My First Experience with Plant-Based Eating
Growing up in a Chinese household, I loved eating meat. It was always a staple during dinner time and the entire family looked forward to pork soup dumplings, chicken broth with noodles, steamed fish, or one of the many other traditional delicacies my grandmother would cook to remind her of home.
We, of course, also ate a lot of delicious vegetable dishes and plant-based foods, like tofu and seitan, to accompany our meals but there was always some type of animal protein at the centre.
Fast forward to 2018- I started working at World Animal Protection. I have always loved animals and even wanted to be a vet when I was younger. However, I never knew the intricate details of animal welfare or the sheer amount of cruelty animals experience in their lifetimes, especially farmed animals within our food production system. After learning about our farming campaign work, attending the Reducetarian Conference, and watching the documentary Eating Animals, I wanted to put my passion for animals into action.
For the first time in my life, I decided to reduce my meat consumption and partake in a 21-day plant-based lifestyle challenge.
When beginning the challenge, I didn’t research much about plant-based meals since I had an endless amount of resources from my work colleagues. They provided me with tips and tricks as well as their favourite recipes so I could start cooking and tasting new dishes. I knew breakfast would be fairly easy since my husband and I already transitioned to nut-based milks due to our lactose intolerance, so we continued eating our go-to foods. Lunch was also fairly easy since there are so many great plant-based restaurants and meal options near our office in New York City.
When it came to dinner, it was a little overwhelming at first since there were so many options I wanted to try. Then, I began reminiscing about my grandma’s homecooked meals. The more I thought about them, the more I realized that many of my favourite dishes were already plant-based or could easily be altered into being plant-based.
Each meal became an experiment rather than a chore. At least twice a week for dinner, my husband and I cooked veggie stir fry with different store-bought sauces which was easy to prepare and convenient to source ingredients. Our instant pot became our new best friend, helping us make wonderful veggie curries and chili, packed with protein, flavour, and nutrition. During weekly grocery shopping, we ventured into the ready-cooked meal aisle in supermarkets and chose well-known brands, such as Gardein, Amy’s, Dr. Praeger’s, and more, to cook at home.
After just a week of eating only plants, I felt lighter, more energetic, and less cranky than usual. Morning wake-ups were less tedious than before and after a full workday, I was still motivated to commute home and cook rather than order take out which was a usual routine in our household. Though my husband wasn’t entirely on the plant-based train with me, he was supportive of my decision, open to eating new meals, and even had fun cooking with me. My colleagues were also very encouraging and wanted to discuss my journey along the way.
After the full 21-days were over, I was proud of myself for lasting the entire time and slightly surprised at how I managed the transition, knowing how much I loved eating meat previously. Every day, I had to make a conscious decision to choose plant-based meals but doing so made me more present, mindful, and even respectful of what I was putting into my body.
The first day after the challenge completed, I decided to treat myself to a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich. The moment I stepped out of the restaurant, a wave of nausea come over me and I had to sit on a bench to recover. Still to this day, I remember that feeling and believe my body was trying to give me a sign. I put so much effort into detoxing to only choose an unhealthy meal directly afterward showed me that I need to reduce my meat intake on a daily basis for my health and to help animals and the planet.
Now I am 100% Reducetarian, only eating meat during special family gatherings to continue cultural traditions and, surprisingly, my husband is 100% vegetarian.