2016 is the personal 50th anniversary year of me becoming a vegetarian. I was a young teen when the decision was made to do this, even if I had to defy my parents. I dropped many hints for a few months about my admiration for vegetarian diets. One day, I had both of my parents sit down and listen to what I decided to do. They discussed their concerns about my health and their duty to safeguard it. After a surprisingly short amount of time, they gave me the go-ahead, but I had to wait until my birthday to do so.
During the month leading up to my birthday, I researched books about healthy vegetarian living and the few vegetarian cookbooks that were available at the public library. Then, on my 14th birthday, I was granted my wish. That night, mom prepared a vegetarian dinner for the entire family. Aside from a minor protest by my sister, everyone enjoyed the meal.
From that day forward, I stuck to the vegetarian lifestyle. The rest of the family remained omniverous. One day, dad confessed that he didn’t think I’d be vegetarian for longer than a week, that’s why he quickly gave his parental permission.
In the Midwest of the 1960s, health food, as we know it today, was not widely available. So, even though I had health concerns about the food I ate, health was not the motivating factor in my decision nor why I maintained a vegetarian lifestyle for so many years. When I was still a scruffy 13-year-old boy, I told mom that I love animals but I don’t want to eat them. This still holds true.
There have been a few periods of my life that I experimented with various forms of vegetarianism. There was the macrobiotic phase that didn’t work out, because I was always famished while on it. There was the health-food trial that didn’t fit in with my budget and was difficult to maintain during travel. Sometimes, I still go for a stretch as a vegan, but that is impractical in the long run. My default diet is lacto-ovo-vegetarian. That is fruits, vegetables, and grains supplemented by some dairy and eggs.
For me, lacto-ovo-vegetarian eating is the easiest to maintain. It is the most graceful one for hosts to offer when I’m invited to dinner. Lacto-ovo-vegetarianism is very travel friendly. There are few problems in finding a wholesome, tasty vegetarian meal regardless of where I travel. Some form of vegetarianism is practiced all over the world.
I learned early to scrutinize the ingredients lists on grocery items. If there is even one questionable substance in a product, I return it to the shelf. This is one of the benefits of eating vegetarian meals. We become much more mindful of what we eat.
For a few years at the beginning of my vegetarian lifestyle, people would often ask, “Don’t you miss meat?” I always answered them by saying, “No.” If pressed to explain, I usually told them that I love animals but don’t want to eat them.
Ethics are still at the forefront of my dietary choices. When buying dairy or milk, I select certified cruelty free and free range products. The slightly higher retail prices are worth paying. Sometimes I buy eggs directly from the farm. It’s nice to watch their hens pecking the ground for food around the farmyard.
One of the side-benefits of maintaining a moderate vegetarian diet, is that my friends and family have never put me down because of my food choices. They just accept the fact that I’ve “always” been vegetarian. It’s no big deal.
If you’ve been considering the idea of becoming vegetarian, in some form, take time to think it over carefully. Do your research and practice it in a way that makes you feel good inside and out. You have my blessings.