This little chiquita on the left hand side inspired me to become a vegetarian 7 years ago from one day to the next after our mother survived the miserable fate of breast cancer. Having lived in countries where it's not so easy to be a vegetarian (France, Italy, and Costa Rica) I get asked ALL of the time why I'm a vegetarian from people who don't necessarily see the point or consider it completely unattractive. I always thought their questions were interesting.
Healthy Veggie Diet
My reason for being a vegetarian started after seeing how many lives cancer has taken and how it destroyed my mother's life for many years. According to the World Cancer Research fund, there is strong evidence that red meat, processed meat, and meat cooked with high temperatures such as frying, grilling, or barbecuing leads to an increased risk in cancer. I know that nearly everything leads to cancer these days but if I can choose what I put in my body for preventative health reasons, then I will.
Maybe it wasn't as well known as it is today but unfortunately the way meat and dairy is produced in the majority of the countries exporting and consuming it, is just simply DISGUSTING. If you've never taken a moment to analyze, just watch the food sequence from one of my favorite documentaries Samsara. This 6 minute sequence takes you on a journey through poultry, cattle and pork facilities, a grocery store, a fast food restaurant, ending at the doctor’s office. If this doesn't disturb you, I'm not sure what will. I know that I'm not perfect and nobody is. Although I still consume dairy products which also leads to increased cancer (can't seem to cut my cheese addiction), I have never felt healthier than I do today.
Go Veggie to go Green
As a strong environmentalist, I then started to learn more about how the meat industry impacts our environment. Yes, burning fossil fuels is by far the leading cause of our serious global warming crisis but agriculture is also a significant contributor to climate change. Agriculture drives 80% of deforestation worldwide. In the Amazon, around 450,000 square kilometers of deforested land in Brazil is now cattle pasture. That’s almost a quarter of one of the most important rain forests in the world which gives us 20% of our global oxygen supply. One way to significantly help this environmental issue is by reducing the amount of meat you consume. Even one or two days without meat can massively benefit the environment.
Lastly, and just as important, it seriously disturbs me how animals are treated in the meat and dairy industry so I won't stand behind it. This is the reason my little sister stopped eating meat, long before I did. Thousands of animals crammed into tiny spaces, boxes, cages, no room to walk, breathe, let alone live, antibiotics and GMOs pumped into them to make them fatter and be able to survive the unsanitary conditions they're forced into.
How do you think we're supposed to feed 10 billion people by 2050? Not on a meat diet, we'll all be fried by that point. The only way I see a healthy future is on a primarily plant-based diet, with occasional allowances for meat and dairy. As for the chiquita in the middle of the picture above, I've been living with her for the past 4 months and I often cook her and my brother-in-law delicious vegetarian meals and they've even agreed to do Meatless Mondays #lunessincarne from now on! I encourage you to reduce your meat and dairy consumption if not for the environment nor the animals, do it for your own health. Is that meat on your plate really worth it?
My 5 tips for reducing your meat consumption:
1. Try going meat free for at least one day out of the week
2. Make sure you ‘re getting enough protein everyday from vegetarian alternatives such as lentils, beans, green peas, bulgar, seitan, almonds and more. The Recommended Daily Allowance of protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
3. Experiment with your new grains and veggie alternatives to spice up the flavours and textures to your meals
4. Get creative and make traditional meat dishes with beans, grains or vegetables. For example, making lentil patties instead of beef patties for burgers, Jackfruit is absolutely delicious as a BBQ alternative, or add carrots to your Bolognese sauce.
5. Choose whole unprocessed snacks such as apples and peanut butter, celery and almond butter, carrots and hummus, nuts, and avocado.