I’ve talked about it a bit on the blog before, but if you didn’t know I made the decision last February to become a pescatarian. And if you told me 5 years ago that I would have been the kind of girl to do such a thing, I would have said that’s crazy talk!
Let me get one thing straight before we get going on this post. I love meat. One of my favorite restaurants is a steakhouse, for goodness sakes (Bern’s in Tampa, it’s a must if you’re there!). I grew up eating meat every day and at most meals.
But as most of us are becoming aware of where our food actually comes from, as in the steps before it’s put on shelves at the grocery store, it can be a bit worrisome. I found out about the lack of concern for animal welfare in the mass meat industry while I was in high school and it really bothered me. Anyone who has seen a food documentary like Food, Inc. or Forks Over Knives knows what I’m talking about.
And while I believe you can eat meat ethically by choosing sources that use certified humane practices, there is more to consider. The negative environmental effects of the meat industry and health benefits of eating less meat are also factors that convinced me to go meat-free.
But I can tell you that this pescatarian year has been VERY different from how I thought it would be. In this Q&A I’ll get into how I made the transition, what it was like, and where I’m going from here.
Even if you’re not pursuing a pescatarian lifestyle, I hope some of my answers help if you’re trying to consume less meat overall.
Why Did You Become Pescatarian?
So I already mentioned that I was aware of the animal welfare, environmental, and health concerns associated with my daily meat consumption. But I honestly liked to pretend that stuff didn’t exist so I could continue to eat meat like normal.
And then a certain public event in January of 2017 convinced me that I needed to change some things in my life (I’ll let you guess what event that was).
I made a promise to myself that I would do more to support causes I believed in across a wide range of subjects. I started monthly donations to organizations I identified with, and it also gave me the final push I needed to do something about my diet.
I decided to become a pescatarian for a week. And then a month. And then another month. And then a year.
Why Not Become a Vegetarian or Vegan?
I just told you that I ate meat almost daily until this point and you’re wondering how I didn’t jump to plant-based overnight?! Good grief!
Seriously though, making such a huge change was really hard and I wanted to make sure I was realistic about it. Knowing that I could eat fish helped SO MUCH with the transition.
I would estimate that I ate fish probably 4-5 times a month, which isn’t that much overall. And fish is incredibly healthy, so I didn’t really want to cut that out.
I did try and make some vegan switches since the dairy industry can also be very harsh for animals. Instead of cow’s milk or cream in my coffee and other recipes, I’ve tried almond milk, coconut milk, and flax milk.
Was It Hard to Make the Transition?
I would say yes and no. Yes in that restaurants usually don’t have as many pescatarian options as meat ones, and that I still think about meat often. I’ve heard some vegetarians say that they don’t even remember the taste of meat, but I can say that I REMEMBER. And I miss it sometimes.
But the easy part was that after I found recipes and options that were delicious AND worked with my lifestyle, I was on auto-pilot. I started to think less about what I couldn’t have, and more about the yummy things I could have, which is critical.
So when I found my balance I was truly happy because I was eating good food and supporting something I believed in. It feels good to have your actions and ethics in line.
Did You Have More Energy and Feel Healthier?
I’m going to drop a major and scary truth bomb on you with this one…NO.
There is this myth out there that as soon as you stop eating meat you have this incredible stockpile of energy and every medical issue you have ever had disappears and you are your best self, with glowing skin and shiny hair and you’re 10 pounds lighter.
Maybe that’s true for some people, but not for me.
When you think about it, there are a lot of meat-free options that aren’t really healthy at all. Mozzarella sticks. Cookies. French fries (one of my favorites). Nutella (which I’m currently eating out of the jar).
And when I initially made the switch it took me awhile to get into a groove where I was eating healthy pescatarian meals, instead of just pescatarian. I ate a lot of heavy carbs like pasta to help me feel full, but I really needed to find more filling vegetable-based options instead. And the heavy carbs made me feel tired instead of energetic.
But over time (and much recipe saving on Pinterest!) I grew my arsenal of vegetarian and pescatarian options that made me feel good. Which leads into my next question…
What Were Some of Your Favorite Meals?
I feel like it’s necessary to break this questions down into two categories: Real Recipes and Quick Eats. I cook meals at home 3-5 times a week for dinner, but for lunches and nights when I didn’t feel like cooking there were some quick meals I depended on. So I’ll share both!
- Tortellini with Pesto Roasted Veggies
- Veggie Potstickers (Vegan!)
- Lemon Garlic Orzo with Roasted Veggies
- Asiago Roasted Cauliflower Soup
- Avocado Black Bean Enchiladas (Add shrimp to the filling and it’s even better)
- Any of the frozen foods from Amy’s Kitchen – The most delicious vegetarian frozen food and in perfect portions. The Breafast Burrito is amazing.
- To-go Campbell’s tomato soup – I keep these at my office to grab when I don’t have time for a bigger lunch.
- Quinoa Quick Meals – When I’m really hungry I’ll have one of these and soup…some of the healthiest to-go food there is!
- Back to Nature Mac and Cheese – I’ll add some frozen veggies, like broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots, to make it healthier.
- Frozen pizza – You can be as healthy or as unhealthy with pizza as you’d like! Cauliflower or stuffed crust? Veggie toppings or extra cheese? Nice to have on hand for busy nights when you’re really hungry.
What Tips Would You Give to Someone Trying to Eat Less Meat?
- Don’t try to replace your favorite meat meals – When I decided to go pescatarian I went to the grocery store and bought a ton of ‘fake meat’ soy products, like veggie burgers and chicken nugget substitutes. And most of them are still in my freezer. They don’t taste bad, but they’re not the real thing, they don’t taste as good, and I enjoyed my meals without trying to replace meat. Plain marinara sauce tasted better to me than marinara sauce with fake meat crumbles. Some people like soy meat substitutes, but I’m not a fan.
- Consider flexitarian strategies – Have you seen the Ted Talk about being a week day vegetarian? A flexitarian is someone who eats mostly vegetarian with meat occasionally, and one way you can do this is by eating vegetarian Monday through Friday, and then letting yourself have meat on weekends. This is definitely helpful for the mental aspect of transitioning, where you know you’re always 5 days or less away from being able to have meat!
- Try it with someone – If you have a friend who is interested in eating less meat, decide to start together and then share what works for you. Similar to starting a diet with a partner or having a gym buddy, it makes you more accountable.
Are You Going to Keep Being a Pescatarian?
No, I’m not. In fact tonight I am going to cook meat for myself for the first time in a year! Since I do believe it is ethical to eat animals (just with humane treatment), I want to start incorporating some ethical meat into my diet. Right now I think I’ll start eating meat about once a week.
I checked the brands at my local grocery store and found a few that meet my criteria for being ethical, including White Oak Pastures and Isaac’s Pride. Depending on the type of meat I’m buying, I look for it to be hormone free, pastured/free range, grassfed, and raised by small farmers on sustainable farms.
If you want to buy ethical meat you can check the Certified Humane website. Human Farm Animal Care has high standards for the humane raising of agriculture animals, and a product that is Certified Humane, Raised, and Handled means a lot.
This post is outside the normal CTF realm of fashion and travel, but I thought you might be interested in knowing what transitioning from a daily meat eater to a pescatarian and now flexitarian has been like!
If you like this kind of content, be sure to let me know in the comments.
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