We have been lacto-ovo vegetarians for the last five years, and more recently we are moving towards a more vegan lifestyle. All in all, I am pretty happy with my current diet, though it is definitely more time consuming than my omnivorous life. My reasons for adopting a (mostly*) meat-free life have evolved over the years. At first, I became vegetarian* because my husband wanted to. As I did most of the cooking, I wasn’t willing to cook two separate meals. A secondary concern was that I wanted to prevent him from simply eating cheese for each meal – a very real possibility at the time. Health promotion and disease prevention became my drivers on this path for the next several years. Most recently, I am concerned about the environmental and ethical effects of the animal agriculture industry (with nothing against most of the individual producers themselves).
We are also raising our daughter as a vegetarian; aside from an accidental chicken ball about a year ago, she has never had meat. She knows what meat is, and she knows we don’t eat it. At this point, it doesn’t seem to bother her. At some point in her life, she may eat meat. We hope that, if and when that day comes, her decision is made thoughtfully. So long as that is the case, we will respect her decision.
All that being said, I still eat meat once in a while. While breastfeeding our infant daughter I had to follow a soy and dairy free diet for a time; since my usual protein sources were eliminated, I returned to eating meat for the sake of my and her health. Other time I eat meat are usually when travelling to new places, or the once a year that I indulge in gloriously salty Brazilian churrasco. I still use dairy products, albeit decreasing amounts, on a daily basis. And I still eat eggs a couple times a month. That is the reason for the *; I call myself mostly-vegetarian partly because I don’t like labels, and partly because it is the most accurate reflection of my dietary patterns. As with my hopes for my child, I choose my meat and animal product consumption carefully, but mostly choose to refrain.
Does this mean I’m not actually a vegetarian? Does it mean that deep down I yearn for roasted and fried animal flesh, but only give in to my desires a few times a year? A totally fake study that you may have heard about last month seems to imply just this. If we are to look at food patterns through this lens, then we would also have to scrutinize the validity of a person’s claim to an omnivorous diet, should they happen to eat a vegan meal a few times a year. If the second premise seemed absurd, one should question why the first does not as well.
There is no bar to pass in order to call yourself vegetarian, vegan, flexitarian, or omnivore. Some may claim they ability to judge the adherence of others to a particular diet pattern, but who bestowed upon them such authority? Unless one is following a strict diet for a religious or cultural reason, we each get to decide what we want our diets to be and why we follow them. My vegetarianism is my own, not better or worse than yours. Of course, not all reasons for choosing diets are sound, but that’s where professionals like me can come in and help in informed and healthy decision-making.
So long as your diet is balanced and consists mostly of highly nutritious foods, eat what you want, but do spend some time thinking about why you eat they way you do. I don’t judge your choice to eat meat most of the time, so please don’t judge my choice to meat once in a while.