I’ve been a vegetarian for 6 years. I didn’t grow up in a house where meat was the main source of food, so it was an easy transition for me. When my mom first met my dad, he was a vegetarian. She became a vegetarian to support my father. Then, a few years later, my dad was in an awful car accident. It left him hospitalized for months. The doctors insisted that he should start eating meat again for protein, so he did. He added chicken and turkey into his diet, so I grew up eating chicken and turkey as well.

I have always been a very picky eater, but I finally made the transition to full-time vegetarian when I was in college. Although I lived on chicken nuggets and french fries for most of my life, my diet changed when I went on a cruise. At this point, my mom was already a full vegetarian again. Her transition is a bit of funny. We had adopted a puppy and she believed our dog’s legs looked very similar to chicken wings. She just couldn’t eat meat anymore.

My story was a little different. The cruise I went on stopped in Haiti, Jamaica, and Mexico. Each stop was more beautiful than the next. I was in awe of all the animals that were just casually roaming the streets. Later that evening when we were back on the boat, my friends ordered veal, steak, chicken, duck, etc. Seeing the animals that we just saw so lively on the streets now cooked on a plate really put things into perspective for me. At that moment, I found clarity and immediately switched to a vegetarian lifestyle.

Overall, being a vegetarian is pretty easy for me. I get my protein from nuts and vitamins. I never have any real meat cravings because I substitute those cravings with a variety of sauces. For example, when I crave chicken nuggets, I just dip french fries into barbecue sauce. If I am craving chicken parmesan, I satisfy that craving with eggplant parmesan.

I think the biggest challenge for me is helping others understand why I am vegetarian and what it means to me. Being a vegetarian is a personal choice. I don’t push my beliefs on others and I don’t try to convert meat lovers into plant eaters. I want us all to respect each other and our choices. I choose to not eat meat.

This is the biggest challenge for me at my family gatherings. My extended family really doesn’t understand. At barbecues, my cousins are trying to be helpful and make me ‘special’ burgers (aka turkey burgers). Turkeys are animals too. I have tried to explain this to them. However, people won’t always understand and I have become ok with that. We are all doing the best we can.

People still have misconceptions about being vegetarian. I do my best to help educate others. I do not just eat vegetables. There are many different reasons people make the switch to a meatless life.  While some individuals are vegetarian for health reasons, I am not. To be honest, I am not the healthiest eater. I rely on a lot of carbs to fill me up. Just because I don’t eat meat, it doesn’t mean I limit myself to only salad. I eat pizza, pasta, tofu, broccoli, pad thai, a grilled cheese…the possibilities are endless.

5 Biggest Misconceptions About A Vegetarian’s Diet:

1. Vegetarians only eat salad. The options are limitless especially in NYC.
2. The vegetarian diet isn’t a balanced diet. The food pyramid is a farce.
3. Being a vegetarian is only healthy for adults. This assumes that protein from plants isn’t as good as protein from meat. Protein is protein. Children need 10 amino acids to grow properly. You can find all these in plants.
4. Vegetarians don’t get enough calcium. Green leafy vegetables are filled with calciums.
5. Humans were made to eat meat. Watch the documentary – What the Health. Our digestive systems are more similar to other plant-eaters not carnivores.

Written By: Rachel Hope of The Concrete Blonde

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