How Eating Less Beef Changed My Life
If you’ve ever wondered about how going vegan can impact your health, or suffer from chronic disease like I do, eating less beef may be for you!
My Experience with Chronic Pain
I have had health problems for the last four years. Each and every day, I wake up with stomach pain. If I eat anything, I feel sick. If I don’t eat anything…I still feel sick. Doctor after doctor, visit after visit, it has become clear that my ailments are here to stay.
I struggled for a long time to find something that lessened the constant ache, but nothing ever worked. Going through a barrage of different diets, cutting out dairy and gluten, and trying to incorporate vegetables into every meal that I cooked. I thought I was doing enough, but still the cycle continued
Recently, I was reading up on some other people that have had similar issues. Chronic pain can take many different forms. However, if I can find even one other person who could relate to my experience, I would be satisfied. I ended up hearing about this woman who had the same symptoms as me. No medications worked for her, no treatments made a difference. She was exactly who I was looking for. What had worked for her? Going vegan.
Making the Transition
Going vegan as a graduate student working multiple jobs to pay rent is not easy. The prices can be unforgiving, and where I live, natural foods are in short supply. When asking where the organic section was in my local grocery store, I was shown a small display of 2-3 shelves, each barely stocked. I knew I wouldn’t be able to go completely vegan at first, so I started with a compromise: Vegetarianism.
Doing the Research
My decision to do this was not based solely on my current health issues. I have seen and read many studies concerning how red meat affects your health negatively, from increasing risk for heart disease and cancer to overall earlier mortality. A lot of people do not realize the amount of red meat (particularly beef) that they are consuming. Servings of red meat should be limited to 2-3 servings a week, or 70g a day. For comparison, here are some of the most popular red meats and what their cooked weight is:
A slice of cooked ham: 23g
Thin slice of corned beef: 38g
Quarter-pound beef burger: 78g
Grilled 8oz beef steak: 163g
One burger can put you over your daily limit. Even having one every day can put you at risk for chronic health issues. I decided beef would be the easiest to cut out with that in mind. (can’t quit “cold turkey”…get it?).
In addition to that, the meat industry is a strange entity, and after hearing multiple horror stories about what happens to meat before it gets to my plate, I can’t look a cow in the eye anymore. Unless otherwise stated, animals are treated with antibiotics throughout their lifetime. That can have a big impact on your health. (You can learn more about that here — the author is a pretty neat person if I do say so myself).
Eating less beef is also good for the environment! Raising livestock for future meat consumption uses up 70% of the world’s clean water supply, and eating plant-based can actually reduce our “water footprint” by over 50%. To find more resources on this topic and other sustainable methods, check out this article!
With all that in mind, what did I do?
My Go-To Meals
So with beef off the menu, what did I eat? Here’s a couple foods I tried throughout my journey:
Caesar Salad – Can’t go wrong with a classic!
Gnocchi – There are SO many ways to cook with this, so I included recipes that are vegetarian, as well as some meaty options for those of you who can’t quite say goodbye just yet!
Mini Tortilla Pizzas – Honestly, I discovered this through having very limited groceries in college; you take a mini corn tortilla, spread the sauce of your choice on it, place cheese and/or whatever * vegetarian-friendly* toppings you want on it, and then cook for 5 minutes at 450°F! I won’t lie, these have become a family favorite
Roasted Sweet Potatoes – Okay, I need to say that I am OBSESSED with sweet potatoes now! They are naturally tasty, and roasting them with some light canola or olive oil (or doing something a little more fancy like the link above) absolutely brings out the best in this lil’ spud
Whole Grain Pasta with Red and Green Peppers – Thankfully this one is self-explanatory…and delicious
Eggplant Parmesan – I won’t lie, I was hesitant to try this because I grew up with a very limited food selection, but it really surprised me!
Vegetable Fried Rice – Quick and simple dish that never fails to please, and you can add whatever sauces and vegetables will make you go back for more
Seeing Positive Results
I’ll admit, I did not have high hopes when first starting this adventure. I’ve tried so many different diets and treatments, and I was feeling a little lost and hopeless. Now that I’ve started though, I feel as if I just can’t go back. While my pain is not completely gone (hey, I’m not vegan yet!), cutting out beef has significantly improved my personal health. I have far more energy, I feel more motivated, and I’m in less overall pain! It’s crazy how much of a difference one change can make, and I look forward to continuing on my journey to veganism (although cheese will hurt me to say goodbye to, I’m a sucker for a good quesadilla!).
You Can Do It, Too!
Giving up meat is a hard thing to do! Don’t feel bad if you can’t do it at first, or even if you can’t cut it out at all. Once you’ve grown up and grown into certain habits, it can feel nearly impossible to break them. If you can’t close the door on your favorite restaurant’s burger, or you miss the taste of steak tips, that’s okay! Do your best, and stick with whatever makes you comfortable.
Keep in mind that this was my personal journey! What worked for me may not work for others: we’re all different. To find out what is best for you and your health, make sure to consult your doctor or a dietitian.
If you do decide to stick with a more plant-based diet, just try to keep track of your nutritional balance and overall meat intake. Cutting out one burger a week can make a big difference, and it can lead you to trying new recipes. You never know what you’ll find!