As a 21-year-old vegetarian living in meat-loving Miami, I must admit that transitioning to a plant-based diet was not the easiest. On one end, my Abuela’s nagging me exclaiming, “Gina! You’re going to deteriorate without meat!” and on the other end, I come home every night to my mother cooking arroz con bistec (rice with steak). At first, I thought it’d be impossible to stop eating meat, but hey, I did! — Slowly, but surely. Now, feeling mentally and physically fulfilled, I can affirm that my life has changed for the better.
I admit: I used to think that becoming a vegetarian was going to be as difficult as nailing jelly to a tree, simply because everyone and their mothers (literally) are always eating and offering meat to me. Do you know how much willpower it takes to walk away from warm, freshly made Cuban croquettes from Vicky’s bakery in the morning? However, after learning about how much suffering these helpless, innocent animals go through, I realized that the sacrifice was absolutely worth it.
Animals’ lives aren’t ours to take—they were put in this world to be appreciated for their beauty and flow of life, not to be butchered and become a devoured meal in our stomachs that our bodies aren’t even meant to digest. Yup, you read right: the human body is actually omnivorous, not carnivorous. In other words, our teeth, jaws and hands are not meant to consume meat. If we are, then why aren’t we catching our prey and eating it with our bare teeth and hands? Humans were originally meant to live off of a plant-based diet and it doesn’t get any more obvious than that.
Starting is the hardest part and it’s true: good things take time. My first suggestion would be to eliminate red meat first. Next, you can stop eating pork, chicken, turkey, and lastly, fish. Now, I’m not saying to stuff your face with pizza, chips and candy all day long —this is still considered junk food, even if it falls under the “vegetarian” category. See, I’m not the best cook, therefore, it’s completely fine if you’re not the next Rachael Ray. In fact, being a vegetarian has actually gotten me in touch with a type of kitchen creativity that I didn’t even know I had! Seriously — my parents are still shocked.
Besides cooking, becoming a vegetarian has also taught me about my health. Research shows that going vegetarian is more likely to prevent heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes, and although most people’s concern about going vegetarian is how they would receive their intake of protein, the good news is that plant protein like beans, lentils and peas, as well as whole grains like wheat, oats and brown rice provide our protein needs. So, if you want to give this lifestyle a shot (which I obviously recommend!), your health and the animals will thank you in the long run.