Should I Go Vegetarian?

Going without meat or dairy may seem to be a daunting prospect for many of us, but what are some of the benefits of a vegetarian diet?

It’s one of those things which either inspire a sense of awe or a sense of confusion. For a number of us, the idea of giving up all meat and animal products is hard to comprehend. Certainly here in Australia, throwing a steak or two on the barbie feels like as much of a national institution if anything.

According to a Roy Morgan survey, some 10 per cent of the country is thought to eat food that is “all, or almost all, vegetarian”, amounting to some 1.9 million people.

Why do people choose to become vegetarian?

It’s important to note that there is not just one type of vegetarian diet, with some vegetarians eating fish or dairy products, while others exclude all animal products, such as vegans.

“The reasons for becoming a vegetarian are many and varied,” says Nutrition Australia. “Many vegetarians believe that, in addition to health benefits and moral considerations, there is also reduced environmental degradation (i.e. increased sustainability) associated with vegetarianism.”

The environment argument certainly seems to have merit, with a vegan diet estimated to be the most “climate-friendly”, according to Chalmers University in Sweden.

Here at Onya, we’re all about taking steps to be more sustainable with our range of reusable shopping bags as well as our stainless steel drink bottles. So far, a vegetarian or vegan diet scores some big points with its eco-friendly approach. But what about the nutrition factor?

Staying balanced with a meat-free diet

One of the main concerns people may have about ditching meat and dairy is the prospect of not getting enough protein. However, you’ll be glad to hear that just because you go vegetarian, doesn’t mean that you’ll lose out on vital nutrients.

The US National Library of Medicine asserts that “you do not need to eat animal products to get all the protein you need in your diet,” whilst also noting that vegetarians can get sufficient amounts of the essential amino acid from plant-based foods.

“The higher levels of many vitamins, fibre, antioxidants and other substances believed to be of nutritional benefit in foods of plant origin are also used as arguments for greater health benefits of vegetarian diets,” says Nutrition Australia.

The verdict? 

If you’re not ready to go all in just yet, you can cut down your meat intake with baby steps such as the hugely popular ‘Meat free Monday’ movement. Launched back in 2009 by Paul and Stella McCartney, the movement has earned itself fans worldwide, including chef and healthy eating advocate Jamie Oliver.

“Many of the world’s leading health organisations now encourage a reduction in the amount of meat people consume,” says the Meat Free Monday Foundation.

“Eating less meat is a compassionate step that helps prevent cruelty and suffering.”

If you’re a sweet tooth who’s been considering going vegan and leaving out animal products in your diet, there’s good news, as many smart foodies and cooks have found workarounds for dairy-free treats. Just check out this nifty vegan recipe for blueberry pancakes!