As of today, it’s been 23 days since I decided to embark on the quest to vegetarianism. That’s almost a month since any meat or fish has entered my body, and contrary to popular belief, I’m still alive to tell the tale.
Despite what some think, I’m not wasting away to nothing or mourning the absence of meat from my diet. So far, I haven’t had a problem with the transition. Sure, sometimes I get a mean craving for chicken nuggets, but I hear the veggie alternative is just as good.
The shocking thing, if anything, is the reaction I get from the people I’ve chosen to tell. I’ve been subject to endless eye-rolls and heard every cliché vegetarian joke in the book, including the infamous “we don’t have canines for chewing lettuce.” I’ve been asked about a thousand times if I miss bacon.
“But how will you get the protein you need?” my mother asked when I told her. “It’ll be so expensive. And you’ll have to take vitamins and supplements. Of course, I’ll support you, but you don’t have to put a label on it, you can just cut down.”
Her concern was well-meaning. I understand she, along the bulk of vegetarian naysayers, is concerned for my health and well-being, but research has shown me that there are many substitutes for meat that give me all the nutrients I need.
According to the Dietitians of Canada website, as long as you are still consuming the right number of calories per day to maintain your weight, it’s easy to meet your nutritional needs without eating meat.
You can get protein that will provide enough amino acids throughout the day by eating beans, lentils, tofu, nuts, seeds, chickpeas and even potatoes or whole grain bread. Your daily dose of iron can be found in these same foods, and loading up on Vitamin C helps your body absorb more iron during your meal. Vitamin B12 can be found in dairy products and fortified foods such as some brands of cereal, soymilk or veggie “meats.”
Dietitians of Canada also reports that vegetarians are at a lower risk of contracting heart disease, obesity, high blood-pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and even certain types of cancer.
A 2015 poll administered by Canadian analytics company Environics shows that vegetarianism is on the rise in Canada. Over 12 million Canadians are already vegetarian or are cutting down on meat consumption. In Ontario alone, eight per cent of respondents consider themselves vegetarian and 25 per cent are cutting down on meat.
I’ve wanted to make the transition for a long time, but the fear of having to load up on supplements every day and expensive meat substitutes (fun fact: they can actually be cheaper than meat) kept me from my goal. But thanks to the internet, I had easy access to information provided by reliable sources such as the Canada Food Guide and the Canadian Medical Association that gave me the education I needed to get started.
Will I eventually become a vegan? There may come a day when I can survive without mac ‘n cheese and extra-cheesy pizza, but today is definitely not that day.