By NATALIE LARIMER
As an attempt to make myself happier and healthier, I made the decision to become a vegetarian a few months ago. It was not something that I spent days and weeks contemplating, I just kind of went for it and it stuck. I stopped getting meat from the grocery store and drastically cut back my habit of eating fast food and takeout, mainly because they do not have much for me now.
My reason for the change was that I was getting really sick of chicken-based meals, because that was basically all I ate. I researched a bit about the negative environmental impacts that eating meat has, as well as the health benefits that a meatless diet can have. My roommate had also recently switched to vegetarianism and that was the little push that I needed to make the switch.
Honestly, I did not think it would make that much of a difference, but it has completely changed things for me. I have way more energy now, I am learning how to cook a ton of new recipes, and I am far happier and more motivated than I ever was before. I don’t think this is just because of the absence of meat, but rather the fact that I am forced to eat from more food groups than I did before, and my body is finally getting the nutrients that it has been craving for the past 21 years.
I have found that it is way easier to maintain a vegetarian diet when I cook at home for myself. I went to Half Priced Books and got three vegetarian cookbooks and I have been working my way through one aimed at college students. The recipes in this one are pretty simple but also involve a ton of different veggies that I haven’t really cooked with in the past. My favorites so far have been these really simple bean and corn tacos that are perfect for leftovers and a vegetable barley soup that single-handedly cured my sinus infection over break.
I have been using this diet change as an excuse to break out of my comfort zone with foods. I have been buying a ton of different vegetables, grains and legumes that I can experiment with. For instance, I have started eating beans, which I had sworn off as a child because of their texture. But now that I have started using them in different recipes, I can stomach them. My mom is super proud of me for getting over that hurdle. I bought lentils once, which I did not enjoy, but I was glad that I tried them.
The biggest challenge has been trying to avoid eating meat when I go out. I have allowed myself to take “pescatarian days” where I can eat fish, which I only use for Fong’s Crab Rangoon pizza and the occasional shrimp-based sushi, but otherwise I have been pretty good about refraining from eating any animals since I made the call. I even avoided the turkey and ham that we had for my family Christmas, and instead ate more mashed potatoes than any human should ever consume in one sitting. Other than these instances, it has not been too much work to maintain.