Monday, May 31, 2010

Interviews: Dana: How She Met Her Meat and Went Veg

CYoFC:  Describe your current diet/lifestyle (vegan, lacto-ovo vegetarian, pescetarian, freegan, flexitarian, omnivore with vegan tendencies...etc.).

Dana:  I currently follow a pescetarian diet, as I eat fish about once per week. My diet consists mostly of grains, fruits/vegetables, eggs, dairy, tempeh, seitan, and some meat substitues.

CYoFC:  For how long have you been a pescetarian?

Dana:  I stopped eating meat five years ago. I followed a vegan diet for the first six months and then a strict vegetarian diet for the next year. I then incorporated fish into my diet and have done so for the past 3.5 years.

CYoFC:  What prompted you, originally, to change your diet?

Dana:  I read an editorial in my university's newspaper about animal cruelty. The writer mentioned a video called "Meet Your Meat," which is produced by PETA. I ordered a free copy of the DVD; while it was incredibly painful and disturbing to watch, it solidified my decision to give up meat. I have always loved animals, and truthfully, never cared too much for meat, so the decision was a no-brainer at that point.

CYoFC:  It takes a lot of courage to watch something so painful, but you did it and it changed your whole outlook. Were there any challenges along the way to changing your diet? What about current challenges, or aspects about pescetarianism that you don't like?

Dana:  When I first started learning about the mistreatment of animals in the food industry, I was incredibly passionate about spreading the word. I believed that if people really knew what went on, they would not want to eat meat either. Unfortunately, this initially translated into a lot of frustration with friends and family members who did not feel so inclined to change their eating behavior. Over time, I learned to focus only on myself, and this has made it much easier to be around others that eat meat.

I am able to find something that accommodates my diet on nearly every menu, so I don't think it interferes with my lifestyle in any significant way. The biggest challenges, however, are the "hidden" animal products. For example, gelatin is in many yogurts, and chicken broth is frequently in restaurant foods such as Mexican rice or broccoli cheese soup.

The primary thing I don't like about my current diet and lifestyle choice is that it is difficult to decide where to draw the line. I don't eat cows, but I do wear leather... I won't eat chicken, but I will eat fish... And so on... This creates some moral conflict, but I have found it helpful to think of my dietary choices in the way environmentalists conceptualize a "carbon footprint," where every little bit helps.

CYoFC:  This moral conflict you raise is often used by opposers to argue against vegetarianism in any form. "Animals are killed, so are plants," etc., etc. But at the end of the day, an individual choice must be made, and people must choose what works for them, mentally and physically. Do you plan on remaining pescetarian? If so, what motivates you? If not, what motivates you to change?

Dana:  I plan to maintain a pescetarian diet indefinitely.

CYoFC:  Why should others go vegetarian or pescetarian?

Dana:  I think this is a very personal decision, and I have moved away from trying to persuade others to give up meat. However, I think EVERYONE should make an effort to avoid meat that comes from factory farms. Small, organic farms (which don't use growth hormones) tend to raise animals in pastures and sometimes use more "humane" methods of killing the animal.

CYoFC:  Do you have any tips or advice for people who want to do this?

Dana:  Experiment with lots of new foods. Make a big effort to get protein. Soy-based products are great, but beware that some are high in fat. The best options are typically seitan or wheat-gluten based substitues, which are high in protein and have no more than 2-3 grams of fat per serving.

CYoFC:  What are your favorite foods?

Dana:  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE a new brand of meat-substitute foods by Gardein. The pulled pork and beef burgandy are especiallly good and simple to prepare. It is sold at Whole Foods and stores that have a health/organic section. I also like Tofurkey deli-slices. Quinoa is one of my favorite, high-protein grains.

CYoFC:  Are you getting enough protein?

Dana:  This is something I struggle with, which is why I added fish into my diet and have begun to make more of an effort to consume eggs and fake-meat products. I also try to eat a lot of nuts and protein bars (I added protein shakes while training for a marathon).

Want to go vegan but worried about protein? Finding enough protein is completely possible with a vegan diet. A great example of a high-protein source is kamut noodles, or any kamut product. Kamut is a type of grain originating from ancient Egypt. One serving of a popular brand of Kamut spiral pasta noodles has about 10g of protein and only 1.5g of fat (0g saturated). I like these, myself. 

Dana mentioned that she watched the documentary, Meet Your Meat before becoming meat-free herself. For those interested, you can watch it by clicking here. If you are just beginning to learn about the meat and dairy industries, I highly suggest you watch it. I warn you, though, this video is shocking and disturbing.

Dana, 29, is a clinical psychologist in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In addition to vegetarianism, her interests include running, golf, sporting events, reading, relaxing, and shopping.

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