health

'The 4 lessons I've learnt since becoming a vegetarian.'

Animals Australia
Thanks to our brand partner, Animals Australia

I first learnt what it was to be a vegetarian the same way I’ve learnt so many valuable life lessons – via an episode of The Simpsons.  

You know the one: ‘Lisa The Vegetarian’, where Lisa visits a petting zoo, and falls in love with a little lamb.  

Later that evening she can’t shake the feeling that maybe the meat their family consumed that night wasn’t that far removed from that sweet baby lamb, and she vows to stop eating meat (and hangs out with Paul and Linda McCartney on the way. Relatable).

Her revelation was an important one to me and many others, because it’s hard to argue that she’s not right; what was the difference in my own mind between a frolicking sheep, cow or pig in a petting zoo, and the ones I was happy to eat in a burger? 

The more I mulled over it as a child, the more it seemed that if I was going to enjoy the company of cats and dogs, admire gorgeous native animals in the wild, and watch cute videos of monkeys on the internet, I wanted to extend that respect to all creatures no matter what their species.

When I turned 17 and was in my final year of high school, something clicked. 

‘I’m autonomous now, I can cook my own food, and I don’t want to eat animals any more’. That was 13 years ago. I’m proud of being a vegetarian (as someone who liked eating meat, I felt like I’ve made a few sacrifices over the years) and have learnt so much along the way. 

It’s something that Animals Australia believes too; that all animals are worthy of kindness and compassion, encouraging us to think differently about the beauty and sentience of farmed animals. 

Here are 4 lessons I’ve learnt being a vegetarian, which I think is the best personal choice I’ve ever made.

My partner and I visiting some cuties. Image: Supplied.

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1. Vegetarian food is not boring

When I moved out of home at 21, I had no idea how to cook well

I could sustain myself for sure, but meals were bland, over or undercooked, and not enjoyable. 

There were times where a pack of sausages to chuck in a pan would have been an easy option to a flavourful meal. But as I got older and grew to love cooking, I realised that plant-based food does not limit your options; it grows them exponentially. 

In Western culture we’re very used to a diet rooted in the tradition of meat and three veg. But when you look elsewhere you’ll find a goldmine of delicious meals, like curries, soups, salads, wraps and more: that are nutritious, nourishing and downright delicious using the abundance of plant-based foods and alternatives we have at our fingertips. 

Also, eating vegetarian food I've found is pretty cheap! Think lentils, chickpeas and veggies as your basics, which will only set you back a few dollars.

Animals Australia has made a beautiful free magazine, Join The Evolution, and it's chock full of must-try plant-based recipes.  

2. It’s the best way for an individual to reduce their carbon footprint

Animal agriculture accounts for a staggering 21 per cent of global emissions, more than all modes of transport combined. That's a lot to get my head around.

We may wistfully daydream of trading in our petrol guzzling car for an electric one in a bid to reduce our carbon footprint, but the right options are in front of us – and they're the micro decisions we all have to make every single day, like eating food, that can play a really impactful role in paving a pathway for a kinder, more sustainable future.

Image: Supplied.

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According to research, beef production is also linked to a whopping 94 per cent of all land clearing in our Great Barrier Reef catchments. That stat will blow the minds of so many of us that love and value our beautiful oceans.

3. You don’t need meat to have a healthy, balanced diet

In fact, there’s now plenty of research to show that a well-balanced plant-based diet is not only a healthier way of eating but can treat and even prevent a host of chronic diseases.

I have been a vegetarian for nearly 13 years and have enjoyed a balanced and nutritious helping of meals to function and thrive without consuming meat. 

Legumes like lentils and chickpeas, along with dark leafy green vegetables are a must have staple, and a smart doctor once said to me to try and eat a wide variety of different coloured vegetables each day, and it's been a great rule of thumb.

Of course, you should always consult your doctor, and where necessary a qualified nutritionist, before changing your diet in any significant way.

4. Go easy on yourself

I personally think that to make sure your plant-based journey has longevity, you need to go easy on yourself. 

That means not beating yourself up mentally if you try plant-based or vegetarian meals some of the week, in a part-time capacity, if you have a bite of your friend’s burger one time, or if you accidentally order meat at a restaurant. 

There is no "perfect", and nobody should feel they have to strive for a 100 per cent score every living moment.

If you approach plant-based living a little too rigid with your choices, it’s easier to give up if you eat something you feel you "shouldn’t". It's important to always remember for yourself, every single plant-based choice you make (in your vegetarianism, or another choice outside of the food you eat), still has a really positive impact on protecting the planet.

Of course, the number one thing I’ve learnt as a vegetarian is that all creatures, big and small, deserve respect and compassion, and to live the full lives we award our beloved cats and dogs. 

With a few ingredient swaps and some creativity, making mouthwatering dishes from plant-based ingredients becomes second nature. It feels really empowering and rewarding knowing it's making a difference to animals and the environment, meal by meal.

Choosing to be vegetarian can be daunting, but it is such a powerful choice an individual can make to make a difference to our planet, and the lives of animals. Starting small can be all it takes. 

Do you dream of a kinder, more sustainable world? Animals Australia do.

Order their new magazine for free, which is packed full of inspiring stories, tips, recipes and beautiful animals.

Feature Image: Supplied.

Animals Australia
Ever wondered what you can do to help make the world a little bit kinder? What steps you can take to protect our precious planet and all the amazing species we share her with? Animals Australia invites you to Join the Evolution - an evolution of kindness, consciousness and choice that has the potential to transform our world. You can order your free magazine at www.AnimalsAustraila.org/jointheevolution which is packed full of inspiring stories, delicious plant-based recipes, and beautiful animals. Join the evolution and help make this world a kinder, more compassionate place for everyone.