Whenever people find out that I’m a vegetarian, I usually receive a series of similar questions and comments. These remarks can range from “Isn’t it so hard to survive? By the way, you’re totally missing out on bacon!” to “Wait, so you still eat fish, right? Gotta get that protein somehow!”
I’ve been vegetarian forever
I always love talking about my experience as a vegetarian because I have been one my entire life. A vegetarian, by definition, is someone who abstains from the consumption of meat. There are multiple forms of vegetarianism, and I am a lacto-ovo vegetarian (the most common type). This means that while I do not eat any type of meat, I do consume dairy and egg products. I, however, personally try to limit my consumption of eggs just to baked goods/other items that include them as an ingredient. I have found it easy to be vegetarian because I grew up as one, and I plan to practice vegetarianism for the rest of my life.
My parents are from India, a country where a good portion of the population is vegetarian. My parents and extended family are vegetarian because of ideological reasons. So, it is only natural for me to be a vegetarian, too. Although I was born and brought up in the United States, I have grown up with South-Indian vegetarian delicacies prepared by my mother, such as bisibelebath, a lentil-based rice dish, and masala dosa, a rice pancake filled with a spiced vegetable filling. Being a vegetarian is easy since home-cooked meals are meat-free, and my family and I go out to restaurants with vegetarian options (other than salad). I feel that as a vegetarian, I’ve also been able to make healthy food choices very easily, and that makes me happy.
Thinking about becoming vegetarian? Here is where to start!
What comes with being vegetarian
Being a vegetarian my whole life, I cannot imagine NOT being one. I didn’t really have much of a say in the decision to be one but I am glad that my parents brought me up this way. Over the years, I have learned about the several benefits of vegetarianism, ranging from health benefits to animal rights and protection. As a vegetarian, I always think about an animal’s feelings and the pain that was potentially imposed on it when I see meat. It’s my automatic mindset. It has to do with how I was raised and videos I’ve watched about animal cruelty in the meat industry. I don’t want to hurt animals, and I will have this in the back of my mind. If I am ever encouraged to try meat in the future, I will remain a vegetarian.
Although vegetarianism can come with health benefits, vegetarians must always be particularly aware of their nutrient intake. I’ve always made sure to get an adequate amount of certain nutrients—especially vitamin B12, calcium, iron, zinc, and protein— which are often more easily found in animal meat/products. I take vitamins each day to ensure that I am getting sufficient vitamin intake, and my parents have always made sure to prepare meals that have a good amount of protein and are healthy.
Being vegetarian on my own
Going from my senior year of high school to my freshman year of college will be a huge transition because I will be on my own and will have to take greater responsibility for my health and well-being. I know I will have to be more watchful of what I eat and always make sure I am eating balanced meals that have enough of all the necessary nutrients. Additionally, I won’t be able to regularly eat my mom’s home-cooked vegetarian meals, so I will have to try new vegetarian foods and/or learn how to do some basic cooking on my own in the years to come.
I have friends who have become vegan in college (although this probably is not going to be me — I love dairy products too much!) and others who have massively expanded on their cooking skills, making all sorts of vegetarian recipes. I am excited to see where my vegetarianism takes me in the next few years!
Thinking about becoming vegetarian or even vegan? Look at our interview with two vegan athletes and get some more perspective!