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Going Meatless: Food for Thought

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I can remember quite clearly the day I stopped eating meat. For the past several months leading up to that day, I had been giving serious thought to going vegetarian, and had been making an effort to eat fewer meat-heavy meals throughout each week. But the thing that pushed me over the edge was when my sister showed me part of a PETA video: "Meet Your Meat." Though I considered many of PETA's methods to be questionable at best, I was horrified at the atrocious conditions the animals were subjected to. It quite simply made me lose my appetite for meat, and I haven't looked back.

However, although I can point to that specific video as my turning point, it wasn't my only reason for cutting meat out of my diet. Like many vegetarians/vegans/pescetarians, there were numerous factors that went into my decision. Chief among them were concern for the environment, disgust at the meat industry, the fact that cooking raw meat always grossed me out, the discovery that I enjoyed meatless meals, and religious reasons (we eat vegan approximately 1/4 of the year anyway).

But over the past two years, I have discovered an additional compelling reason to stop eating meat--one that I have never seen mentioned before. It's incredibly simple. Here it is:

Being a vegetarian makes me actually stop and think what I'm putting into my mouth.

Before I went veg (or pesc, if you want to get technical) I found that I would quite often just shove food into my mouth with no real thought as to what it was or where it came from. By restricting my diet to meat-free items, I have to be more careful. Now, I have to stop and consider: does this item have meat in it? And I find that as I consider that question, I automatically begin to consider other things as well: what else is in this item? Where did it come from?

Now, I'm not saying that there aren't times when I'm careless with my diet. I am guilty of eating junk every now and then. But I've found that eating a meat-free diet has made me very conscious about my food--and that's something I definitely couldn't say about myself when I ate meat.

It wasn't a factor whatsoever at the time I made my decision. But now, in retrospect, it's one of the biggest benefits I've enjoyed!

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