A Month Without Meat

Month Without Meat

My husband and I have read A LOT on various diets and nutritional plans.

We’ve also seen A TON of food documentaries, often with conflicting information and advice. In general, though, too many animal proteins probably increase your risk of developing cancer, and too many refined carbohydrates are likely to increase your risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

We typically aim to eat food with recognizable ingredients and minimal processing, but our endeavors achieve varying levels of success depending on their proximity to vacations and holidays.

Until now, however, we’ve never tried a diet without meat. I’ve always been interested in vegetarianism for health benefits as well as environmental and animal cruelty concerns, yet I knew that without my husband on board I wouldn’t last very long.

This year, when my carnivore husband told me that he wanted to try a meatless month, I was floored and delighted. I honestly only expected us to last a week and we made it the entire month! Even when he made beef chili for guests (I made vegetarian), he held firm and sent his leftovers home with friends so we wouldn’t be tempted and they wouldn’t go to waste.

We learned a lot in our month without meat, so in no particular order, I hope you enjoy our random musings.

Our Month Without Meat

1. Vegetarian does not necessarily equal healthy. Heck, Oreos and some Taco Bell Fresco-Style Burritos are even vegan!

2. A month without meat was easier than we thought. As long as we had lots of fun, vegetarian options in the fridge and plenty of snacks–like dehydrated fruit and nuts–on hand, it didn’t even feel like we were on a special plan. We just ate, you know, food.

3. A month without meat was also harder than I thought. While stressed out and running in circles at work, saying no to chicken strips or burritos in favor of a wilted cafeteria salad bar with mostly canned veggies was tough.

4. Many prepackaged foods have gratuitous meat. One of my cafeterias offers gorgeous salads that would be perfectly lovely vegetarian meals except for the totally unnecessary bacon bits. Why? (I admit, though, that every month before this I would have argued, “Why not?”)

5. It helps to be flexible. Some of my vegetarian friends are so anti-meat that they use a separate set of dishes, silverware, and cookware, and I get it. However, as we’re starting with baby steps here, I shared a chicken fajita lunch platter at our favorite Mexican place. A family member ate the chicken, and I ate the veggies.

6. Being vegan would be really, really difficult. It’s hard enough to find good vegetarian options when eating out, but at least meat is fairly easy to recognize and avoid. Butter, milk, eggs, and gelatin, conversely, can hide anywhere without warning.

7. Food tastes infinitely better when it’s not trying to masquerade as something else. I’ll take Thanksgiving Mac & Cheese over Tofurkey any day.

8. There’s no shame in riding the coattails of others. I’m not the first one in my family to practice vegetarianism, and though my husband and I are currently the only ones, we benefit immensely from the efforts of others who suffered the weird looks and grumblings at family gatherings in years gone by. Now it’s old news and people mostly leave us in peace.

9. The only vitamin supplement we need is B12, and even that wouldn’t be necessary if I ate more eggs and dairy. I chose this over a multi-vitamin because more and more research reveals that most supplements are unnecessary and can even be harmful unless you have an incredibly restricted diet.

10. I feel great. I was expecting to feel a bit tired and sluggish, but instead I feel better than before and plan to continue for many months without meat, at least when we eat at home. We travel frequently and want to experience everything we can about the places we visit, which might include meat-containing foods, although now we won’t specifically seek them out.

Are you vegan or vegetarian? Have you tried it or always wanted to? Tell me how it’s going or what holds you back in the comments below.

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Comments 14

  1. I did no red meat for a long time, and then I did a hard core training program where eating red meat actually made me feel better. I lost a ton of weight and gained muscle. But…that was a pretty exceptional experience. Now I try to eat anything in moderation (save for processed food and sugary stuff). I think you just have to experiment with what feels right for you.

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      Our bodies will usually tell us what they need, and while mine is pretty happy right now without meat, I try to remain a bit skeptical when it tells me that I ‘need’ another cookie or brownie 😉

  2. I have tried vegetarianism off and on since I was a teen. I’m not sure I could convince my family to part with our local, grassfed beef, particularly the males in the household. But they might be up for a month! Sometimes meat doesn’t appeal to me at all – which makes me wonder if I’d feel better going completely meatless too. Right now, Alan and I aren’t eating any grains, so I think I’ll hold off on removing the meat until he’s used to this new grain-free diet. But, then, I’d like to give it a go. Thanks for sharing your experience, Julie!

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      With both of us doing it (and it being his idea this time), it was pretty easy. You’re so right, though, that it’s harder when your house is on different meal plans. Having to cook two separate dishes or even smell them can derail my motivation pretty quickly.

      Grain-free is a tough but healthy choice too. It gets tricky when we try to combine all the plans and take out grains and meat, then eating out becomes nearly impossible!

  3. I have toyed with doing a month of no meat, so I especially enjoyed this post. I am currently doing Whole30 (day 13!), but perhaps when I finish this, I will give it a try.

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      Congrats! The first few days are the hardest so you’re in the home stretch. We sort-of-kind-of did this last fall, but it’s much harder to find something to eat on this plan at work and family events than trying to find vegetarian food. We didn’t want to make things awkward by bringing our own food or making special requests, though I’m sure you have some graceful yet effective ideas to teach us all!

  4. I’d love to be able to try a meatless month but I struggle eating a bunch of fruits and vegetables (due to food intolerances). I bet I could do it, but I’d eat a lot more carbs – which I’m not sure I want either. I’ll have to check out the idea more. I went grain free for awhile and felt great – but it was certainly hard to do (just avoiding them). I can’t imagine grain and meat free (especially with the intolerances!)

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      Avoiding grains and meat at the same time would be really, really difficult. Part of the fun of being meat-free for us has meant that we eased up a bit on our carb allowances.
      Finding plenty of delicious whole food options is easy when we eat at home, but eating out or at family functions the options are more limited. We’re still looking for solutions to this, but some of our tactics include volunteering to bring a salad and a fruit salad so we know there will be a few things we like.

  5. Congratulations on your meatless month. Is the plan to continue?
    My family needs to cut down on our meat consumption. Nobody is on board to jump right to being vegetarian, but we’re going to try and restrict meat consumption to 3 times a week. Vegetarianism is not weird or new to me – I’m Indian and a lot of Indians are vegetarian – in fact growing up in social situations I was often the only weird one who did eat meat. I couldn’t ever do vegan though. I love me my yogurt. There is no giving that up, ever.

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      Yes, my plan is to continue, though I’m headed to the Midwest this month for a few weeks with my in-laws. They do barbecue like nobody’s business!

      Cutting down on meat is a great start. Life really is all about trial and error and baby steps. We tried this but planned poorly- there are only two of us but we cook in large batches and eat leftovers throughout the week. Since we didn’t decrease the size of our batches, we felt like we had to choose between eating meat every day or letting the leftovers go bad. Silly us, of course the third option was to make less in the first place.

      Indian food is delicious and generally very healthy and full of veggies, so that’s a great base even with a little meat sometimes. Enjoy your yogurt too–it’s nice to see that you derive so much pleasure from something so simple. Cheers!

  6. Nice job, Julie. Growing up I thought vegetarians were weird. Now they have my respect and admiration. I’m game for a meatless month, but last night I suggested to Mrs. G that we totally forego fast food. Foregoing fast food and meat may be too much. We’ll start with the fast food challenge and then circle back on the meatless month sometime in the near future. I hope you don’t think I’m being a wuss.

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  7. Being vegan isn’t hard but it does take planning and I rarely eat out. But if you like to cook, it’s pretty simple. Canned beans save a lot of time as well as owning a pressure cooker for items like brown rice. Millet, quinoa and barley are quick grains and in the doldrums of winter, frozen vegetables are budget friendly and also fairly quick to either microwave or steam. There are a couple of alternate meats that duplicate meat or at least I think they do so are fairly revolting to me, but as a substitute during the transition to vegetarian or vegan, may be worth a try. A growing trend is using raw cashews and making a cashew cream for desserts, baking and cream based soups and some are taking it a step further and making a “cheese”.

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      Cashew cream sounds fantastic! Will you please send some of your favorite recipes?
      Do you like your pressure cooker better than an instapot? We’ve never had either and are trying to decide.

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