by Kelvin Belfon
In January, I went for a full month without eating meat. It was an experiment I called My 30-Day No Meat Challenge.
I’ve been thinking about going vegetarian for quite some time; but the timing wasn’t always right. Well, last month I decided to take the plunge.
I committed to just a few personal ground rules:
- No red meat or processed versions of pork, beef, lamb or mutton.
- No poultry or processed versions of chicken or turkey.
- Explore other non-meat, plant based protein sources, giving preference to those sources that are least processed. Produce will make up the bulk of my meals.
- Yes to fish, but I won’t consume it to the degree that it’s just a replacement for the meat I’m cutting out.
- I will evaluate the experiment after 30 days to see if it’s something I could continue over a much longer period.
Well, after a month without meat, I’ve made a few discoveries that I wish to share with you.
My 30-Day No Meat Challenge in Review
- In the beginning, the challenge was more difficult than I thought. My appetite for meat appeared to be heightened. Savory meaty meals were everywhere!
- On one occasion when I attended the Martin Luther King Jr. African American Heritage Rodeo with the family, as soon as we entered the coliseum, I was smacked with the smell of all kinds of barbecue. It was pretty tempting. The year before we ordered barbecue turkey legs and chicken kabobs. In spite of all that, we didn’t relapse because we had a plan. Instead, we snacked on foods we’d packed ahead of time that meet with our Challenge guidelines.
- As the month went on, the Challenge became much easier. I think this was because my family participated. We also limited restaurant dining out to only one time that month. In the last week our children had chicken but that was ok since I felt that the experiment was really mine in the first place.
- I consumed salmon three times. Two times at home and the other when our family dined at a Japanese restaurant.
- An area of concern was my protein intake. I worried because there’s a perception that vegetarians don’t consume enough protein. So I consumed lots of cashews, almonds, pistachios, flax seeds, eggs, cheese, beans, spinach, almond milk, etc as recommended by my resourceful wife and my good friend Terri. I plan to read more on the subject to lift this cloud of doubt.
- My social interaction with family and friends was also a concern. Again, not eating out helped alleviate this potential problem. But, overall, most people were not only understanding but also supportive and encouraging. I’m also grateful for the comments, links of meals and resources you supplied. Much appreciated!
- Breakfast was the most difficult meal by far. In general, I’m not a breakfast person. As such, it seemed like there were less choices after eliminating meat from my diet. I did however, become pretty expert at making all kinds of smoothies. The kids seemed to enjoy this and made special requests for my smoothie concoctions.
- This said, I was not as prepared for my no-meat challenge as I might have been. The meal preparation process in our home is typically on autopilot. However, when the children were hungry, I found myself throwing things together more often than I wanted. I kind of felt like a fish out of water, not exactly sure what to cook at times during the experiment. I’m grateful for my talented wife when this was the case. She saved the day each time.
- I did branch out with a few original dishes on my own. But the bottom-line is that I need to learn to cook more vegetarian cuisine. I’ve been a carnivore all my life, cooking meaty meals with no need for a recipe. I cook on a natural instinct so vegetarian cookbooks are a bit intimidating. I’ll have to be aware of this and get courageous with vegetarian cookbooks or online recipes from here on.
- On some days my energy was a bit lethargic. I believe this was due to me not eating a proper breakfast.
- I wish my experiment had had a scientific element. A visit to my doctor and a nutritionist might have helped a lot or taking blood samples before and after my challenge to gauge any changes.
- My no-meat challenge reminded me of how powerful our minds can be. It was hard saying no to some of my favorite dishes. I know 30 days is not a long time, but I was able to say no even when my desire was saying the opposite. I consider my challenge a success in this area.
- In some cases, my no-meat challenge became deeply spiritual in nature. There are people who have no choice about their meat consumption. When I abstained from meat, I felt a connection with my brothers and sisters who lived in abject poverty.
I do miss and still crave a few of my favorite meaty meals. So much of my Caribbeanness is centered around food.
A few questions that come to mind at this point are these:
What about the cultural implications of my no-meat diet? Will I be drawing attention to myself when eating with my Caribbean family and friends?
What about my international, humanitarian trips? I’m big on socializing with the locals over meals, which in most countries centers around meat. What will I do when a vegetarian diet is not available?
I think that from here on, I’ll stick to the original no meat rules, but allow a little bit of fluidity when I travel. I need more time to continue learning and exploring before committing to this new diet. 30 days was not enough time.
What are your thoughts?