More and more people are becoming more conscious about how their food is affecting their environment and health. The understanding of our conventional agricultural and farming practices are becoming more widely known. This is great! Education and awareness is the first step in making changes because if you don’t know if anything is wrong,why would you change?
Like many of you, I watched the documentaries that basically made me want to swear off any sort of animal products FOREVER. I started reading more and experimenting with my own diet. I went vegetarian/vegan for a good few months. But here’s the thing, MY body was not being supported by this diet. I want to make it clear that I am speaking about MY body, not everyone’s. I’m a strong believer in biodiversity, meaning each of our bodies is different and that one diet does not work for every single human, and one diet does not work for one human during their entire life. Seasons change, we age, our activity levels fluctuate, and this all affects what our bodies need to thrive. I found out that eliminating meat was not supporting my body and I could tell this because I was quiet enough to notice the signs it was sharing with me.
But then I was conflicted. I agreed with many of the environmental and ethical arguments for removing meat out of my diet. I still totally agree with plant-based diets (this is different than being a vegetarian). But what if there was another way that I could support my health and feel my actions were aligned with my values? Thus “mindful meat-eater” was born! Here is what that means:
- All humans require essential amino acids. There are nine our bodies cannot make by themselves so we have to get them through our diet. When all nine are in one food, it’s considered a “complete” protein. Animal products are the easiest place to find complete proteins.
- We don’t need THAT much meat. The Standard American Diet has us believing that we need meat as our main focal point for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Bacon and eggs for breakfast. Ham or chicken sandwich for lunch. Steak with some ‘taters for dinner. Turns out that’s wayyyyy excessive. A proper serving size of meat is 4-6 oz or the size of your palm to make it easy. Last time I checked, every restaurant serves more than that, an 8-oz filet, 12-oz NY strip or the good ‘ol 16-oz cowboy steak! That’s 3-4 servings of meat. That’s why I’ve adopted the term “condiMEAT” deemed by Dr. Mark Hyman. That is, the main focal point of your meal should be plants, and enjoy some meat but more so as a condiment.
- Turns out there are some traditional farming practices that are actually beneficial to the environment that help capture carbon and support soil health (this is key to having nutrient-dense foods). Not to mention when you eat an animal that has been properly raised, they taste way better and have a completely different nutritional profile. Yes, it’s more expensive, but like I said, you don’t need much. You can enjoy less and get more health benefits while also supporting local and sustainable farms.
- Be open to different kinds of meats and cuts. We have come to be pretty dang partial to chicken breasts and thighs. It wasn’t long ago that we ate liver and heart, the most nutrient-dense parts of animals. Also, there are a lot of other animals we can eat. I noticed Natural Grocers is now selling ostrich and yak. These may sound weird to eat but only because they haven’t been staples in the American diet. These animals are far more likely to be raised humanely or wild.
- Eat vegetarian when you eat out and be gentle with yourself when you don’t. Unfortunately, restaurants likely aren’t serving you the best quality meat. Consider reserving your meat meals to home-cooked meals. However, you don’t need to hate yourself if you choose to get the normal steak every once in a while when you go to a nice dinner. Be content with any action you are taking. It’s the small steps that count. It’s not about perfection
Thus I became a mindful meat-eater. This term exemplifies my journey to how I feel about meat in my diet. I apply mindfulness around my meat sources and understand what it means to eat an animal. Drastic changes have been made to my daily meals as a result because every food decision is through this lens. I don’t just eat meat willy-nilly-call me a meat snob; I’m okay with that because it aligns with my values. Occasionally, I eat meat out and it’s okay. I try to order vegetarian, but it’s not always what entices my palate. I cook about one meat dish that will feed me for 2-3 meals each week. The rest of my meals are more vegetarian. I’ve minimized my meat consumption and feel great. The other part of this is being mindful about what your body is telling you. Because I’ve experimented, I can now tell when I’ve had too much meat or when I’m craving it. My body tells me. It will tell you too, but the only way to do that is to experiment and try something different.
So if you’re like me and feel conflicted with eating animal products, try this new approach and see how it feels for you.
Does this feel like something that could work for you?