Vegetarianism doesn’t get too much flack in popular media, but does get some in day-to-day life on occasion. Veganism, on the other hand, tends to get the shit end of the stick, as it were, from all angles.
The main concerns that most people seem to voice about plant-based diets are:
- It’s too expensive.
- They’re somehow deficient, be it in nutrients, variety or flavor.
- Whether it’s actually a sustainable/maintainable choice for the long-term.
As someone who transitioned from the Standard American Diet (SAD) while in college, and continues to live on a pretty tight budget, I can attest to the affordability.
Yes, tofu and other meat replacement options are “pricey.” So are some of the other specialty-type items you might come across. But when you compare prices, directly, you’re not spending any more than you would if you were purchasing meat. And, if you’re not “bad” at these diets, opting for a whole-foods approach, it’s definitely not costly. Odds are the grocery bill will be less. (We spend, on average, $30-40 per person/week.)
In my experience, an extra-firm block of tofu (12-16 ounces), available at most grocery stores, is the same price as 1 pound of generic/store-brand lunch meat. However, I’m not likely to buy tofu every week or, even, every month. Whereas, 1 pound of lunch meat only lasts my boyfriend about a week meaning that it becomes a recurring expense.
About That Healthfulness
When I first changed my diet, I definitely got sick much less frequently than I had before. I still catch a cold once about once a year, which isn’t uncommon for me, and one other more “serious” bug. But otherwise, I experience far fewer ailments—upset stomach, bloating, indigestion and constipation, all of which had been constant troubles on the SAD.
There have been a few times when I thought something more serious may have been at work in my body, but after blood work was performed everything came back in the clear. My doctor was aware that I followed a vegetarian diet and did note that my B12 levels were barely lower than normal, but nothing that couldn’t be remedied with a B12 or B-complex supplement.
A Note on Sustainability
I’ve been a lacto-ovo vegetarian/flexitarian for nearly a decade and have no plans of changing my dietary choice any time soon. If anything, I keep trying to move toward more strictly vegetarian (borderline vegan) fare.
One thing I love is the variety of foods I can easily (and affordably) make at home. I could live on Asian cuisine; it’s full of flavor and so so satisfying, plus I love a good noodle/soup dish. Granted, these recipes typically require quite a few more ingredients than most of us are used to, but they taste amazing!
But what if no one else in my family/house eats plant-based!?!
No worries! I’m the only veg in the household and my entire family, too.
At home, we’ve revamped most of our favorite recipes into a veg-friendly version or find ways that the boy can incorporate meat, if he wants to. Although, most of the time, he’s perfectly content eating my “weird” meals. He did enter the relationship knowing that I was a vegetarian and wasn’t going to stop being one. But because his job and hobbies are much more physically demanding than mine, we make quite a few his-and-hers meals. Tacos, for example, are easy to keep ingredients separate: He can have chicken and I can have beans, rice or lentils.
When I visit my parents, my Mom is great about planning meals that I won’t balk at. She always asks if there’s anything in particular I want, but otherwise makes whatever she wants. Not everyone is this considerate. Plenty of people in my life seem to consistently forget that I don’t eat meat, so I tend to be more flexible about the foods I’m willing to eat when visiting non-veg friends and family.
Are plant-based diets really better for the environment?
My instant reaction? Yes and no.
When considering environmental sustainability, I’m not going to trick myself into thinking my choice is the right/better option.
Although plants are much more of a renewable resource than, say, cows and don’t create as many environmentally-negative repercussions, there’s plenty more to consider when it comes to eco-friendliness. And commercial agriculture practices—excessive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticide, along with lack of crop rotation (monocultures)—aren’t doing us any favors. But that’s a whole different issue to be addressed by someone far more educated on the topic than I!
Eating a near-exclusive vegetarian diet definitely has it’s perks.
- It forced me to become far more informed about nutrition than I probably would have been otherwise.
- There are plenty of opportunities to experiment with cooking and baking; I love trying out gluten-free and/or vegan recipes for sweet treats.
- My diet is far more diverse, now, than it was before. And I haven’t had to give up any of my favorite foods!