I am not a vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, omnivore, fruititarian, ovo vegetarian or paleon. I do not do ‘diets.’
I do not define myself solely based on what I eat and I find it odd that people appear confused when I order a vegetarian or vegan meal. It does not fail that when I order food (because I do not order meat dishes when I eat out) that I am asked ‘oh are you a vegan/vegetarian?’ The question I can sometimes understand if the chef wants to be extra sure the meal is prepared properly, perhaps. However, people seem slightly confused when I tell them I’m not, but I enjoy vegan meals.
Overall, I have only ate land animal meat about 3 times in the past 5 weeks, I eat lots of fish. I much prefer to not eat meat, I enjoy a diet high in plant based foods, I also can live without dairy. I do not go to the extreme for myself and label myself with any food type eating label.
My husband and I have had a few conversations lately about vegan diets and why those who are vegan are so passionate about it and when it’s discussed or advertised at booths there is such a push to ‘go vegan.’ For some people it is a true passion for them, which is amazing; however, I think the huge push and need to label a person based on what they eat can put a wall between themselves and those who eat differently from them. Those who eat meat regularly, in my experience, become defensive or cannot phathom the idea of living without meat. I often here the exact words ‘I could not live without meat.’
I mean, really, people could live without meat. Psychologically, the ‘need’ for meat is actually the need for protein. Our bodies crave certain nutrients, we need water, fiber, protein (I won’t go into lengthy specifics.) And our brains associate that need with the foods it knows.
My goal with food is to nourish my body while enjoying what I eat; while also always remaining aware that food serves a purpose and that that purpose is not solely pleasure. In our house we also tailor our meals to a variety of food preference. My middle son, age 9, does identify as a pescatarian as he loves animals and wants to become a marine veterinarian and save and take care of animals. He is also 9….. It has been 9 months since he has decided to eat pescatarian and in that time he has ate chicken maybe once a month or less. We tell him it is ok, we tell him he can still try things or when food choices are limited it’s ok to eat a lean protein source to balance his blood sugar…which is so crucial to anyone, especially kids. We don’t want him to feel like he failed because he nourished his body. Our youngest has severe acid reflux which means certain foods are limited, if I categorize what I eat, it would most align with a mediteranian diet, and my husband and oldest enjoy eating meat. That means we eat a lot of vegetarian or vegan based meals. Or cook several types of protein each night or allow our kids to feed themselves a nutritional dinner as they would pack a lunch for school.
Being open to a variety of food choices has expanded our palates, our food experiences, has drastically reduced the amount of meat as a household that we consume, slimmed our grocery bill and our bodies are healthier for it. I no longer crave meat and my husband craves it much less.
I think more people would be open to trying new things if they were not tied so tightly to a label. I also wish their was more focus on not even the portions of each food type our bodies need as the USDA so strongly advertises (I will say it has gotten better; however still specifies foods based on certain food type preferences) but the nutrients themselves and why. Along with educating people what foods meet each nutritional need.
Finding a balance between nutrition, food and what our current habits are is huge if people are wanting to make a change for any reason. And that does not have to mean going all in or making no change at all.