Can you eat meat and still be a VegHead?

Yes! Our intern, Kat, learned after considering—and deciding against—going veg.

Does caring about where your food comes from mean this is all you'll ever eat between two buns again? Not necessarily.

Does caring about where your food comes from mean this is all you'll ever eat between two buns again? Not necessarily.

By: Kat

Being a vegetarian, while admirable, is not for everyone. A lot of things can factor into your decision about what you put in your body such as your upbringing, or your love of animals.  Personally, I am not a vegetarian.  I was raised in a Russian/Ukrainian household where meat played a significant role in our diets.  Being vegetarian was something that always seemed like a lot of effort and something that was not accepted by many people, especially not in my family. This was when I thought being a vegetarian was some weird trend that people did to rebel in some way; I obviously knew nothing about it. What I did know was that it involved food without my favorite things in them: Spaghetti without meatballs, pizza without pepperoni, sandwiches without turkey, and so on.  But because of my love for animals, I decided to give it a try.  The next time I went out, I ordered a dish with tofu in it and instantly regretted it.  It had the texture of a 3-week-old slimy dish sponge and tasted about just as good.  This was when my attempt at being a vegetarian completely died out. 

Well, if I couldn’t give up eating meat, I decided I could still care about what kind of meat products I chose and how much of it I ate.  I never imagined this being a type of vegetarianism until I read The Smart Girl’s Guide to Going Vegetarian.  The book talks about a sub-category of the vegetarian spectrum called Conscious Carnivore.  Essentially this means that I care how the animals I eat were treated during their lives, that they weren’t filled with hormones, and that I buy my produce from local markets if at all possible.  This is what I did anyway before even realizing that this could be considered on the same spectrum as vegetarianism because I still care for and am giving serious consideration to how my food was raised and grown. 

After working in a restaurant for 3 years that has many, many vegetarian options, I decided to give vegetarian foods one more try.  By no means was I going to give up meat, but I did want to incorporate less of it into my diet for health reasons.  I found that cooked correctly, tofu can actually have a lot of flavor to it and not have the texture of an old and slimy sponge.  There are now certain dishes there that I actually prefer to eat with extra veggies and tofu instead of chicken and shrimp.  Working at the restaurant has also shown me how many different varieties there are of vegetarians and vegans.  I’ve met people that don’t eat any meat at all, but fish paste in their curry sauce is ok, people that won’t eat pork for religious reasons but beef and chicken are ok, people that are adamant about no meat actually being in their food but love egg and ask for extra, and the people that eat no animal products at all because they either want a completely plant-based diet for health reasons or cruelty-free reasons. The list could just go on and on.  I don’t need to know their reasoning behind their diet, I just need to know what I can’t serve them, and I respect that. Everyone has their own reasons for becoming a vegetarian in whatever way they choose to do it, and that’s a respectable option as long as they do it in a healthy way and still get enough of the necessary nutrients in their diet. 

As for me, I’ve definitely cut down on the amount of meat that I inhale on a daily basis.  I’ve gone from having it for lunch and dinner every day to maybe having it for dinner 4-5 times a week and occasionally in my lunch.  I’ve got a new growing list of vegetarian recipes that I like to experiment with (most recently a mushroom risotto), and a new and improved understanding of what this thing I once assumed was a weird fad is and why it can be valuable for our environment and bodies. 

SmartGirlVeg intern Katerina Lisitsa is enthusiastic about many things in life: food, books, animals, trying new things, seeing new places, and did we say, food?  But, of course, nothing is better than coming home from a long day to a home cooked meal with plenty of veggies and cuddling with her favorite furry friend, Socrates.  

What factors, if any, have contributed to you NOT going veg? And do you find that, like Kat, being a Conscious Carnivore is a good fit, or do you still have aspirations of going "all the way" when it comes to being a vegetarian?