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Confessions of a Part-Time Vegetarian

Updated on May 18, 2016
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Dr. Middlebrook is a self-publishing expert, author (pen name Beax Rivers), online course developer, and former university professor.

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I confess that I want to have it all. I want to enjoy the delectable, savory aromas that waft from the kitchen as meat is being cooked, tempting and enticing me to want to eat beef, pork, fish, and chicken. And I don't want to stop at simply enjoying the aromas. I also want to enjoy the delicious and satisfying taste of meat, fish, and poultry.

To me, nothing smells better or tastes as good as meat when it's being cooked and served as part of a meal. Then again, I know about the perils of eating too much animal flesh, and I desperately want to fill my body with high quality and naturally grown food, food that I believe is pure and good and oh, so nourishing and so perfect for my body. I want to feed my body and my soul in ways that say I love me and want only what is best for me. And that means I want to eat food that is low in fat content, with nothing added that might harm my body.

Is that too much to ask? I think not, but no matter what I want, I know there are challenges associated with eating meat, and challenges associated with becoming a vegetarian. As with other aspects of being human and being alive, all diet choices have both pros and cons. With this in mind, I have decided to work hard to benefit from both worlds by being a "part-time" vegetarian. What does that mean? For me, it means choosing to eat, several days a week, a diet that is more consistent with the vegetarian and/or the "vegan" alternatives. I still eat meat, fish and poultry, but not as much, not as often, and not every day of the week. And, I sometimes go days or even weeks without eating a morsel of meat, fish or poultry.

Vegetarian stuffed tomatoes (stuffed with hard-boiled egg and Parmesan).
Vegetarian stuffed tomatoes (stuffed with hard-boiled egg and Parmesan). | Source

What is Vegetarianism?

The term vegetarianism came into use in the late 1840’s, but the idea of choosing to live on such a diet is actually hundreds of years old. The word diet is derived from Medieval Latin, from the word dieta which means “daily food allowance.” And, dieta is derived from an even earlier Latin word, diaeta, which was transcribed from Classical Greek, meaning "way of living." In the final analysis, what we choose to include or exclude from our diet dictates a lot about our lifestyle, or "way of living."

Vegetarianism is the practice of living on a meatless diet, and, while I realize there are many variations of vegetarianism, I'm only looking at several in this article.

Most people I know (including some family members) who are vegetarian consider all animal flesh as meat, including the flesh of fish and fowl. For these people, it is important to exclude meat from their diet. I know other people who consider themselves to be vegetarian who will still eat butter, cheese, eggs, and milk.

Then, there are people who are what I think of as "extreme vegetarians," and they are called vegans. Vegans eat only food from plant sources, and they exclude from their diets both meat and animal products such as butter, cheese, eggs and milk.

Black-bean stew.
Black-bean stew. | Source

Why Vegetarianism?

Vegetarians and vegans have many different reasons for making their daily food allowance meat-free, and for choosing a plant-based way of living. Health is probably the most important reason.

Many vegetarians point out that animals raised for meat are subject to diseases, and that eating the meat of diseased animals can make people ill. Many of these people claim that since vegetables, cereal grains, and fruits contain all the elements that the human body needs to maintain health, there is no need for humans to eat the flesh of animals.

Soy chicken drumsticks, soy ham, and noodles from Whole Vegetarian Restaurant in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Soy chicken drumsticks, soy ham, and noodles from Whole Vegetarian Restaurant in Vancouver, British Columbia. | Source

Another "pro vegetarianism" argument is that meat is expensive, and that it is more economical to use land for growing agricultural products instead of for the raising of animals.

Still other people are vegetarian in their food consumption based on religious beliefs, or on their own personal moral codes. Many of these people simply believe it is wrong to kill any animal for food.

Vegetarian Quiche made at Up the Garden Path in Motueka, New Zealand.
Vegetarian Quiche made at Up the Garden Path in Motueka, New Zealand. | Source

It's Not Easy Eating "Green"

Although plant-based eating can become very "complicated," I confess that I am somewhat "fed up" with the dangerous unhealthiness of how the meat industry operates. Fed unnatural diets and kept in unsanitary conditions, many (and perhaps, most) animals raised for food are injected with antibiotics to curtail disease, and with hormones to speed up their growth. We're told by the producers of meat that these practices do not pose a threat to humans, but is it naïve of us to accept this as fact? I mean, how many times have we been fed a load of bull by those who stand to profit from selling things to us?

We can opt to purchase certified-organic meat, because it is a healthier option, but it's also expensive and can be hard to find. For these and other reasons, I have given serious thought to the idea of becoming a vegetarian. In fact, I spent at least three weeks this year (2013) trying out the plant-based food lifestyle.

What did I find out? I found out that I had to work much harder, first to plan, and then to shop for every meal. Vegetarians must plan their diets carefully in order to maintain good health. It's true that vegetables are the source of essential minerals and vitamins that the human body needs, and that cereal grains are among the least expensive and most readily available sources of energy. But, in addition to having to put more time and thought into shopping for my food supply, I also found out that it is possible for diets that include no animal products to lack the amount of protein needed to meet the needs of the human body.

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Protein is essential to human growth, and to the repair of human body tissues. Most vegetables, even those that contain protein, are inadequate for supplying all of the protein needs of the human body. In fact, when vegetables are the only source of protein in a child's diet, it is likely they will develop a form of severe malnutrition known as kwashiorkor (kwash-e-OR-kor).

Kwashiorkor is a disease that is common among children throughout the developing world, including parts of Africa, as well as in Central and South America. Caused by a lack of protein in the diet, this disease causes bloated bellies and thin limbs, as well as overall stunted physical and mental development.

The term "kwashiorkor" comes from a word used in Ghana. It refers to what happens to a breast-fed baby/child once the mother gives birth to a new infant. When a new baby arrives, the older child is "deposed" from the breasts so that the new baby can be fed, and the protein source (the mother's breast milk) is no longer available to the older child. And, if there is no sufficient replacement of protein in the child's diet once the protein-rich mother's milk is no longer available, the child will be at risk of developing kwashiorkor.

Hot dogs anyone? These are vegetarian Sausages, containing water, oil, soy, onion, egg, wheat and spices.
Hot dogs anyone? These are vegetarian Sausages, containing water, oil, soy, onion, egg, wheat and spices. | Source
A very big veggie burger.
A very big veggie burger. | Source

And while a growing child will face more challenges as a result of a meat-free diet, it's not just growing children who face challenges. It might seem that getting needed amounts of protein would be the biggest challenge for vegetarians, but, for many adults a bigger challenge is how to curb "carb overloading."

Someone I know who has been a vegetarian for a long time told me he has to work hard at keeping his weight down. When I asked why, he told me that he has to watch his intake of refined carbohydrates, such as white flour (which includes bread and pasta), sugar, and rice. Once digested, these foods turn into sugar and can cause spikes in insulin, which can and often does lead to weight gain, inflammation, and digestive problems.

Most vegetarians try to get the proteins they need by eating the seeds of legumes such as beans, peas, and peanuts. These foods are rich in protein. In fact, all vegetables supply some amount of protein, some providing a larger protein percentage and other essential amino acids than others, for the daily requirements of us humans. Variety seems to be the key. Consuming, throughout the day, a mix of vegetables, legumes, grains, beans, seeds, and nuts, will give you all the essential amino acids your body requires for nutrients and for energy.

Vegetarian sub: Japanese Eggplant, Artichoke Hearts, Sun Dried Tomatoes, Roasted Red Peppers, Mozzarella Cheese, Lettuce & "Goddess Dressing" on wheat.
Vegetarian sub: Japanese Eggplant, Artichoke Hearts, Sun Dried Tomatoes, Roasted Red Peppers, Mozzarella Cheese, Lettuce & "Goddess Dressing" on wheat. | Source

Having My Cake ...

I think that the solution to my dilemma, at least for the time being, is for me to keep mixing it up. I like trying to "have my cake and eat it too." Living in both the meat-eaters and vegetarian worlds is fairly easy for me, because I'm single. I live alone and I only have to consider what I want to cook, and what I want to eat. And, I've decided that meat will be served in my home, but most days, for one meal only. There will be other days within the same 7-day period when I will have "veggie days," and won't prepare or eat meat at all. On those days, I will take care in making sure I get required amounts of proteins and other nutrients, but I'll get them from vegetables and fruits.

Living in both worlds, I believe, is helping me to make sure that my body is getting all the nutrients it needs while I'm cutting way down on calories by consuming less meat/animal fat. By consuming smaller quantities of meat, I can afford to buy better quality. The bottom line is, I'm still enjoying food I love, and I'm not excluding anything from my diet that I really want to eat and enjoy.

© 2013 Sallie B Middlebrook PhD

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    • drmiddlebrook profile image
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      Sallie B Middlebrook PhD 3 years ago from Texas, USA

      Hi FlourishAnyway. I think part-time is better than no time. I eat beef, but only free-range. Since cutting down on eating flesh of any kind, I tend to buy smaller quantities of the better quality products (meaning hormone and antibiotic free).

      I'm fortunate in that I truly love many vegetables. I was reading a few weeks back about how Beyonce had accepted a challenge from her husband to eat vegetarian for ten days. Then I noticed how much slimmer she looked in the video from the Grammys. I've found that if I do vegetarian properly (not loading up on carbs and sweets), I always get the bonus of dropping a few pounds too.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      I'm a part-timer too. I gave up beef completely and rarely miss it. I can tell if I accidentally eat something that has it in there (e.g., mislabeled, or someone "forgetting" to tell me about the contents of their recipe). I've cut down on other animal products but unfortunately don't enjoy vegetables enough to do it full-time. I, too, have to fight the carbo-tarian drive.

    • drmiddlebrook profile image
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      Sallie B Middlebrook PhD 3 years ago from Texas, USA

      Thank you, Vegnspiration, for that interesting novella! It's always wonderful to read something that makes you feel the passion of the writer. I appreciate you sharing your story with me and my readers. Thank you for introducing me to The China Study. I might read it, even though I don't need further evidence to support the benefits of plant-based living and eating. Still, I'm sure there are those who do need more evidence. I've been sold on the idea since I read Upton's Sinclair's The Jungle when I was in college. It was a very, very, old "expose" even then, but I think it still rings true about some practices, and certainly about some of the prevailing attitudes of "profit-before-people" in the meat-packing industry.

      It's great to hear about a big family like yours, with lots of young children, enjoying the benefits of eating more fruits and vegetables. What an inspiring way to live and to raise your kids, with the support of your hubby! And hey, I love chicken too (it's one of my favorite cooking "aromas," no matter how it's prepared!). I have no plans to give it up entirely, but I have cut down on eating it. In fact, as I'm writing this response, I can't remember the last time I had it, and I know it's been months since I prepared it in my own kitchen.

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      Vegnspiration 3 years ago

      I really enjoyed getting the "part-time vegetarian" perspective. As someone who practices a plant-based lifestyle ("vegan"), giving up meat and animal by-products has been a breeze for me. Surprisingly so, considering how much I loved chicken! And believe it or not, I don't eat a lot of mock-meat replacements to quench a desire for the real deal. I think the power of being successful at any diet, or lifestyle change, is to first conquer the mental challenges. Once I decided I could give up chicken, I knew I could do this thing full-fledged. Lots of vegans are ethical vegans; some are even environmental vegans. I chose the lifestyle for health reasons. There was no way I could allow my predisposition to hypertension, diabetes and heart disease to overtake me when I have so much to live for. Also, finding out I was lactose intolerant (as are many African-Americans) made giving up dairy a no brainer. Giving up eggs came with ease as well, once I found out I had high cholesterol. I just couldn't rationalize having to take medication in order to thrive when all that was really required was a change in diet. Food truly is our medicine. I have found this to be true through experience. Also, as I journey through reading The China Study, my eyes continue to be opened. It is a book I'd highly recommend for anyone who may want extensive scientific data supporting the benefits of plant-based living.

      As for meal planning, that is probably the biggest challenge. As a wife and mother of five, we all have our unique taste buds. But I can honestly say that my entire household has been transformed majorly due to my becoming a vegetarian/vegan. They are all eating more fruits and veggies, or plant-based foods, than ever before. My husband even requests meatless meals regularly. With only one vegetarian child and everyone else eating meat, I can honestly say we have managed to mesh it all so well. Do I fall off on meal planning? For sure! :-) But I just keep moving forward. And on the occasions that we end up eating out we all usually regret it later. Eating at home is the best! And vegan/vegetarian options are growing by leaps and bounds in most metropolitan areas (try happycow.net if ever in search of vegetarian or veg-friendly restaurants). But as with anything we choose as our own path in life, it is important not to be overzealous to the point of imposing one's own beliefs or practices on others. That--to me-- is when veganism becomes scary.

      Sorry to write a short novel here, but as you know, this very subject matter is my passion. :-)

      Keep writing and sharing! (Thumbs up/Interesting)

    • drmiddlebrook profile image
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      Sallie B Middlebrook PhD 4 years ago from Texas, USA

      Yes, MsDora, we do have the concerns of the Animal Rights promoters too, to add to the equation. Even animals raised to be food should be treated well. I agree, vegetarianism is "good and healthy." I feel better since adding veggie days to my regimen. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 4 years ago from The Caribbean

      Another reason in favor of vegetarianism is the concern of Animal Rights promoters. I practice vegetarianism most days. It's good and healthy. Your hub dealt effectively with the pros and cons. Voted Up!

    • drmiddlebrook profile image
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      Sallie B Middlebrook PhD 4 years ago from Texas, USA

      Thank you sarifearnbd, for the visit, reading, and the compliment. You're right. Vegetarians are certainly deserving of "thumbs up" kudos. Those who eat meatless and still manage to eat a balanced, healthful diet are the few, the proud, the courageous. They work diligently to manage their food and nutrition.

    • drmiddlebrook profile image
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      Sallie B Middlebrook PhD 4 years ago from Texas, USA

      Hi ambieca. I'm with you. There's no way I could live the rest of my days without a burger, no way. Some things are just too good to have to live without. LOL. : )

    • drmiddlebrook profile image
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      Sallie B Middlebrook PhD 4 years ago from Texas, USA

      Great idea, AMFredenburg. I wonder why none of the big fast-food giants have come up with either a vegetarian or a vegan fast-food place with a drive-up window? Sounds like a good idea to me. Thanks so much for the vote up and for sharing!

    • drmiddlebrook profile image
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      Sallie B Middlebrook PhD 4 years ago from Texas, USA

      Hi Alecia Murphy. I'm with you, vegan diets scare me too. I know people who eat that way, and frankly, I hate to have to feed them if they're coming over for dinner! No fun! Sorry to hear you have allergies. I bet you do have to work hard to eat well, without adding the chores of becoming vegetarian or vegan. Thanks so much for sharing, and for the compliment. Much appreciated!

    • drmiddlebrook profile image
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      Sallie B Middlebrook PhD 4 years ago from Texas, USA

      Hi xmags. I bet it would be difficult to eat vegan in a family of carnivores. Maybe you could do something "part-time," when you're by yourself or at work. I think it helps a lot just to consume vegetarian/vegan diet whenever you can. Good luck, and good eating!

    • drmiddlebrook profile image
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      Sallie B Middlebrook PhD 4 years ago from Texas, USA

      Thank you My Cook Book. I'm so glad you "had a good read." Always a joy to hear. I'm enjoying my new lifestyle, so I wanted to talk about what I'm doing with others.

    • ambieca profile image

      Amber 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      I occasionally think about becoming a vegetarian, but i know there would be moments that i would long for a burger, so i would definitely be a part timer! Great relatable hub!

    • AMFredenburg profile image

      Aldene Fredenburg 4 years ago from Southwestern New Hampshire

      I can totally relate to the difficulties of trying to be a vegetarian. I'd love to succeed fully at it, but admit that when I'm tired or overworked I resort to the local drive-up windows, which just don't support vegetarianism. What we need in this country is a healthy, vegan fast-food joint with a drive-up window! Voted up and shared.

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      I understand why people are vegetarian, but honestly a vegan diet scares me too much to wonder if I could do it.

      As someone with multiple food allergies, I'm just glad there's enough food for me to eat without worrying I can't eat it.

      But you're right the meat industry is scary and needs to change. Even though they meet several needs, there is a more effective way to do so.

      Great hub, very thought provoking!

    • xmags profile image

      Xeng 4 years ago from Philippines

      Like you, I also want to be vegan but still be able to eat all the meat I want. It's so hard for me because I'm still living with my family and on most days, I'm just too tired to prepare my own food. My family are mostly carnivores so I rarely get the chance to even eat "healthy" food. Even when I'm outside, I keep going to unhealthy fast food chains. :( Oh well, great hub. I enjoyed it very much. Voted up and interesting. :)

    • My Cook Book profile image

      Dil Vil 4 years ago from India

      This is a good and i had a good read. Thanks for the great share!

    • drmiddlebrook profile image
      Author

      Sallie B Middlebrook PhD 4 years ago from Texas, USA

      Thank you so much, ComfortB, for visiting, reading, and commenting. I could not agree with you more: "the whole planning the meal business, especially for those with kids, big family to feed may just be a little overwhelming." If I had a big family, I'm sure I would have to put some of my practices up for a vote, and would have to compromise on some of them. And thanks for the vote up and interesting!

    • ComfortB profile image

      Comfort Babatola 4 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

      Very interesting indeed. Thumbs up for those who have chosen the vegetarian path. Kudos! I just think the whole planning the meal business, especially for those with kids, big family to feed may just be a little overwhelming.

      I eat a lot of veggies, fish, beans, rice etc., but I still do find meat enjoyable. I wish you the best in balancing your choices.

      Great hub. Voted up and interesting.