My diet is hard. I have countless allergies and intolerances, as well as preferences and dislikes of certain food items which makes my choices limited. One thing I can eat without fear is meat. But I don’t like eating meat. I’m a bit torn.
I’ve always grown up with eating meat, so the concept of a vegetarian diet was an alien topic for me. I first became aware of it when a girl at my primary school went on a “rebellion” and stopped eating meat, and later, I met my best friend whom her and her family were raised to avoid meat and fish. Through my teenage years, I later became crazily aware of meat omitters and in the last few years, veganism.
Since around the age of 14, I’ve constantly been trying to “diet”, which in my opinion, has definitely contributed to some of my struggles growing up. At nearly age 20, whilst being a Nutritional Sciences student, I’m still struggling with my diet and my body image, which is not a rare sight in this day and age. Whilst I struggled with the wrong diets and binging on the wrong things, many girls I knew went vegetarian to lose weight – which in many cases worked. I always thought “omg that’s how you get thin”, and so did they – but I didn’t want to give up meat. I ate it at almost every meal and I couldn’t even imagine being vegetarian. At this age, I really wasn’t aware of the concept of nutrition, more of just a desire to finally lose my “puppy fat” and finally be thin.
When I joined university, I was now much more aware of Nutrition and I have developed my knowledge much more throughout the years. I was still very much a meat eater. However, the choice to eat whatever I wanted led me to eat bacon every day (now bacon was a rarity growing up), burgers every night and eating cuts of meat for four TO MYSELF!! Christmas 2014 was a changing point to me. I’d piled on the pounds, I was sluggish and ill and my meat was costing me a fortune. I’d decided to cut down on my meat intake, or try to. I’ve tried omitting dairy, going vegetarian, vegan and even at one point, plant based.
Over the last 18 months in my own “journey”, to call it or such, I’ve learnt a lot about omitting meat, and dairy products. There are a lot of benefits. Meat and dairy are the main sources of fat in your diet, so cutting them out, or reducing them will help you lose weight. Less fat in your food = less fat on your body, right? Red meat has also recently been linked to causing cancer, as well as leading to diseases such as obesity and cardiovascular disease. It has also been found that animal products are pumped with growth hormones, which could be causing damage to our and our children’s bodies, as well as effecting oestrogen levels and yet again, increasing risk of cancer. And then there’s the damage animal products cause to the environment. It takes a lot of energy to produce these products, almost 16 times as much as grains in fact, and we must produce grains and feeds for these animals before eating them. And on top of that, killing an animal? I never used to think about it, but now it really upsets me. Animals don’t have a choice. Yes, most are raised for slaughter, but is it really fair for another living species, to be made for production?
However, animal products are needed for nutrition! We do need fat in our bodies, and possible what other food sources can provide the optimum levels? And animals contain heaps of micronutrients, including calcium, haem iron and folate, as well as fish being an optimum source of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. Not to get me started on protein, that is crucial in our bodies for muscle and tissue repair and building, nitrogen balance and contributing to our total macro intake. When I went fully vegetarian for a few weeks, I struggled so badly. Without being able to eat protein and iron sources such as egg, nuts and pulses, I found myself trying to obtain these crucial nutrients from green leafy veg and yogurts alone.
I’ve since been diagnosed as anaemic and been advised against omitting meat. But I’m so aware of the cruelty, environmental effects and health concerns of animal products, but I’m so aware from a first hand view the benefits of eating animal products has for our bodies and health. So I’m torn? I need to eat meat but I don’t want to. So I’ve started cutting down, but making sure I eat animal products when I need to. Meat free Monday’s are a great step to cutting it down as well as eating free range, organic and using substitutes such as mushroom burgers, quorn products and my favourite, halloumi (the best substitute for chicken in my opinion)!
A good video to watch for someone who explains it a lot better that my unorganised ramble is by Lucy Moon – it’s only few minutes for a great explanation about “trying to go vegan”. It’s definitely worth a watch. You can watch it by clicking here.
I hope this has sparked a little thought within you all, it really is an important debate for us all. Leave me your views and any tips you have too, every little step from each of us is one big step in making the world a more sustainable place.
Emma is a Registered Dietitian and Registered Associate Nutritionist based in Cheshire, England. Emma works in community healthcare and writes freelance alongside her work: topics including Dietetic life, nutrition, mental health and lifestyle. Emma also writes and photographs recipes for the platform, as well as being the author of the ‘Mummy and Me’ series for SR Nutrition. Emma’s Food Stories is PR friendly brand.