There’s a saying that once you go vegan or vegetarian, you never go back to meat. That’s until you do.
Nowadays, veganism and vegetarianism are easier to practice with many plant-based alternatives, health food stores and restaurants catering to the diets.
Countless studies show that these diets can lower the risk of heart disease, some cancers and diabetes. And in general, plant eaters tend to be slimmer and have lower blood pressure and LDL (bad cholesterol) than those who eat meat.
These diets have their benefits but aren’t a good fit for everyone.
“Some people thrive on vegan or vegetarian lifestyles, while others don’t,” said Beril Hezer, a registered dietitian with Banner Health in Phoenix, AZ. “The reasons can vary, but some people may find it difficult to get all the nutrients they need. They might not know how to incorporate plant-based foods while trying to buy everything organic and plant-based, which increases the price. Maybe they simply missed the taste of certain foods.”
Adding meat back into your diet
Eating meat again after choosing a vegetarian or vegan diet for some time is a major step. The transition can be difficult physically but also mentally.
“Once you realize that you aren’t thriving on a vegetarian or vegan diet, you’re then faced with the moral dilemma of discarding everything you believe,” Hezer said. “Making that mental shift can be hard thus getting help from a registered dietitian is advised.”
The benefits of these diets for animal welfare and environmental effects can’t be denied. But when it comes to a risk to your health and well-being, putting yourself first can be the right decision.
Then there is the obvious concern of how your body is going to react when you add the meat back into your diet. Does quitting vegetarianism and veganism make you sick? Are the horror stories true? Will you live to regret it?
7 tips to reintroduce meat into your diet
If you have decided to go omnivorous (eating plants and animals), you’re probably wondering how to do it without shocking your body. Here are some tips that will help you reintroduce meat.
Talk to a dietitian. It may be helpful to consult a registered dietitian who can help you make the transition. They can also help with any feelings of guilt you have around eating meat again.
Start easy. No matter what diet changes you are making, you should always take it slow. It can take some time for your body to adjust to eating meat again.
“When our bodies do not consume one certain type of product, it can forget how to digest it,” Hezer said. “The easiest example would be lactose in milk. If you stop for a long time and then consume milk, you may experience some bloating, gas or changes to your stool (like diarrhea or constipation).”
If you’ve been avoiding all animal products, start with eggs, yogurt or cheese. Eggs are easily digested by most people.
If you’re vegetarian, you might find eating fish or other seafood, like oysters, clams and mussels easier.
Sipping on chicken or bone broth is another way to ease back in.
Have someone else cook for you. If the idea of handling or preparing meat makes you sick to your stomach, it can spoil your appetite. Order cooked meals as takeout or go to a restaurant when you start eating meat again.
“Some find burgers the most appetizing or fish or chicken,” Hezer said.
Sneak it in. Add a little bit of meat to your favorite soup recipe or a crockpot meal. Try a dish with lots of vegetables that can help mask the flavor as you are getting used to eating meat again. Slow cooking your meat will help break down the proteins making it easier to digest.
Try bacon – in moderation. Bacon seems to be the most commonly missed meat, and one of the first meats people want to add back into their diets. This is why it’s been nicknamed the gateway meat.
“Bacon is highly processed, so be mindful that it may be high in added sugar and sodium, and don’t overdo it,” Hezer said.
Choose sustainable meat. When you eat meat, choose pasture-raised, grass-fed or sustainably raised options.
One way to make the transition easier is to find meat that has the “Certified Humane” food label. This label ensures animals were treated ethically, had access to pastures, and did not live in overcrowded factories with no access to sunlight.
Find a community. Leaving this lifestyle is a huge life change. Some of your fellow vegan or vegetarian friends may not understand. Find a community that supports what you are going through and helps you with this big transition.
Plenty of social networking groups are out there for recovering vegans or recovering vegetarians. There are also paleo diet or primal communities with former vegetarians.
Saying goodbye to vegetarianism or veganism can be tough physically and mentally. Remember to take it slow and talk to your health care professional or registered dietitian to determine the right steps to take.
Have questions about changing your diet?
Schedule an appointment with a dietitian.
- These 4 Foods Don’t Deserve Their Healthy Reputations
- 5 Ways to Cut the Garbage from Your Diet
- Follow Your Gut! Free Yourself from Painful Gas