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healthy bytes: giving up meat

It seems everyone’s going vegetarian or vegan these days – your best friend, your mother, your mother’s chickens… (Don’t ask.) I used to think that vegetarians/vegans were all animal lovers, but lately I’ve learned it can also be a dietary choice. It can even make your eggs taste better, if you happen to be a chicken.

Regardless of your reasoning, choosing to become vegetarian or vegan is a big decision, and one that shouldn’t be made lightly. One vegetarian I know declares she lives off red wine, avocado toast and herbal tea. While it seems to work for her, I still thought I’d compile a list of things you should consider when giving up meat (and/or all animal products).


First things first – meat provides you with protein and iron, so you’re going to need to find these elsewhere. Do you like lentils, tofu or eggs? Because these are your meat substitutes, and you’ll need to eat at least one of these every day to keep your protein levels up. You can source iron from supplements, or else increase your spinach intake. For more tips on iron, check out this article.

Social Events

Just because you’re eating meat alternatives, that doesn’t mean your friends are. In my brief (six months) stint as a vegetarian I attended several gatherings where I had to fill up on corn chips and explain repeatedly that I wasn’t watching my weight, I just couldn’t eat the fried chicken or bacon dip or Caesar salad. Be prepared to appall your hosts, or else bring your own food.


Journeying overseas is always going to be tricky for anyone with special dietary needs. It depends on whereabouts you go, but from my experience, Australia is the country with the most vegetarian and vegan options. At Eastern restaurants in Australia you’ll find tofu and lentil dishes – but I just spent two weeks in Thailand, and believe me, the only meat-free dishes were papaya salad and dessert.


While vegetarianism is really awesome and even liberating for some people, if it’s making you feel bad about yourself don’t push it. I tried being a vegetarian from January to July this year, and I stopped because I wasn’t enjoying food anymore. I missed going out for dinner and being able to share two dishes with my boyfriend. I missed being able to visit my mum and eat her signature lasagne. I missed that ‘full’ feeling that comes after stuffing myself at a barbecue. I guess what I’m trying to say is, being vegetarian works for some people, but it might not work for you. And that’s okay. (Even if you’re a chicken.)

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Have you had any experience with vegetarianism/veganism? Share your own tips below!


5 thoughts on “healthy bytes: giving up meat

  1. This is a really great post Ruby. I think it’s a tough decision to be vego or vegan. Ebonie is a vegan and I think it’s a pretty depressing diet (no milk chocolate!). I eat vegan a lot of time as well, because we live together and I don’t mind doing it because I like lentils and tofu and it gives me a challenge to cook something different. I think eating is such a social thing, it’s about sharing and experience tht is can be so hard to be different – I mean who wants to be?

  2. Very well written with a few important points. Another great vegetarian source of protein is nuts – my favourite!

  3. “Do you like tofu, eggs or lentils? Because these are your meat substitutes and you’ll need to eat at least one of these a day to keep your protein levels up”. Sorry, this statement is just plain incorrect. Vegans and vegetarians have an increasing array of meat alternatives than the more “traditional” three ingredients you just listed – alternatives which are both nutritionally rich and easy to come by. The tone of this article implies that vegans and vegetarians (or at least the author felt) are somewhat of an onerous social guest, limited in dietary variety, will never experience satiation and face an uphill battle when it comes to nutrition.  I’m sorry to hear the author had a negative experience in her time being vegetarian, but perhaps a better education about her dietary choices could have prevented some of the experiences she’s mentioned.
    As a vegan, I would be lying if I said I had never experienced any of these situations (to an extent) but it certainly hasn’t deterred me from my beliefs, nor should it.  The ability to discuss your dietary choices, and why you’ve chosen the path that you have allows an opportunity (often frequently!) to discuss the ethics of eating, which I feel is a great opportunity to engage with people – encouraging other’s self reflection whilst combating vegan/vegetarian stereotypes. 

  4. Hi Jo, I understand all your points, thanks for adding them to the discussion. That’s true, there are other meat alternatives — nuts, ‘vegie meat’, tempeh –however, they tend to work out more expensive. For a young person the examples I gave are the cheap, easily cook-able options available from the supermarket for a first-time vegetarian.
    As an installment in the weekly health column, the point of this article was to look at examples of the dietary and lifestyle changes someone who chooses to go vegetarian should consider — among young people in Melb at the moment there’s a big rise in vegetarianism, especially for young people who have just moved out of home and are still learning to cook for themselves. It tends to be a financial choice, in fact. As I’m sure you agree, from purely a health perspective, the protein/iron changes are really important things to consider.
    Anyways, I wrote this article for young people contemplating becoming vegetarian, rather than for experienced vegetarians — it’s a list of initial basics to consider/expect when making the move from meat, rather than an ongoing lifeplan. If you have any more tips to add, please do! Travel tips would be particularly helpful, I think..?

  5. I had more issue with being a vegetarian in the UK than Thailand, I never really had to search for food and if there was no
    vegetarian option they eventually managed to understand me asking for no meat…except once and I just picked out the chicken.

    The most important part of deciding to become vegetarian or vegan is research, make sure you know what you’re doing. Finding recipes is easy and you can have a lot of fun and great tasting food. Just be smart about it and don’t just substitute everything with bread as a lot of people tend to do.
    I was vegan for a little while and the only reason I went back to vegetarian wasnt organised enough with my food prep…that I really love cheese haha.

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