                  12 Replies
                  1. re: pitu

                    How did you find the pig farmer? I live in the Boston suburbs and have been trying to buy meat from small organic sources. I'd appreciate it very much if you could tell me how to contact this farmer or any others.

                    1. re: joysea
                      c
                      curiousbaker

                      I got my pork, which is amazingly delicious, from Mamashoe Farm in Petersham. (www.mamashoe.org) He's just started selling pork to Oleana, so his supply is likely to get limited fast. He also sells at the Tuesday Copley Square farmers' market. I bought a whole pig and split it four ways with friends. It was $5.50/pound, with the fatback and trotters thrown in for free.

                      Well-raised pork was hard to find; I hope he can managed to secure himself in his business through the restaurant market while still being able to sell to individuals. Hard to do while keeping small.

                      Grass-fed lamb is actually pretty widely available, comparatively. I bought from Sojourner Sheep, which was written up in Yankee recently, and so may also be experiencing more demand. More success for the local farmers! I put in my order for fall lamb already.
                      I found this farm through the eatwild website, which gives information on places to find grass-fed meat by state - www.eatwild.com.

                      From the same site, I found River Rock Farm, which is not the same River Rock Farm which sells at a number of farmers' markets in Boston, though I hear they're good, too. I bought first a 1/4, then a 1/2 cow, split again with friends. (Also $5.50/pound, plus free stock bones.)

                      A freezer is really helpful if you're trying to buy this way. Individual cuts are very expensive, but whole/half animals are pretty cheap, considering.

                      EatWild also has great information about the health benefits of grass-fed meat. I've become convinced that a lot of the human health problems related to meat are a result of what the meat was fed and how it was raised.

                      Good luck.

                      Link: http://seasonalcook.blogspot.com/

                      1. re: joysea

                        I found a 'meat club' not long ago that I've been dying to join but I just don't have the freezer space to do it in NYC. In the end, it's super cheap and everything comes from small farms, all organic. Check link below.

                        I figured it out once, with my weekly delivery of organic produce from my CSA and if I could do this meat of the month club, I'd be saving a TON from what I spend at Whole Foods for meat and veggies.

                        Good luck on your search! I'm so heartened by the number of people on this board that have made changes in their lives towards treating animals and workers and the earth in a more ethical manner. I really believe if we keep it up eventually they'll have to change the entire industry.

                        In regards to the masses of soybeans that were mentioned above: some interesting studies out recently about soybeans and the level of estrogen in the body and reduced sperm count in men...I'm not sure tofu is the answer either.

                        Link: http://www.wholesomeharvest.com/

                        1. re: krissywats

                          So where are these studies? I keep hearing people talking about soybeans and estrogen... but I can't find any actual resources.

                          1. re: Noah

                            I have a medical journal mag at home (I am not there now) - I promise I'll post the study when I get back. It was a natural health/medical journal we got at Whole Foods and I can't, for the life of me, remember the name of it but something like the Journal of Natural Medicine or something like that. Quite extensive article about this study. We were floored by the results. And we stopped eating edamame and soy burgers....but I have tumors that are possibly estrogen related so I have to be careful.

                            1. re: Noah

                              This is a good tool for that sort of thing...not sure how science-y a study you want.

                              Link: http://scholar.google.com/

                              1. re: Noah

                                You can't find the studies because they are bogus.
                                If increased estrogen and reduced sperm count could be blamed on soybeans, Asia would have the highest cancer rates and the lowest birth rates. And we all know that's not true. Eating meat causes all sorts of cancer, ecoli, mad cow, heart disease, obesity... and who knows yet what all those lovely chemicals, growth hormones, and antibiotics will do to you. Maybe if you all hunted and slaughtered your own meat instead of rolling up to the takeout window in your giant dvd playing SUV you wouldn't be so fat! Good luck!

                                1. re: Pablo
                                  m
                                  Morton the Mousse

                                  So much for playing nice...

                                  "You can't find the studies because they are bogus."

                                  Read The Whole Soy Story by Kaayla Saniel, PhD and then tell me that soy is healthy. In fact, Japanese males are starting to have serious problems with low sperm count and high estrogen levels. Japan has not had this problem traditionally because the traditional Japanese diet had very little soy in it, usually in a fermented form. The new trend of mass market soy products is leading to long term health problems that are only starting to appear. Soy is a very unhealthy food and I will not eat it.

                                  "Eating meat causes all sorts of cancer, ecoli, mad cow, heart disease, obesity... and who knows yet what all those lovely chemicals, growth hormones, and antibiotics will do to you."

                                  Have you read the numerous posts about eating high quality meat in moderation that is raised without hormones or antibiotics? None of these problems are associated with a well balanced, omniverous diet of organic meat and produce.

                                  Link: http://www.thewholesoystory.com/index...

                                  1. re: Pablo

                                    Dude. Relax. I eat only organic, hate SUVs, never eat fast food and I'M the one that brought it up. The medical digest I read was from a Whole Foods - a holistic (read that as 'hippy') medical journal doing a study on soybeans. Search around before you decide it's all bogus. No one is out to get the hippies. This is a serious crunchy granola hippy relating this.....

                                    And because you say 'we all know that isn't true' doesn't make it so.

                                    Read some studies (by hippies):

                                    http://www.nutrition4health.org/NOHAn...

                                    http://www.wholistichealingresearch.c...

                                    (I mean, serious granolas on that last one
                                    )
                                    Evidently, the issue for what is eaten in fermented soy products is different than the way we are consuming soy products here:

                                    "There are some redeeming qualities to soy, however these are found primarily in fermented soy products like tempeh, miso and natto and soybean sprouts. If you want to get some health benefits from soy, stick to these four forms and pass up the processed soy milks, soy ‘burgers’, soy ‘ice cream’, soy ‘cheese’, and the myriad of other soy junk foods that are so readily disguised as health foods."

                                    Just like everything, moderation, being careful if you have certain predispositions (like to estrogens), and realizing the jury is still out on a lot of issues.

                                    But it helps to realize that yes, there is merit to some of this stuff and that Asian cultures are eating the fermented kind - not soy cheese. Otherwise you're just as bad as the SUV driving, fast-food eaters you are rallying against.

                                    1. re: Pablo
                                      s
                                      SuzyInChains

                                      A little research says otherwise.

                                      You want a study? How about this study from the Johns Hopkins Children's Center and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health? It found that "male rats whose mothers were fed diets containing genistein, a chemical found in soybeans, developed abnormal reproductive organs and experienced sexual dysfunction as adults."

                                      Also, "the researchers say the increasing popularity of soy and soy-based foods may warrant further research to determine if genistein exposure in the womb and during breast-feeding influences human reproductive development."

                                      Suzy, who happily drives her SUV to pick up beef at the neighborhood supermarket, and is very grateful for animal-based research.

                                      Link: http://www.hopkinschildrens.org/pages...

                                2. re: joysea

                                  http://www.psfc.blogspot.com/
                                  is my new favorite source of info on organic products - I just read something on this blog about organic meats that gives the name of the purveyor.
                                  The blog is from a members grocery store in NY, but could be helpful I think . . .

                              2. l
                                La Dolce Vita

                                I used to be a vegetarian 20 years ago. I did it mostly for health reasons, but also for philosophical reasons. I am no longer a vegetarian. Weight is not an issue for me, whether I'm eating meat or not. Sugar is my vice, and I have to control that to keep from getting fat.

                                I am sympathetic to the logic of vegetarianism. In an abundant society such as ours, it seems cruel to eat animals when there are soybeans. On the other hand we humans are hard-wired to crave meat, because it is a high-quality source of protein. Should we give into the craving? I have not resolved this quandary to my satisfaction. Most of the time, I don’t think about it, and I eat animals when the mood strikes.

                                As an aside, I am impatient with the self-righteousness of some vegetarians. I know a vegetarian who is more concerned with how he treats animals than how he treats his own children. I once saw him being unkind to his 7-year-old, and then spend the next 10 minutes trying to catch a wasp in the kitchen so that he could release it outside, unharmed. From a moral standpoint, he would have been better off spending the time improving his relationship with his child instead of bothering with a stupid wasp. You don’t strike me as a person in this camp, I’m just making an observation about attitudes I’ve seen among certain vegetarians.

                                As far as the health aspects of eating meat, I recommend some entertaining reading. Gary Taube’s excellent essay, “The Soft Science of Dietary Fat” debunks some of the major criticisms leveled against a well-marbled steak. Here is a link I found: http://www.second-opinions.co.uk/taub.... If this link doesn’t work, do a google search and you’ll find other sites that carry this essay.

                                There is a book, “Sacred Cow, Abominable Pig” by Marvin Harris, which talks about food and cultures. Among other things, he discusses the fact that humans, when given a choice between say, eating insects versus eating mammals for protein, will choose the mammals.

                                I was going to recommend that you check into buying kosher meats, since the laws of Kashut specifically seek to avoid animal cruelty. For example, Jews are forbidden to remove the limb of an animal for consumption and leave the rest of the animal alive. When gathering eggs, the hen must be sent away so she does not see her eggs being removed. The knife used for slaughtering must be as sharp as possible to minimize suffering of the animal.

                                However, these ancient laws don’t necessarily forbid some of the practices of factory farming, such as keeping veal immobile. There is a debate in the Jewish community about extending the laws of Kashrut to keep up with advances in animal farming. Here is a link that presents this debate succinctly:
                                http://learn.jtsa.edu/topics/luminari...

                                As far as people teasing you, humbug on them. Once they see you’re not bothered by what they think, they’ll leave you alone. You can use the excuse that your doctor told you to start eating some meat. People usually shut up fast when you start a sentence with “my doctor told me…”

                                1. Some very interesting responses, and interesting information (I'm intrigued at the idea of not letting the hen see her eggs being removed).

                                  I wonder if it would have worked out differently for you if you had slipped into it gradually, as a friend of mine did, eating less meat until it gradually disappeared from your diet. I also wonder if you might have an easier time if you didn't precisely quantify it now as once a week.

                                  As an omnivore, I have never been in the same eating situation. However, I do have an opinion about people making fun of you, which is that you should never let it daunt you. If the teasing comes from friends, we can hope it will be gentle; if from non-friends, you'll completely ignore it. And you'll probably evolve two responses - one will be a funny rejoinder, and the other will be a serious response about your considerable thought on the subject. Don't worry about that part. Friends tease each other.

                                  Besides, you're not "slipping" - you're re-thinking things. We all do the best we can to juggle our priorities.