I am, as are all humans by design, an omnivore in my nature. Granted, I lean towards the carnivore side when funds allow, but I am built to eat a wide variety of foods. So why then is an omnivore with carnivorous leanings going to advocate the regular eating of vegetarian meals? Nothing ideological if that is what you are thinking. I believe in a balance of nature that involves both plant and animal in harmony and because of that, I also believe in the ethical consumption of animal in my diet.
So then is my advocacy a matter of health benefits from a reduction in meat in the diet? No. I have seen quite a few studies relating both to meat consumption and to the composition of meat based on how it was raised. One can eat a large amount of the right meat in ones diet and still be entirely healthy. In fact, our brains require fats to function properly and I am not prepared to eat that much avocado to make it happen. And now that you are starting to wonder what I could see as being a gain from regularly eating vegetarian, I will lay out my thoughts.
My reasons can be split into three basic sections. First are for flavors. Second is nutritional. Third is creativity. One must remember that even on the days where you aren’t having a vegetarian meal, you are probably having one or more meat-free side dishes. For the meat-eating world, that is where vegetables go. On the side of starches and meats. I think they can play a much larger role in our meals without having to go full vegetarian, but to really get good with them, you have to be practiced in the vegetarian cooking techniques.
You see, one of the things about vegetarians is that they get used to working with a more limited set of ingredients. Textures and flavors that derive from meats are simply not there to be had. They must make something good without ever relying on the centerpiece for the average person’s meal. That isn’t as easy as you might think. When you create a vegetarian meal, you have to find a way to make it flavorful, satisfying and filling all at once. Understanding each vegetable and spice will come naturally as part of doing this. Mushrooms as an example are able to be used to add a flavor and texture to a dish that replace the meat. Slow to digest ingredients can lead to a sense of fullness longer. The right spice can take a boring side dish and make it into a centerpiece.
Find a really good vegetarian restaurant and you will see what I mean. Order whatever seems interesting and enjoy. If the place is of high quality, the odds are you will find a number of dishes you are entirely satisfied with. When you go home and start hunting down recipes, you will have an idea of what did and didn’t work for you. With practice, you will have a much stronger understanding of flavors and be much better able to work with vegetables during your non-vegetarian days.
On average, most of us get way too much starch and not enough vegetables. Entire industries have cropped up around the fact that we don’t eat enough of them. They fortify our processed corn-based dinners. They sell us vitamins. They make a bunch of pureed veggies taste like berry juice all in the name of seeing that we get our vegetables. If our vegetables taste great to begin with, we will be eating far more of them. God knows they cost far less than meats and for the same price you can have a heaping feast of dishes for the same cost as that rack of ribs.
Most of the time they are low in calories and high in minerals that we sorely need. When you learn how to work with a broader variety of vegetables, you ensure that your regular meals include more of them. This can do nothing but good for you nutritionally. Personally, I say cut your starches way down and just make extra veggies so you can have leftovers when you feel the need to peck at something.
We tend to rely on culinary crutches as we learn to cook. We always add cinnamon to our apple pies. We have to have meats in our soups. We do everything in our pour to stick to the paths we already know. Without meats, one of those crutches is kicked out from under us and we are forced to relearn how to walk. This adds to our list of tools and ensures we are now able to generate a far larger array of ideas on what might make a good meal. When the coffers are running low, we can look at what is there and have a much better idea of how we might make something amazing with what we have.
There are other aspects I have heard over the years. I mentioned above the savings. That is especially true if you can manage to garden and enjoy the benefits of your labors directly instead of filtered through money. I have heard that eating more vegetables and fruits in the summer than meats can lead to a higher energy level and greater tolerance to the warm weather, but so far my own dealings with that seem to imply it is more psychological than physical. Still, I think I have outlined a fairly good case for eating vegetarian regardless of your meat preferences. Maybe not every day, but once or twice a week can easily benefit you without feeling like you have had to give anything up. Give it a try. The worst that happens is you decide you aren’t very good at working with vegetables and on the positive end you might gain a lot of useful knowledge.