To go vegetarian or not? My decision to eat smarter

I recently signed up for an organic basket. I’ve done this before — several times, in fact, but I always cancel after a week or two because it’s so darn expensive. This time, I decided to commit to buying better quality food for myself, yes, but also for environmental reasons.

Be Healthy is a Modo Yoga pillar.
Be Healthy is a Modo Yoga pillar.

Being healthy has always been a priority for me — drinking lots of water, eating fruits and veggies, knowing my food groups. My mother raised us to read the labels of our favourite snacks and avoid anything with ingredients we can’t pronounce. I’ve never liked soda, candy, junk or fast food; I don’t drink alcohol or coffee (I’ll admit, I love my English Breakfast tea) and I don’t do drugs.

I’ve toyed with the idea of vegetarianism in the past, but coming from a meat-loving family, and being married to a man who fits very well into that sphere, it’s never been more than idle thought. I don’t eat meat every day, but amid the “you should be vegetarian, you’re a yogi” judgement, I’ve decided to simply be comfortable with my decision to reduce, rather than eliminate. Meat proteins digest differently in my body than plant-based proteins, and I find this makes a big difference in curbing my low blood pressure and stabilizing my iron levels.

Picking up my first organic basket was pretty exciting.
Picking up my first organic basket was pretty exciting.

Buying local to curb mass cruelty

In Canada, the number of family farms has declined dramatically over the last few decades. Factory farming has become the new norm. According to Humane Canada, “every year, more than 700 million animals are slaughtered for food in Canada, most of them chickens.” Canada’s regulations on everything from the way the animals are raised, to transportation and slaughtering practices are weak at best.

“Current transportation regulations allow animals to be transported for up to 52 hours without food, water or rest, and trucks are poorly equipped to protect the animals from extreme heat or cold,” the organization states.

“Animals may be handled roughly as they are led to slaughter, causing significant stress and fear, as well as injuries. Some animals are improperly ‘stunned’ (not fully rendered unconscious) before they are killed, resulting in them being killed while conscious.”

First basket: basil, bok choy, sweet potatoes, squash and some local, organic meat.
First basket: basil, bok choy, sweet potatoes, squash and some local, organic meat.

Substitutes to eating meat

If you do want to go vegetarian, or simply do what I did and reduce the amount of meat you eat, here are a few substitutes:

  • Tofu
  • Quinoa
  • Seitan
  • Tempeh
  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas
  • Kidney beans
  • Broccoli
  • Green peas
  • Seeds
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Edamame
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Eggs

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The dirty dozen

A study from 2012 found that “organic fruits and vegetables have lower levels of pesticide residues than do conventional fruits and vegetables, [but] pesticide residues are still frequently detected.” Interesting right? One explanation for this is cross-contamination of pesticides from non-organic to organic farms via the wind. Nevertheless, there are certain fruits and vegetables that are more likely to absorb pesticides or be contaminated with residue. These are known as the dirty dozen:

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Nectarines
  4. Apples
  5. Grapes
  6. Peaches
  7. Cherries
  8. Pears
  9. Tomatoes
  10. Celery
  11. Potatoes
  12. Bell peppers

If you’re unable or unwilling to buy organic, you can bathe your fruits in a vinegar bath (1 part vinegar to 4 parts water and let soak for 10 minutes).

It’s a privilege to be able to grow my knowledge and awareness of eating healthy and environmentally — and even more so to be able to do something about it. I am definitely keeping an “everything in moderation” mindset — after all, it has to be a balance of health and money-saving.

Would you consider eating more environmentally? Do you have any questions or concerns?
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Articles consulted for this blog post:

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